Contempt of court in Chicago

Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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What Are Sanctions In A Chicago, Illinois Divorce?

Contempt of court in Chicago

According to the legal dictionary, a sanction is defined as “a financial penalty imposed by a judge on a party or attorney for violation of a court rule, for receiving a special waiver of a rule, or as a fine for contempt of court. If a fine, the sanction may be paid to the court or to the opposing party to compensate the other side for inconvenience or added legal work due to the rule violation.”

In layman’s terms in Chicago, this is a penalty for knowingly violating a court rule, doing something improper, making a false statement, etc.

In Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court Rules have two different sections that discuss sanctions, namely Rule 137 and Rule 219.

Rule 137

Rule 137(a) has a signature requirement. This requires that “every pleading, motion and other document of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name, whose address shall be stated. A party who is not represented by an attorney shall sign his pleading, motion, or other document and state his address…”

The purpose or reason for signing the motion by the litigant or attorney is because “the signature of an attorney or party constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the pleading, motion or other document; that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good-faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.” What this means is that it is that the person who signed the document knows what they signed and are attesting that it is accurate and well grounded in fact. It is not being signed / filed just to delay or otherwise harass another party.

The rule further goes on to state that “if a pleading, motion, or other document is signed in violation of this rule, the court, upon motion or upon its own initiative, may impose upon the person who signed it, a represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction, which may include an order to pay to the other party or parties the amount of reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, motion or other document, including a reasonable attorney fee.”

This means that the party engaging in such action will often times be ordered to pay the other person’s attorney’s fees, costs for filing, or other expense upon filing of a motion by that other party.

“The purpose of Rule 137 is to prevent abuse of the judicial process by penalizing claimants who bring vexatious and harassing actions based upon unsupported allegations of fact or law.” Williams Montgomery & John Ltd. v. Broaddus, 91 N.E.3d 915, 925 (Ill. App. Ct. 2017)

“[T]he rule is designed to prohibit the abuse of the judicial process by claimants who make vexatious and harassing claims based upon unsupported allegations of fact or law. However, the rule is not intended to penalize litigants and their attorneys merely because they were zealous, yet unsuccessful.” Peterson v. Randhava, 313 Ill. App. 3d 1, 7 (Ill. App. Ct. 2000) (citations ommitted)

Rule 219

Rule 219 is very similar to Rule 137 sanctions but has the specific purpose of a party’s refusal to comply with rules or an order relating to discovery or pre-trial conferences. If one party propounds discovery pursuant to the Supreme Court Rules, then the other party has an obligation to answer it. If this other party refuses to answer, or does not answer for any other reason, and “if the court finds that the refusal or failure was without substantial justification, the court shall require the offending party or deponent, or the party whose attorney advised the conduct complained of, or either of them, to pay to the aggrieved party the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining the order, including reasonable attorney’s fees. If the motion is denied and the court finds that the motion was made without substantial justification, the court shall require the moving party to pay to the refusing party the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in opposing the motion, including reasonable attorney’s fees.”

Additionally, Rule 219(c) provides that “if a party, or any person at the instance of or in collusion with a party, unreasonably fails to comply with any provision of part E of article II of the rules of this court (Discovery, Requests for Admission, and Pretrial Procedure) or fails to comply with any order entered under these rules, the court, on motion, may enter, in addition to remedies elsewhere specifically provided, such orders as are just, including, among others, the following:
(i) That further proceedings be stayed until the order or rule is complied with;
(ii) That the offending party be debarred from filing any other pleading relating to any issue to which the refusal or failure relates;
(iii) That the offending party be debarred from maintaining any particular claim, counterclaim, third-party complaint, or defense relating to that issue;
(iv) That a witness be barred from testifying concerning that issue;
(v) That, as to claims or defenses asserted in any pleading to which that issue is material, a judgment by default be entered against the offending party or that the offending party’s action be dismissed with or without prejudice;
(vi) That any portion of the offending party’s pleadings relating to that issue be stricken and, if thereby made appropriate, judgment be entered as to that issue; or
(vii) That in cases where a money judgment is entered against a party subject to sanctions under this subparagraph, order the offending party to pay interest at the rate provided by law for judgments for any period of pretrial delay attributable to the offending party’s conduct.”

When imposing sanctions for a discovery violation, an Illinois divorce court considers the following factors: “(1) the surprise to the adverse party; (2) the prejudicial effect of the proffered testimony or evidence; (3) the nature of the testimony or evidence; (4) the diligence of the adverse party in seeking discovery; (5) the timeliness of the adverse party’s objection to the testimony or evidence; and (6) the good faith of the party offering the testimony or evidence.” Peal v. Lee, 403 Ill. App. 3d 197, 203 (2010)

As you see, the Court has a myriad of options under two different Supreme Court Rules when it comes to sanctioning an individual for certain prohibited conduct. Ultimately, the judge’s primary goal is to reach an equitable conclusion to the case and abuse of process is not usually tolerated in a courtroom. It is therefore imperative that proper procedure is followed, and pro se litigants are required to be held to the same standard as attorneys. That is why it is important that you or your attorney know exactly what they are doing in order to ensure that no rules are violated, either intentionally or by mistake.

Call my Chicago, Illinois Law Office today to learn more about whether you or your ex may be subject to sanctions in your Chicago, Illinois divorce.