RUTH F. PERRY v. STEPHEN C. PERRY, SC 18942/18993/18994
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Dissolution of Marriage; Whether Attorney for Minor Children Must Bear Part of Cost of Collecting her Fee; Whether Parent may be Held Responsible for Attorney’s Fees Incurred by AMC in Defending her Fee; Whether AMC may Appeal on Behalf of Children Only on Showing that Appeal is in Children’s Best Interests. Attorney Catherine Whelan was appointed attorney for the minor children (AMC) in this dissolution action and she submitted a bill for her fees and costs. The defendant father challenged the bill, and the trial court granted Whelan’s request that she be allowed to hire Attorney Arnold Rutkin to represent her in connection with the fee dispute. Whelan then sought payment for Rutkin’s fee. The trial court found that Rutkin’s $55,576 fee was reasonable and ordered the father to pay 40 percent of that amount. The court explained that Whelan was entitled under General Statutes § 46b-62 to reimbursement from the father for the portion of Rutkin’s fee that she incurred in defense of her conduct because the defense was within the scope of her core function as the AMC. The court found, however, that Whelan was responsible for the balance of Rutkin’s fee because she incurred that expense in attempting to collect her own fees and therefore “as part of the cost of doing business.” The court rejected Whelan’s claim that the father should be responsible for the entire fee due to his litigation misconduct, finding that, while the father might have at times acted in bad faith, his actions did not rise to the level of egregious litigation misconduct. Whelan now challenges the order that she be responsible for 60 percent of Rutkin’s fee by an appeal filed on behalf of the minor children and by a writ of error brought in her capacity as AMC. She claims that the order cannot stand because it will jeopardize the independence of AMCs and have a chilling effect on children’s representatives in Connecticut’s courts. In appealing on behalf of the children, Whelan unsuccessfully sought a finding pursuant to Newman v. Newman, 235 Conn. 82 (1995), that the appeal was in the children’s best interests. She now asks that the Supreme Court overrule Newman v. Newman’s holding that an attorney appointed to represent the minor children in a dissolution action may appeal on behalf of the children only if the attorney first persuades the trial court that it is in their best interests to do so. The father appeals challenging the order that he pay a portion of Rutkin’s fee, claiming that § 46b-62 cannot reasonably be construed as permitting the trial court to award counsel fees to an AMC for an attorney she hired to represent herself.