|Lee v. Lee|
|Shawn Lee v. Lisa Kerry Lee aka Lisa Kerry Johnson, No. 98-716, 2000 MT 67, 299 Mont. 78, 996 P.2d 389|
This cause came on appeal from a judgment issued on June 15, 1998, by the Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Ravalli County in favor of Shawn R. Lee.
On June 2, 1998, the Ravalli County District Court held a show cause hearing on Lee’s motion that Johnson should be held in contempt for failing to comply with the parties decree of dissolution issued in 1996. The District Court ordered a monetary judgment in favor of Lee and also held Johnson in direct contempt for her “deceitful pleadings filed in this matter and for her deceitful omission,” and sentenced her to 24 hours in the Ravalli County Jail pursuant to § 3-1-519, MCA.
On appeal, Johnson raised issues relating to the contempt order and issues relating to the District Court’s offset of Lee’s maintenance obligation to Johnson. In his response brief, Lee requested that the Supreme Court dismiss Johnson’s appeal and award him attorney’s fees and costs for having to defend a “meritless appeal.” Lee further requested that the Supreme Court hold Johnson in contempt as well.
The Supreme Court found that Johnson’s conduct fell within the elements of § 3-1-501(d), MCA, which states that “deceit or abuse of the process or pleadings of the court by a party to an action or special proceeding” is contempt of the authority of the court. The Supreme Court found that the District Court was within jurisdiction to find Johnson in direct contempt under § 3-1-511, MCA, and order a penalty described by § 3-1-519, MCA. The Supreme Court also found that because Johnson had admitted to not complying with the decree of dissolution there was substantial evidence to hold her in contempt.
In regards to the monetary judgment issued by the District Court, the Supreme Court found that the District Court did not lack or exceed its jurisdiction and concluded that the evidence supporting the District Court’s calculation of the money judgment was substantial.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lee’s request to have his attorney’s fees and costs awarded pursuant to Rule 32 M.R.App.P. However, the Supreme Court found that the District Court’s finding of contempt was sufficient punishment and declined Lee’s request to have Johnson further sanctioned.
In its decision of March 16, 2000, the Supreme Court affirmed the District Court’s judgment and remanded the matter for the purpose of determining the costs and fees associated with the appeal.