Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 97 M3 002178 Honorable Arthur Janura, Jr., Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Theis
After conducting a hearing, the trial court imposed sanctions of $23,904.25 against attorney Daniel M. Starr for violations of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137. 155 Ill. 2d R. 137. On appeal, Starr does not challenge the trial judge's finding that Starr violated Rule 137. Instead, Starr asks this court to vacate the trial court's sanctions award because the plaintiff's attorney did not initially sign the motion for sanctions. He contends that this initial failure itself violated Rule 137, thus nullifying all subsequent hearings and the sanction award. Starr also argues that plaintiff has provided insufficient evidence for the award of attorney fees on certain dates. We affirm.
Plaintiff James Robertson's original complaint against defendant Carol Calcagno arose out of a January 27, 1997, contract between Calcagno and Robertson to purchase a townhouse at 2245 Seaver Lane in Hoffman Estates for $234,900. Robertson granted possession to Calcagno prior to the closing. When Calcagno failed to perform on the contract, Robertson filed an action for forcible entry and detainer. The trial court granted an order of possession in favor of Robertson. When the sheriff attempted to execute the order, however, the sheriff found that James Jakubosky was an occupant of the premises at 2245 Seaver Lane, and did not execute the order of possession because Jakubosky was not included in the order.
Robertson then filed an amended complaint to include Jakubosky. On November 7, 1997, Starr filed an appearance and jury demand on behalf of Jakubosky. He also filed two motions to dismiss, which the court denied. The matter culminated in a two-day jury trial in which Robertson gained an order of possession against Jakubosky and all unknown occupants of the address.
One of Robertson's attorneys of record, Loren Mallon, prepared a motion for Rule 137 sanctions against Starr, Timothy L. Rowells, his partner, and Starr & Rowells, their lawfirm. He faxed the motion from his Chicago office to another attorney of record, Robert Riffner. Robertson had hired Riffner to file pleadings and make routine court appearances in Rolling Meadows to save on the expense of sending Mallon from Chicago. Riffner's secretary retyped the motion so it would not be filed as a faxed document. With Mallon's consent, Riffner signed Mallon's name and clearly placed his initials, "RGR," next to the signature.
On December 24, 1997, Robertson filed the motion requesting, inter alia, Rule 137 sanctions against Starr and Starr & Rowells. Robertson alleged that Starr had misrepresented Jakubosky's alleged claim of interest in the property so as to harass Robertson and to cause unnecessary delay in the eviction of Calcagno and needless increase in the cost of the litigation. Starr filed a response on January 6, 1998.
On March 18, 1998, the first date of evidentiary hearings in the matter, prior to Jakubosky's testimony under subpoena, the following exchange occurred:
"MR. MALLON: Your Honor, may I call my first witness who is Mr. Jakubosky[.]
MR. STARR:Judge, I would like to talk to him first.
THE COURT: What do you want to talk to him about?
MR. MALLON: This isn't your client.
MR. STARR: I've done an appearance on his behalf. I want ...