The state Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Courts Clerk Brenda Davis in her ongoing fight against administrative orders from Washington County Chairman Judge John DiSalle, clearing the way for the long-awaited hearing for contempt of court against her.
The high court filed a one-sentence decision Thursday morning dismissing Davis’ motion for a writ of injunction challenging DiSalle’s orders removing various duties from his office over the past year, effectively exhausting his legal options.
While his appeals to the appellate courts centered on court orders removing duties from his row office, the ruling could now result in Davis finally facing a contempt hearing before DiSalle. The hearing was postponed several times following the November incident at the Washington County courthouse in which she allegedly blocked sheriff’s deputies from removing juvenile records from her office at DiSalle’s direction.
It was unclear if or when DiSalle would postpone the contempt hearing, or what other action he might take against Davis now that the appeals are settled. DiSalle politely declined to comment Thursday morning since he hadn’t had a chance to review the Supreme Court‘s order.
“We are aware of the Supreme Court‘s decision rejecting the court clerk’s writ of injunction and challenging the presiding judge’s authority to manage the local court system,” court administrator Patrick Grimm said in a statement. a written statement. “With respect to the contempt case (involving) Brenda Davis, any further proceedings will be scheduled by court order.”
Charles Gallo, the attorney who represented Davis throughout the appeals process, said he was upset by the decision and hoped for an explanation beyond the court’s one-sentence order.
“He is undisputed (DiSalle is) the CEO of all county court affairs. We weren’t arguing with how he makes the rules, we were arguing with how his role was changed. The argument was that he couldn’t go about it that way,” Gallo said of DiSalle’s administrative orders.
Gallo said he hopes DiSalle will decide not to hold the Davis contempt hearing because his office is now in compliance with his administrative orders, but he wasn’t sure what the presiding judge will ultimately do.
“I hope he finds the matter moot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he still wanted to see Ms. Davis in front of him,” Gallo said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re complying with Judge DiSalle’s orders, so I don’t think it’s necessary to impose another sanction.”
DiSalle filed contempt proceedings immediately after the Nov. 24 incident in which Davis blocked deputies from moving juvenile records out of her office and was briefly handcuffed. However, she was allowed to leave the courthouse for treatment after falling to the ground during a confrontation with deputies and then complaining of heart palpitations and back pain. The state attorney general’s office investigated and recently dismissed the case without pressing charges against anyone involved in the incident.
The resumption of the contempt hearing was scheduled for Dec. 2, but was pushed back to the following week so DiSalle could implement security and decorum procedures to proceed. Meanwhile, Davis appealed DiSalle’s orders and was granted an emergency stay by the state’s Commonwealth Court as it considered her case. That court denied his appeal on February 7, and DiSalle again adjourned the contempt hearing, only to delay it once again when Davis filed his final appeal with the state Supreme Court the same month.
In addition to the state Supreme Court’s ruling against Davis, the justices also ordered that DiSalle’s name be removed from the record. It is unclear why the court decided to “scratch the jurist’s name from the legend” from the records. No details explaining the court’s decision were included in the order.
“The Supreme Court order provided no reasoning or justification. Just a sentence or two,” Gallo said. “I would like to know what they disagree with.”