Legal Memorandum: Vacating a Citation for Civil Contempt in VI

Issue: Under the law of the Virgin Islands, should a citation for civil contempt be vacated if it was based upon conduct that was neither willful, nor intentional, nor frequent?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Civil contempt; Vacating; Conduct of party
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 525 F. Supp. 1077; 461 U.S. 424
Cited Statutes: V.I.C. § 541(b)
Date: 04/01/2001

           See Gompers v. Buck’s Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 444-45 (1911).  An award of civil contempt may not exceed the claimant’s actual losses and it must be vacated if it is excessive or unsupported by clear and convincing evidence.  See Quinter v. Volkswagen of Am., 676 F.2d 969, 975 (3d Cir. 1982).

American courts, unlike English tribunals, do not award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party except where there is a statutory mandate for such payment.  See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 443-44 n.2 (1983) (Brennan, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).  A Territorial Court may exercise its discretion to award attorney fees under V.I.C. § 541(b), and may make findings that would justify its "compensatory damages" award. See Buntin v. Continental Ins. Co., 18 V.I. 604, 525 F. Supp. 1077 (D.V.I. 1981) (attorney’s fees under § 541 are not a matter of right, but are awarded only within court’s discretion).

            A contempt citation stands or falls upon proof that there was an intentional violation of an order.  See General Signal Corp. v. Donallco, Inc., 787 F.2d at 1379. 


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