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Todd Patton v. Thomas Lee

December 20, 2010


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 09--OP--418 Honorable Luis A. Berrones and Joseph R. Waldeck, Judges, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke

JUSTICE BURKE delivered the opinion of the court: Thomas Lee appeals the trial court's order denying his posttrial motion for sanctions against his former son-in-law, Todd Patton, under section 226 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 (750 ILCS 60/226 (West 2008)) and Supreme Court Rule 137 (155 Ill. 2d R. 137). Lee argues that a petition for an order of protection that Patton filed against Lee contained false statements about Patton's divorce, arrest record, and previous orders of protection, entitling Lee to sanctions. Because the misstatements were inconsequential to the primary issue of whether an order of protection should have been issued, and because Lee did not specify any damages due to those misstatements, we affirm.


This appeal arises out of a disagreement between Patton and Lee on Thursday, March 26, 2009. Lee's daughter, Shawn, who was divorced from Patton, had full custody of three children fathered by Patton, and Patton had visitation on Wednesdays and alternate weekends. On March 26, 2009, Shawn was away from home and had denied a request from Patton that he care for the children. Instead, the children stayed with Lee and his wife.

Later that day, Patton removed his daughter from her school bus and drove off with her in his truck. Awhile later, he arrived at the childrens' school and met Lee there, and an argument ensued. During the argument Patton touched or struck Lee on the chin.

On March 27, 2009, Patton filed a pro se emergency petition for an order of protection against Lee. Patton alleged that he felt threatened by Lee as a result of the argument. On the petition form filed with the court, Patton checked a box for "no" in response to the question, "[i]s there or has there ever been an Order of Protection in any state and county naming you as the Petitioner or Respondent?" He also checked the box for "no" to the question, "[a]re there now, or have there ever been, any civil, criminal, or divorce proceedings involving you, one of the protected persons and/or the Respondent?" The request for an emergency order was denied, and the case was set for a hearing.

At the hearing, Lee showed that Patton had been arrested on multiple occasions since 1989 for battery and traffic offenses and that two previous orders of protection had been entered against him. Patton testified, however, that he had been arrested only one time since 1989. Patton stated that he had another copy of the petition in which he provided different answers to the questions about arrests and previous orders of protection. That copy had been given to Patton's attorney, whom Patton hired after he filed the pro se petition, but it was not entered into evidence. The parties testified, and each gave a different account of the events of March 26, 2009. However, Patton admitted that he either touched or struck Lee during the confrontation.

The trial court denied the petition, stating that Patton lacked credibility and telling him, "I have a gauge that I use for credibility. You don't want to know where you are." Lee's counsel then sought leave to file a motion for sanctions and asked for a finding that Patton made false statements in his petition. The following colloquy then occurred:

"THE COURT: I didn't find that he made false statements in the petition. I found that, somehow, there appeared to be different petitions. And I would like to have a copy of the petition that [Patton's counsel] has. Well, of course, that's not a court file. That's not part of a court file issue. So whatever he gave his attorney is attorney-client anyway.

But I am kind of taken aback. I don't think--you weren't served with that copy? MR. ROSE [Lee's counsel]: No.

MR. LEE: No, I wasn't.

THE COURT: So--but I guess that [sic] the issue--if you are seeking 137 sanctions--MR. ROSE: Yes.

THE COURT: I will give you 14 days for leave to file a petition."

Lee's counsel prepared an order for the court. The order stated that he had 14 days to file a motion for sanctions "due to the knowingly false and fraudulent statements contained in Todd Patton's Petition for an Order of Protection." Lee then filed a motion for sanctions under both section 226 and Rule 137, seeking sanctions based on fraudulent statements in Patton's petition. Attached to the petition were a transcript of portions of the testimony at the hearing on the petition, Patton's arrest record, copies of orders of protection entered against him, and an itemized list of Lee's legal expenses. That list ...

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