State v. Hampton

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Citation181 So.3d 175
Decision Date07 October 2015
Docket NumberNo. 50,118–CA.,50,118–CA.
Parties STATE of Louisiana, Plaintiff–Appellant v. David L. HAMPTON, Defendant–Appellee.

State of La, Dept. of Children and Family Services, Child Support Enforcement by Sheri L. Stapleton, Jessica Williams, for Appellant.

Trey N. Magee, Monroe, LA, for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, CARAWAY and MOORE, JJ.

MOORE, J.

This appeal involves an effort by the State of California, Riverside County, Department of Child Support Services ("CSS") to register pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act ("UIFSA")1 a 2011 California support order for collection of an arrearage allegedly due from a 1987 California child support judgment. On January 12, 2012, the State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services, Child Support Enforcement ("DCFS–CSE"), filed a petition to register the UIFSA support order on behalf of CSS. On November 5, 2013, the district court adopted the recommendation of a hearing officer vacating the UIFSA registration and enjoining CSS from collecting the arrearage now exceeding $77,699.67.2 DCFS–CSE filed a motion for new trial, which was denied after a hearing. It now appeals the judgment denying its motion for a new trial. For the following reasons, we affirm the underlying November 2013, judgment vacating the registration.

Facts

On April 17, 1987, a Riverside County, California, court ordered the defendant, David L. Hampton, to pay $160 per month per child support commencing March 1, 1987, for his two children from his marriage to Joycelyn Gordon. The two children were Olympica Hampton, age 11, dob 9/21/75, and Sidney Hampton, age 5, dob 3/24/82. Olympica is now age 39 and Sidney is age 33.

David Hampton moved from California to Monroe, Louisiana, in the latter half of 1992. By this time, he had made some, but not all, monthly payments pursuant to the 1987 support order. As of July 1992, Hampton was $16,792 behind in support payments and owed $5,343 in interest calculated at 10% per annum by California.

After Hampton moved to Louisiana, his former wife, Joycelyn Gordon, initiated a URESA request from the California CSS to register the support order for enforcement in Louisiana. The District Attorney's office in Ouachita Parish filed the petition for registration. Hampton responded to the petition and indicated by a handwritten note on the back of an Answer form that his income had decreased, and he could not afford to pay the amount of support ordered. The Ouachita Parish assistant district attorney construed this note as a motion to modify the support award. At the scheduled hearing on May 6, 1993, the assistant district attorney offered to reduce the support award to $103 and Hampton accepted the offer without an evidentiary hearing. Fourth District Court Judge James Boddie signed a judgment on May 10, 1993, reducing Hampton's child support obligation to $103 per month. It is the effect of this judgment on the California support judgment, if any, that lies at the heart of the instant dispute.

Over the next 15 years, depending upon his income and employment, Hampton made sporadic monthly support payments. The payments were collected by DCFS–CSE and sent to California. Because there were periods of nonpayment, the record contains some motions for contempt and hearing notices regarding nonpayment of the support obligation. By 2008, eight years after the monthly support obligation had ended for Hampton's youngest child, Hampton completed payment of all child support arrearage due under Judge Boddie's reduced support order. Louisiana DCFS–CSE closed its file on Hampton. By this time, Hampton's children were adults, ages 33 and 26.

In 2010, CSS obtained a direct income assignment under La. R.S. 46:236.33 from Hampton's employers, JRJ Enterprises d/b/a Hampton Inn and Lamix d/b/a The Comfort Inn. Hampton's employers began withholding approximately $370 per month from Hampton's paychecks. This money was sent directly from the employer to CSS. In response to the income assignment, Hampton filed a petition against the Louisiana DCFS–CSE to enjoin CSS and his employers from collecting under the income assignment and for reimbursement for the monies already deducted from his paychecks. He contended that he had paid all of his support obligations as required by Judge Boddie's judgment of May 10, 1993.

DCFS–CSE filed several exceptions to Hampton's petition, including an exception of improper joinder. Essentially, DCFS–CSE alleged that it was not involved in the income assignment, nor was it any longer acting on behalf of CSS, since it had closed Hampton's case back in 2008. Its position was that, without an extant registration of an order for enforcement of a child support award, they were under no obligation to appear, and indeed could not appear, on behalf of CSS.

At the hearing on October 15, 2010, Hearing Officer Lisa Trammel Sullivan granted DCFS–CSE's exception of improper joinder and dismissed it from the case. She gave Hampton 30 days to amend his petition naming CSS as the proper defendant. In her written findings of fact and proposed judgment, the hearing officer stated:

The ultimate issue in this case (whether the original California order was superseded by Judge Boddie's later reduction) must await receipt of a transcript of his ruling (which is in this order). See State v. Watkins, 988 So.2d 176 (La.2008). The undersigned is quite familiar with Judge Boddie's practices and anticipates that he did intend to supersede the California judgment. Certainly it seems inequitable for California for this long after the fact to collect an old judgment that they made no effort to enforce during thirteen-odd years that Louisiana collected the reduced judgment.

Hampton amended his petition by naming CSS as the defendant, and CSS was subsequently served. A hearing was scheduled for January 21, 2011, on the amended petition. However, on that date, CSS requested a 60–day continuance and permission to appear on the re-set hearing date by way of tele-trial. The court agreed and the matter was re-set for April 8, 2011.

While this hearing was pending, Hampton filed an ex parte motion for a judgment "nunc pro tunc" (Lat. "now for then"), requesting the court to amend Judge Boddie's 1993 judgment to expressly state that the Louisiana judgment "superseded" the April 17, 1987, California support judgment. Judge Sharon Marchman denied the ex parte motion, but ordered a hearing on a rule to show cause why the petition request should not be granted. DCFS–CSE was given notice of the April 5, 2011 hearing on April 1, 2011. DCFS–CSE appeared at the hearing and told the court that Louisiana was no longer involved in the case. It informed the court that CSS had not been sent formal notice of the hearing.4 After the hearing, Judge Alvin Sharp signed the "nunc pro tunc" judgment on April 5, 2011, adding the amendment language to the judgment. Sixteen months later, he would sign a judgment nullifying that judgment.

The record does not contain a transcript of the scheduled April 8, 2011, hearing on Hampton's amended petition to enjoin CSS from collection efforts against Hampton. CSS was scheduled to appear by telephone conference or "tele-trial," but there is no record that this hearing occurred.5 A judgment was rendered on April 8, 2011, by Hearing Officer Vicki L. Green, who, after noting that the judgment "nunc pro tunc" amended the 1993 judgment to specifically state that "this order modifies and supersedes the California judgment rendered on April 17, 1987," ordered that CSS terminate any and all further collection efforts against Hampton.

Subsequently, on January 12, 2012, DCFS–CSE filed a petition to nullify the "nunc pro tunc" judgment on grounds that CSS never received notice of the hearing on the rule to show cause, and a UIFSA petition to register/set arrearage for enforcement and collection. This petition brought DCFS–CSE back into the case. The petition alleged that Hampton still owed CSS $26,585.80 principal and $48,285.26 in interest for a total arrearage of $74,871.06.

After a hearing on August 7, 2012, Judge Sharp nullified the "nunc pro tunc" judgment he had rendered on April 5, 2011. The court set a date of October 9, 2012, for a hearing on the registration of the UIFSA, but it was later re-set for January 15, 2013. Subsequently, on March 12, 2013, the UIFSA was registered and a hearing was set for April 16, 2013, to set the arrearage.

After the April 16 hearing, Hearing Officer Sullivan recommended that the UIFSA registration be vacated because it had already ruled on October 15, 2010, that Judge Boddie's judgment superseded the California court order and that the judgment was a final judgment.6

On April 18, 2013, DCFS–CSE filed an objection to Hearing Officer Sullivan's recommendation that the UIFSA be vacated. A rehearing was set for June 11, 2013. After the rehearing, on July 30, 2013, the hearing officer again recommended that the UIFSA order be vacated for the same reasons. DCFS–CSE then requested a rehearing before a district judge.

Following the hearing before Judge Benjamin Jones on November 5, 2013, Judge Jones affirmed Hearing Officer Sullivan's recommendation to vacate the UIFSA registration and signed the judgment in court. DCFS–CSE filed a motion for a new trial on November 27 and again on December 20, 2013.7

A hearing on the motion for new trial was held on January 10, 2014, before Judge Wilson Rambo. On April 23, 2014, Judge Rambo denied the motion for new trial. In its reasons, the court noted that when California made its original request to register the 1987 California support order, the Ouachita Parish District Attorney appeared on its behalf as its duly authorized representative. This representative entered into a reduction agreement with Hampton which resulted in a reduced support order. For the next 18 years Hampton paid in accordance with that agreement and those payments were forwarded to California. At no time...

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1 cases
  • Landry v. Usie
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US
    • October 18, 2017
    ...the underlying judgment on the merits, then the appeal should be considered." State v. Hampton, 50,118, p. 8 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/7/15), 181 So.3d 175, 180 (citations omitted), writ denied, 15-2055 (La. 1/8/16), 184 So.3d 695. In this instance, both judgments lack decretal language."A final a......

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