Last Thursday morning, an irregular exchange between Associate Judge Mark A. Fellheimer and Livingston County State's Attorney Seth Uphoff led to the latter being held in contempt of court.
The issue arose when it became clear that witnesses in a case in which several members of local law enforcement were to appear as witnesses.
According to Fellheimer, these witnesses were to be present no later than 8:30 a.m. However, Uphoff reportedly told the officers to be present at 9 and 9:30, respectively.
"This is an issue of contempt, period," said Fellheimer during the proceedings. "There was a calendar published. Copies were provided. That is the first issue. Regarding all attorneys, defendants and witnesses must be present and ready for trial at 8:30 on the day of the trial. That is what is says. End of story."
The main facet of the disagreement revolves around a difference of opinion concerning the weight carried by Fellheimer's order to appear at a designated time for the case.
Uphoff repeatedly insisted that since the pair of law enforcement officers were not under subpoena, the court had no authority to bar the testimonies of the witnesses.
"Your Honor, they are not under subpoena," said Uphoff. "We can call whatever witnesses are on our list. Whether we subpoena them or don't subpoena them is on us. If they are not under subpoena, then they are not under court order to return the following day, or the next day or the next day."
Fellheimer and Uphoff went back-and-forth in the courtroom, indicating a very stark difference of perspective on the matter.
The Livingston County State's Attorney maintained his stance that he merely requested the officers' appearance, which Fellheimer found to be an insult to the authority of the court.
"Your notices, Mr. Uphoff, don't even tell them (the witnesses) to be here at 8:30 a.m.," Fellheimer said. "It's not a decision where the State gets to decide what time they are going to appear ... I tell whenever witnesses are to be present and ready for trial. This isn't – I don't defer that to other people."
He went on to explain that he was holding Uphoff in civil contempt based on two premises: one, not telling witnesses to be present, and secondly, not having the witnesses present at the designated time.
"You decided last night, apparently, that I don't have to follow the Court's order," said Fellheimer. "It's not a valid order, so I am not going to do it. I am going to walk into court and tell the judge that, that I am not going to have these witnesses present in court. And you can come up with your practical reasons. That is not my concern. It is my courtroom and I will run it the way I want to run it."
Page 2 of 2 - In order to clear himself of the contempt citation, Uphoff must not fail in delivering any witnesses to court appearances on time, effective Jan. 6.
Both Uphoff and Fellheimer declined comment regarding the story.