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Appellate court denies village's request for sanctions

Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 5:52 p.m. CDT

JOHNSBURG – Capping a "tortured, two-year history," an appellate court denied the village's request for sanctions against two Johnsburg residents in part arguing the village may have "emboldened" the residents by how seriously they took the lawsuit.

The village had filed for the sanctions in an effort to recoup attorney and other legal fees after a McHenry County judge ruled against Maggie and Frank Haney in a lawsuit they filed against the village.

The lawsuit centered on an undeveloped 60-foot stretch of Maple Avenue in the Buena Park subdivision that leads to the Fox River.

The Haneys sued the village in October 2010, saying that they owned property, but in August 2012, McHenry County Judge Michael Caldwell dismissed the suit.

Caldwell also denied the village’s request that the Haneys be required to pay the village’s legal costs, which were more than $14,000.

The village appealed that decision, arguing that the Haney's lawsuit was frivolous and based on a quit claim deed that Maggie Haney deed to herself and her husband. The village also pointed to the Haneys' behavior through the lawsuit, including a motion to disqualify the village's attorney and multiple "unnecessary" discovery requests.

While the decision – written by Judge Joseph Birkett and concurred by judges Kathryn Zenoff and Donald Hudson – agrees that the Haney's quit claim deed was "legally baseless," it upholds the denial of sanctions.

"There is no suggestions that [the Haneys] provided their counsel, Matthew Coppedge, with false information material to the complaint," the decision said. "It was ultimately Coppedge's responsibility to judge the legal adequacy of the of the facts before him and advise his clients accordingly."

The village would have been better served by seeking sanctions against Coppedge, but he had been fired by the Haneys about halfway through the lawsuit, the decision continued.

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