Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

No Subject Matter Jurisdiction Required for Criminal Contempt

The Supreme Court has ruled that a federal court must have subject matter jurisdiction to impose civil contempt sanctions but not Rule 11 sanctions. Compare U.S. Catholic Conference v. Abortion Rights Mobilization, Inc., 87 U.S. 72, 76-80 (1988) (civil contempt) with Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131 (1992) (Rule 11). What about criminal contempt — is it more like civil contempt or Rule 11 for jurisdictional purposes? In United States v. Straub, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 27494 (9th Cir. Nov. 29, 2007), the Ninth Circuit ruled that no subject matter jurisdiction is required to impose criminal contempt sanctions, under Willy, because “Rule 11 sanctions and criminal contempt both differ from civil contempt, which is remedial and aims to force compliance with an order of the court.”

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