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an act or omission tending to interfere with orderly administration of justice, or to impair the dignity of the court or respect for its authority. DIRECT CONTEMPT takes place openly and in the presence of the court. CONSTRUCTIVE CONTEMPT occurs outside the court; an example is failure to comply with court orders.

CIVIL CONTEMPT consists of failure to do something ordered by the court for the benefit of another party to the proceedings (sometimes calleed RELIEF TO LITIGANTS); CRIMINAL CONTEMPT includes acts disrespectful of the court or its processes that obstruct administration of justice.
EXAMPLE: A judge orders a litigant to disclose several important documents to his adversary. The litigant refuses because he feels that the documents will give away trade secrets. The court has certain formulas and designs deleted, and orders that the documents be relinquished. if the litigant still refuses, he can be held in contempt of court, resulting in a jail sentence and/or a fine. The nature of the sanction is within the trial judge's discretion. As a general legal proposition, an order of a court must be obeyed or appealed. It may not be disregarded.'
Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; ©
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