Constitutional Law

Juvenile Court Clerk Deserved Jail Time Over Missing Files, Appeals Court Says

Updated: The juvenile court clerk for Davidson County was properly held in civil contempt and jailed after he repeatedly violated court orders to provide needed files, a Tennessee appellate court has ruled.

Vic Lineweaver was jailed for only a few hours in the 2007 incident before his staff found the missing files and he was released, according to the Tennessean. He had previously provided most of the files he was required to produce and argued that he shouldn’t have been held in contempt because he didn’t intentionally withhold files from juvenile court referees.

But the Tennessee Court of Appeals disagreed. “The evidence shows that, underneath the thin veneer of words, Lineweaver’s actions amounted to utter indifference in the face of the court’s order to take action to produce the needed files,” says Judge Holly Kirby in the court’s written opinion. Thus, “his actions were clearly ‘contrary to [his] known duty’ and constitute willful violation of the referees’ direct order.”

Attorney Dewey Branstetter represents Lineweaver. He says he intends to urge his client to appeal, the Tennessean reports.

Meanwhile, a veteran court reporter in Harris County, Texas, has negotiated a plea deal in a criminal case over losing a trial transcript that will require him to pay a $4,000 fine but will not involve any jail time, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Don Rymer, who was indicted in April in on a felony charge of tampering with a government record, agreed Friday to a sentence including one year of deferred adjudication on a misdemeanor charge of tampering with a government record, the newspaper says. If he successfully completes his probation—during which time he cannot work as a government court reporter—there will be no conviction on his record.

He began working as a court reporter in Harris County in 1968. His lawyer, Brock Thomas, says Rymer is relieved to have the plea resolved but declines to discuss what happened to the missing trial transcript.

Additional coverage:

Associated Press: ” Tenn. appeals court upholds jailing of Davidson’s juvenile court clerk for contempt”

Nashville Public Radio (2007): “Lineweaver Arrested, Missing Records Produced”

Updated at 7:41 p.m. to include information from Houston Chronicle about criminal case against court reporter.

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