Supreme Court overturns contempt citation against Danielle Rollins

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday threw out a contempt ruling that threatened to send Atlanta author and decorator Danielle Rollins to jail and ordered her to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties.

The contempt order stems from an acrimonious dispute involving Rollins' divorce from her husband, Glen Rollins, who once headed the Orkin pest-control empire.

In November 2015, Fulton County Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane found Danielle Rollins had committed 34 separate acts of contempt and ordered her to pay more than $570,000 in fines, damages and attorneys' fees. Lane also reserved the right to incarcerate Danielle for her conduct.

Lane found Danielle had removed property from and vandalized Boxwood, the Habersham Road estate the couple bought for $5.4 million and then spent another $4 million on renovations and decorating. The 13,000-square-foot Philip Shutze home was left to Glen as part of the division of assets. The vandalism charges accused Danielle of removing more than 100 of Boxwood's doorknobs — worth "tens of thousands of dollars," Glen once testified — and replacing them with doorknobs from Home Depot.

The high court’s unanimous decision, written by Justice Keith Blackwell, simply said Lane should not have issued her contempt order when she did. That’s because Danielle had an appeal pending before the state Supreme Court, which had exclusive jurisdiction over the case at that time. (Blackwell noted this was the case even though Danielle’s appeal had been improperly filed.)

The case now returns to Fulton County Superior Court. Lane, who retired in December, was replaced by Judge Belinda Edwards. Edwards, who took over Lane’s caseload, could now hold another contempt hearing for Danielle.

Danielle’s lawyer, Chris Corbett, said he and his client were pleased with the state Supreme Court’s decision.

“Ms. Rollins filed for divorce more than five years ago, and the ensuing litigation and public scrutiny have been very painful,” he said. “She hopes to put these protracted proceedings behind her so she can focus on raising her children, her design career, and her next book.”

Glen Rollins’ attorney, Scott Berryman, said in a statement that the ruling meant only that the judge in Fulton County will go back over the issues that led to Danielle Rollins’ contempt citation. “In addition,” he said, “the trial court will conduct proceedings to assess attorney’s fees against Ms. Rollins and her lawyer for her frivolous and abusive litigation that has occurred in the trial court. These fees will include the fees for the upcoming hearing.”

The long-running, scorched-earth dispute can be traced back to a settlement reached on the eve of the couple's divorce trial in December 2013. In court filings, Danielle has said she ended her marriage because Glen had become controlling and abusive and had been consorting with prostitutes — between 25 and 50, according to his estimates.

After the divorce, Danielle returned to court because she was dissatisfied with the settlement, which included a $15.35 million payout and $15,000 a month in child support. She has denied vandalizing Boxwood and said that the missing items from her ex-husband’s estate were due to a “lapse in judgment.”