Assigned on Briefs December 2, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Williamson County Nos.
2019-CV-18B, 47136B Michael Binkley, Judge
a hearing on a party's motion for a protective order, the
trial court summarily found the party to be in contempt of
court and sentenced her to spend ten days in jail after she
described members in the gallery as pedophiles and abusers of
her children. The party appealed, and we affirm the trial
court's judgment and sentence.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Michele L. McGill, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant,
J. Chadwick, Thompson's Station, Tennessee, and Michael
T. Fort and Sean Ross Aiello, Franklin, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Lawrence R. Kenyon, II.
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
John W. McClarty and Carma Dennis McGee, JJ., joined.
D. BENNETT, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
Kenyon is the plaintiff in a tort and breach of contract
action against Kerrie Ann Plump, Lawrence R. Kenyon, II, and
Paco Kavanaugh, and Ms. Kenyon is the defendant in a divorce
action filed by Mr. Kenyon. The two cases were consolidated
for purposes of discovery and pre-trial motions. This appeal
arises from the trial court's holding Ms. Kenyon in
criminal contempt during a hearing on April 23, 2019, and
sentencing her to spend ten days in jail.
April 23, 2019, counsel for the parties were presenting
arguments with regard to Ms. Kenyon's request for a
protective order. While the trial judge was speaking, Ms.
Kenyon stood up and left the courtroom. Addressing Ms.
Kenyon's lawyers, the trial judge said, "Y'all
need to speak to your client. I'm not going to put up
with that. Okay." The court then took a five-minute
break. Before Ms. Kenyon returned to the courtroom, one of
Mr. Kenyon's lawyers informed the judge that as Ms.
Kenyon passed by on her way out of the courtroom, "the
entire first row heard [Ms. Kenyon] call me a F'ing
liar." The trial judge responded that he would
"have to speak to her. . . . I can't just overlook
result of statements Ms. Kenyon made upon her return to the
courtroom, the trial court held her in direct contempt of
court and sentenced her to spend ten days in jail. In an
order issued on May 1, 2019, the trial court described the
facts leading up to its decision to hold Ms. Kenyon in
contempt and to impose the jail sentence. The court wrote:
During the course of the hearing, while the Court was
responding to issues involving Ms. Kenyon's medical
history and whether or not Ms. Kenyon had waived her request
to have her medical information placed under seal for her
protection, the Court noticed, as did other spectators, Ms.
Kenyon abruptly and suddenly jumped up in a distracting
fashion and, while she was clearly angry, stormed out of the
courtroom. As Ms. Kenyon was storming out of the courtroom,
the Court noticed she made some comment to attorney Connie
Chadwick (hereinafter referred to as "Ms.
Chadwick"), who represents Plaintiff/Defendant Lawrence
R. Kenyon II (hereinafter referred to as "Mr. Kenyon).
The Court could not hear the statement made by Ms. Kenyon,
but certainly noticed Ms. Kenyon said something to Ms.
Chadwick, which was apparently loud enough for courtroom
observers to hear what Ms. Kenyon said to Ms. Chadwick based
upon this Court's observation of the facial expressions
on observers in the courtroom and their reaction to whatever
was stated by Ms. Kenyon to Ms. Chadwick. Because of the
obvious disruption in the presence of the Court and everyone
else who was present in the courtroom, the Court took a
recess and asked Ms. Connie Reguli, Esq. (hereinafter
referred to as "Ms. Reguli") and Mr. Larry Crain,
Esq. (hereinafter referred to as "Mr. Crain") to
speak to their client, Ms. Kenyon, about her conduct before
the Court proceeded. It was the Court's intention for Ms.
Kenyon's counsel to speak to their client about Ms.
Kenyon's conduct in storming out of the courtroom as she
did. The Court then took a brief recess to allow Ms. Reguli
and Mr. Crain to speak with their client with the hope Ms.
Kenyon would understand her conduct of storming out of the
courtroom would not be tolerated during the hearing.
After the recess of approximately ten to fifteen minutes, the
Court returned to the bench and went back on the record, at
which time Ms. Reguli advised the Court Ms. Kenyon was going
to excuse herself from the courtroom "for a little
bit," with Ms. Reguli's asking if that was okay with
the Court. The Court approved the temporary absence of Ms.
Kenyon. Mr. Crain then, on behalf of his client, Ms. Kenyon,
apologized to the Court for his client's conduct.
. . . .
in response, the Court stated the following:
THE COURT: Well thank you. I appreciate the apology. I know
things are sensitive, however I cannot put up with, nor will
I tolerate, that type of attitude in this courtroom so - but
thank you, I understand. If there are two lawyers that can
handle their client it would be you two. So as long as she
understands that I will not tolerate that. Okay.
At that time, Ms. Chadwick addressed the Court and stated to
the Court that as Ms. Kenyon was passing her on her way out
of the courtroom, Ms. Kenyon stated in a voice which could be
heard by the entire first row of spectators, that Ms.
Chadwick was a "F'ing liar." With this
statement, I advised counsel for Ms. Kenyon because of Ms.
Kenyon's conduct of cursing at one of the lawyers in the
case as she exited the courtroom and stating it loud enough
to be heard by spectators on the front row, I would have to
speak with her again because I could not overlook her conduct
toward Ms. Chadwick. After approximately five minutes, maybe
longer, Ms. Kenyon reappeared in the courtroom. With her
reappearance in the courtroom, the Court stated as follows:
THE COURT: Mrs. Kenyon, if you will stand there at the podium
for a minute. It's my understanding, ma'am, that as
you were leaving the courtroom before I took a break, and I
took a break because of the manner in which you left the
courtroom, that you said loud enough for the people on the
first row to hear you, make reference to this lawyer that she
was a F'ing liar; is that correct?
MRS. KENYON: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. All right. That's two incidences where I
could hold you in contempt of court and put you in jail.
I'm not going to do that, but I want to be perfectly
clear that I will not tolerate that type of conduct in this
courtroom ever again. Is that clear?
MRS. KENYON: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right. I think you need to apologize to this