Appellate Procedure & Civil Contempt - Hopkins v. Hopkins


Hopkins v. Hopkins, [Ms. 2150955, May 26] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). In this appeal from a post-divorce modification proceeding involving contempt allegations, the Court of Civil Appeals reiterates important principles concerning appellate procedure and civil contempt.

the court rejected the contention that the mother’s conduct constituted criminal contempt when the father’s appellate brief failed to cite pertinent law: “‘[W]here no legal authority is cited or argued, the effect is the same as if no argument had been made.’” Ms. *4, n. 1, quoting Steele v. Rosenfeld, LLC, 936 So. 2d 488, 493 (Ala. 2005), quoting Bennett v. Bennett, 506 So. 2d 1021, 1023 (Ala. Civ. App. 1987)(emphasis added in Steele). Also, “[i]t is not the duty of this court to search the record to determine whether it contains evidence to support contentions made by a party.” Ms. *16, quoting Thomason v. Redd, 565 So. 2d 259, 260 (Ala. Civ. App. 1990).

With respect to civil contempt, the Court explains:

“‘Civil contempt’ means willful, continuing failure or refusal of any person to comply with a court’s lawful writ, subpoena, process, order, rule, or command that by its nature is still capable of being complied with.” See Rule 70A(a)(2)(D), Ala. R. Civ. P. “‘“[W]hether a party is in contempt of court is a determination committed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and, absent an abuse of that discretion or unless the judgment of the trial court is unsupported by the evidence so as to be plainly and palpably wrong, this court will affirm.”’” Aramini v. Aramini, [Ms. 2140547, July 15, 2016] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2016) (quoting Stamm v. Stamm, 922 So. 2d 920, 924 (Ala. Civ. App. 2004), quoting in turn Stack v. Stack, 646 So. 2d 51, 56 (Ala. Civ. App. 1994))

Ms. *5.

“‘[T]he inability to comply with the trial court’s judgment is a valid defense in contempt proceedings. See Gilbert v. Nicholson, 845 So. 2d 785, 791 (Ala. 2002); Ex parte Baker, 623 So. 2d 304, 306 (Ala. Civ. App. 1993); and Hill v. Hill, 562 So. 2d 255, 257 (Ala. Civ. App. 1990). ... [T]he trial court’s determination that a party’s failure to comply with a judgment is willful and not due to an inability to comply, when based on ore tenus evidence, will be affirmed if it is supported by one view of that evidence.’” Aramini, ___ So. 3d at ___ (quoting Stamm v. Stamm, 922 So. 2d at 924).

Ms. *15, quoting Aramini, supra, __ So. 3d at ___, quoting Stamm v. Stamm, 922 So. 2d at 924.

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