Will the Court hear a Litigant Who Stands in Contempt of Court?

Deliberate failure to comply with Court Orders is an increasingly common feature of litigation. While the Courts are typically prepared to provide litigants, particularly those who are self-represented, with a generous amount of latitude, significant sanctions will be imposed when a litigant refuses to comply with their court-ordered obligations. Those sanctions most often include financial penalties, payment of which will result in the contempt deemed to have been purged. The question arises: what is to be done with a litigant (contemnor) who acts in contempt of court and is sanctioned but refuses to purge their contempt? In rare cases, the Court may order that the contemnor be imprisoned. In other cases, the contemnor may simply continue to disregard the Court and the financial sanction with no apparent consequence. In these circumstances, the contemnor is at risk of losing standing to make submissions or be heard by the Court, at all.

In Kumra v. Luthra, 2011 ABKB 366, Lee J found Ms. Kumra to be “in blatant disobedience” of his previous Order and refused to entertain her application until she had complied with his prior Order. In support of his decision, Lee J referenced Chuck v. Cremer 919460 EngR 1154 1 Dec 1846, Hadkinson v. Hadkinson, [1952] 2 T.R. 416, and Phillips v. Phillips, 2005 ABCA 405 wherein O’Leary JA stated at 14:

… I question whether a person who is in contempt of court for failure to obey specific orders of the Court of Queen’s Bench is entitled to the assistance of this Court. The orders she has failed to obey are those under appeal and it is suggested she may succeed in her appeals and the contempt will then cease. I do not agree with that suggestion. Unless the applicant has complied with the orders and thus purged her contempt, or has been specifically excused from compliance, she remains in contempt.

This is a remedy which should prove to be a useful and effective tool for litigators in motivating a contemnor to purge their contempt and comply with Orders of the Court.

Written by Gary Kirk

Related Posts: