Finding the $1,000 fine imposed for indirect contempt of court after a woman continued to have animals at her home after ordered by a court not to do so was punitive in nature and impermissible, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Wednesday.
Tina Herron was ordered after a June 2014 trial to not own or keep animals in Marion County. The city of Indianapolis alleged she had committed six violations of the city’s revised code regarding the care and treatment of her animals, although the charges are not part of the appellate record.
In a follow-up visit, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control found Herron was not complying with the court order as she had nine dogs at her residence. The city then filed a motion to find her in contempt of the June order that she not keep or own animals. The city later asked the court sanction Herron with a $2,500 fine but did not present any evidence of its costs for the action. The judge found in December 2015 that Herron had willfully violated the court order and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine within 90 days. She appealed.
The COA agreed with Herron that the fine was not compensatory in nature because there is no evidence that it was designed to compensate the city for its actual damages. The city failed to produce evidence of its actual damages, and the court didn’t provide any basis for its determination that $1,000 would compensate the city for its losses.
In fact, Judge Rudolph Pyle noted, there’s no evidence that the fine was intended for the city as the court ordered the fine payable to the Marion County Clerk. The judge also didn’t order the clerk to later transfer the fine to the city.
The fine was solely punitive and therefore impermissible in a civil proceeding, the COA held. The judges reversed the denial of Herron’s motion to correct error and remanded for the court to vacate the sanction.
The case is Tina Herron v. City of Indianapolis, 49A02-1602-OV-370.