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Attorney Contempt Upehld

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

On September 11, 2007, the Court of Appeals issued a published decision regarding attorney contempt and sanctions in DeGeorge v Warheit. A trial court had sanctioned plaintiff and his attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit. The trial court then ordered that the attorney not transfer any funds, except funds needed for food, clothing, and shelter. The attorney violated the order by transferring money, claiming that the money was a loan. The trial court then held the attorney in criminal contempt and ordered the attorney's incarceration for 30 days, or until the attorney could show cause as to why he should not be held in further contempt. The trial court adopted the bankruptcy court's findings regarding the attorney that the attorney “intended to hinder, delay and defraud [opposing party] and create a sham transaction to prevent

[opposing party] from reaching [the attorney]’s interest in his law firm through the appointment of a receiver[.]”

 

The attorney raised many arguments on appeal (including due process violations, improper findings by the trial court who relied on bankruptcy court's findings). He also asserted that the trial court's sentencing him to jail was an improper attempt to collect a debt. The Court of Appeals held that, unlike a contractual debt for which the attorney could not be imprisoned, the trial court imprisoned the attorney for failing to comply with the court order that forbade him from transferring his assets. According to the Court, there is "no indication that the trial court employed the criminal contempt citation as a punishment for [the attorney]’s failure to pay the debts he owed appellees."

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