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Legal Memorandum: Defense of Lack of Knowledge

Issue: Is lack of knowledge a defense to a proceeding for contempt in the Third Circuit?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Contempt of court; Lack of knowledge
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 461 F.3d 374
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2007

In order to make a showing that he or she is not does not know of his or her involvement in a contempt of court, a defendant may not rest on conclusory allegations but is required to present proof in the form of “sworn affidavits or otherwise reliable statements” United States v. Yusuf, 461 F.3d 374, 383 n.8 (3d Cir. 2006).  See also James v. York County Police Dep’t, No. Civ.A.1:01-1015 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 17, 2004) (absence declaration or affidavit submitted to the court by the plaintiff, the court could not accept the purported claim), aff’d, 160 F. App’x 126 (3d Cir. 2005); Adefumi v. City of Philadelphia, No. Civ.A. 01-5565 (E.D. Pa. July 17, 2003) (same), aff’d, 122 F. App’x 552 (3d Cir. 2004).  Indeed, a finding of lack of knowledge is not for the defendant to make, but is for the court.  In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 708 F. Supp. 492 (E.D.N.Y. 1988).  It is not the role of a party or non-party to decide the value of his involvement.  Axicom, Ltd. v. Tacoma Invs. & Holdings, Inc., No. Civ. A. No. 95-3304 (E.D. La. Jan. 9, 1997) (where the defendant failed to appear in defiance of the court’s order, sending a “representative” in his place, a finding of civil contempt and issuance of arrest warrant was required). 

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