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BMO Harris Bank N.A. v. Alton Bean Trucking, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

June 27, 2019

BMO HARRIS BANK N.A. PLAINTIFF
v.
ALTON BEAN TRUCKING, INC. and GARY BEAN DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff BMO Harris Bank N.A.'s Motion to Hold Defendants in Contempt. (ECF No. 38). On June 25, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the matter. The Court finds that no response is necessary and that the matter is ripe for consideration. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed this action, alleging that Defendants Alton Bean Trucking, Inc. (“ABT”) and Gary Bean[1] were in default under certain loan agreements and guarantees, and seeking replevin, specific performance, injunctive relief, and breach of contract damages. On April 4, 2017, the Clerk of Court entered default against Defendants. On April 11, 2017, the Court entered default judgment against Defendants, ordering inter alia that they must deliver all retained collateral to Plaintiffs and, if not, the U.S. Marshal or appropriate sheriff should assist Plaintiff in gaining possession of the retained collateral. On March 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to reopen this case, stating that Defendants have not complied with the Court's judgment dated April 11, 2017, despite being served with the same, and that certain of the retained collateral remains in Defendants' possession. On March 4, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to reopen.

         On April 5, 2019, the Court, on Plaintiff's motion, entered an order finding Defendants in civil contempt for failure to comply with the Court's April 11, 2017 judgment. That contempt order also directed Defendants to gather all nine trailers then comprising the retained collateral, in road ready condition, at ABTs' place of business by April 15, 2019. On May 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting a show cause order, stating that Defendants had not produced the nine trailers as ordered by the Court. On May 6, 2019, the Court entered a show cause order, directing Defendants to show cause why they have not complied with the Court's orders. To date, Defendants have not responded to or acknowledged the Court's show cause order.

         On May 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed a second motion to hold ABT in civil contempt. Plaintiff requests that the Court impose coercive sanctions on ABT in an amount that the Court deems appropriate. Plaintiff also requests that the Court grant a compensatory award of attorneys' fees and costs incurred by Plaintiff since the last civil contempt hearing on April 3, 2019; the depreciated value of the trailers; the full amount of insurance proceeds related to one of the trailers that was previously wrecked;[2] a compensatory fine; and unspecified interest. On June 25, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the instant motion. Plaintiff and ABT-through its president and corporate representative Gary Bean Jr.-each appeared, represented by counsel.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff asks the Court to hold ABT in civil contempt for failure to comply with the Court's April 11, 2017 judgment; the Court's April 4, 2019 contempt order; and the Court's May 6, 2019 show cause order. To that end, Plaintiff requests that the Court impose coercive and compensatory sanctions on ABT.

         “[I]t is firmly established that the power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts.” Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991) (internal punctuation and citation omitted). Congress has provided federal courts with contempt powers as follows:

A court of the United States shall have such power to punish by fine or imprisonment, at its discretion, such contempt of its authority, and none other, as-
(1) Misbehavior of any person in its presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice;
(2) Misbehavior of any of its officers in their official transactions;
(3) Disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command.

18 U.S.C. § 401. Similarly, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 70 provides means for “enforcing a judgment for a specific act.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 70. To this end, a court may, in its discretion, “hold the disobedient party in contempt” after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard. Fed.R.Civ.P. 70(e); Int'l Union, United Mine Workers of Am. v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 827 (1994). An overarching goal of a court's contempt power is “to ensure that litigants do not anoint themselves with the power to adjudge the validity of orders to which they are subject.” Chi. Truck Drivers v. Bhd. Labor Leasing, 207 F.3d 500, 505 (8th Cir. 2000).

         Two forms of contempt are recognized: civil and criminal. Bagwell, 512 U.S. at 827. “Most contempt sanctions . . . to some extent punish a prior offense as well as coerce an offender's future obedience.” Id. at 828. “[W]hether a contempt is civil or criminal turns on the ‘character and purpose' of the sanction involved.” Id. at 827. “Thus, a contempt sanction is considered civil if it is remedial, and for the benefit of the complainant.” Id. In contrast, “criminal contempt . . . is punitive, to vindicate the authority of the court.” Id. at 828 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff asks the Court to hold ABT in civil contempt. Accordingly, the remainder of the Court's analysis will focus on whether a finding of civil contempt is appropriate under the circumstances of this case. If the Court answers that question in the ...


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