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Guttman v. Guttman

NOVEMBER 4, 1965.




Appeal from the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT JEROME DUNNE, Judge, presiding. Order affirmed.


The title of this case is incorrect. However, the above title appears upon the briefs of the appellant and we feel constrained to follow it. The so-called plaintiff is not a lawyer but he has filed his briefs pro se and it would appear from the title that he is suing himself. In this opinion Joseph R. Guttman will be referred to as the plaintiff.

The litigation involved herein covers a great many years, many law suits and appeals. Guttman v. Schiller, 23 Ill.2d 323, 178 N.E.2d 387; Guttman v. Estate of Guttman, 28 Ill. App.2d 85, 170 N.E.2d 40; Guttman v. Schiller, 39 Ill. App.2d 58, 187 N.E.2d 315. Most of the facts relating to this litigation are set forth in Guttman v. Schiller, supra.

The plaintiff in this case contends that the trial court erred in entering an order on September 2, 1964, upon a petition filed by him, ordering that leave to reopen the estate of Elza Guttman, deceased, be denied, and further providing that Joseph Guttman be ordered and directed to refrain from filing any other documents, petitions and notices in this cause except only such notices or requests as may be necessary to perfect an appeal from that order to an appropriate court of review. His contention is that he has been deprived of some constitutional rights by the foregoing order in that he claims that he has a right to represent himself in court, and that this right has been denied him.

A joint will was executed by Bernard and Elsie Guttman (Elsie Guttman was also known as Elza Guttman), the father and mother of the plaintiff in 1929, under which after the death of both the whole of their property would go in equal shares to Joseph, the plaintiff herein, and their other son, Morris Reese Guttman. Their daughter by that will was specifically disinherited. The father died in 1930 and the will was admitted to probate in Cook County, Illinois. In 1931 the mother renounced the will and received her statutory portion of the estate. The mother died in 1953 in Arizona, where she had lived for many years. She and her daughter had been reconciled and in a will executed shortly before her death she named the daughter as her sole beneficiary. There was some doubt under Arizona law whether the sons would get anything, and a will contest seemed inevitable. In order to avoid a contest Joseph, the plaintiff, and Morris, his brother, and Barbara, the sister, entered into a full settlement and compromise of all their claims. This settlement agreement was filed in the Superior Court of Arizona in October 1953. Under the settlement agreement it was stipulated that the mother's estate would be distributed one-third to each of the children, but that Barbara be permitted to retain certain assets therein specifically set forth. While the estate was pending in Arizona, ancillary proceedings were commenced in the Probate Court of Cook County. The ancillary administrator cited Joseph for having withdrawn funds from his mother's bank account. He contended that the funds were trust property. The probate court found that the funds belonged to the estate and Joseph was ordered to return them. Joseph then filed a claim against the estate in the ancillary proceeding asserting that trust funds had been commingled with assets of the mother's estate, and that Morris, the administrator, had failed to turn over to him as trustee all of the proceeds of that estate but had transferred those trust funds to their mother. This claim was disallowed.

Another settlement was reached and on June 5, 1956, the Probate Court of Cook County entered an order, which was approved by Joseph and Morris, and by Joseph's attorney, which found that "all matters heretofore in dispute have been settled"; that the parties were to cooperate in the sale of the mother's home in Arizona and the proceeds of that sale and of her estate in Cook County were to be divided equally among the three heirs.

Notwithstanding these settlements made in Arizona in October 1953, and in the Probate Court of Cook County in June 1956, Joseph filed a petition in January 1957, and again in 1958, in the Probate Court of Cook County, to have the orders entered in 1956 set aside. His motion was denied and he appealed first to the circuit court and then to the Supreme Court, which court transferred the case to the appellate court, and is reported under the title of Guttman v. Estate of Guttman, supra. The appellate court in that case affirmed the circuit court, which had found that the probate court had jurisdiction to enter the orders complained of. In Guttman v. Schiller, Joseph again contended that the 1956 orders of the probate court were void, and in that case the court said: "It is but one of many contentions, going back as far as the renunciation of the will in 1931, which are raised in this appeal." 39 Ill. App.2d 58, 64, 187 N.E.2d 315.

In the case of Guttman v. Schiller, supra, it is stated that Joseph contended "that when he approved the Probate Court orders of 1956, orders which were prepared by his own attorney, he only knew and did what he was told. However, the master, who held more than 20 hearings and heard over 1100 pages of testimony and argument, found that he did not enter into the agreements blindly, or because of deception or overreaching. The master found that they were entered into voluntarily and for adequate consideration." 39 Ill. App.2d 58, 65, 187 N.E.2d 315.

The master's findings were approved by the trial court and the appellate court found them not to be against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The appellate court in that same opinion concluded that the 1956 probate court settlement constituted a valid agreement, and that the petitioner, having entered into it of his own accord, is bound by it and is barred from asserting his present claim.

The ancillary proceedings were opened in Cook County, Illinois, case No. 54P 3891. The final account in that estate was approved on November 16, 1956. The plaintiff herein opened a new estate for his mother, Elza Guttman, in the Probate Court of Cook County under case No. 56P 6627. Thereafter he opened a third estate for the same decedent bearing number 63P 670 in the Probate Court of Cook County, in which sworn petition he stated that Elza Guttman was a resident of the city of Chicago in the county of Cook and State of Illinois at the time of her death. The petitioner well knew that his mother's estate had been administered in Arizona, and that his mother had lived there for many years prior to her death. This last estate was opened despite the fact that on August 6, 1956, a stipulation was entered into which was approved by the probate court in Tucson, Arizona. It was agreed that in compromise of all existing will contest actions between the parties involving several alleged wills of the decedent, the estate was to be equally divided between the three heirs. The Probate Court of Cook County, when the second probate proceedings were filed in Cook County, entered an order on August 6, 1956, finding that there was a prior estate pending for the same decedent, No. 54P 3891, and that the stipulation between all three heirs was in full force and effect. The order further denied the petition to admit an alleged will to probate in that proceeding, denied the petition for the appointment of an administrator to collect, and ordered the estate closed. The court also found that Benjamin H. Feldman, an attorney, was in open court at that hearing on behalf of Joseph Guttman, and that Joseph Guttman was personally present.

In 1963 the plaintiff filed his new petition to open a new estate for the same decedent under No. 63P 670, wherein he sought to probate an alleged new will, which, if probated, would distribute the estate equally among the three children, which had already been done by the probate court in Tucson, Arizona, many years previously. The record also indicates that at the time of the execution of the new will the decedent had been previously declared an incompetent.

The plaintiff herein has filed countless petitions in all three of the estates opened in the Probate Court of Cook County for the same decedent, none of which bear mentioning but all of which no doubt were prompted by his desire to harass his brother Morris.

Attorney Eugene Lieberman filed a sworn answer to a petition filed against him on October 4, 1960, in case No. 54P 3890 (correct number 3891), in which petition the plaintiff asked that an attachment be issued against Mr. Lieberman and that he be compelled to produce a proper and later will of Elza Guttman dated July 8, 1953. In his sworn answer Mr. Lieberman stated that upon inquiry made by him of Joseph R. Guttman as to why he wanted that will, inasmuch as the estate was being probated pursuant to the agreement of October 2, 1955, which agreement provided for distribution in an identical manner to the provisions set forth in the will of July 8, 1953, Joseph R. Guttman said as follows: "I'm going to file petitions and I'm going to get what I want and if I lose I'll file new petitions until I get my dear brother and sister and ...

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