No. 1141 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, Montgomery County, No. 97-79.
Joseph W. Lonergran, Norristown, for appellant.
Marvin L. Wilenzik, Norristown, for appellee.
Montemuro, Hoffman and Van der Voort, JJ.
[ 310 Pa. Super. Page 114]
This case is before the court on appeal from an adjudication of contempt against appellant, Sheldon Novack. The facts of the case are as follows:
Appellant and appellee are husband and wife. Appellee brought a support action against appellant seeking support for herself and two children. At a hearing in July of 1979, before the Honorable William W. Vogel, Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County, an order was read into the record which provided for the support of appellee and the two children and the payment of certain sums of money to appellee for medical bills, and reimbursement for medical expenses, and compliance in filing tax return.
On February 21, 1980, appellee filed a petition seeking to have appellant held in contempt for failure to make reimbursement for certain medical expenses, and for committing acts of fraud which had the effect of obligating appellee for debts which appellant had incurred. Appellee also requested reimbursement for attorney's fees and costs which were incurred as a result of appellant's contemptuous behavior. The rule to show cause was issued February 22, 1980, and March 13, 1980 was fixed as the time for the hearing. The Honorable Samuel W. Salus, Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County, presided over the contempt
[ 310 Pa. Super. Page 115]
proceedings. The appellant did not appear at the hearing. No answer was filed, but on the day of the hearing, appellant's attorney attempted to file Preliminary Objections. The preliminary objections were denied and appellant was held in contempt of court for failure to appear.
A petition for rehearing was granted so that appellant could present a defense, and the hearing took place on May 6, 1980. Following this, a third hearing took place on May 14, 1980 to show why sanctions should not be imposed. At the end of this hearing, appellant was held in contempt of court and ordered to pay appellee the amount of the medical bills and attorney's fees and costs to purge himself of the contempt.*fn1
Appellant initially contends that he was deprived of due process because the contempt procedure was improper. The first question to be posed is whether the contempt order was civil or criminal. Cahalin v. Goodman, 280 Pa. Super. 228, 421 A.2d 696 (1980). It is evident from the coercive nature of the order that the contempt was civil in nature. In a civil contempt proceeding, five steps are necessary for adjudication:
(1) a rule to show cause why attachment should issue; (2) an answer and hearing; (3) a rule absolute; (4) a hearing on the contempt citation; ...