Civil Contempt In Massachusetts
"Civil contempt is a means of securing to the aggrieved party the benefit of the court's order." Demoulas v. Demoulas Super Markets, Inc., 424 Mass. 501, 565, 677 N.E.2d 159 (1997).
In order to justify a finding of contempt, there must be a "clear and unequivocal command and an equally clear and undoubted disobedience." Id.; Judge Rotenberg Educ. Ctr., Inc. v. Commissioner of the Dep't of Mental Retardation (No. 1), 424 Mass. 430, 443, 677 N.E.2d 127 (1997). See Nickerson v. Dowd, 342 Mass. 462, 464, 174 N.E.2d 346 (1961).
The burden is on the party seeking enforcement of the court's order, in this case the plaintiff, to establish such disobedience of a command by a preponderance of the evidence. Judge Rotenberg Educ. Ctr., Inc., supra.
An award of the attorney's fees incurred to prosecute a complaint for contempt is an appropriate element of relief if the complainant is successful. Demoulas v. Demoulas Super Markets, Inc., 424 Mass. at 571. Cf. Police Commissioner of Boston v. Gows, 429 Mass. 14, 18-19, 705 N.E.2d 1126 (1999) (award of legal expenses appropriate to compensate party required to return to court to enforce the order even in some instances where contempt is not appropriate).