contempt


contempt
/keuhn tempt"/, n.
1. the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn.
2. the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.
3. Law.
a. willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or orders of a court (contempt of court) or legislative body.
b. an act showing such disrespect.
[1350-1400; ME ( < AF) < L contemptus a slighting = contemn(ere) to despise, scorn (see CONTEMN) + -tus suffix of v. action (with loss of n and intrusive p)]
Syn. CONTEMPT, DISDAIN, SCORN imply strong feelings of disapproval and aversion toward what seems base, mean, or worthless. CONTEMPT is disapproval tinged with disgust: to feel contempt for a weakling. DISDAIN is a feeling that a person or thing is beneath one's dignity and unworthy of one's notice, respect, or concern: a disdain for crooked dealing. SCORN denotes open or undisguised contempt often combined with derision: He showed only scorn for those who were not as ambitious as himself.

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In law, willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body.

An act of disobedience to a court order may be treated as either criminal or civil contempt; sanctions for the latter end upon compliance with the order. An act or language that consists solely of an affront to a court or interferes with the conduct of its business constitutes criminal contempt; such contempt carries sanctions designed to punish as well as to coerce compliance. In the U.S., a congressional committee can compel the attendance of witnesses. Any witness failing to appear or otherwise obstructing the committee in the course of exercising its powers may be in contempt. Witnesses are, however, protected by the 5th Amendment against forced self-incrimination. See also perjury.

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law
      in law, insult to, interference with, or violation of a sovereign court or legislative body. The concept of contempt is of English origin and is found only in countries that follow the common-law (common law) system. The primary importance of the notion of contempt is that it warrants judicial action in defense of the judicial or legislative power itself. Often, the power to enforce a contempt violation is without many of the safeguards that generally restrict the power of the state in the punishment of civil or criminal wrongs.

      An act or language that consists of an affront to a court or interferes with the conduct of its business falls in the category of criminal contempt. However, an act of disobedience to a court order often may be treated as either civil or criminal contempt or as both. For example, an act of contempt is an insult to the court and an interference with its judicial authority and therefore constitutes criminal contempt. It also may have the consequence of depriving a party to a lawsuit of the relief that the court order afforded him and thereby constitute civil contempt. In the latter case, the court may take measures to secure to the litigant that to which he was entitled under the court order or to compensate him for the loss resulting from the disobedient act.

      In both criminal and civil contempt proceedings—but more commonly in the former—a distinction is drawn between contumacious acts that take place in the presence of the court and are labeled direct contempts and those that are committed outside the geographic boundaries of the court and are called indirect, or constructive, contempts.

      In England, both houses of Parliament have asserted their power to punish contumacious acts. The power to punish for contempt can entail the sanction of direct imprisonment of the offender by the offended house. However, the House of Commons (Commons, House of) can detain an offender only during its session, whereas the House of Lords (Lords, House of) can detain an offender for any fixed period, even beyond adjournment.

      Until 1927, courts in the United States severely limited the investigative and contempt powers of Congress (Congress of the United States). The expansion of congressional investigative power in the 1930s was upheld by the courts with certain limitations. Although there is no doubt that a congressional committee can compel the attendance of witnesses, a witness who has refused to testify or to answer a question cannot be held in contempt unless it has been made clear to him that his refusal will be treated as contumacious. The contempt must be deliberate and intentional, and the question addressed to the witness must be pertinent to the inquiry authorized by Congress. Moreover, its pertinence must be made clear to the objecting witness. Further, the protection of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution of the United States of America) against compulsory self-incrimination applies to witnesses before congressional committees. See also perjury.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • contempt — con·tempt /kən tempt/ n 1: willful disobedience or open disrespect of the orders, authority, or dignity of a court or judge acting in a judicial capacity by disruptive language or conduct or by failure to obey the court s orders; also: the… …   Law dictionary

  • Contempt — Con*tempt (k[o^]n*t[e^]mt ; 215), n. [L. contemptus, fr. contemnere: cf. OF. contempt. See {Contemn}.] 1. The act of contemning or despising; the feeling with which one regards that which is esteemed mean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • contempt — ► NOUN 1) the feeling that a person or a thing is worthless or beneath consideration. 2) (also contempt of court) the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful of a court of law. ● beneath contempt Cf. ↑beneath contempt ● hold in contempt… …   English terms dictionary

  • contempt — late 14c., from L. contemptus scorn, from pp. of contemnere to scorn, despise, from com , intensive prefix (see COM (Cf. com )), + *temnere to slight, scorn, of uncertain origin. Phrase contempt of court is attested from 19c., though the idea is… …   Etymology dictionary

  • contempt — [n1] disdain, disrespect antipathy, audacity, aversion, condescension, contumely, defiance, derision, despisal, despisement, despite, disesteem, disregard, distaste, hatred, indignity, malice, mockery, neglect, recalcitrance, repugnance, ridicule …   New thesaurus

  • contempt — [kən tempt′] n. [OFr < L contemptus, scorn, pp. of contemnere: see CONTEMN] 1. the feeling or attitude of one who looks down on somebody or something as being low, mean, or unworthy; scorn 2. the condition of being despised or scorned 3. the… …   English World dictionary

  • contempt — despite, disdain, scorn (see under DESPISE vb) Analogous words: abhorrence, detestation, loathing, hatred, hate (see under HATE vb): aversion, *antipathy: repugnance, distaste (see corresponding adjectives at REPUGNANT) Antonyms: respect… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • contempt — et mespris de justice, Iurisdictionis contemptus et legum ludibrium, B …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • Contempt — Disdain redirects here. For other uses, see Disdain (disambiguation). For the legal term, see Contempt of court. For other uses of Contempt, see Contempt (disambiguation). Contempt is an intensely negative emotion regarding a person or group of… …   Wikipedia

  • contempt — noun 1 lack of respect ADJECTIVE ▪ complete, deep, great, open, outright, pure, utter, withering ▪ cold …   Collocations dictionary


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