Lewis v. S. S. Baune, No. 75-3339

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore COLEMAN, RONEY and TJOFLAT; COLEMAN
Citation534 F.2d 1115
PartiesVeronica LEWIS, Individually etc., et al., Naomi Barry Pottinger, Individually, etc., et al., Vincent Lewis et al., Daisy Llewellyn et al., and Margaret Clark, Individually, etc., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. S. S. BAUNE et al., Defendants-Appellants. In the Matter of SKIBS A/S BAUMARE and Torvald Klaveness, as Owner andManaging Owner of the S/S BAUNE, Petitioning for Exoneration from or Limitationof Liability, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Phyllis HOYT et al., Claimants-Appellees.
Decision Date06 July 1976
Docket NumberNo. 75-3339

Page 1115

534 F.2d 1115
Veronica LEWIS, Individually etc., et al., Naomi Barry
Pottinger, Individually, etc., et al., Vincent Lewis et al.,
Daisy Llewellyn et al., and Margaret Clark, Individually,
etc., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
S. S. BAUNE et al., Defendants-Appellants.
In the Matter of SKIBS A/S BAUMARE and Torvald Klaveness, as
Owner andManaging Owner of the S/S BAUNE,
Petitioning for Exoneration from or
Limitationof Liability,
Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Phyllis HOYT et al., Claimants-Appellees.
No. 75-3339.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
July 6, 1976.

Page 1117

Benjamin W. Yancey, William E. Wright, New Orleans, La., for defendants-appellants.

Paul H. Due, Baton Rouge, La., Benton Musslewhite, Houston, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Thomas H. Leach, New Orleans, La., for Shell Oil.

Warren M. Faris, New Orleans, La., for Keystone.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before COLEMAN, RONEY and TJOFLAT, Circuit Judges.

COLEMAN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a permanent injunction and a conviction of contempt for violating an earlier temporary restraining order issued by the District Court. We reverse. 1

Page 1118

Facts

The genesis of this case was a ship collision between the Norwegian Steamship BAUNE and the American Steamship KEY TRADER in the Mississippi River on January 18, 1974, in which several Jamaican seamen were killed. In Jamaica, four days after the collision, various family members and alleged dependents of the deceased seamen signed contingency fee employment contracts 2 with the Baton Rouge law firm of Due and Dodson.

On January 30, 1974, Due and Dodson filed five suits in the district court in New Orleans, naming as defendants the owners of both vessels and their alleged insurers. The suits were for damages in admiralty under the general maritime law, for unseaworthiness, for damages under the Jones Act and for loss of wages.

Various representatives for the Norwegian ship, S.S. BAUNE, on which the Jamaican seamen had served, contacted the Jamaican claimants and attempted, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a settlement of the claims. Upon learning of this, Due and Dodson wrote the shipowners and their Norwegian attorney, Oystein Ore, then in Jamaica, informing them of their contracts with the Jamaican claimants and requesting that the defendants not communicate with their clients. The same information was also conveyed by telegram. Ore testified that he received the telegram on January 30, 1974, and thereafter never discussed settlement with any persons named in the telegram. Due and Dodson, however, were informed that certain agents of the BAUNE were still attempting to contact their clients so, on February 7, they filed a motion in the pending admiralty suit for injunctive relief. On March 6, 1974, the District Court held a brief hearing on the motion and decided to grant the temporary restraining order. The order of the District Court reads as follows:

IT IS ORDERED that a temporary restraining order issue herein, . . . directed to S.S. Baune, Torvald Klaveness, Skibstieselskapet Baumare (SKIBS A/S BAUMARE), their agents, attorneys, representatives and all other persons acting or purporting to act on their behalf, restraining, enjoining and prohibiting them from contacting, communicating, or in any way interfering with the attorney-client relationship of the above named plaintiffs and their attorneys, Due and Dodson, and from discussing, directly or indirectly, settlement of said matters with the plaintiffs.

The TRO was extended by consent of the parties ten times and was in full force and effect when on March 7, 1975, the Jamaican claimants together with their attorneys, Due and Dodson, "in proper person", filed a motion for contempt, ordering the defendants to show cause why they should not be adjudged in contempt of court for disobeying the TRO.

On April 10, 1975, the District Court held a hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction and on their motion for contempt, all of which were granted. The District Court found that persons, acting as agents for the Norwegian shipping company, on seven occasions during the life of the restraining order, did unilaterally and directly contact various claimants who were clients of Due and Dodson in contravention of the outstanding

Page 1119

temporary restraining order. 3 The Court awarded to attorneys Due and Dodson expenses in the sum of $10,966.71 and attorney fees in the amount of $9,100. The Court then awarded to the plaintiffs and their counsel "punitive damages" in the sum of $50,000. 4 The permanent injunction issued by the Court utilized the same language contained in the temporary restraining order.

The appellants challenge the validity of the TRO, with a broadside attack on the District Court's jurisdiction and the propriety of the order.

Preliminary Considerations

Of course, parties, generally, should always obey court orders regardless of whether they think the orders are correct. The proper method of challenging such an order is by appeal, not by disobedience, Maness v. Meyers, 1975, 419 U.S. 449, 458, 95 S.Ct. 584, 591, 42 L.Ed.2d 574. By violating a court order, even one later set aside as incorrect, a person runs the risk of being held in criminal contempt, Maness v. Meyers, supra; United States v. Dickinson, 5 Cir. 1972, 465 F.2d 496, on remand, 349 F.Supp. 227, affirmed on second appeal, 5 Cir., 476 F.2d 373, cert. denied, 414 U.S. 979, 94 S.Ct. 270, 38 L.Ed.2d 223.

When a person is adjudged in contempt of court, the first essential is to determine the nature of the proceeding, i. e., whether the contempt is civil or criminal. Proceedings by way of criminal contempt are to punish defiance of judicial authority, whereas civil contempt serves to compel obedience of the court order or to compensate the litigant for injuries suffered because of the disobedience, Norman Bridge Drug Company v. Banner, 5 Cir. 1976, 529 F.2d 822, 827; 7 Moore's Fed. Practice P 65.02(4). So, if a person is held in criminal contempt for violating a restraining order, the fact that the order is later set aside as incorrect will not effect the judgment of contempt; the purpose there is vindication of the court's authority, United States v. United Mine Workers, 1947, 330 U.S. 258, 294, 67 S.Ct. 677, 91 L.Ed. 884. A judgment of civil contempt, being remedial in nature, stands or falls with the validity or invalidity of the order, and the opposing party should be compensated only if he was entitled to the order, United States v. United Mine Workers, supra, 330 U.S. at 295, 67 S.Ct. at 696; Norman Bridge Drug Company v. Banner, supra, 529 F.2d at 828.

In the case at bar, the trial court, in its conclusions of law, denominated the proceedings as civil contempt. A court's characterization of its proceedings is a factor to be considered in determining the character of a contempt, although it is not conclusive, Southern Railway Company v. Lanham, 5 Cir. 1968, 403 F.2d 119, 124. The contempt case was initiated and prosecuted by the Jamaican claimants and their attorneys; the government as a representative of the court was not a party. The "punitive damages" assessed against the appellants were awarded to the appellees as "some compensation for the ordeal and anxiety through which they were put," and were not payable to the Court. Were we unable to determine whether this judgment of contempt was of a civil or criminal nature, we would have to reverse on that ground. No judgment of contempt that is unclear as to its civil or criminal nature will be allowed to stand, In re Monroe, 5 Cir. 1976, 532 F.2d 424; Skinner v. White, 5 Cir. 1974, 505 F.2d 685. Considering all the above factors, we have little doubt that though the Court imposed what it called a "punitive sanction", the nature and purpose of these proceedings fall clearly within a classification of civil contempt. Therefore, the penalties

Page 1120

for contempt must stand or fall with the temporary restraining order.

Jurisdiction

Appellants assert that for two reasons the District Court had no jurisdiction ab initio to issue a TRO: first, the motion for the TRO set up an unrelated, separate cause of action from the pending admiralty suit, thus no independent jurisdictional basis existed; secondly, a court sitting in admiralty is without power to issue injunctive relief to a litigant.

Since all parties, plaintiffs and defendants, are aliens, there is no diversity of citizenship. We believe, however, that the injunctive aspect of this case is closely enough related to the suit in admiralty as to come within the ancillary jurisdiction of the court.

Once a court has obtained jurisdiction of a cause of action, it is entitled to retain the action and to grant complete relief as to any matter which is incidental thereto, even though the court may not have had jurisdiction over such auxiliary matter if it had been asserted as an independent cause of action. Sheridan v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Etc., D.Del.1961, 191 F.Supp. 347, 353.

In discussing the concept of ancillary jurisdiction we stated in Revere Copper & Brass, Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Company, 5 Cir. 1970,426 F.2d 709, 714 that an ancillary claim must bear a "logical relationship to the aggregate core of operative facts which constitutes the main claim over which the court has an independent basis of federal jurisdiction." We believe that the injunctive action bears a "logical relationship" to the pending admiralty suit and is properly within the ancillary jurisdiction of the Court. 5

Appellants' second jurisdictional attack is that an admiralty court is not a court of equity and is therefore without power to issue an injunction. Indeed, several courts have so held, e. g., Carroll v. Protection Maritime Insurance Co., Ltd., 1 Cir. 1975, 512 F.2d 4, 9; Khedivial Line, S.A.E. v. Seafarers' International Union, 2...

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166 practice notes
  • In re Sanchez, Bankruptcy No. 02-45416.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fifth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of Texas
    • July 24, 2007
    ...a permanent injunction must plead and prove an irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law. Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1123-24 (5th Cir.1976). In the context of injunctive relief, an adequate remedy at law exists if the situation to be enjoined can be remedied b......
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, No. CV 01-8541 SVW (FMOx).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • October 16, 2007
    ...at 582; see also 800 Adept, Inc. v. Murex Securities, Ltd, 505 F.Supp.2d 1327, 1336-37 (M.D.Fla.2007) (quoting Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1124 (5th Cir.1976) ("`[o]ften times the concepts of `irreparable injury' and `no adequate remedy at law' are indistinguishable' in the context ......
  • Sierra Club v. Tennessee Valley Authority, No. 3:02-cv-2279-VEH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • January 6, 2009
    ...rubric is intended to describe the quality or severity of the harm necessary to trigger equitable intervention." Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir.1976) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court will not issue injunctive relief if "[t]he conduct sought to be enjoined [is] not th......
  • Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., No. 84-4220
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 17, 1985
    ...which authorizes exercise of this equitable Page 629 power to enjoin before the merits are fully determined."); Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1121 (5th Cir.1976) ("The finding prior to issuance, most essential to a preliminary injunction, is that the failure to grant it will result in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
166 cases
  • In re Sanchez, Bankruptcy No. 02-45416.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fifth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of Texas
    • July 24, 2007
    ...a permanent injunction must plead and prove an irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law. Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1123-24 (5th Cir.1976). In the context of injunctive relief, an adequate remedy at law exists if the situation to be enjoined can be remedied b......
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, No. CV 01-8541 SVW (FMOx).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • October 16, 2007
    ...at 582; see also 800 Adept, Inc. v. Murex Securities, Ltd, 505 F.Supp.2d 1327, 1336-37 (M.D.Fla.2007) (quoting Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1124 (5th Cir.1976) ("`[o]ften times the concepts of `irreparable injury' and `no adequate remedy at law' are indistinguishable' in the context ......
  • Sierra Club v. Tennessee Valley Authority, No. 3:02-cv-2279-VEH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • January 6, 2009
    ...rubric is intended to describe the quality or severity of the harm necessary to trigger equitable intervention." Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir.1976) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court will not issue injunctive relief if "[t]he conduct sought to be enjoined [is] not th......
  • Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., No. 84-4220
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 17, 1985
    ...which authorizes exercise of this equitable Page 629 power to enjoin before the merits are fully determined."); Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1121 (5th Cir.1976) ("The finding prior to issuance, most essential to a preliminary injunction, is that the failure to grant it will result in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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