from the Lake Superior Court Trial Court Cause No.
45D02-1604-MI-6 The Honorable Calvin D. Hawkins, Judge
Appellant Pro Se Darlene Sekerez Crown Point, Indiana
of the Case
Darlene Sekerez appeals the Lake Superior Court's order
to domesticate the judgment of an Illinois trial court.
Sekerez, needing to establish only prima facie
error, raises seven issues for our review, but we discuss
only the following dispositive issue: whether the motion to
domesticate the Illinois trial court's judgment was, in
its operation and effect, contrary to proceedings already
pending in the Lake Circuit Court and, as such, outside the
jurisdiction of the Lake Superior Court. We reverse and
remand with instructions.
and Procedural History
Sekerez is an Indiana resident. In November 2007, Sekerez
retained Grund & Leavitt, P.C ("the law firm"),
a Chicago law firm, to represent her in an Indiana custody
dispute with her former spouse. Sekerez's contract with
the law firm contained an alternative dispute resolution
clause with respect to fee disputes that might arise between
the law firm and Sekerez.
On October 20, 2008, the law firm negotiated a settlement
agreement on Sekerez's behalf, which resulted in an
Agreed Order under which custody remained with Sekerez,
visitation terms were not changed, and Sekerez was
responsible for paying her own attorney's fees. The law
firm charged Sekerez a total of $112, 439.90 for legal
services. Sekerez paid $50, 000 but disputed the remaining
On July 31, 2009, the law firm filed a "Verified
Complaint for Breach of Contract and Quantum Meruit, "
seeking the remainder of the attorney's fees, in an
Illinois trial court. Appellant's App. Vol. II at 25-30.
In response, Sekerez filed a "Special Appearance and
Objection to Jurisdiction" in which she appeared for the
limited purpose of challenging the Illinois court's
subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint and personal
jurisdiction over her. Id. at 31-32. On March 16,
2010, the Illinois trial court entered an order in which it
found that the parties' engagement agreement required
them to resolve their fee dispute through arbitration.
Id. at 38-39. The court ordered the parties to
arbitration and stayed all proceedings pending the outcome of
arbitration. Id. at 39.
The parties proceeded to arbitration in Hammond, Indiana.
Each party filed claims of breach of contract. Sekerez filed
additional claims for fraud and legal malpractice. Following
a hearing, on November 9 the Arbitrator issued the final
award in which he ordered Sekerez to pay the law firm an
additional $49, 336.15 in attorney's fees and $1, 012.50
as her portion of the administrative fees and Arbitrator
fees. The final award also stated: "This Award is in
full settlement of all claims submitted in this Arbitration,
namely the Claimant's claim for breach of contract and
the Respondent's counterclaim for breach of
contract." Id. at 36-37. However, the
arbitration award noted that Sekerez's fraud and legal
malpractice claims were "outside the scope of the
parties' arbitration agreement" and, therefore, not
within the scope of the arbitration award. Id. at
Thereafter, the law firm returned to the Illinois trial court
and filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award in which
the law firm sought a final judgment from that court on the
final award. Sekerez objected and again contested the
court's jurisdiction. On November 30, the Illinois trial
court held a hearing at which Sekerez failed to appear, and
the court granted the law firm's motion to confirm the
final award. The court entered judgment against Sekerez for
$50, 348.65 and dismissed the case without prejudice.
Id. at 47.
On February 13, 2012, Sekerez, pro se, filed a
motion to vacate the final award in the Lake Circuit Court
pursuant to the Indiana Uniform Arbitration Act. See
Ind. Code § 34-57-2-13 (2016). Thereafter, with the Lake
Circuit Court's permission, Sekerez filed an amended
pleading in which she added breach of contract, fraud in the
inducement, constructive fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and
attorney malpractice claims. The law firm moved to dismiss
Sekerez's action on the ground that the Illinois trial
court's judgment precluded Sekerez's claims in the
Lake Circuit Court, but the court denied the law firm's
motion to dismiss and similar motions made by the law firm
Following the denial of its motions to dismiss in the Lake
Circuit Court, in April of 2016 the law firm filed in the
Lake Superior Court, under a new cause of action, a motion to
domesticate the Illinois trial court's judgment and set
matters for proceedings supplemental on that judgment.
Id. at 6. On May 6, Sekerez requested that the Lake
Superior Court deny the law firm's request or, in the
alternative, stay the request pending the outcome of
proceedings in the Lake Circuit Court. Sekerez noted that the
proceedings in the Lake Circuit Court contested the
arbitration award, which was the basis for the judgment of
the Illinois court. Id. at 10.
On October 3, 2016, the Lake Superior Court denied
Sekerez's request to deny or stay the law firm's
motion and granted the law firm's request. Id.
at 5. The court then entered the Illinois judgment as a final