Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Party Cannot be Held in Contempt Unless the Order is Unambiguous

State of Utah v. L.A., 2010 UT App 356 (Utah Court of Appeals December 16, 2010).

Mother was held in contempt for failing to comply with an instruction from her minor child’s probation officer.   The parties agreed to assist their child in complying with all probations conditions including transporting the child to meetings with probation department, the juvenile court entered an order on their agreement.  The minor child tested positive for marijuana and the child’s probation officer instructed Mother to bring the child to the detention center.  Mother refused to take the child to detention and was found in contempt.  Mother Appealed.

The Court of Appeals found that the order instructing the parties to provide transportation to meetings was not sufficiently specific to include transporting the child to detention.  Because the order was ambiguous as to whether it required Mother to take the child to detention, or follow such an instruction from the probation officer, the Court of Appeals reversed the finding of contempt.

Dissent: Judge Orme would have found that the order was sufficiently clear to require Mother to comply with the probation officer’s instruction, and thus would have affirmed the Juvenile Court’s order.

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