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Spartanburg Buddhist Center of South Carolina v. Ork

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

July 13, 2016

Spartanburg Buddhist Center of South Carolina, Respondent,
v.
Ron Ork and Luke Dong, Appellants. Ron Ork and Luke Dong, Third Party Plaintiffs,
v.
Chivin Sun, Robert Pek, Sakhan Sok, Sambo Khieav, Sophay Pres, and Tommy Ong, Third Party Defendants. Appellate Case No. 2015-000366

          Heard Date May 9, 2016

         Appeal From Spartanburg County R. Keith Kelly, Circuit Court Judge

          Thomas Alexander Belenchia, Larry Eugene Gregg, II, and Thomas Camden Shealy, all of A Business Law Firm, of Spartanburg, for Appellants.

          Scott Franklin Talley and Shannon Metz Phillips, both of Talley Law Firm, P.A., of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

          OPINION

          MCDONALD, J.

         Appellants Ron Ork and Luke Dong appeal several circuit court orders, arguing the court erred in (1) issuing a temporary injunction on April 21, 2014; (2) issuing a second temporary injunction on May 16, 2014; (3) holding Ork in contempt of the April 21 injunction; (4) holding Ork in contempt of the May 16 injunction; and (5) awarding Respondent Spartanburg Buddhist Center (the Center) $3, 500 in attorney's fees. We reverse.

         FACTS

         The Center is the corporate entity of a Buddhist temple located in Spartanburg. This case stems from a disputed election that occurred at the temple on April 20, 2014, and its relation to the construction of a new building. At the April 20 election, a new president and five new board members were chosen. Two days before the election, the temple's head monk, Ron Ork, withdrew $61, 400 from the Center's bank account.[1] The Center filed its initial complaint against Ork on April 21, 2014, along with a motion for a temporary injunction.

         That same day, the circuit court issued an order granting the motion for a temporary injunction (the first injunction), stating all officers and board members should remain as they were before the April 20 election, pending resolution of the matter. Additionally, Ork was ordered to redeposit any funds taken from the Center's bank account within twenty-four hours.

         On April 25, Ork moved to dissolve the first injunction and the circuit court held a hearing. On May 2, the circuit court's clerk emailed the parties' attorneys (the May 2 email) stating the court believed the disputed funds should be placed into a new joint account with attorneys from each party serving as signatories. Additionally, the email purported to enjoin both parties from encumbering the Center's assets or entering into contracts on the Center's behalf without the court's permission.

         On May 16, the circuit court filed an order granting a temporary injunction (the second injunction), denying Ork's motion to dissolve and superseding the first injunction. The order required Ork to deposit the disputed funds into a new account for which the attorneys were the only signatories. The funds could only be used "to pay obligations of [the Center] on which the parties agree and for which the parties authorize their representative attorneys to sign." The order enjoined the parties from encumbering the Center's assets or entering into contracts on the Center's behalf without the court's permission. Finally, the order stated no bond was required. Ork filed a motion to reconsider, arguing the first injunction was issued without bond and without notice and the second injunction was issued without bond. However, the motion was denied.

         When the parties met on June 27 to open the new account, only $1634.70 of the $61, 400 remained. The record reveals three checks were written to a construction company after the first injunction was issued. The first check was written on April 29 in the amount of $20, 000, the second on May 5 in the amount of $16, 400, and the third on May 9 in the amount of $32, 000. Subsequently, the circuit court issued an order and rule to show cause why Ork should not be held in contempt.

         At the contempt hearing, Ork reasserted that the first injunction was invalid because it was issued without notice or bond and the second injunction was invalid because it, too, was issued without bond. Additionally, Ork claimed the injunctions did not set forth with specificity the acts intended to be restrained. The circuit court found both injunctions were valid and enforceable.

         The circuit court's resulting order held Ork in civil contempt for issuing the April 29 check less than ten days after the first injunction. The court also held Ork in contempt for issuing the May 7 and May 9 checks because the first injunction remained in effect on those dates. Additionally, the court found that even if the first injunction had expired, Ork was still in contempt for violating the directives of the May 2 email and the second injunction. The court awarded the Center $3, 500 in attorney's fees and sentenced Ork to jail for five months with the ...


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