Brock jailed for contempt

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Covington County Probate Judge Ben Bowden yesterday ordered a Conecuh County attorney to spend 24 hours in jail for contempt.

Bowden’s ruling presented yet another legal problem for Evergreen attorney John Brock, who in August pled guilty to third degree perjury for his role in the probate case of Cary Douglas Piper, and is being suspended by the state bar as a result. It was from Piper’s estate that former Covington County Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips was found guilty of stealing $1.8 million. Phillips was convicted in October 2008 of theft and ethics charges and sentenced to three years in prison. She has exhausted her appeals options and is to surrender to authorities no later than Oct. 24.

In the contempt case, Brock was hired in March to represent Sonya Scott in the probate case of her stepfather, Sanders Clark Jr.

Clark, who lived on Dunson Street in Andalusia, died in September 2007; his wife passed away in May 2007. Probate records indicate neither had a properly recorded will on file at the Covington County Courthouse.

Clark’s father, Sanders Clark Sr., and his sister, Marcy Terry, filed their claims on the estate through the probate court immediately after Clark’s death. The estate was valued at less than $100,000.

Clark’s stepdaughter made a claim against the estate and presented a handwritten will witnessed by only person.

The case progressed until June of this year when the parties involved were required to present themselves before Probate Judge Ben Bowden to determine the validity of a handwritten will made by the Clarks.

Brock failed to appear at a hearing Sept. 10 hearing set for Scott to present her case. The hearing was conducted without him, and aside from a small reimbursement of expenses, Scott’s claim against the estate was denied.

Probate records show that testimony about Brock’s absence was included in that Sept. 10 hearing.

Brock subsequently was ordered to appear before Bowden to show cause why he should not be held in contempt. At that hearing Wednesday, Bowden found him guilty.

Bowden’s order stated Brock’s explanation for his absence was found “to be lacking and borders on untruthful. The hearing in question concerned an objection his client’s claims filed on (the estate). Ms. Scott testified she learned of the hearing from Mr. Brock … For Mr. Brock to now claim he did not believe the hearing concerned him and his client is unbelievable.

“Mr. Brock has a lack of candor with this Court in connection with the Piper Estate. This history, along with his failure to appear in this case, combined with his explanation of that failure, concern the Court that he fails to understand the importance of his relationship and duty to a court of law,” Bowden’s order states.

The order stated a finding of contempt is necessary to address Brock’s “documented lack of respect for this Court.”

Brock was taken to the county jail where he was to be held without bond for 24 hours. He was also ordered to pay a $20 fine plus court costs.

Bowden, when asked, stated it would not be appropriate to comment on an ongoing case.

In a certified letter from Brock to Bowden included in the probate file, Brock stated that he is being suspended by the Alabama State Bar today, Oct. 15, 2009, and presented a motion to withdraw from the Clark case.

Bowden granted the motion to withdraw in his contempt order.