What Is A Court Order?

For years, the murders of eighth graders Liberty German and Abigail Williams have haunted the Delphi, Indiana area (via The New York Times). On February 13, 2017, the girls went on a hike at the Delphi Historic Trail. Per Fox News, German and Williams' slain bodies were found the next day, and the case has remained unsolved since. In October 2022, authorities arrested a man they believe was involved in their deaths. Newsweek reports that Richard Allen was charged with two counts of murder. Despite the notoriety of the killings, which have been dubbed the Delphi murders, authorities have not publicly released much information about the case.

For example, it's unknown how exactly German and Williams died, and Allen's connection to the case and how he became a suspect is also not clear. Carroll County Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland explained (per ABC News), "Per the court order, we cannot talk about the evidence that's in the probable cause." McLeland went on to say (via The New York Times), "It's about protecting the integrity of this case." But what exactly is a court order? In simple terms, Merriam-Webster writes that a court order can prohibit an individual or group from engaging in a specific action.

Court orders have one goal

Per the Legal Information Institute, there are several different types of court orders, including a gag order and a cease and desist order. However, MyLawQuestions states that the most common are restraining and custody orders. Beyond this, a court order can set a court date or establish some sort of agreement, which could be financial or otherwise. Another article from the Legal Information Institute explains that judges are in charge of issuing court orders, and they do this by writing and signing them. But in some cases, the court order also has to be notarized. Nevertheless, the intention is the same— the orders legally prevent someone from doing something.

In regards to the Delphi murders, Nicholas McLeland acknowledged that it was "unusual" to use a court order in a murder case (via NBC News). He explained, ​"We don't do it very often in all the cases that we handle here in Carroll County. We did it in this case because the investigation is still open, and while all cases are important, the nature of this case has some extra scrutiny with it. And so we — my office, me — felt it was important to seal those records." According to the IndyStar, a hearing will decide if the records will be released to the public.

There are consequences for disobeying a court order

As the authorities continued to investigate the Delphi murders in 2022, IndyStar writes that the court order assisted them in their examination of the case. That said, if someone were to disobey any type of court order, MyLawQuestions reports that this would not end well for them. However, the consequences vary depending on the type of order. For some, this means they automatically lose a case, while others can face jail time. UpCounsel states that if an individual or party fails to adhere to a court order, they are in contempt of court.

UpCounsel explains that there are two types of contempt: criminal and civil. The publication writes that disobeying a court order would fall under civil contempt. This means that the judge needs evidence that the court order was violated. According to Krusch Law, this includes proof that the individual or party knew about the court order, and that they were able to comply with it. Furthermore, the judge needs to see how the court order was disobeyed. If it was, then the individual or party can be heavily fined or face jail time. As Krusch Law notes, this is all done to ensure that they honor the court order.