In a recent ruling, the Superior Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands ruled against a motion filed by the plaintiffs claiming that a local government agency was guilty of contempt of court.
The case, Wilma Marsh Monsanto v. St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections, involved several local candidates for elected positions, who originally sued the Board of Elections in May 2013 for failing to allow them to review a number of election-related documents. After the defendants failed to respond to the complaints, the court entered defaults against the defendants, including the Board, in November, 2013.
What happened after that is the basis for the most recent motion for contempt of court. The Board of Elections did allow the plaintiffs and a panel of citizen reviewers to read through and copy some documents, but the group was not able to review them all by the December 20 deadline.
The defendants argued that all of the documents were made available, thus meeting the court’s requirements, while the plaintiffs said that they were not provided enough access during that timeframe. The plaintiffs then filed a motion to hold the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections in contempt of court for failing to provide the temporary injunctive relief originally ordered by the court.
Complicating the matter is that the court, in its written order, stated that the defendants “may” be held in contempt for failing to provide the necessary documents, while its oral statement said they “will” be held in contempt for such actions. Ultimately, the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands denied the plaintiffs’ motion on the grounds that they did not provide sufficient evidence that contempt of court had actually taken place.
This case, and specifically the most recent motion, illustrates the high threshold that the Superior Court and other courts in the U.S. Virgin Islands have set for what’s considered contempt of court. To prove this, you must show clear and convincing evidence that contempt has taken place and any reflection of doubt is likely to result in a denial of a motion, as evident in the court’s decision in the Monsanto case.
BoltNagi is a widely respected and established law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.