APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH. NO. 2008-00724, DIVISION " K" . HONORABLE BERNADETTE D'SOUZA, JUDGE.
JANE ETTINGER BOOTH, BOOTH & BOOTH, APLC, New Orleans, Louisiana -and- KYLA L. ROGERS, KYLA ROGERS LAW, LLC, New Orleans, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee.
RICHARD DUCOTE, RICHARD DUCOTE, PC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Counsel for Defendant/Appellant.
Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Dennis R. Bagneris,
Sr., Judge Max N. Tobias, Jr.
JAMES F. MCKAY III,
[2014-0724 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] In this domestic case, the appellant, Radhika Pochampally, appeals the judgment of the trial court rendered on November 20, 2013, and amended on December 18, 2013, granting Havijayendra Jaligam's rule for contempt and for Attorney's Fees and Costs, finding Radhika Pochampally in constructive contempt of court for intentional violations of visitation orders pursuant to La. R.S. 9:346, fining her five hundred dollars ($500.00) pursuant to La. R.S. 13:4611(1)(d), and in ordering her to pay attorney's fees in the amount of one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500.00) and court costs as allowed by La. R.S. 9:346. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A brief factual and relevant procedural background pertinent to this appeal reflects that Havijayendra Jaligam (" Dr. Jaligam" ) and Radhika Pochampally (" Dr. Pochampally" ) are the divorced parents of two minor children. On March 8, 2012, the mother, Dr. Pochampally filed a motion to relocate the minor children. On July 31, 2012, after a full hearing, the trial court granted the motion allowing Dr. [2014-0724 La.App. 4
Cir. 2] Pochampally to relocate the permanent residence of the minor children to Jackson, Mississippi.
On August 15, 2012, the father, Dr. Jaligam, filed an ex parte order granting permission to travel with minor children on a family vacation to Virginia. The motion requested that he be allowed to retrieve his minor children from Jackson, Mississippi on the evening of Thursday, August 23, 2012, and return the children to school on Monday, August 27, 2012. Pertinent to this order, respective counsel for both Dr. Jaligam and Dr. Pochampally participated in a teleconference with the trial court on August 7, 2012, wherein the court advised Dr. Jaligam that he would be permitted to travel with the minor children on August 23, 2013, through August 27, 2012, provided he received a letter from the school permitting the children to miss school. After providing the trial court with the requested documentation from the school, the trial court, on August 15, 2012, granted Dr. Jaligam's ex parte motion allowing the children to travel with him.
However, on August 10, 2012, Dr. Pochampally filed an emergency petition for protection from abuse against Dr. Jaligam in an alternate jurisdiction, the Madison Municipal Court, State of Mississippi. On August 16, 2012, the Madison, Mississippi Municipal Court issued an ex parte emergency domestic abuse protection order against Dr. Jaligam. Dr. Jaligam was ordered to appear before the Mississippi court on August 23, 2012, the very day he was to depart with the minor [2014-0724 La.App. 4
Cir. 3] children to Virginia for a family wedding, pursuant to the court ordered vacation. As a result of this ex parte emergency abuse protection order, Dr. Jaligam was effectively precluded from exercising his court sanctioned visitation travel with the minor children. On August 28, 2012, pursuant to the ex parte emergency abuse protection order, Dr. Pochampally filed a petition for a final domestic abuse protective order which was heard before the Yazoo County Court, State of Mississippi on October 23, 2012. On October 30, 2012, that court denied Dr. Pochampally's petition and issued an order finding that no evidence was present which warranted a finding of domestic abuse and denied the final domestic abuse and protection order. As a result of Dr. Pochampally's actions, Dr. Jaligam was effectively denied his court ordered visitation with his children.
On December 19, 2012, Dr. Jaligam filed his first rule for contempt, pursuant to La. R.S. 9:346, against Dr. Pochampally for willfully refusing to comply with court orders, specifically visitation orders. A hearing was set for April 4, 2013. However, during this interim period Dr. Pochampally continued to thwart the father's ability to visit with his children. On March 21, 2013, she was ordered to transport the minor children to Dr. Jaligam in New Orleans for his March 21-23, 2013 weekend visit; Dr. Pochampally failed to deliver the children.
On April 4, 2013, a hearing was held on Dr. Jaligam's rule for contempt against Dr. Pochampally. While the rule remained open, the trial court issued an interim order which was signed as a judgment on May 6, 2013, ordering Dr. Pochampally to transport the minor children to New Orleans for Dr. Jaligam's [2014-0724 La.App. 4
Cir. 4] court ordered visitations. Dr. Pochampally, again refused to deliver the children in accordance with the May 6, 2013 interim order for the weekends of April 19-21, 2013 and May 3-5, 2013.
Based on Dr. Pochampally's continued actions, which interfered with Dr. Jaligam's court sanctioned visitations with his minor children, the trial court ruled on Dr. Jaligam's initial and second rules for contempt. The trial court found that Dr. Pochampally was in constructive contempt of court for the purposeful and intentional violation of its previous visitation orders and judgments pursuant to La. R.S. 9:346. The trial court awarded attorney's fees and costs and awarded makeup visitation dates to Dr. Jaligam. Additionally, pursuant to La. R.S. 13:4611(1)(d), the trial court fined Dr. Pochampally five hundred dollars ($500.00) for contempt of court.
On December 2, 2013, Dr. Pochampally filed a motion for a new trial contesting the November 20, 2013 judgment. The motion was denied on December 6, 2013. After the trial court amended the November 20, 2013 judgment, Dr. Pochampally filed a second motion for a new trial relevant to the trial court's December 18, 2013 amended judgment. On January 6, 2014, the trial court also denied this motion.
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR
In her sole assignment of error, Dr. Pochampally asserts that the trial court erred as a matter of law, and manifestly abused its discretion, in adjudging her to be in criminal contempt of court for the four weekends specified in the December [2014-0724 La.App. 4
Cir. 6] 18, 2013 amended judgment, arguing that there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt presented that she ...