The mayor of French Settlement was arrested Wednesday for failure to appear in court on a civil matter.

Haley Unbehagen, 36, turned herself in at the Livingston Parish Detention Center in response to a bench warrant. She was released on a $5,000 bond. 

Brett Duncan, Unbehagen's attorney, said Thursday that the arrest stems from the mayor's failure to appear in a civil case involving a former lawyer. That lawyer, Keith Friley, sued Unbehagen in 2019, claiming she did not pay an invoice.

When the mayor missed a Jan. 4 court date, Unbehagen was slapped with a civil attachment requiring she post $5,000 bond. That attachment was added Aug. 16, according to court records — eight months after her failure to appear. 

The order was signed by Judge Jeff Johnson of the 21st Judicial District Court.

Two days later, Unbehagen requested more time to pay the fine, asking the court set a new date in September. But, when her revised Sept. 8 court date arrived, the court was closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. 

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Court records do not show whether a new date had been scheduled. However, the 21st Judicial District Court website links to a document that shows civil proceedings set for Sept. 8 were rescheduled for Oct. 18.

It was not immediately clear whether Unbehagen was aware of this change.

Duncan said Unbehagen showed up the the sheriff's office this week to pay her $5,000 and arrange for her new court date.

"The sheriff’s office called, said can you clear this up, and she did," he said.

Duncan said issuing a bench warrant in a civil matter over money is highly unusual. 

An attorney for Friley said he could not comment on an open case. Judge Johnson did not respond to requests for comment. 


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com