THOMAS P. FARRELL, JR.
AMY FARRELL Appellant
from the Order Entered September 13, 2018 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Clearfield County Civil Division at No(s):
BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., NICHOLS, J., and COLINS, J.
LaVieta Lerch, Esq., counsel for Amy Farrell (Ms. Farrell),
appeals from the order of contempt directing Attorney Lerch
to pay counsel fees to Lea Ann Heltzel, Esq., counsel for
Thomas P. Farrell, Jr. (Mr. Farrell). Attorney Lerch claims
that she was not in contempt of an order compelling discovery
because the order was directed to Ms. Farrell and not
Attorney Lerch. We affirm.
adopt the facts and procedural history set forth in the trial
This case was initiated by the filing of a divorce complaint
on behalf of [Mr. Farrell] on September 9, 2015. [Mr.
Farrell] is represented by [Attorney Heltzel. Ms. Farrell]
proceeded pro se until October 30, 2017[, ] when
Attorney . . . Lerch entered her appearance on behalf of [Ms.
Farrell. Ms. Farrell] filed a praecipe for appointment of
master on April 13 of 2018; thereafter, by order of April 16,
2018, Curtis Irwin, Esquire, was appointed master in divorce.
Pre-trial conference with the master was set for May 14,
2018. The parties were to file the required pre-master's
hearing documents within no more than 20 days from April 16,
2018. Master's hearing was scheduled for Friday,
September 14, 2018[, ] by the Honorable Paul E. Cherry.
On August 2, 2018[, ] Attorney Heltzel filed a motion to
compel. This motion indicates that on May 21, 2018[, ] she
had made an informal request for production of documents from
Attorney Lerch. Having heard and received nothing, follow-up
correspondence was mailed on July 9, 2018. Still no response
Trial Ct. Op., 1/18/19, at 1 (some capitalization omitted).
On August 3, 2018, the trial court issued the below order:
And now, this 3rd day of August, 2018 . . . it is ordered and
decreed that the Defendant shall within twenty (20) days . .
. produce all documents sought by way of Plaintiff's
request for production of documents.
Order, 8/3/18 (some capitalization omitted).
parties do not dispute that Ms. Farrell, acting pro
se, typed her answers to Mr. Farrell's requests for
production of documents, attached a few documents, and sent
them to Attorney Heltzel around August 13, 2018. Ex. D to Mr.
Farrell's Mot. to Compel, 9/10/18; see N.T.,
9/13/18, at 9. Ms. Farrell's pro se responses
included multiple answers in which she expressed an
unwillingness to disclose the requested information or
documents. Ex. D to Mr. Farrell's Mot. to Compel,
9/10/18, at ¶ 1 ("forgive me on my reluctance to
share complete information on such documentation"),
¶ 15 ("Sorry but I will not disclose this
information it [sic] does not have any bearing on the court
proceedings and is absolutely no one's business").
Several of her responses were "N/A" and others
included personal attacks and other allegations against Mr.
Farrell. See, e.g., id. at ¶ 13
(claiming Mr. Farrell had "attacked me in my home
multiple times"), ¶ 15 (alleging Mr. Farrell
committed insurance fraud), ¶ 16 (asserting Mr. Farrell
had "public drunken rants").
receipt of Ms. Farrell's pro se discovery
responses, the following occurred:
On Monday, September 10, 2018[, Attorney Heltzel] filed a
motion to compel, sanctions and attorney's
as well as a second pleading, being a motion for continuance.
As Judge Paul E. Cherry was on vacation that week, [Mr.
Farrell's] motions were given to [President Judge Fredric
J. Ammerman] for disposition.
Trial Ct. Op. at 2 (some capitalization omitted).
trial court denied the motion for continuance and scheduled a
hearing on Mr. Farrell's motion to compel, sanctions, and
attorney's fees for September 13, 2018. Ms. Farrell filed
an answer and also filed a motion to compel and for
attorney's fees of $1, 500, each prepared by Attorney
Lerch. The trial court also scheduled the hearing on Ms.
Farrell's counseled motion for September 13, 2018. As
noted above, the master's hearing was scheduled for the
next day, September 14, 2018.
September 13, 2018 hearing, the trial court addressed Mr.
Farrell's motion to compel first. Attorney Heltzel
indicated that she received additional documents that morning
but that Ms. Farrell's response was still inadequate.
N.T., 9/13/18, at 3. Attorney Heltzel identified the
documents she still needed. Id.
trial court then inquired about Exhibit D that was attached
to Mr. Farrell's motion to compel. Id. at 4. The
following exchange occurred:
THE COURT: [E]xhibit D . . . is one page, and it has numbered
paragraphs, and it appears to me that this was written
specifically by [Ms. Farrell] and not by [Attorney Lerch]; is
ATTORNEY LERCH: That's correct. Those were the answers to
the list of-24 [requests for production of documents] that
[Attorney Heltzel] was requesting, which were provided-
THE COURT: So you just gave it to your client and asked her
to write a response?
ATTORNEY LERCH: She wanted to write a response.
THE COURT: I consider this response to be extremely
unprofessional, and I really can't believe that this is
how you would respond to [Attorney Heltzel's] request. Is
this how you practice law? This is unacceptable.
Now, the next thing we have is we have [Ms. Farrell's
counseled] motion to compel and ...