This summary also appears under Litigation
Issues: Denial of the intervening party-appellant attorney's motion to set aside a judgment finding that the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction in the underlying divorce case; MCL 552.9; Whether the orders were based on fraud (MCR 2.612(C)(1)(c)) and/or were void due to the trial court's failure to conduct an adequate jurisdictional hearing (MCR 2.612(C)(1)(d)); Deference to the trial court's findings of fact as to witness credibility and weight of the evidence; Drew v. Cass Cnty.; Factual finding on whether a party has met the jurisdictional requirements in a divorce case; Leader v. Leader; Whether the attorney's motion to set aside the jurisdictional orders violated the express terms of a settlement agreement (SA); Mikonczyk v. Detroit Newspapers, Inc.; In re Draves Trust; Finding that the motion was "frivolous"; MCL 600.2591(3)(iii); MRPC 3.3; Contempt; Circuit courts' inherent common-law and statutory right to punish contempt of court; In re Contempt of Steingold; Porter v. Porter; MCL 600.171(2); Contempt outside the presence of the court; In re Contempt of McRipley; "Vexatious" appeals; MCR 7.216(C)(1)(a)
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Riggio v. Riggio
e-Journal Number: 55891
Judge(s): Per Curiam – M.J. Kelly, Cavanagh, and Shapiro
The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the intervening party-appellant attorney's (R) motion to set aside its prior judgment finding that it had subject-matter jurisdiction in the underlying divorce case, or clearly err in finding that motion was frivolous, or abuse its discretion in holding R in contempt. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's order denying her motion to set aside the judgment and awarding counsel for plaintiff and defendant (the appellees) attorney fees, and its order finding her in contempt for failing to appear before the trial court and show cause for failing to comply with a prior order to pay attorney fees. This was the third time the parties had an appeal before the court. It arose from the appellees' divorce case. Defendant retained R as her legal counsel. R asserted that she learned that plaintiff had signed a declaration of domicile in Florida less than 180 days before he filed the divorce complaint. R later "informed the trial court of the potential jurisdictional issue against defendant's wishes." The trial court granted her motion to withdraw and ordered her to forward any funds she was holding on defendant's behalf to plaintiff's counsel. Further proceedings and appeals followed. Eventually the appellees and R entered into a SA and mutual release. Pursuant to that SA and the court's prior remand orders, the trial court held a jurisdictional hearing, after it which it issued two jurisdictional orders - one finding that "it had subject-matter jurisdiction over the 2007 divorce filing" and the other finding "it has subject-matter jurisdiction over the 2009 divorce filing." Following arbitration, the parties entered into a consent agreement that awarded R $20,000 from plaintiff and $100,000 from defendant. R later filed the motion to set aside that gave rise to these appeals. The court concluded that the trial court properly denied her motion because her "continued litigation violated the express terms" of the SA. It also rejected R's claim that the trial court erred in ruling that it possessed subject-matter jurisdiction in the underlying divorce case, concluding that its factual finding that "plaintiff met the residency requirement of MCL 552.9 was not clearly erroneous." The court also held that R's position was clearly "devoid of arguable legal merit" under MCL 600.2591(3)(iii). Further, it concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction over the contempt proceedings, and did not abuse its discretion by holding R in contempt where it issued a valid order requiring her to appear before it, and she failed to comply with the order, as shown by its own records. The court also ordered R to pay appellees' attorney fees in defending these appeals.
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