So, let's say that a judge issues an order to a law enforcement agency - for instance, ordering them to behave in a certain way when interacting with protestors. The law enforcement agency then proceeds to disregard this order. What would happen next?

Normally, when someone refuses to obey a court order, they're held in contempt of court and arrested, but if the police responsible for arresting someone for contempt of court are the people being held in contempt of court, couldn't they just refuse to arrest themselves for contempt of court on the reasoning that they're already being held in contempt of court, and all that would happen to them for ignoring the order is being held in contempt of court for failing to arrest themselves for being held in contempt of court?

2 Answers 2


Contempt of court is still a remedy, because fines can be issued. The mayor or chief of police can still be arrested and held (enforcement would be via the county court bailiff or sheriff, for example), and the city can be fined. It is possible but not normal to arrest government personnel for disobeying a court order.


In a recent case dealing with press and police, the TRO specifies explicitly, that any federal officer violating the order will have no qualified immunity for violating clear first amendment rights as they are on notice through the very order.

This means, that in the coming trial they loose their ability to call up qualified immunity as a defense if they violate the order.

Atop that, there is contempt of court.

  • The question is what happens if they and/or their agency just ignores the order, and then ignores any attempt by the court to hold them accountable for it? They get sued, refuse to pay, then refuse to arrest themselves for contempt of court?
    – nick012000
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 7:51
  • They get tried in a personal manner, not as agents of the feds.
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 7:57
  • How do they get tried if they refuse to arrest themselves?
    – nick012000
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 7:59
  • They have just to appear in court at their trial. And they want to do that or be in contempt of court. Which can lead to huge fines, arrest via the sheriff. Their superior also has to make sure they appear or face liability.
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 9:49

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