Three judges on the Missouri Court of Appeals questioned the seriousness of a Columbia man’s efforts to take down a garage and comply with a court order.
The judges took up the case of Seth Reynolds, who spent nine days in jail last year for contempt of court, when the Court of Appeals Western District convened at MU’s School of Law Tuesday. They heard arguments in the case and three others in John K. Hulston Hall.
Reynolds constructed a building, fence and satellite dish on his Creasy Springs Road property in 2013 that encroached two feet on a Boone County road’s right-of-way. According to previous Missourian reporting, the building in violation is a garage that Reynolds was using to recycle frying oil collected from restaurants in the area.
All of Reynolds’ various business ventures came to a standstill when the Boone County Commission denied his request for a variance for the garage in his backyard and ordered him to take it down.
Reynolds said he couldn’t afford to do so, and in December 2018, he was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court. He posted bail after nine days, but the garage remains in his backyard.
Tuesday, the three appellate judges called Reynolds’ testimony from his trial in Boone County Circuit Court into question. Reynolds claimed he did not have the financial means to remove the garage from his property. But some evidence the judges highlighted suggested the opposite.
For example, Reynolds paid $30,000 in cash to build the garage in 2013.
In addition, the judges questioned whether Reynolds had made a serious effort to sell his Creasy Springs Road home to pay for the shed removal, pointing out he’d only posted it on Zillow. The house was listed for roughly $175,000.
Appellate Judge Mark D. Pfeiffer said the trial judge probably thought that Reynolds “is someone that’s playing cutesy with me,” as if Reynolds wasn’t making a serious effort to take his garage down.
In addition to posting a single advertisement for his home online, Reynolds went to just one bank to secure a loan to remove the garage. According to evidence, he was denied in part due to poor credit.
“I would apply to every bank in the country if the alternative was to go to jail,” Judge Edward R. Ardini said.
Besides Reynolds’ case, the judges heard oral arguments in three other cases.
The first case focused on double jeopardy in a case involving a controlled substance and the unlawful use of a weapon in Jackson County.
Another regarded a Boone County contract and real estate dispute.
The third case, out of Saline County, largely concerned an individual that was deemed to have “diminished capacity at trial” that violated the individual’s right to due process of law, a fair trial and to a present defense.
The court travels outside of Kansas City to give Missourians the chance to see a part of the justice system they may not typically see, according to a news release from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.
“When I was in law school ... actually watching somebody do what I’m expected to be doing in the future gives you a learning experience you cannot get in the classroom,” said Appellate Judge Gary D. Witt said.