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DEBORAH BARNES v. REID T. BARNES. APPEAL COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (05/30/89)

decided: May 30, 1989.

DEBORAH BARNES
v.
REID T. BARNES. APPEAL OF COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, APPELLANT



Appeal from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, Honorable Eugene B. Strassburger, III, Judge.

COUNSEL

Jason W. Manne, Asst. Counsel, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Gilbert H. Ludwig, Cauley and Conflenti, Pittsburgh, for appellee, Reid T. Barnes.

Craig, Doyle and Palladino, JJ.

Author: Doyle

[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 332]

Before this Court is an appeal by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, denying DPW's motion to compel the local prothonotary to enter judgment on the docket against Reid T. Barnes (Appellee) for arrears on a support order owed to DPW.

On October 13, 1983, Deborah Barnes, the named Appellant in this appeal, commenced an action against Appellee, Reid T. Barnes, for support of their two children. A support order was entered on December 7, 1983, and was later modified. However, because she was receiving public assistance, Mrs. Barnes' right to support was assigned to DPW pursuant to Section 432.6(e) of the Public Welfare Code (Code).*fn1

Appellee's support payments fell into arrears and DPW filed a petition for contempt of court. Before that hearing was held, Appellee filed a petition to reduce the amount of

[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 333]

    his arrears since he had had a twenty-month period of unemployment. In response to that petition, DPW, pursuant to Allegheny County Local Rule 1910.23,*fn2 served notice on Appellee of its intention to enter judgment on his arrears. As permitted by that rule, Appellee disputed the arrears and requested a hearing which was scheduled for March 28, 1988.

The contempt hearing was held as scheduled on December 21, 1987, before a hearing officer. The hearing officer recommended: (1) leave to file for retroactive modification of Appellee's arrears as a result of his unemployment, and (2) an audit of Appellee's arrears because of a dispute of the amount shown on the computer printout.

[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 334]

DPW's hearing on the entry of judgment on the arrears was rescheduled to April 1988, but counsel for DPW failed to appear. The hearing officer recommended that: (1) DPW's petition be dismissed, (2) Appellee again be granted leave to file a petition for adjustment of his arrears, and (3) the arrears be temporarily set at $7,042.45. DPW timely filed exceptions to these recommendations, but later withdrew those exceptions.

On or about May 3, 1988, in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.23, DPW filed a praecipe with the prothonotary directing him to enter a judgment.*fn3 The prothonotary refused. DPW then filed a motion to compel the prothonotary to enter judgment on the docket with the trial court. DPW's motion stated that (1) Local Rule 1910.23 is invalid as violative of Pa.R.C.P. ...


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