United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
IRON WORKERS ST. LOUIS DISTRICT COUNCIL PENSION TRUST FUND, et al.,
SCROGGINS CONSTRUCTION, LLC, Defendant.
CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
bring the instant action seeking an accounting of the
defendant employer's payroll records and a judgment for
delinquent contributions owed to the plaintiff union employee
benefit funds pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
Pending before the Court is plaintiffs' Motion for
Contempt based on defendant's failure to comply with the
Court's Order of March 9, 2017, which ordered defendant
Scroggins Construction, LLC to provide plaintiffs by April
10, 2017 the payroll registers and other documents needed to
perform an audit for the period beginning June 21, 2016 to
the present. No response has been filed to the Motion for
Contempt and the time to do so has passed.
United States Supreme Court has stated “it is firmly
established that the power to punish for contempts is
inherent in all courts.” Chambers v. NASCO,
Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991) (internal punctuation and
citation omitted). “One of the overarching goals of a
court's contempt power is to ensure that litigants do not
anoint themselves with the power to adjudge the validity of
orders to which they are subject.” Chicago Truck
Drivers v. Brotherhood Labor Leasing, 207 F.3d 500, 504
(8th Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. United Mine
Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 290 n.56 (1947)). Civil contempt
sanctions may be employed to coerce compliance with a court
order. Id. (citing United Mine
Workers, 330 U.S. at 303-04). “Either
incarceration or a fine may accomplish the purpose of
coercion . . . . ” Id.
contempt proceedings may be employed in an ERISA case such as
this to coerce the defendant into compliance with a court
order or judgment, or to compensate the complainant for
losses sustained, or both. Chicago Truck Drivers,
207 F.3d at 504-05. Either incarceration or a fine may
accomplish the purpose of coercion; where compensation is
intended, a fine is imposed payable to the complainant.
Court's contempt power also extends to non-parties who
have notice of the Court's Judgment and the
responsibility to comply with it, such as defendant's
principal, Mr. Barry Scroggins. See Chicago Truck
Drivers, id. at 507 (court's payment orders
in ERISA case were binding upon the named corporate
defendant's sole shareholder and corporate officer and
agent, even though the order made no specific reference to
him); see also Electrical Workers Pension Trust
Fund v. Gary's Electric Serv. Co., 340 F.3d 373
(6th Cir. 2003) (owner of corporation, as an officer of the
corporation responsible for its affairs, was subject to the
court's contempt order just as the corporation itself was
even though he was not a named defendant). Indeed, the
Supreme Court of the United States, in a case where a
corporate officer who failed to comply with a subpoena duces
tecum was held in contempt of court, stated:
A command to the corporation is in effect a command to those
who are officially responsible for the conduct of its
affairs. If they, apprised of the writ directed to the
corporation, prevent compliance or fail to take appropriate
action within their power for the performance of the
corporate duty, they, no less than the corporation itself,
are guilty of disobedience, and may be punished for contempt.
Wilson v. United States, 221 U.S. 361, 376 (1911).
Court has previously imposed compliance fines in similar
ERISA delinquency collection cases and has ordered defendants
to reimburse the plaintiffs for attorney's fees incurred
in attempting to compel compliance with a Court order.
See, e.g., Carpenters' Dist.
Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity v. DLR
Opportunities, Inc., 4:07-CV-61 CAS (E.D. Mo. Feb. 22,
2008) (imposing compliance fine of $100 per day on corporate
defendant's president); Greater St. Louis
Construction Laborers Welfare Fund v. Akbar Electric Serv.
Co., Inc., No. 4:96-CV-1582 CDP (E.D. Mo. Apr. 21, 1997)
(ordering defendant to reimburse plaintiff for attorney's
fees); Greater St. Louis Construction Laborers Welfare
Fund, v. Marvin Steele Enters., Inc., No. 4:96-CV-1073
ERW (E.D. Mo. Mar. 21, 1997) (ordering a compliance fine of
$200 per day). Incarceration has also been used to compel
compliance with Court orders in the context of ERISA
delinquency actions. See, e.g., Marvin
Steele Enters., id. (ordering that a bench
warrant issue for the arrest of the individual defendants).
seeking civil contempt bears the burden of proving by clear
and convincing evidence that the alleged contemnors violated
a court order. Chicago Truck Drivers, 207 F.3d at
504-05. Here, it is undisputed based on the Affidavit of
plaintiffs' attorney Michael A. Evans that defendant has
not submitted the payroll registers and all other documents
needed to perform an audit as ordered by the Court.
point, the burden shifts to defendant and its principal, Mr.
Scroggins, to show an inability to comply with the
Court's Order. Id. A mere assertion of
“present inability” is insufficient to avoid a
civil contempt finding. Rather, alleged contemnors defending
on the ground of inability to comply must establish that (1)
they were unable to comply, explaining why
“categorically and in detail;” (2) their
inability to comply was not “self-induced;” and
(3) they made “in good faith all reasonable efforts to
comply.” Id. at 506.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant Scroggins Construction,
LLC and its principal Mr. Barry Scroggins are ordered to show
cause why they should not be held in contempt of Court for
failure to produce payroll registers and all other documents
needed to perform an audit for the period of June 21, 2016 to
the present, as ordered by the Court on March 9, 2017.
FURTHER ORDERED that a hearing is set for Thursday, June 22,
2017, at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom No. 3-N of the Thomas F.
Eagleton United States Courthouse, at which defendant
Scroggins Construction, LLC and Mr. Barry Scroggins shall
personally appear and may show cause why civil contempt
sanctions should not be imposed against them for failure to
comply with the Order of March 9, 2017. Because incarceration
is a possible civil contempt sanction, Mr. Scroggins has the
right to representation by counsel. Failure to appear for the
hearing as ordered may subject Mr. Scroggins to arrest by the
United States Marshal's Service.
FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Scroggins shall bring with him to
the hearing on June 22, 2017 the payroll registers and all
other documents of Scroggins Construction, LLC needed to
perform an audit for the period of June 21, 2016 to the
FURTHER ORDERED that the United States Marshal's Service
shall personally serve a copy of this order on Scroggins
Construction, LLC and Mr. Barry Scroggins, principal of
Scroggins Construction, LLC, at 737 ...