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Coulson v. Coulson

448 N.E.2d 809 (1983)

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Coulson v. Coulson

Ohio Supreme Court

448 N.E.2d 809 (1983)

Facts

In 1975, Robert A. Coulson (defendant) and Joan Coulson (plaintiff) decided to divorce after 12 years of marriage because of Robert’s extramarital affair. Upon Robert’s request, Leonard Saltzer, who was Robert’s corporate attorney, agreed to handle the divorce process and draft a separation agreement. Robert and Joan met briefly with Saltzer to sign the agreement. Saltzer then filed a divorce petition on Joan’s behalf, in which he represented himself as Joan’s attorney. In January 1976, the court held a hearing on the divorce decree, at which Saltzer continued to represent himself as Joan’s attorney and misled the court to believe that Joan had initiated the divorce. The trial judge asked Joan whether she believed that the settlement was fair. Although Joan was unsure, Saltzer assured the judge that it was fair. In February 1976, the judge ordered the divorce decree with the separation agreement incorporated into it. Over two years later, Joan filed a motion under Civ. R. 60(B)(5) for a relief from the judgment on the ground that Saltzer’s conduct, as an officer of the court, constituted fraud upon the court because he misrepresented that he was Joan’s attorney and because he misrepresented that the settlement was fair. After a hearing, the trial court granted Joan’s motion. Robert appealed on the ground that Joan should have filed a motion for relief under Civ. R. 60(B)(3), which required the motion be made within one year of the judgment, and that the doctrine of res judicata barred the motion because Joan had filed two earlier motions. The court of appeals rejected Robert’s arguments and affirmed the trial court. The matter was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sweeney, J.)

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