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Chapter 7.21 RCW

CONTEMPT OF COURT

RCW Sections

7.21.010Definitions.
7.21.020Sanctions -- Who may impose.
7.21.030Remedial sanctions -- Payment for losses.
7.21.040Punitive sanctions -- Fines.
7.21.050Sanctions -- Summary imposition -- Procedure.
7.21.060Administrative actions or proceedings -- Petition to court for imposition of sanctions.
7.21.070Appellate review.
7.21.900Severability -- 1989 c 373.


7.21.010
Definitions.

The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter:

     (1) "Contempt of court" means intentional:

     (a) Disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior toward the judge while holding the court, tending to impair its authority, or to interrupt the due course of a trial or other judicial proceedings;

     (b) Disobedience of any lawful judgment, decree, order, or process of the court;

     (c) Refusal as a witness to appear, be sworn, or, without lawful authority, to answer a question; or

     (d) Refusal, without lawful authority, to produce a record, document, or other object.

     (2) "Punitive sanction" means a sanction imposed to punish a past contempt of court for the purpose of upholding the authority of the court.

     (3) "Remedial sanction" means a sanction imposed for the purpose of coercing performance when the contempt consists of the omission or refusal to perform an act that is yet in the person's power to perform.

[1989 c 373 § 1.]




7.21.020
Sanctions — Who may impose.

A judge or commissioner of the supreme court, the court of appeals, or the superior court, a judge of a court of limited jurisdiction, and a commissioner of a court of limited jurisdiction may impose a sanction for contempt of court under this chapter.

[1998 c 3 § 1; 1989 c 373 § 2.]




7.21.030
Remedial sanctions — Payment for losses.

(1) The court may initiate a proceeding to impose a remedial sanction on its own motion or on the motion of a person aggrieved by a contempt of court in the proceeding to which the contempt is related. Except as provided in RCW 7.21.050, the court, after notice and hearing, may impose a remedial sanction authorized by this chapter.

     (2) If the court finds that the person has failed or refused to perform an act that is yet within the person's power to perform, the court may find the person in contempt of court and impose one or more of the following remedial sanctions:

     (a) Imprisonment if the contempt of court is of a type defined in RCW 7.21.010(1) (b) through (d). The imprisonment may extend only so long as it serves a coercive purpose.

     (b) A forfeiture not to exceed two thousand dollars for each day the contempt of court continues.

     (c) An order designed to ensure compliance with a prior order of the court.

     (d) Any other remedial sanction other than the sanctions specified in (a) through (c) of this subsection if the court expressly finds that those sanctions would be ineffectual to terminate a continuing contempt of court.

     (e) In cases under chapters 13.32A, 13.34, and 28A.225 RCW, commitment to juvenile detention for a period of time not to exceed seven days. This sanction may be imposed in addition to, or as an alternative to, any other remedial sanction authorized by this chapter. This remedy is specifically determined to be a remedial sanction.

     (3) The court may, in addition to the remedial sanctions set forth in subsection (2) of this section, order a person found in contempt of court to pay a party for any losses suffered by the party as a result of the contempt and any costs incurred in connection with the contempt proceeding, including reasonable attorney's fees.

     (4) If the court finds that a person under the age of eighteen years has willfully disobeyed the terms of an order issued under chapter 10.14 RCW, the court may find the person in contempt of court and may, as a sole sanction for such contempt, commit the person to juvenile detention for a period of time not to exceed seven days.

[2001 c 260 § 6; 1998 c 296 § 36; 1989 c 373 § 3.]

Notes:

     Findings -- Intent -- 2001 c 260: See note following RCW 10.14.020.

     Findings -- Intent -- 1998 c 296 §§ 36-39: "The legislature finds that an essential component of the children in need of services, dependency, and truancy laws is the use of juvenile detention. As chapter 7.21 RCW is currently written, courts may not order detention time without a criminal charge being filed. It is the intent of the legislature to avoid the bringing of criminal charges against youth who need the guidance of the court rather than its punishment. The legislature further finds that ordering a child placed in detention is a remedial action, not a punitive one. Since the legislature finds that the state is required to provide instruction to children in detention, use of the courts' contempt powers is an effective means for furthering the education and protection of these children. Thus, it is the intent of the legislature to authorize a limited sanction of time in juvenile detention independent of chapter 7.21 RCW for failure to comply with court orders in truancy, child in need of services, at-risk youth, and dependency cases for the sole purpose of providing the courts with the tools necessary to enforce orders in these limited types of cases because other statutory contempt remedies are inadequate." [1998 c 296 § 35.]

     Findings -- Intent -- Part headings not law -- Short title -- 1998 c 296: See notes following RCW 74.13.025.




7.21.040
Punitive sanctions — Fines.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in RCW 7.21.050, a punitive sanction for contempt of court may be imposed only pursuant to this section.

     (2)(a) An action to impose a punitive sanction for contempt of court shall be commenced by a complaint or information filed by the prosecuting attorney or city attorney charging a person with contempt of court and reciting the punitive sanction sought to be imposed.

     (b) If there is probable cause to believe that a contempt has been committed, the prosecuting attorney or city attorney may file the information or complaint on his or her own initiative or at the request of a person aggrieved by the contempt.

     (c) A request that the prosecuting attorney or the city attorney commence an action under this section may be made by a judge presiding in an action or proceeding to which a contempt relates. If required for the administration of justice, the judge making the request may appoint a special counsel to prosecute an action to impose a punitive sanction for contempt of court.

     A judge making a request pursuant to this subsection shall be disqualified from presiding at the trial.

     (d) If the alleged contempt involves disrespect to or criticism of a judge, that judge is disqualified from presiding at the trial of the contempt unless the person charged consents to the judge presiding at the trial.

     (3) The court may hold a hearing on a motion for a remedial sanction jointly with a trial on an information or complaint seeking a punitive sanction.

     (4) A punitive sanction may be imposed for past conduct that was a contempt of court even though similar present conduct is a continuing contempt of court.

     (5) If the defendant is found guilty of contempt of court under this section, the court may impose for each separate contempt of court a fine of not more than five thousand dollars or imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days, or both.

[2011 c 96 § 3; 2009 c 37 § 1; 1989 c 373 § 4.]

Notes:

     Findings -- Intent -- 2011 c 96: See note following RCW 9A.20.021.




7.21.050
Sanctions — Summary imposition — Procedure.

(1) The judge presiding in an action or proceeding may summarily impose either a remedial or punitive sanction authorized by this chapter upon a person who commits a contempt of court within the courtroom if the judge certifies that he or she saw or heard the contempt. The judge shall impose the sanctions immediately after the contempt of court or at the end of the proceeding and only for the purpose of preserving order in the court and protecting the authority and dignity of the court. The person committing the contempt of court shall be given an opportunity to speak in mitigation of the contempt unless compelling circumstances demand otherwise. The order of contempt shall recite the facts, state the sanctions imposed, and be signed by the judge and entered on the record.

     (2) A court, after a finding of contempt of court in a proceeding under subsection (1) of this section may impose for each separate contempt of court a punitive sanction of a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, or a remedial sanction set forth in RCW
7.21.030(2). A forfeiture imposed as a remedial sanction under this subsection may not exceed more than five hundred dollars for each day the contempt continues.

[2009 c 37 § 2; 1989 c 373 § 5.]




7.21.060
Administrative actions or proceedings — Petition to court for imposition of sanctions.

A state administrative agency conducting an action or proceeding or a party to the action or proceeding may petition the superior court in the county in which the action or proceeding is being conducted for a remedial sanction specified in RCW 7.21.030 for conduct specified in RCW 7.21.010 in the action or proceeding.

[1989 c 373 § 6.]




7.21.070
Appellate review.

A party in a proceeding or action under this chapter may seek appellate review under applicable court rules. Appellate review does not stay the proceedings in any other action, suit, or proceeding, or any judgment, decree, or order in the action, suit, or proceeding to which the contempt relates.

[1989 c 373 § 7.]




7.21.900
Severability — 1989 c 373.

If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected.

[1989 c 373 § 30.]