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Alcorn v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 28, 2019

Cheryl Alcorn, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Cass Superior Court The Honorable Richard A. Maughmer, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 09D02-1811-MC-807

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Jeffrey D. Stanton Logansport, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Frances Barrow Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          NAJAM, JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Cheryl Alcorn appeals the trial court's finding of contempt against her. Alcorn raises one issue for our review, namely, whether the trial court abused its discretion when it found her in contempt for having failed to pay the court's payroll voucher. We conclude that Alcorn has not met her burden on appeal to demonstrate that she was not in direct contempt and, thus, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In early 2018, the Cass County Council appropriated $25, 000 for the Cass Superior Court to hire a fourth court employee. The county council did not place any restrictions on those funds. The county council had also appropriated money for part-time employees, who are to be paid at a rate of not more than $12.50 per hour.[1] On October 15, the Cass Superior Court hired a retired school teacher to fill the full-time position of court reporter. However, "due to prior teaching commitments," the court phased in the new court reporter as her schedule would allow until she could work full time. Appellant's App. Vol. II at 4.

         [¶3] On October 29, the trial court submitted a payroll voucher to Alcorn, who is the Cass County Auditor. In that voucher, the court approved payment for the new court reporter at a rate of $14.01 per hour[2] for the hours the court reporter had worked, which the trial court "intended to be taken from the $25, 000.00 unrestricted funds." Id. However, Alcorn refused to pay the voucher as submitted. Instead, Alcorn paid the court reporter at the rate of $12.50 per hour because the court reporter had only worked part time.

         [¶4] On November 2, the trial court issued a citation finding Alcorn in contempt for failing to pay the payroll voucher as submitted. Specifically, the trial court found that Alcorn had "refused to pay said voucher as per the order" of the trial court. Id. at 6. The trial court further found that Alcorn's refusal to pay the court reporter at the correct rate "substantially disrupt[ed] the operation of the court" and "constitute[d] direct contempt of the court[.]" Id.

         [¶5] The trial court held a hearing on November 5. At the hearing, Alcorn stated that she did not pay the payroll voucher as submitted because part-time employees were only able earn $12.50 per hour. Alcorn also asserted that the payroll voucher was not an order of the court. At the conclusion of the hearing, Alcorn agreed to pay the payroll claim "under protest." Tr. Vol. II at 15. The trial court did not impose any sanctions on Alcorn due to her compliance with the payroll voucher. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] Alcorn contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it found her in contempt. As the Indiana Supreme Court has stated:

"It is soundly within the discretion of the trial court to determine whether a party is in contempt, and we review the judgment under an abuse of discretion standard of review." Steele-Giri v. Steele, 51 N.E.3d 119, 124 (Ind. 2016) (quoting Witt v. Jay Petroleum, Inc., 964 N.E.2d 198, 202 (Ind. 2012)). "We will reverse a trial court's finding of contempt only if there is no evidence or inference therefrom to support the finding." Id. The trial court has the inherent power to "maintain [] its dignity, secur[e] obedience to its ...

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