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People Ex Rel. Holland v. Demichael

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 28, 1979.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. SHEILA HOLLAND, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

DAVID DEMICHAEL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT G. MACKEY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an action brought by the State pursuant to the Paternity Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, pars. 1351 through 1368), seeking to establish that defendant is the father of Sheila Holland's child and to obtain support payments for the child. Defendant admitted paternity and the case proceeded to a bench trial on the support issue. Defendant was ordered to pay child support and hospital expenses pertaining to the child's birth and to pay Ms. Holland's private attorney his fees and costs. On appeal, defendant seeks a reversal and remand of the case for a new hearing, contending that: (1) the trial court committed numerous errors which deprived him of a fair hearing, and (2) the award of attorney's fees and costs to Ms. Holland was improper. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Ms. Holland testified regarding the expenses surrounding the baby's birth. The baby was born on December 17, 1977, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Chicago, and Ms. Holland's visits to the hospital clinic for prenatal care began in March 1977. The bills for those visits totaled $572.84, and prenatal testing was $60. It was stipulated that the hospital costs for the birth of the baby were $1057. Following the baby's birth, Ms. Holland had hired a home nurse for two weeks, for a cost of $375. The baby became sick shortly after he was born and was hospitalized between March 28 and April 10, 1978. The cost of the hospitalization itself was $2207.88 and tests an additional $77.25. Ms. Holland had also spent $990 for baby furniture and $200 for the baby's layette.

Ms. Holland also testified that she spent approximately $135 each week for the baby's food, diapers, clothing and laundry and that the baby's monthly medical expenses were $25. In addition, she expended monthly $384 for rent, $32.50 for electricity and $20 for telephone services. She was not employed at the time of trial but had spent $125 per week for a babysitter while she was working.

Ms. Holland and defendant had lived together until about six months before the baby was born. Both were employed at the time, Ms. Holland as a bookkeeper earning between $5 and $6 per hour. Ms. Holland further testified that she had borrowed $900 from her mother and $2000 from the South Shore Bank. She had an outstanding balance of $1300 due on her Visa credit card, which included some of her hospital expenses, and also had balances due on various other charge accounts. She admitted that she had received over $1000 in checks from defendant after he had moved and after the baby was born but denied that they had agreed that defendant would pay her $100 per month for child support. The checks, she said, were to repay loans she had made to defendant while they were living together and defendant was attending school. On redirect examination she testified that she had written numerous checks to defendant while they had lived together and that defendant had endorsed those checks to his creditors.

Defendant testified that he and plaintiff had had a "loose" financial arrangement while they lived together. Shortly after he had moved out, in May or June of 1977, he and Ms. Holland had a conversation regarding her pregnancy, and he agreed to pay $1000 for her hospitalization. In another conversation, after the baby was born, he offered to pay her $100 per month as child support. He testified that he had given Ms. Holland $350 in support payments, the last one being made in April 1978, and that he had written her $1022 in checks for her hospitalization.

Defendant was 23 years old at the time of the trial and was married and had no other children. He was the "purchasing agent and/or administrative vice-president assistant" at Oil Dri Corporation and received a net salary of $1128 each month. He and his wife lived in a condominium which he owned. Defendant's wife also worked and owned her own condominium in the same building. Defendant testified that his monthly expenses were $1115.93, which included $281.81 for the mortgage and assessment on his condominium, $304.12 on various credit cards and loans, $30 for telephone service, $40 for electricity, $25 for bus fare, $250 for food and $100 for miscellaneous expenses. In addition, he owed the Internal Revenue Service $1786 plus interest, but no payment plan had yet been established for repaying that amount. Defendant also testified that his wife makes her own payments on her condominium and does not contribute to the payment for defendant's condominium. She also has her own bank account and pays her own credit bills, although she sometimes gives defendant money to deposit in his bank account.

During closing arguments, Ms. Holland's counsel requested the court to award the costs incurred in pursuing the action and the fees due him from his client. After closing arguments, the trial court on December 12, 1978, entered an order against defendant providing: (a) support of $225 a month; (b) judgment in favor of Ms. Holland against defendant for $1000 for medical bills; and (c) judgment in favor of her attorney for $1000 for attorney's fees and $371 for costs.

OPINION

I

Defendant first contends that he was denied a fair trial, maintaining that the trial court committed numerous errors in the conduct of the trial by restricting cross-examinations, assuming the role of an advocate, failing to understand or consider the defense theory and prejudging the case on matters not in evidence.

A

Defendant maintains that his counsel was frustrated in his efforts to cross-examine Ms. Holland, thus depriving him of his right to effective cross-examination. Specifically, defendant claims that the court limited the time available for cross-examination and then interrupted questioning when it became productive.

The record of the proceedings discloses otherwise. Defense counsel began his cross-examination of Ms. Holland late in the afternoon on a Friday. A while later the case was put over until Monday morning. When court resumed, other matters pertaining to the trial were discussed between the court and counsel for both parties. Defense counsel ...


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