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Judges uphold contempt order against attorney

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A Morgan Circuit judge had jurisdiction to order a Unionville attorney to pay $75,000 to the county clerk after finding the attorney in contempt, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In the case In Re: The Order of Contempt Against Craig Benson, Martinsville Depot, Inc., and SBS Enterprises, Inc. v. Co-Alliance, LLP, No. 55A04-1010-CC-646, Craig Benson appealed the trial court’s finding that he was in contempt of court orders by distributing funds in 2010 that were to be held in his account. Martinsville Depot Inc. and SBS Enterprises were represented by Benson in a complaint filed by Co-Alliance seeking money for fuel that it had provided to Depot. The court ordered that proceeds from sales of assets from the defendants should be held until the court decides what should happen to those proceeds.

A sale happened in February 2010, and funds were deposited into Benson’s escrow account. Despite the court order, Benson distributed $75,000 to creditors and himself for attorney fees. After the distributions, Benson filed a motion for partial relief to be allowed to distribute some funds, but that was denied.

Several months later, SBS and Depot filed for protection under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and proceedings against SBS and Depot were stayed by the trial court. Co-Alliance then filed an unverified motion for contempt against Benson, and later filed a similar amended verified motion for contempt. The trial court found Benson in contempt and ordered he pay the $75,000 to the Morgan County Clerk and that he be jailed until he paid the money. He paid the amount owed to the clerk.

Benson attempted to have the contempt petition dismissed because the original contempt petition was unverified. It appears the parties decided to have the trial judge rule on the original motion, but even if the court erred by proceeding on this motion, any error didn’t affect Benson’s substantial rights, ruled the appellate court. As a result of the amended contempt motion, the trial court had before it almost identical verified allegations against Benson, so the essential purpose of the verification requirement was satisfied, wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

Also, the trial court did have subject matter jurisdiction to order the payment of $75,000 for contempt even though the bankruptcy court had previously stayed the proceedings. The money the trial court ordered him to pay wasn’t proceeds from the defendants’ sale and property of the bankruptcy estate, but was Benson’s personal money and it was damages resulting from his contempt. The funds at issue here aren’t subject to the bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction, wrote the judge.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

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