Former Lawyer Held 14 Years Without Charge on Civil Contempt

thumb_election_scales1The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the abuse of civil contempt in this country including the story of H. Beatty Chadwick, a former Philadelphia-area lawyer, who has been behind bars for nearly 14 years without being charged. I have handled civil contempt defenses and it is one of the most abused areas by prosecutors and courts. This article shows how this power can be used to punish rather than its purpose to coerce cooperation.

In Chadwick’s case, there was a dispute over $2.5 million in a divorce proceeding. When ordered to put the money in a court account, he insisted that he had lost it in bad investments. Neither his wife nor the court believed him. Perhaps for good reason. However, this is longer than the sentence he would receive in such a case if charged as a criminal matter. It raises compelling claims under due process and cruel and unusual punishment in my view. While it is supposedly not a form of punishment, it is clearly being used in that fashion here.

For the full story, click here.

6 thoughts on “Former Lawyer Held 14 Years Without Charge on Civil Contempt”

  1. Oh… PS: Res Ipsa Loquitur is not bad as a tag… mine is “Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur” (“From time to time an idiot will speak [correctly]”) from Tom Jones.

    ISOL for short.

  2. There is also the case of Martin Armstrong – the financial guru who was accused of fraud… the charges have never been tested, but he was ‘broken on the wheel’ of ‘civil contempt’ until he agreed to a plea.

    7 years because the Judge (the same moron who screwed up the jury direction in the Quattrone trial) had a ‘jones’ against the defendant… so much so that his brother judges removed him, saying that the case needed another set of eyes. Given the incestuous nature of judiciary nd their ‘soft hands’ when censuring their own, that’s as near to declaring someone unfit to sit as could be.

    For whatever reason, Armstrong has recently been removed from low-security at Fort Dix, and put back into a hellhole (MDC Brooklyn).

    The US has indicated by its actions that it deserves every bit of calumny that civilised society can muster: from Obama’s Bushian “We will try those we know can convict: those whose evidence we’ve poisoned through torture, we’ll just lock up forever without trial”, through to the shameful use of the Bastille as a prosecutorial aid, the US of Paine and Jefferson is dead.

    Jefferson today would be advocating armed resistance to the degeneration of the public function of the US. “The tree of liberty” and all that.



  3. This is ridiculous.How can any judge in this country justify holding a person 14 years without charging them.
    Sounds to me this man has a civil rights lawsuit claim against that judge.

  4. To return to a topic from yesterday, we have no due process in obscenity prosecutions either. The Supreme Court has held that a work is obscene if the average person applying contemporary community standards finds that the work appeals to the prurient interest and depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; in addition, the work must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. There is no way that a defendant can know that something he distributes is obscene until the jury returns its verdict. (Even if the same publication has already been declared obscene in the same community, it may no longer be obscene because the first prosecution may have caused many people to buy the publication and thereby alter community standards.) A denial of notice of what is a crime is a denial of due process.

    Furthermore, it is impossible for the average person applying contemporary community stanards to find a work both to appeal to the prurient interest and to be patently offensive; in other words, you can’t be turned on and grossed out simultaneously. Nothing, therefore, is obscene under the Supreme Court’s definition, yet people go to prison for marketing obscenity anyway.

  5. I never knew we had a civil law Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp (Gitmo) scenario right here in the good ol’ US of A. The exemption of due process must never occur in our criminal/civil law and especially regarding ‘assumed’ non-violent crimes.

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