Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Little Rock Judge Rules in Valley Case


LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS- On January 8, 2012, Judge Jay Moody, Circuit Judge in Pulaski County's Third Division, conducted a hearing on the matter of James F. Valley's absence from the Arkansas Division Legislative Audit Meeting on October 11, 2012. 

 Valley had received a subpoena in late September for the October meeting. Valley had contacted the division to ascertain the need for his appearance in late September. As the time drew near, it became more apparent to Valley that he could not make the meeting because of obligations to his clients and his need to attend court in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. Valley informed the division of Legislative Audit that he could not attend.

 The Attorney for the Division of Legislative Audit informed those under subpoena that they had no alternative; they must show up. This letter was contrary to other settled law. Normally, a person who receives a subpoena has an option to challenge the validity of the subpoena in court. One of Valley's challenges was the fact that no witness fee was submitted along with the subpoena. 

Under Arkansas law, for a subpoena to be valid, there must be a witness fee and mileage check attached to it at the time of the service of the subpoena. Those items were not provided in this case. 

 In the hearing held on January 8th, Valley explained his absence and his out of court communications with the Division of Legislative Audit. Valley named his many clients who had trial settings in the Phillips County District Court on October 11, 2012. Some of the cases were DWI cases which must be handled without delay. 

Judge Moody ruled against Valley and directed that he pay a $250.00 fine as criminal contempt. Criminal contempt does not mean that a person has committed a crime. The contempt is called criminal because it has the purpose of punishing the contemnor rather than civil contempt which seeks compliance. Judge Moody could have held Valley in civil contempt and directed that Valley attend the meeting or be punished with a fine or something else. Upon compliance with the judge's order, the punishment, in the civil contempt setting, would be over. On the contrary, the case of criminal contempt is purely for the purpose of punishment. A person held in civil contempt may "purge" himself or set himself free of the contempt. A person held in criminal contempt must suffer the consequences as directed by the judge.

Valley has not decided whether he will appeal. The ruling creates a conundrum to the extent that the fine is only $250.00 and appealing the case could cost significantly more.  Valley did express disappointment in the decision and his need to appeal by saying that he needs to "appeal for the benefit of others." Valley believes that he cannot let a "bad decision become bad law and binding precedent."

 Below is a copy of Judge Moody's ruling:

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