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Judges uphold $600k sanction for contempt

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After initially vacating a District judge’s $600,000 sanction against SonCo Holdings for contempt of court and remanding it to the lower court for more proceedings, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sanction Friday.  

Securities and Exchange Commission v. First Choice Management Services Inc., et al., 12-3308, comes before the federal appellate court for a second time in less than a year. In May 2012, the Circuit judges ruled Judge Robert L. Miller didn’t fully explain why he imposed the $600,000 sanction against SonCo, so they vacated the sanction. They sent the matter back to the judge to impose 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.

As part of a settlement SonCo entered into with the receiver of First Choice Management Services, SonCo agreed to replace ALCO Oil & Gas Co.’s $250,000 cash bond with the Texas Railroad Commission. ALCO operated oil and gas leases in Texas, and SonCo claimed to have a valid legal interest in the leases that were obtained through a sham organization that defrauded victims out of millions.

SonCo never obtained the bond to replace ALCO’s bond and did not obtain the railroad commission’s authorization to operate the wells by a final deadline imposed by Miller. SonCo had paid the receiver the $600,000 for a quitclaim assignment of the leases, which Miller allowed the receiver to keep as a sanction.

In Friday’s decision, the judges found Miller explained and ALCO and the receiver were able to demonstrate that $600,000 is a “gross underestimate of the harm caused by SonCo’s contempt.” A plausible estimate of the total harm is actually closer to $2 million, Judge Richard Posner wrote, meaning SonCo has gotten off lightly.

“The district judge remarked SonCo’s ‘record of truly brazen intransigence’ in this protracted proceeding. That is an understatement. SonCo will be courting additional sanctions, of increasing severity, if it does not desist forthwith from its obstructionist tactics,” he wrote.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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