Lloyd Parks v. Charles Atkins, Sr.

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OCTOBER 13, 2004


[NO. LCV-2003-32-5]



Karen R. Baker, Judge

Appellant, Lloyd Parks, appeals the trial court's order holding him in criminal contempt for the willful violation of a temporary restraining order asserting two points of error: (1) The court erred in issuing a temporary restraining order without finding that irreparable harm would occur; (2) The court erred in issuing a temporary restraining order and finding appellant in contempt without first finding that the applicant for the restraining order would likely prevail on the merits at trial. We find no merit in appellant's arguments and affirm.

This cause of action arose out of an incident between Lloyd Parks, the elected mayor of Gould, Arkansas, and Charles Atkins, Sr., appellee, the chief of police of the city of Gould. On or about March 17, 2003, Chief Atkins was in the process of effecting an arrest, when Mayor Parks ordered him to release the suspect. When Chief Atkins refused, Mayor Parks fired him on the spot for "insubordination." Chief Atkins warned Mayor Parks that his actions were possibly criminal in nature as he was obstructing governmental operations. Mayor Parks then attacked Chief Atkins and a physical altercat

On that same day, the City Council of Gould, with all six council members present voted to override the mayor's action in firing Chief Atkins by a vote of four in favor, with no votes opposed and two abstentions. The mayor walked out of the Council meeting following the vote to override his termination of Chief Atkins. The following day, Mayor Parks vetoed the City Council's override of the firing. Shortly thereafter, a letter was sent from

the attorney for the Arkansas Municipal League, enclosing an attorney general's opinion (Opinion Number 99-077) and advising Mayor Parks and the City Council members that the mayor's veto of the City Council's reinstatement of Chief Atkins was invalid. The letter strongly recommended that the city refrain "from taking any actions inconsistent with the enclosed opinion." The mayor and City Council were further admonished that actions taken contrary to the attorney's advice might lead to denial of coverage by the municipal league's legal defense program.

At approximately 11:05 a.m. on March 21, Mayor Parks was served with a temporary restraining order enjoining him from interfering with the performance of the Chief Atkin's duties. The order further specified that Mayor Parks was to affirmatively furnish to Chief Atkins keys to the police department, jail and police vehicles, as well as the chief's badge and access to all equipment and supplies incidental to the operation of the police department. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Parks consulted with the municipal judge who advised him to comply with the court's order. Mayor Parks then left town.

Also on March 21, the City Council met for the purpose of issuing a public reinstatement of Chief Atkins. The council members present restated their votes from the March 17 meeting and ratified their overriding of the mayor's action in firing Chief Atkins. On March 22, Mayor Parks called a special meeting of the City Council so that they might consider upholding his firing of Chief Atkins. With four council members present, the vote was three in favor of upholding the mayor's firing of Chief Atkins with one abstention. On March 28, the Arkansas Municipal League legal defense program coverage and representation for the city of Gould was revoked for, inter alia, failure "to follow the advice of the program and the attorney assigned to you by the program."

An order to show cause was filed April 3, 2003, directing Mayor Parks to appear and show cause why he should not be held in contempt for failure to comply with the court's order of March 21. A hearing was held on April 9, 2003, on the order to show cause. The trial court found that, as of the hearing date, Mayor Parks had still not complied with the court's order by returning the items to Chief Atkins as directed. The court further found that the mayor had persisted in his refusal to comply with the court's order despite the advice of the municipal judge, city attorney, and the municipal league. As a result, the court found Mayor Parks in criminal contempt and sentenced him to serve a period of five days incarceration.

On appeal from a finding of criminal contempt, the court views the record in the light most favorable to a decision of the trial court and sustains that decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Carle v. Burnett, 311 Ark. 477, 845 S.W.2d 7 (1993). Where the failure or refusal to abide by an order of the court is the issue, this court does not look behind the order to determine whether the order is valid. Id; see also Ark. Dep't of Human Servs. v. R.P., 333 Ark 516, 970 S.W.2d 225 (1998).

Here, both of appellant's points on appeal challenge only the validity of the underlying order of March 21, addressing issues of

irrepa1 Because we do not consider the validity of the order violated, we find no merit to appellant's argument.


Robbins and Griffen, JJ., agree.

1 Appellant makes a one-sentence reference in the last paragraph of his argument that, "In addition, there was insufficient evidence that Appellant willfully violated the Court Order." However, we do not consider an argument if the party fails to cite legal authority in support of that argument where it is not apparent without further research that these arguments are well-taken. Miner v. State, 342 Ark. 283, 27 S.W.3d 280 (2000). See, e.g., Womack v. Foster, 340 Ark. 124, 8 S.W.3d 854 (2000); National Bank of Commerce v. Dow Chem. Co., 338 Ark. 752, 1 S.W.3d 443 (1999).