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Remedial Contempt

Koch v. Neumann, 2010AP1531, District 3, 2/1/11

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); case activity; BiC; Resp.; Reply

The contemnor argues that a remedial sanction (30 days’ jail, stayed for 1 year conditioned on no further violations of prior judgment) imposed by the trial court was unsupported because the contemptuous conduct had already terminated. Although remedial sanctions are permissible only for continuing contempt, the record doesn’t show that appellant’s contemptuous conduct had “indisputably ceased,” therefore the trial court’s order is sustained.

¶18      Neumann’s reliance on Christensen is misplaced.  Christensen involved a situation where Milwaukee County admittedly violated a consent decree with inmates from November 2001 until April 2004.  Id., ¶24.  The consent decree imposed restrictions on jail conditions.  Id., ¶15.  In April 2004, the county became aware of its violations and adopted new standards so as to be in compliance with the consent decree.  Id., ¶¶25, 30.  In September 2004, the inmates brought a motion for contempt against the county and sought monetary damages for the violations that occurred from November 2001 until April 2004.  Id., ¶22.  The court noted remedial sanctions were only appropriate for terminating a continuing contempt.  Id., ¶54.  The court held that because the county’s contemptuous conduct had indisputably ceased before the contempt proceedings began, it could not justify the inmates’ request for monetary damages on the grounds of a continuing contempt of court.  Id., ¶75. 

¶19      In this case, nothing in the record supports Neumann’s assertion that her contemptuous conduct had indisputably ceased prior to the Kochs initiating contempt proceedings.  Rather, the record supports the circuit court’s determination that Neumann’s contempt was continuing.  At the contempt hearing, Neumann consistently argued to the court that she interpreted its judgment to mean she could block portions of the driveway as long as she did not completely block the driveway.  In light of these statements, we determine that but for the filing of the contempt motion, Neumann would have continued to violate the court’s judgment; consequently, we conclude the circuit court properly found Neumann’s contempt was continuing and properly imposed remedial sanctions.

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