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774. Defenses—Violation of an Invalid Decree

A decree which has been erroneously rendered must nonetheless be obeyed until overturned, and violators thereof may be punished for criminal contempt. United States v. United Mine Workers of America, 330 U.S. 258, 293 (1947); United States v. J. Myer Schine, 260 F.2d 552, 557 (2nd Cir. 1959), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 934 (1959). A possible exception exists where the order is "transparently" unlawful. Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307, 315 (1967). See also Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449 (1975) (lawyer may not be held in contempt for good faith advice to client to invoke Fifth Amendment).

A contempt proceeding does not open to reconsideration the legal or factual basis of the underlying order; the proceeding is not a retrial of the original controversy. See Maggio v. Zietz, 333 U.S. 56, 69 (1948); United States v. First State Bank, 691 F.2d 332 (7th Cir. 1982). Thus, an issue that could have been raised when the decree was entered cannot be raised for the first time in a contempt proceeding. See generally, United States v. Rylander, 460 U.S. 752 (1983).

[cited in JM 9-39.000]

Updated January 21, 2020