Case Caption: In Re: Jeffrey B. C. MoorheadCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0022Date: 10/20/2015Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

An order holding an attorney in contempt for failing to attend a pretrial conference is affirmed. Counsel failed to appear for a final pretrial conference scheduled by written order. After a show cause hearing the Superior Court issued a written order holding the attorney in contempt and establishing $250 as the financial sanction, but did not specify, in either its oral findings or its written order, whether it intended to hold counsel in civil or criminal contempt. While the better practice would have been for the court to specify that it intended to hold the attorney in civil contempt, a non-dischargeable monetary fine assessed in conjunction with a contempt finding may be civil rather than criminal when the court imposes the fine to compensate itself for the harm it suffered from the contemnor's non-compliance. In this case it is clear that the Superior Court intended to hold the attorney in civil, rather than criminal, contempt, focusing on the disruptive effect of counsel's non-appearance. It did not intend to punish him but to obtain some compensation for the costs it incurred in holding a pretrial conference that could not proceed due to his absence. Construing the contempt as civil rather than criminal, it cannot be said that the court abused its discretion. Since the evidence is sufficient to sustain its civil contempt sanction, the Superior Court's February 18, 2015 order is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion