AskDefine | Define contumacy

Dictionary Definition



1 willful refusal to appear before a court or comply with a court order; can result in a finding of contempt of court
2 obstinate rebelliousness and insubordination; resistance to authority

User Contributed Dictionary


Derived terms


disobedience, resistance to authority

Extensive Definition

Contumacy is the refusal to obey a court order, which is usually punished as contempt of court. While not expressly delegated in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. courts have long asserted it as an inherent power of judges.
In ecclesiastical law, it is contempt of the authority of an ecclesiastical court and is dealt with by the issue of a writ from the Court of Chancery at the instance of the judge of the ecclesiastical court. This writ took the place of the de excommunicato capiendo in 1813, by an act of George III; see excommunication.
The term "contumacy" is derived from the Latin word contumacia, meaning firmness or stubbornness. It refers to a stubborn refusal to obey authority, or particularly, in law, the willful contempt of the order or summons of a court (see contempt of court.) The U.S. Supreme Court recognized federal courts' inherent power to imprison a person for contumacy in United States v. Hudson & Goodwin without a reference to a definition of contumacy in common or statutory law.


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