Palm Beach County Enforces 19-Year-Old Stale Contempt Arrest Order
Nineteen years ago a Palm Beach County judge signed a contempt arrest order providing for a former husband to be picked up and jailed for contempt for failing to pay arrearages and attorneys fees awarded to the former wife. The entire case was settled 18 and a half years ago, and the former wife and her attorney eventually received all of the money owed to them, payable in installments over a few years. The problem is, the former husband’s attorney never moved to vacate the old order once all of the payments had been made.
Last weekend, the former husband was arrested pursuant to the 19-year-old contempt order. He spent the weekend in jail and was ordered release instantly. You’d think he would have walked right out of the courtroom! Not so, says Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO)! Internal rules and regulations prohibited them from releasing this gentleman on the spot. Despite the judge recognizing that a mistake had been made almost two decades ago, and that the former husband was not in violation of any court orders, he was kept in shackles and escorted out of the courtroom and transported to the Palm Beach County jail to be processed and released. However, that didn’t happen until later in the afternoon.
This situation illustrates the importance of having attorneys who follow-up on matters once a case is resolved. Although I’m not blaming the former husband’s attorney at the time (he passed away many years ago), parties embroiled in contempt litigation should always be aware that contempt arrest orders once entered might eventually show up unexpectedly. In this situation, I was the only person still around who had memory of everything that happened almost 20 years ago. I went down to the courthouse to rectify the situation and advise the judge that he should be released. Although this particular case has provided me with many stories of overly litigious parties, by far, the end to this story is certainly unexpected. But a lesson should be learned, contempt orders don’t expire!
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by suphakit73