MARGARET C. CAMALO, ET AL.
PATRICIA LAURA ESTRADA, ET AL.
FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. C-20164520 HONORABLE LAURIE A. HULIN, DISTRICT
K. Breaud Breaud & Meyers COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Margaret C. Camalo Frank Camalo
C. Giglio, Jr. Liskow & Lewis P. O. Box 52008 Lafayette,
LA 70505-2008 (337) 232-7424 COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Joseph C. Giglio, III Margaret P.
Jonathan B. Andry Andry Law Group, L.L.C. 610 Baronne St. New
Orleans, LA 70113 (504) 525-5535 COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: Cye Courtois Patricia Laura Estrada
composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Shannon J. Gremillion, and D.
Kent Savoie, Judges.
HOWARD EZELL, JUDGE.
and Cye Courtois appeal the decision of the trial court below
awarding attorney fees to Margaret and Joseph Giglio for work
done on a motion to hold Mr. Courtois in contempt of court.
For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the
matter currently before this court is but part of a larger
property dispute between the Courtois and two sets of their
neighbors, the aforementioned Giglios on one side and
Margaret and Frank Camalo on the other. During the course of
the litigation, the Courtois and Giglios stipulated to a
preliminary injunction preventing either party from
communicating with the other, as well as ordering each party
to refrain from harassing the other or damaging the
other's property. After Mr. Courtois deliberately
violated this injunction by damaging drainage, trees, and
shrubs on the Giglios' property, among other things, the
Giglios filed a motion for contempt.
trial court found that Mr. Courtois "willfully disobeyed
the order and judgment of the court" by cutting the
Giglios' shrubs, performing prohibited work within a
seven-and-one-half foot setback, damaging the Giglios'
drainage pipe, and in peering over the Giglios' wall and
photographing their back yard. The trial court imposed a
$500.00 fine and set a later hearing to determine an award of
attorney fees for the contempt motion. After that later
hearing, the trial court awarded the Giglios $11, 587.50 in
attorney fees. From that decision, the Courtois appeal.
appeal, the Courtois assert two assignments of error. They
claim that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees to
a party that has not paid nor incurred an obligation to pay
attorney fees, and that the trial court erred in striking an
untimely supplemental memorandum. The Courtois do not
challenge the trial court's finding that Mr. Courtois
willfully violated the injunction. We find no error in the
decision of the trial court.
Courtois first assert that attorney fees cannot be awarded to
the Giglios, citing Goodrich v. Exxon Co., USA, 608
So.2d 1019, 1034 (La.Ct.App. 3 Cir. 1992), writ
denied, 614 So.2d 1241 (La.1993) (alteration in
original) (quoting Rhodes v. Collier, 215 La. 754,
41 So.2d 669, 673 (1949)), for the proposition that "In
cases where attorneys' fees are allowed, absence of proof
that the fees have actually been paid, or an obligation
incurred to pay, defeats recovery." They argue that the
Giglios' attorney, Mr. Giglio's father, had admitted
to representing the couple free of charge and that,
therefore, the Giglios had not incurred any obligation to pay
attorney fees. It is worth noting again that the Courtois do
not challenge the trial court finding Mr. Courtois in
contempt, nor do they challenge the amount or reasonableness
of the attorney fee award, but merely challenge the trial
court's ability to award attorney fees where the
Giglios' attorney was representing them for free. We find
their argument unpersuasive.
and the line of older cases cited by the Courtois did not
deal with contempt of court, but rather contract disputes and
various other civil matters designed to benefit a party to
the suits pending in those specific cases. This facet of the
current lawsuit before this court was not such a matter, but
rather a contempt proceeding based on Mr. Courtois'
direct disregard of a court order. A proceeding for contempt
in refusing to obey the court's orders is not designed
for the benefit of the litigant, though infliction of a
punishment may inure to the benefit of the mover in the rule.
The object of a contempt proceeding is to vindicate the
dignity of the court. Howard v. Oden, 44, 191
(La.App. 2 Cir. 2/25/09), 5 So.3d 989, writ denied,
09-965 (La. 6/26/09), 11 So.3d 496. "The trial court is
vested with great discretion in determining whether a party
should be held in contempt for disobeying the court's
order, and its decision will only be reversed when the
appellate court can discern an abuse of that
discretion." Id. at 997. See also Fradella
v. Rowell, 49, 350 (La.App. 2 Cir. 8/13/14), 147 So.3d
817; Mizell v. Mizell, 37, 004 (La.App. 2 Cir.
3/7/03), 839 So.2d 1222. Yet again, the Courtois do not
challenge the ruling holding Mr. Courtois in contempt.
La.R.S. 13:4611(1)(g), "[t]he court may award attorney
fees to the prevailing party in a contempt of court
proceeding provided for in this Section." The general
rule is that "[t]he decision whether to grant relief
against a recalcitrant party rests within the discretion of
the trial court and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of
that discretion." Rodock v. Pommier, 16-809,
pp. 12-13 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/1/17), 225 So.3d 512, 521,
writ denied, 17-631 (La. 5/1/17), 221 So.3d 70
(alteration in original) (quoting LeJeune v. Lafayette
Tower Serv., 94-1240, p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/5/95), 653
So.2d 112, 114.)
on the record before us, we find no abuse of discretion in
the trial court's award of attorney fees related to the
contempt of court proceeding below. While the Giglios'
attorney may indeed receive something of a windfall under the
peculiar facts of this case, it is better in the eyes of this
court that a generous attorney receive payment for work
actually performed, though originally volunteered, than to
reward an intentional bad actor for openly defying a court
order. This especially applies in this matter, where Mr.