Appeals court reverses contempt ruling against PPG
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a 25th Judicial District Court ruling ordering the Plaquemines Parish Government to pay contempt fines for every day it doesn’t pay former Parish Council member Keith Hinkley his money.
On April 22 a three-judge panel overturned 25th JDC Judge Kevin Conner’s August 2019 ruling, which sought to punish PPG for failure to pay Hinkley an $82,000 judgment handed down in 2018. Conner ruled in 2018 that PPG had brought a frivolous lawsuit against Hinkley and his co-defendant, Cuzan Services, in 2016 for allegedly accepting illegal roofing contracts on parish buildings during Hinkley’s time on the parish council. Conner awarded Hinkley $82,000 in sanctions and $44,000 for Cuzan when PPG’s legal team struggled to turn over any evidence to justify the suit.
When PPG took advantage of state statutes preventing political subdivisions from being forced to budget and pay legal judgments against the subdivision, Conner got creative. He reasoned that subdivisions that opt not to pay judgments are generally the defendants in suits brought by others. Because PPG filed the suit against Hinkley that blew up so spectacularly, Conner’s interpretation held that the constitutional protections did not extend to PPG. As such, he ordered PPG to pay the sanctions within 30 days, along with an additional $250 contempt penalty for every day beyond the 30-day window.
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