A 12th Judicial Circuit Judge has fined Villa Ridge resident Art LeBeau $5,000 for his continued unsuccessful lawsuits against Franklin County, the County Commission and County Counselor Mark Vincent.
In addition to the fine, LeBeau must also reimburse Franklin County $1,950 in attorney fees.
In his decision Monday, Warren County Judge Richard Scheibe sanctioned LeBeau for maintaining and refusing to voluntarily dismiss a claim that has no legitimate purpose other than to harass and needlessly cause respondent (Vincent) to incur litigation costs.
He added maintaining a claim to quash or set aside an execution that has already been withdrawn can serve no legitimate purpose and is frivolous.
“The court orders plaintiff (LeBeau) be sanctioned and ordered to reimburse defendant (Vincent) for attorney fees in the amount of $1,950 and ordered to pay a fine to the Circuit Clerk’s office in the amount of $5,000,” the judgment states.
The judgment this week comes after years of litigation heard by several judges stemming from a lawsuit originally filed by LeBeau against Vincent in 2015 involving the creation of the county municipal court in 2012.
During that original lawsuit, LeBeau and fellow Villa Ridge resident Eric Reichert were court ordered to pay restitution totaling about $1,500 for a deposition the pair skipped.
LeBeau refused to pay and as a result, Vincent filed an execution order to recoup the money owed to the county.
After more than six months of legal wrangling, LeBeau paid $1,641 in court-ordered restitution and additional fees.
The payment came after property in Sullivan, owned by LeBeau, was seized by the Franklin County sheriff and was scheduled to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
“A sanction of attorney fees alone has not been sufficient to deter this plaintiff from engaging in behavior worthy of sanction in the past,” Scheibe wrote in his judgment. “Therefore the court finds that a fine, in addition to attorney fees, is appropriate.”
Scheibe added LeBeau’s clear intent is to re-litigate issues from the past and force Vincent to expend time, effort and resources to defend same.
“Clearly the plaintiff (LeBeau) is not happy with the outcome of those cases, but failed to file a timely appeal and the judgment therein is now final,” he wrote. “Despite this fact, he (LeBeau) attempted to challenge the judgment through a writ, which was denied by the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals May 15, 2017.”
LeBeau was warned about the impending fine at a show cause hearing held Dec. 8.
Scheibe offered LeBeau a chance to provide information as to his financial situation so that the fine could be crafted so as to not unduly burden him.
He declined to do so.
According to the judgment, given the nature of the claim, the history and amount of sanctions and other factors herein the court finds that a fine of $5,000 is appropriate.
LeBeau is ordered to make his payments to the Franklin County Circuit Clerk and any moneys collected are to be applied to the fine first and then to Vincent for the attorney fees after the fine is paid in full.
LeBeau still has the opportunity to appeal the judgment.
The county is paying for Vincent’s legal defense since he was a county employee conducting business on behalf of the county commission.
Vincent has stated he will pass on any recouped legal fees from LeBeau to Franklin County.
He was represented by Assistant County Counselor Mary Zastrow-Hiatt.