By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
A Winchester attorney is accusing his ex-wife's divorce lawyer of making false claims against him, violating court orders and wrongfully garnishing his wages.
Phillip S. Griffin II filed a complaint in Winchester Circuit Court in late April which claims William E. Shmidheiser III, of the Harrisonburg firm Lenhart Obenshain, committed perjury, fraud and misrepresentation. The 68-count civil complaint also accuses Shmidheiser of conspiring to commit and attempting to commit perjury. Griffin also claims Shmidheiser violated both the Fair Debt Collections and Fair Credit Reporting acts as well as defamation of character.
Griffin seeks $2 million in damages from Shmidheiser and the law firm, to include loss of income, wages and attorney's fees.
Griffin claims in his complaint that Shmidheiser has sought unsuccessfully three times to ask the Winchester Circuit Court to garnish his wages. A fourth garnishment filed by Shmidheiser in February remains active but Griffin asserts the attorney's motion lacks legal standing.
Shmidheiser represented Griffin's wife, then Kathryn Obenshain Griffin, during their divorce proceedings filed in Winchester Circuit Court in late 2006. Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. in the circuit court sealed the case per Shmidheiser's request in 2007, according to online records and the complaint.
Obenshain served as chairwoman for the Republican Party of Virginia from 2003 through 2006, the year Democrat Jim Webb defeated George Allen for U.S. Senate. Obenshain filed for divorce Dec. 27 that year.
The Daily made unsuccessful bids to open the case to the public and the press.
But, as Griffin states, Shmidheiser on more than one occasion made public certain matters related to the divorce proceedings which the court had sealed. Griffin argues in the complaint that Shmidheiser violated court orders to keep the case closed to the public by releasing information related to the divorce.
The divorce case proceedings continue with action occurring as recently as Tuesday with both parties filing motions in the circuit court.
Griffin accuses Shmidheiser of committing perjury two years ago by filing three public but "false" claims in the circuit court against the Winchester attorney stating he owed the Harrisonburg firm more than $300,000 for cases in April, May and June 2010, according to the complaint.
Shmidheiser obtained three garnishments claiming he had judgment in a new suit in each of the cases, two of which Griffin states were "on improper accounts." Griffin states in the complaint Shmidheiser sent these notices to members of the local bar association and a client of the attorney even after the court dismissed the matters.
Griffin claims Shmidheiser committed perjury by filing with documents in the divorce case a claim that Obenshain at the time made $12,000 a year while the couple's children attended school. Griffin argues Shmidheiser withheld other documents from court which show Obenshain made more than $160,000 annually. Griffin also states Shmidheiser claimed in August 2010 his client paid down $73,000 for two homes in Winchester but provided no documents, witnesses or receipts to back up the assertion.
An appellate court judge addressed the question of Obenshain's pay and "found that her income had been grossly misrepresented to the Winchester Circuit Court," Griffin states.
Another count of perjury accuses Shmidheiser of making a false claim that Griffin withheld secret or overseas bank account information in order to buy real estate in 2008 -- an accusation the Winchester Circuit Court later rejected.
In January this year Shmidheiser didn't dispute that he and Obenshain misrepresented his client's income to the Circuit Court in 2011 by a salary of approximately $170,000 per year for 2008 and 2009, according to the complaint. In July last year Shmidheiser claimed he submitted to the court calculations regarding child support obligations and retirement accounts but neither the circuit nor the court of appeals can fund such records.
Griffin states Shmidheiser sent copies of the garnishments to credit bureaus, members of the Virginia Bar Association who practice law in Winchester and clients of the attorney and the public "in an effort to hamper his income and business," according to the complaint.
"Mr. Shmidheiser is currently under investigation for possible indictment for the above claims at this time," the complaint states.