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King v. King

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 30, 1977.

NANCY C. KING, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

GENE P. KING, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. HAROLD L. JENSEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SLATER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This action arises out of a complaint for separate maintenance brought by Nancy C. King against Gene P. King. The case was heard by the court without a jury. The court entered a decree of separate maintenance and ordered the defendant to pay plaintiff's attorney fees in the amount of $6,000. The defendant appeals from the order to pay the fees.

There are two bases for the appeal. First, that an attorney-client relationship had existed between plaintiff's attorney and defendant, such that the attorney was barred from undertaking subsequent employment adverse to defendant's interest. Second, that the fee awarded was unreasonable. Because of the disposition ordered, it is necessary to address only the first issue.

The pertinent facts are these. Defendant visited the law office of Burt Greaves on October 27, 1973, to discuss his marital problems. He was in the office for less than one-half an hour. On October 14, 1975, plaintiff filed a complaint for separate maintenance. Greaves was her attorney. On October 21, 1975, defendant moved to exclude Greaves as attorney for the plaintiff for the reason that defendant had revealed confidences to Greaves. The motion was verified and an affidavit was attached to the motion which stated as follows:

"Gene P. King, being duly sworn upon his oath, deposes and says:

1. That he is the defendant in cause No. 75-C-1002 presently pending in the Circuit Court of Champaign County in which Nancy C. King is the Plaintiff.

2. That on or about October 27, 1973, he went to the office of Attorney Burt Greaves and discussed with him his marital problems with his wife who is the Plaintiff in this cause.

3. That in the course of said conference, the defendant Gene P. King revealed to Attorney Burt Greaves confidential matters pertaining to the domestic problems between himself and his wife including his financial situation, his thoughts relative to separation and divorce and in general what his future plans and actions would be.

4. That the Defendant believes that the information obtained in confidence from the defendant by said attorney could operate to his disadvantage in the present litigation.

5. That the defendant believed at the time he revealed said information to the said attorney that it would be held in confidence and it would not be disclosed to any other person and it was within the pervue of the attorney-client relationship."

Mr. Greaves filed an unverified answer to the motion and did not attach any affidavit. A hearing was held on the motion. At the hearing, Gene King testified:

"Well, we discussed the problems that Nancy and I were having and the possibility of pending a divorce, and discussed salary, the salary that I made, and also discussed some of the aspects of the practice that I am in, as far as way of a set up as a corporation and set up."

The defendant further stated that he intended that the disclosures that he had made to Greaves would be held in confidence.

At the hearing on the motion to exclude, Mr. Greaves presented no evidence on his own behalf. The motion to exclude Mr. Greaves was denied but there were ...


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