Bruno v. Bruno
There is no such thing as postjudgment discovery in a vacuum; discovery is permitted only when a cause of action is pending. More than five years after the trial court dissolved the marriage of Stephen and Lisa Bruno and entered financial orders, the distribution of marital property has not occurred. The trial court found Stephen Bruno in contempt for failing to distribute $300,000 from a certain account and ordered the entire account transferred to Lisa Bruno pending further calculations. Stephen Bruno did not do so or report to court as ordered. A capias issued and bond was set. Since then, Stephen Bruno has not appeared in court. Given allegations of a conspiracy to hide assets, the court granted Lisa Bruno's motion to cite in Stephen Bruno's current wife, Christina Bruno. Stephen and Christina Bruno filed post-judgment motions to open the findings of contempt against Stephen Bruno, claiming they were obtained through Lisa Bruno's fraudulent conduct. They sought permission to conduct discovery. Lisa Bruno moved to dismiss the motions to open, claiming that Stephen and Christina Bruno lacked standing to file them and the court was without jurisdiction to consider them. Lisa Bruno filed motions for protective orders to preclude requested discovery. The trial court ordered that discovery would proceed. Lisa Bruno appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the orders, holding that the trial court did not have the authority to allow discovery in this context. While Christina Bruno did not have standing to open any post-judgment orders directed at her husband, Lisa Bruno's arguments that Stephen Bruno did not have standing to file motions to open were without merit. This included an argument that Stephen Bruno's failures to appear in court and to comply with the financial orders rendered him lawfully unaggrieved. While Stephen Bruno had standing, the court erred by permitting discovery. Until a motion to open has been granted, the earlier judgment is unaffected, meaning there is no active civil matter. In this post-judgment posture, discovery is unavailable because discovery is permitted only when a cause of action is pending. In considering the motion to open, the trial court must first determine whether there is probable cause to open the judgment for the limited purpose of proceeding with discovery related to the fraud claim. The matter was remanded.