LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a Clark County circuit judge’s ruling that found the state Department of Human Services in contempt of court.
The appeals court reversed an order by Judge Randy Wright in a dependency-neglect case involving Jonathan Jones. In August 2015, Wright ordered DHS to pay for domestic-violence classes for Jones.
In February 2016, Jones filed a motion for contempt, contending that DHS had failed to reimburse him for the classes.
Wright held a hearing on the motion in September. By that time DHS had reimbursed Jones for the classes, and the agency explained that errors caused the delay.
Wright found that the agency was in contempt, and in October he issued a written order directing DHS to pay Jones $1,000 to cover his attorney’s fees related to the matter.
DHS appealed, and on Wednesday a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals said the contempt finding was in error.
The appeals court noted that Wright’s original order did not set out a time frame by which DHS had to pay for Jones’ classes and that Wright made no finding that the agency willfully disobeyed the order. In fact, Wright said during the hearing that DHS acted “in good faith.”
“Therefore, a finding of contempt under these circumstances is clearly against the preponderance of the evidence,” the Court of Appeals said in an opinion written by Judge Waymond Brown.