982 A.2d 295 (Del.Fam.Ct. 2009), CS08-02438, A.B. v. Thresholds, Inc.
|Citation:||982 A.2d 295|
|Opinion Judge:||HENRIKSEN, J.|
|Party Name:||A.B.,[*] Petitioner, v. THRESHOLDS, INC., Respondent.|
|Attorney:||Ashley M. Oland, Esquire, The Law Office of Edward C. Gill, P.A., Georgetown, DE, for the Petitioner. Andr|
|Case Date:||August 31, 2009|
|Court:||Family Court of Delaware|
Submitted: July 27, 2009.
Ashley Oland, Esquire represents A.B. (mother), an indigent parent in a child dependency case, as part of a contract with this Court. During the course of representing mother, it became necessary for Ms. Oland to pursue a contempt finding against Thresholds, Inc. (Thresholds) because of its failure to produce records regarding Ms. Oland's client's substance and alcohol abuse treatment received at Thresholds.1 Thresholds failed to timely produce these records and appear at a hearing despite Ms. Oland's client having executed an appropriate release and also despite this Court's subpoena duces tecum compelling Thresholds to appear at Court with the records. Ms. Oland contends that Thresholds' non-compliance required her to perform legal services that went beyond the scope of the reasonable expectations of her indigent parent child dependency contract. She further avers that the time she was required to spend representing her indigent client in the dependency case for matters necessitated by Thresholds' actions, prevented her from spending time during which she could have been representing her private clients at her usual privately billed rates. Therefore, Ms. Oland has requested that the Court award her attorney's fees for the time she had to spend on behalf of her dependency contract client in her pursuit of a successful contempt action against Thresholds based on the hourly rate at which she would ordinarily bill a private client. For the reasons hereinafter stated, the Court will grant Ms. Oland's request to be paid attorney's fees by Thresholds calculated at the hourly rate she would normally charge a private client.
Ms. Oland requested two subpoenas duces tecum be served on Thresholds during the course of her representation of mother. The Court caused the first subpoena to be served upon Thresholds on August 8, 2008, and requested that Thresholds produce documents related to mother's drug and alcohol treatment at a hearing on August 11, 2008. Thresholds failed to produce the documents at Court on that date. The Court declined to find Thresholds in contempt for failing to abide by this subpoena due to the short notice.
A second subpoena duces tecum was issued immediately following the August 11, 2008 hearing requesting that the same materials be produced at a hearing on October 20, 2008. In addition, Ms. Oland's client signed an appropriate release on August 15, 2008 for her records to be provided to Ms. Oland, and the Court also issued an Order on August 13, 2008 requiring the records of Ms. Oland's client to be provided within 20 days to the Attorney Guardian Ad Litem in the dependency case as well as to the Division of Family Services. Despite having these several timely orders and requests, Thresholds failed to produce the requested documents regarding mother's treatment at the October 20, 2008 hearing. In addition, and almost unbelievably, the Thresholds representative failed to appear for the hearing, and its attorney made no effort to quash the subpoena. Thresholds' actions were without basis, and demonstrated a lack of concern and disrespect for the authority of the Court. Its actions delayed the possible visitation between a mother and her child. As a consequence, Ms. Oland was
required to go well beyond the reasonable expectations of her dependency contract and take extraordinary steps to enforce and protect her dependency client's rights.
In response to the Rule to Show cause petition filed by Ms. Oland on behalf of her indigent dependency client, the Court issued an Order which held Thresholds in contempt for failing to comply with the subpoena. The Court sanctioned Thresholds by fining it $1,000.00, of which $500.00 was suspended. This fine was payable to the Court, and contemplated the disrespect demonstrated by Thresholds for the authority of the Court.
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