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Maschhoff v. Klockenkemper

October 15, 2003

RUTH ANN MASCHHOFF, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
EDWARD J. KLOCKENKEMPER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clinton County. No. 97-CH-7 Honorable Dennis E. Huber, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Chapman

PUBLISHED

The defendant, Edward J. Klockenkemper, appeals from a judgment of the circuit court awarding the plaintiff, Ruth Ann Maschhoff, additional attorney fees and costs pursuant to section 2 of Illinois's Oil and Gas Lease Release Act (the Act) (765 ILCS 535/2 (West 2000)). The award was made after an earlier judgment in favor of the plaintiff was affirmed by this court. Maschoff v. Klockenkemper, 317 Ill. App. 3d 554, 740 N.E.2d 830 (2000). The issues for review are whether section 2 of the Act provides for the award of attorney fees and costs incurred after a judgment in favor of the plaintiff has been entered and whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to make an award of attorney fees after the appeal. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff brought an action against the defendant under the Act (765 ILCS 535/0.01 et seq. (West 2000)), and she sought the forfeiture of the defendant's oil and gas lease due to the defendant's nonproduction. After a bench trial, the circuit court entered a judgment for the plaintiff and against the defendant. The defendant was ordered to execute and record a release of the oil and gas lease and to remove all property remaining on the leasehold. Additionally, the court entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiff for reasonable attorney fees in the amount of $3,275. The defendant appealed, and we affirmed the judgment of the circuit court on December 7, 2000. Maschoff v. Klockenkemper, 317 Ill. App. 3d 554, 740 N.E.2d 830 (2000).

Our mandate affirming the judgment was filed in the circuit court on July 29, 2001. On August 23, 2001, the plaintiff filed an amended petition seeking an additional award of attorney fees and costs under section 2 of the Act. In her petition, the plaintiff noted that the court had previously awarded her attorney fees and costs incurred through December 16, 1998. However, the plaintiff alleged that she had incurred $6,156.06 in additional attorney fees and costs from the trial, posttrial, and appellate proceedings from December 16, 1998, to December 12, 2000, and $803.77 after December 12, 2000. The plaintiff claimed that section 2 of the Act gave the circuit court the authority to award the additional fees and costs requested.

The defendant filed a motion to strike the plaintiff's petition. The defendant claimed that section 2 of the Act did not provide for additional awards of attorney fees or costs. After hearing argument from the parties, the circuit court denied the defendant's motion to strike and awarded the plaintiff $5,459.83 for additional attorney fees and costs incurred on appeal. The defendant filed a timely appeal.

II. ANALYSIS

The defendant argues that the circuit court erred in granting the plaintiff's petition for additional attorney fees. The defendant contends that section 2 of the Act does not provide for an award of attorney fees incurred after a judgment has been rendered and that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to make such an award.

The question before us is whether section 2 of the Act limits an award of attorney fees and costs to those incurred at the trial level or whether it also encompasses attorney fees and costs incurred in successfully defending an appeal. Because this question is one of law, our review is de novo (In re B.L.S., 202 Ill. 2d 510, 514, 782 N.E.2d 217, 220 (2002); People v. Whitney, 188 Ill. 2d 91, 98, 720 N.E.2d 225, 229 (1999)).

The Act was enacted on July 1, 1907, with a full title as follows:

"An Act for the purpose of compelling oil or gas leases, when forfeited, to be released of record and providing a penalty therefor." 1907 Ill. Laws 400.

The Act includes only two sections other than the section establishing the short title. The pertinent parts of those two sections provide as follows:

"ยง1. When any lease on land *** taken for the purpose of prospecting for oil or natural gas or operating oil or gas wells upon lands so leased[] shall become forfeited by the terms of said lease or the acts of the lessee, it shall be the duty of the lessee, *** within sixty days from the date this act shall take effect, *** to have such lease or leases released of record in the county where such land is situated, without any cost to the owner ...

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