A contempt finding and the imposition of a prospective fine is appealable as an order that "in effect, modifies an injunction." (1435 n. 3)
Although the court has held that motions to modify should be heard at the same time as contempt motions, the district court has discretion not to do so, and here, where the motion to modify was served two days before the contempt hearing and it was unclear whether everyone had been served, postponing the motion to modify was not reversible error.
The district court took too narrow an approach to the state's claim of inability to comply by focusing on the fact that the state transferred all the excess prisoners before the contempt hearing. At 1437: "'Inability,' as a defense to contempt, does not mean that compliance must be totally impossible. Instead, the inability that will absolve a party from being held in contempt requires only that the noncomplying party has made 'in good faith all reasonable efforts to comply' with the terms of a court order." At 1438: "The array of conflicting orders to which a party is subject is a material circumstance in a contempt proceeding." The orders in question are similar orders addressing state-ready backups in other county jails. "We do not interpret 'good faith' and 'reasonable efforts' to require necessarily that a party violate the order of one court to avoid violating the order of another court." At 1438 n. 11: The fact of being subject to competing court orders, without more, is not a defense to contempt. At 1438 n. 12: Prospective fines are an "extraordinary remedy" to be reserved for "flagrant violations" of an order. "Most important, never can the prospective fines operate to impose absolutely strict liability on the State." See: Chairs v. Burgess, 143 F.3d 1432 (11th Cir. 1998).
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Related legal case
Chairs v. Burgess
|Cite||143 F.3d 1432 (11th Cir. 1998)|
|Level||Court of Appeals|