NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – On Thursday, Mar. 16, the New Mexico Supreme Court eliminated the $1,000 limit on fines that can be given as a punishment for contempt of court. In a unanimous decision, justices overruled the upper limit that was established in 1973.
Justices noted that, when accounting for inflation, the $1,000 limit would be the equivalent of just under $7,000 today. The limit was initially created because any higher penalty amount would be categorized as a “serious” criminal offense – which would then require a jury trial.
The court did not establish a new upper limit on monetary penalties for contempt of court. “We decline to place an express limit on contempt fines today. Instead, we adhere to New Mexico precedent and federal precedent granting courts the power to determine whether an offense is serious under the circumstances of the case,” the court said.
The court also said that the types of contempt in New Mexico will be reclassified in the law. They said, “Contempt charges formerly classified as either ‘civil’ or ‘criminal’ should instead be regarded as ‘remedial’ or ‘punitive’ to more accurately reflect the distinctions between the different types of contempt.”
This ruling comes following disciplinary actions made against an Albuquerque attorney, Victor Marshall, who was punished for making false statements about a judge.