Is the Contempt Power Obsolete?

127 Dickinson Law Review __ (2022)

49 Pages Posted: 7 May 2022

See all articles by Nino Monea

Nino Monea

United States Army, Judge Advocate General's Corps

Date Written: April 15, 2022


Contempt power has been with us for as long as we’ve had courts in this country. Through summary contempt proceedings, judges may imprison any person they deem insufficiently respectful to the authority of the court—with significantly less due process than a person would be entitled to under any other criminal offense. In theory, this is necessary to maintain order in the court. But in practice, summary contempt power is serially and seriously abused. Judges use incarceration to deal with piddling offenses or seemingly for no real reason at all. This Article argues that the concept of allowing judges nearly unbridled discretion to jail people for rudeness is outdated and should be reformed.

Keywords: Judges, Courts, mass incarceration, abuse of power

Suggested Citation

Monea, Nino, Is the Contempt Power Obsolete? (April 15, 2022). 127 Dickinson Law Review __ (2022), Available at SSRN: or

Nino Monea (Contact Author)

United States Army, Judge Advocate General's Corps

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