United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. JORDAN III, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Eduardo Flechas asks the Court to dismiss this contempt
action against him, arguing that it is impossible for him to
pay back the almost $400, 000 he spent in violation of an
Asset Freeze Order. Having considered Flechas's testimony
at the hearing, his account records, and the parties'
briefing, the Court disagrees-the contempt order will remain
October 19, 2015, Eduardo Flechas agreed to be held in
contempt and promised to pay back approximately $400, 000,
which he spent in violation of the Court's Asset Freeze
Order. Order [1-1] at 2. If he failed to purge the contempt
within thirty (30) days, Flechas agreed to submit himself to
incarceration. Id. at 3.
beginning, Flechas made payments toward the contempt
judgment, and the Court granted his repeated requests to
postpone incarceration. Between October 20, 2015, and January
6, 2016, Flechas paid $64, 391.48 into the Court's
registry. But then Flechas's payments stalled,
and the Court declined to further delay the inevitable.
Beginning July 22, 2016, the Court ordered Flechas to submit
himself to intermittent incarceration every other weekend at
the Madison County Detention Center.
incarceration commenced, Flechas has made one $5, 000 payment
into the Court's registry. And on March 16, 2017, the Court
credited Flechas's contempt obligation in the amount of
$35, 842.29, for funds which he had paid into the bankruptcy
estate. Order . To date, Flechas has received contempt
credit for just over $105, 000.
initial motion, Flechas represented that he had reached
settlement agreements with all plaintiffs in the underlying
lawsuit and argued that dismissal of the severed contempt
action would allow the action to be “fully and finally
concluded.” Def.'s Mot.  at 2. He asked the
Court to dismiss the severed contempt action, vacate its
Order of Confinement, and return his passport. Id.
responded in opposition, arguing that (1) the confinement was
producing the desired effect (repayment), (2) Flechas has yet
to fully purge his contempt, and (3) Flechas, a licensed
attorney and experienced businessman, agreed to an even more
stringent confinement than the Court ordered. Pl.'s Resp.
 at 1. In reply, Flechas changed course, saying he does
not have the ability or funds required to purge himself of
contempt, so compliance is “impossible.”
Def.'s Reply  at 2. This representation prompted the
Court to order Flechas to submit updated financial records
and to set the matter for a hearing. The parties filed
supplemental briefing following the August 16, 2017 hearing,
and the Court is prepared to rule.
have “the inherent power to enforce compliance with
their lawful orders through civil contempt.”
Shillitani v. United States, 384 U.S. 364, 370
(1966). Here, Flechas agreed to be held in civil contempt for
violating the Court's Asset Freeze Order. He promised to
repay the money he spent and submit himself to incarceration
“until such time as the contempt is fully
purged.” Order [1-1] at 4. This arrangement presents
the classic case of the contemnor carrying the keys to his
own prison. United States v. United Mine Workers of
Am., 330 U.S. 258, 331 (1947).
Flechas now asserts that compliance is
“impossible.” Def.'s Reply  at 2. In a
civil-contempt proceeding, a defendant may assert an
inability to comply, and where compliance is impossible, the
Court may opt not to proceed with the civil contempt action.
United States v. Rylander, 460 U.S. 752, 757 (1983).
“It is settled, however, that in raising this defense,
the defendant has a burden of production.” Id.
substantiate his claim that he is financially unable to repay
the money, Flechas testified at the motion hearing that he
has tried to “economize” by moving to a less
expensive home, selling jewelry, transferring his children to
a different private school, cancelling his health insurance,
wearing machine-washable (versus dry-clean-only) clothing,
limiting lunches out, and keeping a vehicle with over 200,
000 miles (versus replacing it). Tr.  at 3-5. He said he
has undergone “a lifestyle change” and believes
he has not spent money “foolishly.” Id.
challenged this assessment. It pointed out that Flechas had
chosen to rent a four-bedroom, 2800-square-foot home in
Northeast Jackson for $2, 300 per month, while less-expensive
homes in the area, or in nearby Madison or Rankin County,
were available. Id. at 11- 12. MCS also explored the
cost of private school for Flechas's three children,
which Flechas estimated at $800 per month. Id. at
13. MCS suggested that public school in either Madison or
Rankin County would have ...