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Lynn A. Van Tassel v. Hon. Judge Thomas M. Piccione

May 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mitchell, M.J.:


Lynn A. Van Tassel who at the time she filed the instant petition was an inmate in the Lawrence County Jail and has since been released, has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, a certificate of appealability will be denied.

The instant petition was executed on November 25, 2011 and has been followed by a large number of filings. In addition to inundating this Court with pleadings the petitioner has also swamped the courts of the Commonwealth with a vast volume of litigation all relating to a domestic relations dispute and her ultimate incarceration for civil contempt. The factual background leading to her incarceration is set forth in the June 23, 2008 Opinion of the Court of Common Pleas (Answer Exhibit A):

On October 12, 2007, this Court Ordered the Defendant [petitioner's former spouse] to pay to the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit the sum of $731.21 per month, which Order consisted of $718.21 for current support and $20.00 for arrears. Arrears were set in the sum of $1,196.48 as of October 12, 2007.

On December 11, 2007, Plaintiff [petitioner] filed a Praecipe for Judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant, for support arrearages in the sum of $1,305.36

The Plaintiff then filed a Praecipe for Writ of Execution (Money Judgments), in the Office of the Prothonotary of Lawrence County, which Writ of Execution directed the Sheriff of Lawrence County to attach the real property of the Defendant, for the principal and interest due as of December 10, 2007, in the sum of $1,305.36, plus Domestic Relation's cost of $5.00.

On January 10, 2008, the Defendant filed a Petition to Correct Judgment, pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.24(b).

The Petition to Correct Judgment alleges that no overdue "support exists under the Support Order and as contemplated by Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1920.24(a)," and alleges that the written certification that accompanied the entry of the Judgment and which was provided to the Prothonotary of Lawrence County by the Plaintiff at the time of entry of Judgment does not show that the defendant/ obligor owes overdue support pursuant to an Order of Court as required by Pa.R.C.P. 1910.24. The Petition goes on to further allege that judgment was entered erroneously, that there is a mistake in the amount of overdue support, and that the Judgment should not have been entered.

Pursuant to the Petition to Correct Judgment, the Court entered its Order of January 8, 2008, referring the matter to Conference Officer as contemplated by Pa.R.C.P.1910.24(b); the Judgment entered on December 11, 2007, was stricken, and the Sheriff's Sale scheduled for January 16, 2008, was stayed/cancelled.

In addition, pursuant to said Petition to Correct Judgment, the Defendant asked the Court to impose attorney's fees against the Plaintiff.

On January 15, 2008, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for clarification/ reconsideration, which was denied by the Court pursuant to Order of February 5, 2008.

The Domestic Relation Conference to consider the Petition to Correct Judgment was scheduled for February 20, 2008.

The Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Dismissal of Hearing, alleging that Defendant is not entitled to attorney's fees in this matter, blaming counsel for Defendant for dragging the matter on. That Motion was dismissed by Order of Judge Wherry, March 14, 2008.

The Domestic Relations Section scheduled a Conference on February 20, 2008, to resolve the issues of past due support. Pursuant to information found in the PACSES computer on March 3, 2008, the Defendant's "normal arrears" or "past due support" was determined by Domestic Relations Section to be the sum of $234.43. this Court entered an Order on March 3, 2008, in that regard, and in addition, Ordered that all provisions of the current Order dated October 12, 2007, shall remain in full force and effect. The March 3, 2008, Order was effective February 20, 2008, that being the date of the Conference.

Pursuant to the March 3, 2008, Order, the Defendant was given until March 26, 2008, to request a hearing DeNovo before the Court.

On March 12, 2008, the Defendant filed a Demand for a Hearing before the Courts, from the Order entered on March 3, 2008.

In addition, on March 12, 2008, at case number 20288 of 2008, D.S.B., Plaintiff filed a Praecipe for Judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant for overdue support, in the sum of $234.43, plus interest at 1.5% per month from December 11, 2007, plus costs. Attached to the Praecipe for Judgment was a Certificate of Arrearage of Larry Troggio, Director of the Lawrence County Domestic Relation Section, certifying that arrearages on the above case as of March 11, 2008, totaled $234.43, overdue support. In addition, attached to the Praecipe for Judgment is a letter dated March 11, 2008, from Larry Troggio, Director of the Domestic Relations Section to Helen I. Morgan, Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts, relative to this matter, stating that the Defendant is in compliance with the Court Order and paying as required through the Domestic Relation Section. Attached to the Order of March 3, 2008, is the Summary of Tryer of Fact, prepared by the Domestic Relations Conference Officer, which provides as of March 3, 2008, the Defendant owed past due support in the amount of $234.43. at no time did the Domestic Relations Conference Officer make a determination whether overdue support was due on December 11, 2007, as contemplated by Rule 1910.24(b) in the Order.

The first time that Plaintiff attempted to take judgment on March 11, 2008, Plaintiff did not have an appropriate written certification showing the Defendant owed "overdue support," to an order of court as required by Pa.R.C.P. 1910.24(a).

Subsequently, Plaintiff obtained from Domestic Relations Director Larry Troggio, a Certificate of Arrearage dated as of March 11, 2008, showing the overdue support to be $234.43. This Certificate of Arrearage was inconsistent with conclusion of the Domestic Relation Officer and the Domestic Relation Order entered by this Court on March 3, 2008. Based upon that Certificate and Praecipe for Judgment, the Prothonotary had ...

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