1. Civil contempt

Reporters in Massachusetts have been held in civil contempt to compel compliance, with the proverbial keys to the cell in their own pockets.

To establish a complaint for civil contempt, the complainant must establish, by preponderance of the evidence,: 1)clear and undoubted disobedience 2) of a clear and unequivocal command. United Factory Outlet, Inc. v. Jay's Stores, Inc., 278 N.E.2d 716 (1972).

In Ayash v. Dana-Farber Cancer Inst., a judge ordered the media defendants to pay $100 per day, with that amount increasing by $100 for each successive week. The Massachusetts Appeals Court vacated that order and remanded so the court could employ the balancing test required for a reporter's privilege claim. 706 N.E.2d 316 (1999). On remand, the trial court determined that the plaintiff's need for the information should prevail. The court found the journalists in civil contempt after they continued to refuse to disclose their sources. Ayash, 443 Mass. 367 (Mass. 2005).

A reporter was also found in civil contempt in In re Roche, 411 N.E.2d 466 (Mass. 1980).

The procedures for bringing a complaint for civil contempt are carefully laid out in Mass. R. Civ. P. 65.3.