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In re Stella

May 28, 2003

IN RE THE MINOR CHILD: ALEXIS STELLA,
PATRICK STELLA, PETITIONER,
v.
PEARL GARCIA, RESPONDENT. E. WILLIAM BEDRAVA, CONTEMNOR-APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE KATHLEEN G. KENNEDY JUDGE PRESIDING.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson

UNPUBLISHED

On June 1, 1997, the legislature's attempt to level the playing field for interim attorney fee awards in marriage dissolution cases went into effect. One new provision of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Marriage Act), 750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)(3) (West 2000), empowers trial judges to allocate fees previously paid by a party to his or her lawyer for payment to the other party's lawyer. In effect, a disgorgement of attorney's fees to "achieve substantial parity between the parties." 750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)(3) (West 2000).

Here, attorney E. William Bedrava was ordered by a trial judge to disgorge $20,000, part of the fee he received from his client during proceedings brought under the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, 750 ILCS 45/1 et seq. (West 1998) (Parentage Act). He refused. He was held in indirect civil contempt. He appeals that contempt finding. Among the issues he raises: (1) Does subsection 501(c-1)(3) apply to proceedings brought under the Parentage Act; and (2) Does subsection 501(c-1)(3) violate the Federal and/or Illinois Constitutions?

Because we answer the first question in the negative, we reverse the trial court's order requiring Bedrava to disgorge $20,000. We also reverse the order of contempt.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner Patrick Stella filed a petition under the Parentage Act on January 29, 1998, to establish a parent-child relationship with his daughter, Alexis. Stella originally was represented by Kim Grannen, who later was replaced by Bedrava. Respondent Pearl Garcia was not represented by counsel until November 2, 1998, when attorney Sue Roberts-Kurpis filed a motion on her behalf.

On May 22, 2000, Roberts-Kurpis filed a petition for interim attorney's fees and costs under section 17 of the Parentage Act and subsection 501(c-1) and section 508 of the Marriage Act, along with an affidavit in support. *fn1 In addition to listing the amount of time spent on this case, Roberts-Kurpis asserted in her affidavit, among other things, she had incurred $10,000 in attorney's fees defending herself against false allegations of criminal misconduct and unethical conduct brought by Stella, his parents, and Bedrava. Bedrava filed a response to the petition.

On July 31, 2000, Bedrava filed his affidavit in support of the response to the petition. In the affidavit, Bedrava said he had been paid $43,870 in connection with the case as of July 31, 2000. *fn2

On August 2, 2000, Bedrava filed a motion to strike and dismiss the petition and filed a supporting memorandum of law in which he contended subsection 501(c-1) of the Marriage Act did not apply to the Parentage Act. In her memorandum of law in support of the claim for third party liability for attorney's fees, Roberts-Kurpis argued the court should order Bedrava to disgorge a portion of the fees he received and pay the sum to her.

The court denied the motion to strike and scheduled "brief argument" on the petition. No mention of an evidentiary proceeding was made.

Bedrava issued and served a subpoena on Roberts-Kurpis advising her to appear in court on October 11, 2000, and to bring her expense records, among other things. Roberts-Kurpis filed a motion to quash this subpoena.

On October 11, 2000, the trial court found no good cause had been shown for an evidentiary hearing and it quashed the subpoenas Bedrava had served on the Internal Affairs Division of the Chicago Police Department and on Roberts-Kurpis.

On March 6, 2001, the court ordered Bedrava to "disgorge in the sum of $20,000" and pay it to Roberts-Kurpis. Bedrava filed a motion to reconsider, contending the court's order was an abuse of discretion, a violation of Bedrava's due process rights, an order ...


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