Contempt of Court in New Jersey
The judge must follow the following Rules and Statutes before fining someone for contempt of court:
Rule 1:10-1. Summary Contempt in Presence of Court
A judge conducting a judicial proceeding may adjudicate contempt summarily without an order to show cause if:
(a) the conduct has obstructed, or if continued would obstruct, the proceeding;
(b) the conduct occurred in the actual presence of the judge, and was actually seen or heard by the judge;
(c) the character of the conduct or its continuation after an appropriate warning unmistakably demonstrates its willfulness;
(d) immediate adjudication is necessary to permit the proceeding to continue in an orderly and proper manner; and
(e) the judge has afforded the alleged contemnor an immediate opportunity to respond.
The order of contempt shall recite the facts and contain a certification by the judge that he or she saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that the contemnor was willfully contumacious. Punishment may be determined forthwith or deferred. Execution of sentence shall be stayed for five days following imposition and, if an appeal is taken, during the pendency of the appeal, provided, however, that the judge may require bail if reasonably necessary to assure the contemnor's appearance.
Rule 1:10-2. Summary Contempt Proceedings on Order to Show Cause or Order for Arrest
(a) Institution of Proceedings. Every summary proceeding to punish for contempt other than proceedings under R. 1:10-1 shall be on notice and instituted only by the court upon an order for arrest or an order to show cause specifying the acts or omissions alleged to have been contumacious. The proceedings shall be captioned "In the Matter of ______ Charged with Contempt of Court."
(b) Release Pending Hearings. A person charged with contempt under R. 1:10-2 shall be released on his or her own recognizance pending the hearing unless the judge determines that bail is reasonably necessary to assure appearance. The amount and sufficiency of bail shall be reviewable by a single judge of the Appellate Division.
(c) Prosecution and Trial. A proceeding under R. 1:10-2 may be prosecuted on behalf of the court only by the Attorney General, the County Prosecutor of the county or, where the court for good cause designates an attorney, then by the attorney so designated. The matter shall not be heard by the judge who instituted the prosecution if the appearance of objectivity requires trial by another judge. Unless there is a right to a trial by jury, the court in its discretion may try the matter without a jury. If there is an adjudication of contempt, the provisions of R. 1:10-1 as to stay of execution of sentence shall apply.
Rule 1:10-3. Relief to Litigant
Notwithstanding that an act or omission may also constitute a contempt of court, a litigant in any action may seek relief by application in the action. A judge shall not be disqualified because he or she signed the order sought to be enforced. If an order entered on such an application provides for commitment, it shall specify the terms of release provided, however, that no order for commitment shall be entered to enforce a judgment or order exclusively for the payment of money, except for orders and judgments based on a claim for equitable relief including orders and judgments of the Family Part and except if a judgment creditor demonstrates to the court that the judgment debtor has assets that have been secreted or otherwise placed beyond the reach of execution. The court in its discretion may make an allowance for counsel fees to be paid by any party to the action to a party accorded relief under this rule. In family actions, the court may also grant additional remedies as provided by R. 5:3-7. An application by a litigant may be tried with a proceeding under R. 1:10-2(a) only with the consent of all parties and subject to the provisions of R. 1:10-2(c).
The Supreme Court also issue a directive to Judges regarding the use of Rule 1:10-1 (Contempt in Presence of Court) Directive #8-99 In 1994, the Supreme Court amended Rule 1:10-1 to detail the basis for and procedures governing the use of the summary contempt power. The Rule, as amended, provides as follows: A judge conducting a judicial proceeding may adjudicate contempt summarily without an order to show cause if: (a) the conduct has obstructed, or if continued would obstruct the proceeding; (b) the conduct occurred in the actual presence of the judge, and was actually seen or heard by the judge; (c) the character of the conduct or its continuation after an appropriate warning unmistakably demonstrates its willfulness; (d) immediate adjudication is necessary to permit the proceeding to continue in an orderly and proper manner; and (e) the judge has afforded the alleged contemnor an immediate opportunity to respond. The order of contempt shall recite the facts and contain a certification by the judge that he or she saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that the contemnor was willfully contumacious. Punishment may be determined forthwith or deferred. Execution of sentence shall be stayed for five days following imposition and, if an appeal is taken, during the pendency of the appeal, provided, however, that the judge may require bail if reasonably necessary to assure the contemnor's appearance. All of the requirements of paragraphs (a) through (e) must be met before a judge uses the summary contempt power. In particular, you will note that the conduct must have obstructed the proceeding and have been Actually seen or heard by the judge. The Rule also provides for a warning and an opportunity for the party to respond, all of which contemplates that the offending party is actually in the presence of the judge when the conduct occurs. The significant changes to Rule 1:10-1 were the result of a report by a special Summary Contempt Subcommittee of the Civil Practice Committee. That Committee's recommendations to the Supreme Court and the Court's adoption of those recommendations make it abundantly clear that it is inappropriate for judges to use the summary contempt power when confronted by offensive comments written in letters, on checks, or on envelopes. If threatening language is used in a written communication, the court should follow the established policy contained in the 1988 Guidelines on:
Threats to Members of the Judiciary, (copy attached) rather than resorting to the use of Rule 1:10-1. (For a discussion of the Supreme Court's concerns that pre-dated the Committee's Report, see Matter of Daniels, 118 N.J. 51, 60 (1990).) Courts and court staff are obliged to process written communications, including negotiable instruments, from litigants who gratuitously include profane and scurrilous comments. This does not mean that such submissions need always go unremarked. In an egregious case, a carefully measured written response may be made. The content of such a response cannot, however, implicate the powers provided under Rule 1:10-1.
CONTEMPT (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9) The following is the Jury charge on Criminal Contempt: The defendant is charged with committing the crime of contempt. The Statutes of New Jersey describe the crime of "contempt" as follows: A person is guilty of a crime . . . if he purposely or knowingly disobeys a judicial order or hinders, obstructs or impedes the effectuation of a judicial order or the exercise of jurisdiction over any person, thing or controversy by a Court, administrative body or investigative entity. In order for the defendant to be found guilty of contempt, you must find each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: [The Judge will charge any or all of the following alternatives as appropriate.] Alternative 1: (Charge in the case of disobedience of an order.) 1. An Order of the Court had been entered. 2. That the defendant knew of the existence of the Order. 3. That the defendant purposely or knowingly disobeyed the Order. A person has disobeyed a judicial order when that person has, with knowledge of the existence of the order, purposely or knowingly refused or failed to comply with an order as entered by the Court which applies to (him/her). A court order may either be written or oral. In the case at hand the proofs indicate that the order which the defendant has been charged with disobeying was written/oral.
OR Alternative 2: Charge in the case of hindering, obstructing or impeding the effectuation of a judicial order. 1. An order of the Court had been entered. 2. That the defendant knew of the existence of the Order. 3. The defendant purposely or knowingly hindered, obstructed or impeded the fulfillment of the judicial order
KENNETH VERCAMMEN & ASSOCIATES, PC ATTORNEY AT LAW 2053 Woodbridge Ave. Edison, NJ 08817 (Phone) 732-572-0500 (Fax) 732-572-0030
TRIAL AND LITIGATION EXPERIENCE In his private practice, he has devoted a substantial portion of his professional time to the preparation and trial of litigated matters. He appears in Courts throughout New Jersey several times each week on many personal injury matters, Criminal and Municipal/ traffic Court trials, Probate hearings, and contested administrative law hearings.
Mr. Vercammen served as the Prosecutor for the Township of Cranbury, Middlesex County and was involved in trials on a weekly basis. He also argued all pre-trial motions and post-trial applications on behalf of the State of New Jersey.
He has also served as a Special Acting Prosecutor in Woodbridge, Perth Amboy, Berkeley Heights, Carteret, East Brunswick, Jamesburg, South Brunswick, South River and South Plainfield for conflict cases. Since 1989, he has personally handled hundreds of criminal and motor vehicle matters as a Prosecutor and now as defense counsel and has had substantial success.
Previously, Mr. Vercammen was Public Defender for the Township of Edison and Borough of Metuchen and a Designated Counsel for the Middlesex County Public Defender's Office. He represented indigent individuals facing consequences of magnitude. He was in Court trying cases and making motions in difficult criminal and DWI matters. Every case he personally handled and prepared.
His resume sets forth the numerous bar associations and activities which demonstrate his commitment to the legal profession and providing quality representation to clients.
Since 1985, his primary concentration has been on litigation matters. Mr. Vercammen gained other legal experiences as the Confidential Law Clerk to the Court of Appeals of Maryland (Supreme Court) with the Delaware County, PA District Attorney Office handling Probable Cause Hearings, Middlesex County Probation Department as a Probation Officer, and an Executive Assistant to Scranton District Magistrate, Thomas Hart, in Scranton, PA.