Senate Bill No. 638
(By Senator Snyder)
[Introduced February 17, 2012; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §51-2A-9 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to providing additional contempt powers for family court judges.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §51-2A-9 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2A. FAMILY COURTS.
§51-2A-9. Contempt powers of family court judge.
(a) In addition to the powers of contempt established in chapter forty-eight of this code, a family court judge may:
(1) Sanction persons through civil contempt proceedings when necessary to preserve and enforce the rights of private parties or to administer remedies granted by the court;
(2) Regulate all proceedings in a hearing before the family court judge; and
(3) Punish direct contempts that are committed in the presence of the court or that obstruct, disrupt or corrupt the proceedings of the court.
(b) A family court judge may enforce compliance with his or her lawful orders with remedial or coercive sanctions designed to compensate a complainant for losses sustained and to coerce obedience for the benefit of the complainant. Sanctions must give the contemnor an opportunity to purge himself or herself. In selecting sanctions, the court must use the least possible power adequate to the end proposed. A person who lacks the present ability to comply with the order of the court may not be confined for a civil contempt. Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, seizure or impoundment of property to secure compliance with a prior order. Ancillary relief may provide for an award of attorney’s fees.
(c) Upon a finding that a person is in civil contempt, the court, when otherwise appropriate and in its discretion, and as an alternative to incarceration, may place the person on work release, in a weekend jail program, in an existing community service program, in an existing day-reporting center program, in any other existing community corrections program or on home confinement until the person has purged himself or herself of the contempt.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to expand the authority of a family court judge in civil contempt cases.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.