Judge denies contempt motion in
The Macon Telegraph, June 8, 2000
By Rob Peecher
EATONTON - A judge denied a motion Wednesday to find an
attorney representing Putnam County in contempt of court.
The judge then ordered the man who brought the contempt
motion to pay attorney's fees for the time spent on the
Wednesday's hearing underscored the contentious atmosphere
that continues to exist between county officials and the
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
Al Woodall, an agent for the nine property owners of the
Nuwaubian village west of Eatonton, filed the motion for
contempt after Frank Ford, an attorney for the county,
refused to be deposed at a local Chinese restaurant.
Depositions taken in Putnam County are normally done in the
County Courthouse grand jury room. According to Ford, the
grand jury room was available at the scheduled time of his
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Hugh V.
Wingfield III ordered Woodall to pay $200 in attorney's fees
to Ford for the time he spent working on his response to the
"In 20 years (practicing law), I have never heard of a
deposition being taken in a restaurant, particularly in a
Chinese restaurant during lunch hour," Wingfield said,
adding that he'd also never heard of opposing counsel being
deposed. "In a bizarre case, this is the most bizarre thing
Wingfield told Woodall the contempt motion was "utter
nonsense." "Not only is Mr. Ford not in contempt, this is a
complete waste of my time," Wingfield said.
Wingfield urged Woodall to hire an attorney, and then said
he would take the "extraordinary" action of ordering all
discovery by both sides suspended until an appeal in the
case is concluded. Wingfield also said he would place
restrictions on depositions once he allows them to resume.
"This is a zoning matter, and it should be over," Wingfield
said. Ford testified Wednesday that he refused to be deposed
at the Happy China restaurant because of the conditions and
a crowd that had gathered at the restaurant when he showed
up the morning of the deposition. The room where Woodall had
set up for the deposition was not sealed from the rest of
the restaurant, there was no air conditioning and the room
was "stifling," and there was noise coming from the kitchen,
"In fact, what (Woodall) had done was invited his buddies to
come and watch him take my deposition," Ford said on the
There were 50 to 60 Nuwaubians in and out of the restaurant
when he showed up for his deposition, Ford said.
In recent months, Ford has twice been before Wingfield with
motions of contempt of court filed against him. In April,
Woodall attempted to have an arrest warrant issued for Ford.
Both contempt motions have been denied.
After a hearing in April, Magistrate Judge Ellen Rudder
Pierce refused to issue the arrest warrant. The latest legal
wrangling stems from a zoning lawsuit.
Last June, under court order, the county padlocked several
buildings - built without building permits - on Nuwaubian
property. Most, if not all, of those padlocks have been
removed by the county, and the Nuwaubians are working to
bring those buildings into compliance with county building
ordinances, according to county building inspector J.D.
The Nuwaubians have filed suit seeking to force the county
to let them open the Rameses social club. Nuwaubians say
they want to use the club as a hunting lodge. County
officials contend it was built under a building permit for a
storage shed but used as a nightclub. That building was
padlocked under a separate court order.
The only issue that remains unresolved in the suit brought
by the county a year and a half ago is whether or not the
county can seek monetary damages from the Nuwaubians,
according to Ford.