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Compliance Solutions Occupational Trainers, Inc. v. Safety Helpers, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 20, 2014

SAFETY HELPERS, LLC, DELINQUENT APRIL 1, 2012, a Colorado limited liability company, and KYLE KNEBEL, an individual, Defendants.


ROBERT E. BLACKBURN, District Judge.

This matter comes before me on Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt [#24], [1] filed April 10, 2014. Plaintiff seeks to have me find defendants in contempt of the Order [#231], filed February 28, 2014, granting the parties' stipulation regarding use by defendants of the trademark-in-suit. Although neither party has requested a hearing, caselaw clearly provides that a civil contempt may not be imposed without one. I therefore set this matter for hearing.

"Civil contempts provide a remedy for a party who has been injured by the violation of a court order." Hyde Construction Co. v. Koehring Co., 388 F.2d 501, 511 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 88 S.Ct. 1654 (1968). Unlike criminal contempt, which seeks to punish a party for past acts, civil contempt is remedial in nature and seeks to compel compliance with a court order for the benefit of the complainant. International Union, United Mine Workers of America v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 827-28, 114 S.Ct. 2552, 129 L.Ed.2d 642 (1994); Home Design Services, Inc. v. B & B Custom Homes, LLC, 2008 WL 927683 at *2 (D. Colo. Apr. 3, 2008).

"Sanctions for civil contempt may only be employed for either or both of two distinct remedial purposes: (1) to compel or coerce obedience to a court order...; and (2) to compensate the contemnor's adversary for injuries resulting from the contemnor's noncompliance[.]" O'Conner v. Midwest Pipe Fabrications, Inc., 972 F.2d 1204, 1211 (10th Cir. 1992) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).[2] Plaintiff here seeks coercive contempt sanctions, which "look to the future and are designed to aid the plaintiff by bringing a defiant party into compliance with the court order." Latrobe Steel Co. v. United Steelworkers, 545 F.2d 1336, 1344 (3rd Cir. 1976).[3] Specifically, plaintiff asks that defendants be fined $2, 500 per day until such time as they cease using the allegedly confusingly similar mark. See O'Connor, 972 F.2d at 1211; General Signal Corp. v. Donallco, Inc., 787 F.2d 1376, 1380 (9th Cir. 1986).

A finding of civil contempt is proper where (1) a valid court order existed; (2) the respondent had knowledge of that order; and (3) the respondent disobeyed that order. FTC v. Kuykendall, 371 F.3d 745, 756-57 (10th Cir. 2004). The moving party is required to establish a prima facie case of contempt by demonstrating that certain conduct was required by a previous court order and that the alleged contemnor failed to comply with that order. United States v. Hayes, 722 F.2d 723, 725 (11th Cir. 1984). The alleged contemnor is entitled to notice and a hearing on the issues raised by and inherent to the motion for contempt.

A person charged with civil contempt is entitled to a show cause hearing, to be represented by counsel, to be given adequate notice, and to have an opportunity to be heard. A civil contempt proceeding, which may lead to a penalty, is a trial rather than a hearing on a motion. Testimony is by way of live witnesses and not by affidavit. A civil contempt proceeding is conducted in accordance with the Federal Rules of Evidence. [The alleged contemnor] and [its] attorney must be accorded a reasonable period of time in which to prepare a defense. Civil contempt must be established by clear and convincing evidence.

Home Design Services, Inc., 2008 WL 927683 at *4 (internal citations omitted).

Accordingly, the court will set this matter for evidentiary hearing at a reasonable time in advance to allow defendants to prepare and to respond to the allegations brought against them.

THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the court SHALL CONDUCT an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt [#24], filed April 10, 2014, on Friday, July 18, 2014, commencing at 1:30 p.m. MDT, reserving the remainder of the afternoon, if necessary.

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