Adam has a defamation suit against his ex-wife Eve for a lot of money in the United States. Adam also has a contract to perform professionally abroad from months 1 to 4.

The latest court date (in the U.S.) is month 4 but it was originally well before month 1. Adam wants to reschedule so that the court proceedings don't interfere with his contract.

Would a U.S court honor his request, based on his prior commitment? Does the court date give Adam a legal excuse to violate the terms of his contract abroad? Or is Adam caught in a "Catch 22" type situation whereby he will be in contempt of court if he isn't in the United States in month 4 and in breach of contract if he isn't abroad in month 4?

  • This depends on if it is a civil or criminal case - civil cases can be rescheduled easier than criminal ones.
    – Trish
    Sep 27, 2020 at 22:12
  • @Trish: This one is civil. I imagine that if someone were subpoenaed for a criminal case, that would be sufficient cause to break a contract.
    – Libra
    Sep 27, 2020 at 22:27
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    Any chance to attend remotely? Some courts are doing that because of the pandemic
    – Kat
    Sep 29, 2020 at 4:49

1 Answer 1


Would a U.S court honor his request, based on his prior commitment?

You are not specifying the purpose of the court hearing, or whether Adam is pro se litigant (which sounds unlikely if this plaintiff is a movie star).

If plaintiff Adam is represented by an attorney, Adam's presence is unnecessary in most or all court hearings. In fact, typically neither parties nor their lawyers have to show up in court, whence their absence does not constitute contempt of court. Absence merely implies that they miss the opportunity to [orally] argue their position before the court, and thus would depend on whether the judge bothers to actually read their brief.

If you mean a hearing in which Adam needs to be present, his request to reschedule the hearing is most likely to be granted. His contract is strong evidence that his request is not a vexatious attempt to delay proceedings. Since the hearing would be in month 4, the particularity that his contract goes up to month 4 implies that rescheduling would not significantly delay proceedings.

Regarding your comment, rescheduling can (and does) happen multiple times even in criminal cases. This post includes an excerpt of the Register of Actions of criminal case 16-870-FH in Michigan state court (Washtenaw county), highlighting several instances of rescheduling as requested by the defense counsel and despite prosecutor's objection. I believe the case got rescheduled a few more times beyond what the snapshots reflect.

  • 1
    This answer is largely correct. But it is not true in any meaningful way that "neither parties nor their lawyers have to show up." These kinds of musings on what a person "can" do in the most theoretical sense -- which show up all over this site -- are unhelpful to anyone except those who believe that the law is capable of possessing your body and literally forcing you to obey it.
    – bdb484
    Sep 29, 2020 at 0:52
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    @bdb484 That is needlessly pedantic, and completely misses the point. What they 'can' do means what they can legally do, not what they can physically do
    – Rob
    Sep 29, 2020 at 1:24
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    Not a horrible answer but it implies a much greater level of certainty than there is in reality. in reality, courts have very wide discretion is scheduling hearing dates and are not required to defer to litigants schedules. Your mileage may vary, not just from court to court, but from judge to judge within a court.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 29, 2020 at 3:48
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    @Rob That's exactly my point. The answer's assertion that the OP doesn't "have to" comply with court orders operates on the premise that one doesn't "have to" do anything, as long as one is willing to accept the (frequently disastrous) consequences that will naturally follow. It most frequently shows up in the following form: "Q: Can I sue for x? A: Yes, anyone can sue for anything! But your case might get thrown out!" I assume people aren't trying to be useless, so my best guess is that when you're not trained in legal reasoning, hypertechnicality feels like the same thing.
    – bdb484
    Sep 29, 2020 at 3:48
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    Also the consequence for a civil litigant's failure to appear in their own case, absence a subpoena may be a default, but is almost never contempt of court.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 29, 2020 at 3:50

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