IN RE: ESTATE OF HELEN J. DISABATO, DECEASED APPEAL OF: PETER DIGIOVANNI
from the Order Entered February 3, 2016 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Chester County Orphans' Court at No(s):
BEFORE: PANELLA, LAZARUS, JJ., and STEVENS, P.J.E.
se Appellant, Peter DiGiovanni, challenges the Order
entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County,
Orphans' Court division, finding him in "continuing
contempt" for his failure to make scheduled payments to
an estate for which he previously acted as administrator. We
December 18, 2015, and February 3, 2016, the Orphans'
Court of Chester County entered Orders declaring Appellant
Peter DiGiovanni to be in continuing contempt of the
court's previous Orders of July 18, 2012, August 6, 2013,
and July 29, 2014. The previous Orders directed DiGiovanni to
pay $500.00 per month to the Co-Executors until he paid off a
$29, 279.55 debt representing costs and fees incurred by the
Estate in succeeding DiGiovanni as executor/administrator
back in 2007.
the July 18, 2012, Order, DiGiovanni argued that the court
expressly acknowledged that he had no present ability to
comply with the Order and directed him to liquidate property
declared exempt from his Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Of
note, Appellee's Co-Executors had previously prevailed
upon the bankruptcy court that DiGiovanni's debt to the
estate was non-dischargeable because it was caused by
DiGiovanni's willful behavior and misconduct.
argued that the trial court's July 18, 2012, Order
wrongfully imposed a new financial obligation upon him. On
direct appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court's
Order, but it remanded the matter for the court to enter a
new Order calling for the sale of items not protected under
the federal bankruptcy law.
29, 2014, another hearing upon a Petition for Contempt
resulted in an Order reiterating DiGiovanni's obligation
to make $500 payments every month until he paid off the $29,
279.55-plus-interest sum. The Order further declared that any
failure of DiGiovanni to comply with this or any previous
Order would entitle Appellee Estate, through the
Co-Executors, to obtain a Review Hearing. DiGiovanni never
appealed from this Order.
January 23, 2015, Appellee requested a Review Hearing for
DiGiovanni's continuing failure to comply with the Order.
At the April 28, 2015, hearing, DiGiovanni admitted to
receiving payments in cash for odd jobs, electrical work, and
law clerking, as his license to practice law had been
suspended since 2010. He actually had been eligible to seek
reinstatement of his license since 2011, but he claimed he
could not afford the approximately $4, 500 in costs and fees
necessary to accomplish reinstatement.
the conclusion of the hearing, the Orphan's Court
summarized the frustration of DiGiovanni's chronic
failure to make regular payments despite every appearance
that he possessed the ability to earn more income than he was
THE COURT: Okay. The conundrum for me, Mr. DiGiovanni, is you
have never denied, at least not recently, that you owe the
money, that it should be coming in on a regular basis and
that you need to be working in order to do that, and then the
wheels fall off, and frankly I am not inclined to keep
awarding counsel fees, it's just not - there comes a
point at which it is completely counterproductive.
On the other hand, I have not found the approach or the
sanction that seems to really work and seems to be the
motivation that there tended to be in order to have you make
payments that you're called to make, which payments, by
the way, were a tremendous break from the lump sum that was
due, and I recognize that.
I mean, receiving a $500 a month [obligation] over time when
the principal amount is somewhere in the $28, 000 range, that
a long time it's going to take, but I want the Demkos to
be made - the estate to be made whole, if at all possible.
We have been through a lot. We've been through
bankruptcy, we've been through cyclical inability to
obtain any kind of work, and I think one of the frustrations,
Mr. DiGiovanni, is that you do a pretty darn good job of
putting together information for the Court when push comes to
shove. Your exhibits are clear, your tax return's clear.
I mean, I know that's a program, but nonetheless, you
work with attorneys who find your work sufficiently good that
they're willing to have you come back and do more for
So obviously you're capable, the question is now how do
we turn that into something that gets you out of my
courtroom, out of my hair, out of their hair and gets you out
from under this obligation, and I'm listening for
suggestions at this point because counsel fees haven't
N.T. 4/18/15 at 195-97. The court later declared that it did
not "have any questions really at this point that Mr.
DiGiovanni's in ...