from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 16-L-214
Honorable Eugene G. Doherty, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE SPENCE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Hudson and Justice Schostok
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Kathy Mehalko, appeals from the trial
court's order imposing postjudgment sanctions on her
under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 219 (eff. July 1, 2002).
Mehalko argues that Rule 219 sanctions were improper because
(1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to impose such
sanctions as the case was already closed, (2) the
sanctions' purpose was not to further discovery as
required by the rule, and (3) no "abuse of discovery
procedures" occurred. She further argues that the
hearings did not include the procedural safeguards necessary
for contempt proceedings.
2 We conclude that the trial court had jurisdiction to
sanction Mehalko under both Rule 219 and its inherent
authority to enforce its orders through contempt proceedings.
However, although the trial court found Mehalko in indirect
civil contempt, it failed to specify what Mehalko must do to
purge herself of the contempt. We therefore remand the cause.
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 Mehalko is an animal rights activist. On July 29, 2016, she
filed a three-count complaint against various defendants
alleging defamation, violation of the Right of Publicity Act
(765 ILCS 1075/1 et seq. (West 2016)), and
intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claims
arose from photographs and comments about her that were
posted on the Facebook pages "Opposing Voices of Kathy
Mehalko Puppymill Agenda" (Opposing Voices) and
"Pet Owners Beware." Mehalko did not know who was
responsible for creating the Facebook pages or posting the
comments, so she nominally filed the case against various
Jane and John Does.
5 In a related action, Mehalko obtained an order requiring
Facebook to disclose to Mehalko's attorney the
individual(s) behind Opposing Voices. Jane Doe was named to
counsel and then served in the instant case.
6 Mehalko was granted leave to file an amended complaint on
September 1, 2016. On September 21, 2016, Doe filed a motion
to dismiss the complaint.
7 Mehalko thereafter sought to depose Doe. On November 8,
2016, the trial court granted Mehalko leave to conduct a
limited deposition of Doe. Its order stated that
Mehalko's attorney could reveal Doe's identity to
Mehalko, who could attend the deposition. It further stated
that Mehalko was "ordered not to disclose
Doe's identity to anyone and may be subject to contempt
of court if she [did]." (Emphasis in original.)
8 On January 19, 2017, the trial court allowed Mehalko leave
to file a second amended complaint.
9 On February 22, 2017, the trial court granted Doe's
motion to dismiss, and it dismissed all claims as to all
parties with prejudice under section 2-619.1 of the Code of
Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2016)). Shortly
afterward, on March 2, 2017, Mehalko filed a motion to lift
the November 8, 2016, protective order prohibiting her from
disclosing Doe's identity. The trial court denied
Mehalko's motion on March 23, 2017.
10 More than 30 days later, on May 4, 2017, Doe filed a
petition for a rule to show cause and for reconsideration.
She alleged that she had proceeded under a pseudonym in the
case because Mehalko's Internet followers, who did not
know Doe's identity, had made veiled threats against her.
Doe alleged that Mehalko had violated the protective order by
revealing Doe's identity to them, resulting in escalating
"online taunts and menacing behavior." Doe alleged
that Mehalko's conduct constituted contempt of court. Doe
asked the court to order Mehalko to remove all Facebook posts
referring to her and pay her attorney fees.
11 On June 20, 2017, the trial court granted Doe's
petition for a rule to show cause. An evidentiary hearing
took place on August 10, 2017. On August 14, 2017, Doe
amended her petition "[p]ursuant to the direction of
the" trial court to state that it was brought ...