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ANDREE P. FENSTAMAKER v. RICHARD L. FENSTAMAKER (01/04/85)

filed: January 4, 1985.

ANDREE P. FENSTAMAKER
v.
RICHARD L. FENSTAMAKER, APPELLANT



No. 1378 Philadelphia, 1982, No. 1574 Philadelphia, 1982, No. 1913 Philadelphia, 1982, No. 2156 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeals from the Orders of April 23, 1982, May 26, 1982, June 14, 1982 and July 2, 1982, Court of Common Pleas, Lycoming County, Civil Division at No. 80-3463.

COUNSEL

Lester L. Greevy, Jr., Williamsport, for appellant.

Irwin M. Shur, Williamsport, for appellee.

Spaeth, President Judge, and Cirillo and Johnson, JJ.

Author: Johnson

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 412]

These consolidated appeals arise from four orders entered by the trial court, each holding appellant in contempt.*fn1 The orders were issued during the course of a non-jury trial for divorce, equitable distribution, alimony and other relief.

The parties were married in August of 1959 and separated in August of 1976. Since sometime prior to their separation, appellant, an attorney, has been employed as chief executive officer of Radiant Steel Products Company, owned principally by the two parties. Appellee filed the instant action pursuant to the Divorce Code, 23 P.S. § 101 et seq., on September 19, 1980. Trial commenced in January of 1982, with various hearings held thereafter, up to and following the issuance of the contempt orders and the subsequent appeals.

A substantial amount of assets is at issue, as is the ownership of the company. Numerous discovery requests

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 413]

    have been filed by both parties and have been vigorously contested, especially by appellant. Due to difficulties arising from appellant's alleged interference with appellee's service of subpoenas on various witnesses and his refusal to comply with various discovery orders, he has been held in contempt of court on four separate occasions.

Appellant raises six issues on appeal. The first four concern whether the trial court abused its discretion or committed an error of law in finding him in contempt in each of the four situations. The fifth issue concerns adequate notice of the criminal contempt hearing. The sixth issue involves the trial court's failure to recuse itself pursuant to appellant's request on April 23, 1982.

We note initially that in considering an appeal from a contempt order, great reliance must be placed upon the discretion of the trial judge. In re Grand Jury, April Term, 1977, Wayne County, 251 Pa. Super. 43, 379 A.2d 323 (1977).

In issues one and five, appellant challenges the propriety of the April 23, 1982 order holding him in direct criminal contempt. The order resulted from the trial court's determination that appellant had attempted, on three occasions, to prevent or interfere with appellee's service of subpoenas on various witnesses and his interference leading to the failure of one witness to appear pursuant to having been served with a subpoena.

The first incident was an attempt to serve process on Mel Hines, an employee of appellant's company. When the process server appeared at the company's offices and asked appellant about Mr. Hines' whereabouts and how he could contact him, appellant told the server it was "none of your business" and that "that is your problem."

The second incident was an attempt to serve process on another employee, June Schreiber, at appellant's home. The process server was admitted to appellant's home by his daughter, who informed the server that Schreiber was in the shower. The process server told appellant's daughter

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 414]

    to notify Schreiber of his presence. Appellant then appeared and evicted the server from the home, telling ...


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