The Utah Supreme Court has upheld a 6th District judge's contempt of court finding against a businessman for failing to show up at a hearing and lifted its stay of a 30-day jail sentence.
The ruling, released last week, upholds the contempt citation and jail sentence of Harry Edward Thomas for failing to appear as ordered by Judge Don Tibbs at a May 4, 1984, hearing on whether he had violated court orders involving a civil case.In that case, Richard A. Von Hake had obtained a nearly $1 million judgment against Thomas and his company, 1st National Credit Corp., of Nevada, for fraud, according to court records.
Thomas failed to make any payments on the judgment and initiated supplemental proceedings in Tibbs' court. But, the court said, Thomas repeatedly failed to produce financial records as ordered and to appear for hearings.
The ruling established for the first time in Utah that failure to appear in court, under certain circumstances, can be ruled as direct contempt, which does not require a separate hearing on the charge.
"We have never decided whether a party's failure to appear at a hearing when directed to do so by court order is a form of direct or indirect contempt, and we have found no cases directly addressing the issue in other jurisdictions," Justice Michael Zimmerman wrote for the unanimous court.
Thomas was found to be in direct contempt because he had been warned his failure to appear would be treated as contempt, had ample opportunity to defend his conduct and the judge knew of the relevant circumstances.