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Herron v. City of Indianapolis

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 31, 2016

Tina Herron, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
City of Indianapolis, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 49G21-1405-OV-15215 The Honorable Alicia A. Gooden, Judge

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Victoria L. Bailey Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Cassandra A. Nielsen Office of Corporation Counsel Indianapolis, Indiana

          Pyle, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [1] Tina Herron ("Herron") appeals the trial court's sanction of a $1, 000 fine for her indirect contempt of court in a civil proceeding. She argues on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the $1, 000 fine because the fine was punitive rather than compensatory or coercive in nature, which is impermissible in a civil contempt proceeding. Because we agree that the trial court's sanction was impermissibly punitive, we reverse and remand with instructions for the trial court to vacate Herron's sanction.

         [2] We reverse and remand with instructions.

         Issue

Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered Herron to pay a fine of $1, 000 as a sanction for her contempt of court.

         Facts

         [3] On April 14, 2014, the City of Indianapolis ("the City") filed a civil complaint against Herron alleging that she had committed six violations of the Revised Code of the Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County ("the Revised Code") regarding the care and treatment of her animals.[1] On June 3, 2014, the trial court held a bench trial on the complaint, and Herron appeared pro se. At the conclusion of the trial, the court entered judgment in favor of the City on all six counts and prohibited Herron from owning or keeping animals in Marion County.

         [4] On November 15, 2014, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control ("IACC") officers Jason Kindig ("Officer Kindig") and Jessica Kelley ("Officer Kelley") conducted a follow-up investigation to determine whether Herron was complying with the trial court's order. They had received a complaint that Herron was living at an address on Goya Street in Indianapolis along with several animals. When they arrived at the address, they found her there with nine dogs. As a result, Officer Kindig cited Herron with an additional violation of the Revised Code.[2]

         [5] A month later, on December 24, 2014, the City filed a motion for the court to issue a rule to show cause and to find Herron in contempt of court for violating the court's June 3 order that she not own or keep animals. On January 6, 2015, the trial court ordered Herron to appear for a hearing to show cause as to why she should not be held in contempt of court. Subsequently, on April 29, 2015, the City moved to amend its motion for contempt. In the amended motion, the City requested "the imposition of a thirty (30) day jail sentence for [Herron], and all other relief just and proper in the premises." (App. 32). The City also requested "the costs of this action, " but it did not specify the amount of its costs. (App. 32). The next day, the trial court granted the City's motion to amend its contempt motion.

         [6] On November 23, 2015, Herron filed a verified motion to dismiss the City's motion for contempt on the basis that the City was seeking a remedy that was not available in civil proceedings-jail time-without offering her the opportunity to purge her contempt to avoid the jail time. The City responded, arguing that Herron's motion was premature because she had not yet been found in contempt. The City also argued that a sentence of imprisonment was permissible to coerce Herron's compliance with the trial court's order. On December 2, 2015, Herron filed a second motion to dismiss the City's motion for contempt, again arguing that the City's requested sanctions were not available in a civil proceeding. The City again responded, this time arguing that Herron's repetitive motions to dismiss were improper under Indiana Trial Rule 12(G). On December 10, 2015, the trial court denied Herron's motions to dismiss, concluding that her arguments were premature as it had not yet found her in contempt of court.

         [7] Four days later, on December 14, 2015, the trial court held a hearing on the City's contempt motion and its rule to show cause. At the hearing, the City requested that the trial court sanction Herron with a fine of $2, 500, but it did not present any evidence of its costs for the action. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that Herron had willfully violated its June 3 order that ...


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