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7th Circuit vacates sanction in contempt judgment

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that an order, while unclear, did require a company to become the operator of leases involving oil and gas fields in Texas. But the judges held the District Court judge didn’t fully explain why he was imposing the sanction he did, so the 7th Circuit vacated the sanction.

At issue in Securities and Exchange Commission v. First Choice Management Services Inc. et al.; SonCo Holdings LLC v. Joseph D. Bradley, receiver, and ALCO Oil & Gas Co. LLC, No. 11-1702, is the sanction imposed stemming from a settlement SonCo Holdings entered into with the receiver of First Choice Management Services, which had defrauded victims out of $31 million. Some of First Choice’s assets had been used to acquire “Hull-Silk” oil and gas leases in Texas through a sham corporation. SonCo claimed to have a valid legal interest in the leases obtained through the sham corporation. ALCO Oil & Gas Co. was the operator of the leases.

As part of the settlement, SonCo paid the receiver $600,000 and was ordered to "obtain a bond … that shall replace ALCO’s bond so that ALCO and the receiver may obtain the release of its bond paid for with the defrauded investor funds." ALCO had paid a $250,000 cash bond with the Texas Railroad Commission to assure payment of any costs the commission might impose on ALCO for failing as operator of the wells.  
 
SonCo failed to post the bond that would replace ALCO’s bond and didn’t obtain the commission’s authorization to operate the wells. The District Court held SonCo in contempt, ordered it to return the Hull-Silk leases to the receiver, and allowed the receiver to keep the $600,000 SonCo paid to the receiver. The receiver then assigned them to another company, which in turn assigned them to an unrelated party.

The 7th Circuit found the agreed order was poorly drafted but the language did indicate that SonCo posted a bond so ALCO’s could be released. The order doesn’t say that SonCo must be the operator; it could have engaged with another oil company to become the operator, noted Judge Richard Posner.

Since the District judge in this case used the term “contempt” when sanctioning SonCo, he had to prove the contempt by clear and convincing evidence, which he did not do. The 7th Circuit vacated the sanction and remanded with instructions: the District judge can reimpose the sanction he imposed upon demonstration that it is a compensatory remedy for a civil contempt after all; impose a different or even no sanction, whether for civil contempt or for misconduct not characterized as contempt; or proceed under the rules governing criminal contempts, wrote Posner.

 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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