Alex Jones Takes Contempt Ruling to State Supreme Court
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Alex Jones Takes Sandy Hook Contempt Ruling to Connecticut Supreme Court, Balks at ‘Difficult Task’ of Paying More Than ‘$100,000 Per Day’ in Sanctions

 
Alex Jones, the founder of right-wing media group Infowars, addresses a crowd of pro-Trump protesters after they stormed the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.)

Alex Jones, the founder of right-wing media group Infowars, addresses a crowd of pro-Trump protesters after they stormed the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Attorneys for Infowars host Alex Jones on Thursday said they would ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to intervene in a contempt of court ruling issued the previous day by a Waterbury trial court judge.

As Law&Crime previously reported, the contempt ruling forced Jones to pay escalating fees starting at $25,000 a day — and increasing by $25,000 each weekday thereafter — until Jones sat for a deposition in a defamation case filed by family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre. If Jones does not sit and talk for two full days before April 15, the last date of possible sanctions, the sum total Jones would have to pay as a penalty would be $1.475 million for 11 days of failure.

The trial court judge said Wednesday that it was necessary to hold Jones in contempt because he used medical excuses to skip depositions scheduled for March 23 and 24 in Texas.  Those excuses, the judge said, were thin at best.

“The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant, Alex Jones, willfully and in bad faith violated without justification several clear court orders requiring his attendance at his depositions,” the judge said. She added that Jones “intentionally failed to comply with orders of the court and that there is no adequate factual basis to explain his failures.”

The judge ordered Jones to pay $25,000 in fines “each week day beginning on Friday, April 1, increasing by $25,000 per week day” until he sits for successful depositions — which the judge ordered to take place in Connecticut this time around for the benefit of the plaintiffs’ counsel.  In other words, on the second day, the fine will increase to $50,000 — and so on and so on. According to the judge’s oral ruling from the bench and multiple additional court documents, the floor amount of sanctions is $25,000, and the amount multiples exponentially each day of the week until Jones sits and talks.  Saturdays and Sundays are excluded.  The last possible date of a sanction is April 15, the judge said.

Attorneys for Jones filed multiple documents after the Wednesday hearing which asked the judge to reconsider the matter and which subsequently notified the court that the issue was being taken to higher authorities.

The late Wednesday filing argued, in part, that other depositions were already scheduled in the ongoing Sandy Hook litigation and that it was unclear when the plaintiffs’ attorneys would be available to take the Jones deposition. From the filing:

The Jones Defendants hereby respectfully move the Court to reconsider the start for Mr. Jones’ fine until April 10, 2022 on the grounds that no deposition has been rescheduled for Mr. Jones and other depositions in his case are scheduled for four days on the week of April 4, 2022. These dates include depositions that will take place out of state where Mr. Jones has been ordered to appear. Under the Court’s order, Mr. Jones would be required to post $525,000 in fines by April 11, 2022 – a sum that crosses the border between a coercive sanction and a punitive one even though he would be able to move for reimbursement of those fines. In other words, the Court has functionally ordered Mr. Jones to post a $525,000 bond at a bare minimum.

The $25,000 figure is the defense calculation for the likely sanctions between April 1, the first date payments would become due, and April 8, when they would presumably cease based on the planned date of the rescheduled deposition — which is now April 11.

Counsel for Jones said the contempt order could easily “force Mr. Jones to produce, on a daily basis, liquid financial assets in excess of $100,000 per day if they so choose – a difficult task for anyone.”

That Wednesday motion was swiftly followed by additional paperwork on Thursday which said the case was being appealed to the state’s highest court. That paperwork asks a judge to stay the contempt ruling until the Connecticut Supreme Court weighs in on the matter.

“Mr. Jones has agreed to appear in Connecticut for a deposition at the plaintiffs’ law firm on April 11, 2022,” the filing indicates.  “He requests a stay of the order imposing financial sanctions until April 11, 2022, understanding that failure to appear on the date would further compound his difficulties in the instant case.”

It continues:

Granting this brief stay will result in no prejudice to the plaintiffs in this case; will not result in an imposition on the Court or strain judicial economy, and is necessary to avoid irreparable physical and economic harm to Mr. Jones – particularly where Mr. Jones has already communicated his willingness to sit for a deposition to Plaintiffs’ counsel and has proposed a date. To deny this request for a brief stay of the Court’s sanctions order would quite simply result in substantial injustice.

Additionally, Mr. Jones is likely to prevail on the merits of his appeal. The Court’s March 30, 2022 order conflicts with clearly established Connecticut Supreme Court precedent that prohibit a court imposing civil contempt sanctions from relying on the representations of counsel in indirect contempt proceedings. Puff v. Puff, 334 Conn. 341, 366 (2020). Puff also places the burden of establishing contempt on the party seeking an order of contempt. Id. at 365. The Plaintiffs unequivocally sought to carry this burden by representations of counsel, and the Court improperly shifted the burden to Mr. Jones to prove why he should not be held in contempt without requiring the Plaintiffs to first carry their burden. Puff prohibits contempt from issuing in such a manner. Thus, Mr. Jones is likely to prevail on the merits of his appeal.

The Sandy Hook defamation case has been up and down the litigation chain between the district and the Supreme Court on ten previous matters, according to a Connecticut Supreme Court docket which catalogues the matter.  The promised Supreme Court filing connected to this particular issue is not yet on the calendar, according to a court website.

Read the judge’s order and the two responsive Jones documents below:

[Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.