FROM THE PERRY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 53DR-16-102]
HONORABLE CATHLEEN V. COMPTON, JUDGE
Crain, pro se appellant.
LaCerra, Dickson, Hoover & Rogers, PLLC, by: Marjorie E.
Rogers, for appellee.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Crain appeals an order of the Perry County Circuit Court that
finally disposed of some contempt issues. Ark. R. App.
P.-Civ. 2(a)(13) (2018). Trudy is acting on her own behalf
and makes many arguments. Having reviewed her points in light
of the record before us, we hold that the circuit court's
findings were not clearly against the preponderance of the
evidence and wholly affirm its decision.
parties in this case went through a contentious divorce that
ended in February 2017. As part of that process, the circuit
court entered a restraining order in October 2016 prohibiting
the parties from mistreating each other and protecting all
the property that any party had. The divorce decree expressly
stated that Trudy "shall remain in the duplex [owned by
Donald] for a period of forty-five days from February 2,
2017, and shall then vacate the property."
Perryville police officers were called to the duplex the day
of the divorce. Donald presented evidence to the circuit
court that Trudy had damaged his property by writing negative
messages about him, his son, and his ex-wife throughout the
duplex. Photographs admitted as evidence show paint strewn
about on furniture, doors, walls, and carpet. Spoiled food
was left in the oven and the refrigerator. Trash was left in
the yard, which had also been damaged by a vehicle that was
driven on the lawn when it was wet.
court found that Trudy caused this property damage, that she
willfully violated the restraining order, and that Donald was
entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of repairing the
duplex, which totaled $2, 942. Trudy was also ordered to pay
Donald's $5, 800 attorney's fee, the amount he
requested. As for Donald, the court found that he owed Trudy
money pursuant to the divorce decree. Specifically, Donald
owed Trudy $7, 963, one-half of the money in a marital
account on the date of the divorce. The court offset the
amount each party owed to the other and ordered Trudy to pay
the difference of $779. The result of the appealed order is
that Trudy must pay Donald $779; she is also forbidden from
contacting him directly or through a third party.
is unhappy with this result. To the extent that she is asking
us to jail Donald, disbar his attorney, or find either or
both of them guilty of crimes and liable for torts, the
answer is: no; those issues are beyond this appeal's
scope. This case is limited to reviewing the civil contempt
finding and the resulting $779 sanction. A contempt-related
order to pay another person money for a willful disobedience
is remedial and therefore a fine. This being the case, civil
contempt is at issue. See Omni Holding & Dev. Corp.
v. 3D.S.A., Inc., 356 Ark. 440, 454, 156 S.W.3d 228, 238
(2004). On review, we ask whether the circuit court's
finding is clearly against the preponderance of the evidence.
Gatlin v. Gatlin, 306 Ark. 146, 811 S.W.2d 761
it was not. Regarding the first ground, the circuit court did
not find that Trudy or her coworker were credible witnesses
and therefore did not punish Donald for allegedly driving by
Trudy's place of employment. Shores v. Lively,
2016 Ark.App. 246, 492 S.W.3d 81 (due deference given to
circuit court in domestic-relations cases to view and judge
the credibility of the witnesses). Although Donald gave Trudy
the spare key and title to her car seventy-three days after
the divorce decree, instead of the forty-five days as ordered
by the decree, the court found that Trudy was not harmed by
the delay, and the use of a spare key did not affect her
ability to use the car. See Ball v. Ball, 2014
Ark.App. 432, at 5, 439 S.W.3d 92, 94 (facts did not give
rise to the level of willful disobedience that would mandate
a contempt finding). As to Trudy's complaint that the
court erred because it did not find Donald to be in contempt
of the divorce decree, the court credited an email in the
record from Trudy stating she had voluntarily vacated the
duplex on 3 February 2017 and wrote "anyone can easily
go there do what they want." Donald also testified that
Trudy had told him that she had moved out. Given these
credibility determinations, we decline to reverse.
also note, as a matter of fairness, that the circuit court
denied Donald's request to hold Trudy in contempt for
failing to pay money for rent. Although the court orally
ordered Trudy to pay rent, the directive never made it into
the written order.
also complains about some criminal charges that were filed
against her and dismissed. That Trudy was arrested related to
the property damage done to the duplex was not a result of
Donald's willful disobedience of a court order. The
voluminous pro se motions, text messages, emails, and
photographs in the record support the circuit court's
conclusion that Trudy caused Donald to incur unnecessary
attorney's fees related to her conduct in the case.
circuit court found that Donald was in contempt of the
divorce decree because he had not paid Trudy one-half of the
balance in a marital bank account. To the extent that Trudy
argues here that the documents supporting the amount owed
from that bank account were falsified by Donald or his
attorney, the point was not ruled on by the circuit court.
Kulbeth v. Purdom, 305 Ark. 19, 805 S.W.2d 622
(1991) (appellant has the burden of obtaining a ruling from
the circuit court on the issue to be reviewed).
Trudy makes some procedural points that we will briefly
address. In her appellate brief, she argues that she had
insufficient notice of the 28 March 2017 contempt hearing and
was therefore denied due process. She also states,
"[b]eing that the Judge knew Mr. Crain and his family
she has made this whole experience a nightmare for me;"
and she says that the circuit judge should have recused. We
find no merit to these arguments. Trudy objected to the
notice for a 28 March 2017 hearing, but she later acquiesced,
and the hearing continued. Before the 28 February 2018
hearing, which resulted in the March 6 order that Trudy has
appealed, her attorney withdrew her pending motion to recuse.
She is bound by her trial attorney's prior abandonment of
her recusal demand. See Scarlett v. Rose Care, Inc.,
328 Ark. 672, 675, 944 S.W.2d 545, 547 (1997) (a client is
generally bound ...