Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Town Bd. of Town of Southampton v R.K.B. Realty case brief

Town Bd. of Town of Southampton v R.K.B. Realty
LLC, 91 A.D.3d 628

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant operators appealed an order by the Suffolk County Supreme Court (New York) that, among other things, denied their motion to modify a "so-ordered" stipulation that required them to stop the construction and operation of a cement and gunite plant, and granted a joint motion by plaintiffs, municipality and individuals, to hold them in civil and criminal contempt for violating the stipulation and an amended stipulation.

FACTS: The appellate court found, inter alia, that the "so-ordered stipulation," as amended by a subsequent stipulation could be considered a court order. The operators were aware of the clear and unequivocal provisions set forth in the stipulations, and violated them. Such conduct defeated, impaired, impeded, or prejudiced the plaintiffs' rights or remedies. In addition, the plaintiffs presented detailed testimony and numerous photographs and documents demonstrating, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the operators willfully and openly flouted the authority of the court. Thus, the operators were properly held in civil and criminal contempt. As there were multiple acts of disobedience, separate fines could be imposed under Judiciary Law § 773. The trial court correctly calculated the aggregate fine by multiplying the maximum statutory fine by the number of individual acts of contempt, and by the number of individual "aggrieved" plaintiffs. The trial court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in denying the operators' motion to modify the "so-ordered" stipulation. The operators' remaining contentions were without merit.

To sustain a finding of either civil or criminal contempt based on an alleged violation of a court order it is necessary to establish that a lawful order of the court clearly expressing an unequivocal mandate was in effect," that "the order has been disobeyed," and that the charged party "had knowledge of the court's order"

CONCLUSION: The order was affirmed.
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