Claiming that race played a factor in her recent court appearances, Maumelle attorney Teresa Bloodman filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court against Conway Judge Rhonda Wood, Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland and Joan Shipley, an employee in Hiland’s office.
Bloodman was found in contempt of court Tuesday while representing clients in juvenile court and was escorted to a holding cell in handcuffs. In her complaint, Bloodman said that Wood nor Shipley had jurisdiction to seek to impose criminal contempt penalties. She also stated that her race played a factor in the charge.
"[Wood, Hiland and Shipley] have never pursued criminal contempt charges against other white attorneys, male or female, who have been unable to attend court or who had other attorneys stand in for them," the complaint said. "The actions taken ... demean [Bloodman and] chill her right to be an aggressive and effective advocate for her clients."
Bloodman has also asserted that the judge and prosecuting attorney’s office took part in communications to allow continuances by the State and to force Bloodman to be held in contempt of court. She said these actions were taken "because of her race and gender and because she vigorously defended her clients."
She named Hiland in the complaint because he "knew or should have known that these actions were occurring and that they were unconstitutional and in violation of the right of [Bloodman.]"
Bloodman had failed to appear in court in September in the case where she was representation, and she enlisted the assistance of another attorney, Media Wilkins, to appear in her behalf. According to the complaint, Wood told Wilkins in court that she did not trust Bloodman and she was going to hold Bloodman in contempt of court for her failure to appear.
Wood is involved in another dispute with Conway attorney Joe Don Winningham, whom she has fined $5,000 in connection with the case against Faulkner County Administrator Jeff Johnston. Wood ordered Winningham to pay $5,000 for filing "an improper pleading" to dismiss the theft-of-property case against Johnston. Wood said Winningham had 21 days from Oct. 10 to withdraw his original motion in order to avoid the fine.
A call to Bloodman was not returned.