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Amber Buck

PEORIA — The lawyer for a Massachusetts father involved in a contentious McLean County custody battle may face sanctions for improperly filing a request to move the case to federal court.  

Judge James Shadid, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, remanded Michael Cadena's custody case back to McLean County with a scolding of his lawyer, Diane Nordbye, of Woburn, Mass.

Nordbye was given seven days to provide an explanation to Shadid about why her conduct did not violate a court rule prohibiting lawyers from filing pleadings that are contrary to existing law. She also must explain why she shouldn't face monetary sanctions and a referral to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers for additional sanctions.

Shadid also allowed Amber Buck, the mother of the child in the custody fight, to seek reimbursement of any costs associated with the improperly filed petition.

The federal court filing by Cadena is the latest attempt to transfer jurisdiction of the custody case involving 4-year-old Michael Cadena Jr. A Massachusetts court denied a similar motion last month to transfer the case to that state on an emergency basis. 

A warrant for Cadena's arrest was issued last week by McLean County Associate Judge Lee Ann Hill for direct criminal contempt of court related to at least six hearings he failed to attend since leaving Illinois with his son in March 2017. Hill also sentenced Cadena to six months in jail, the maximum sentence for contempt.

Cadena and Buck have been embroiled in a legal fight since he filed a petition for custody in 2014. In June, Hill awarded custody to the mother after he was found in contempt.

Nordbye argued that moving the case to federal court is allowed because the matter involves individuals living in two different states and a dispute involving more than $75,000.

But the request is at odds with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling dating back to 1890 in which the court ruled that divorce and domestic relations cases should be handled in state courts.

Nordbye did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

That includes $110,000 for therapy Cadena may need as a result of severe emotional stress and $50,000 for his son's therapy costs. Other expenses include the $25,000 cash bond Cadena must pay to be released on the contempt charge; $47,538 in lost wages for Cadena and $24,170 in lost wages for Cadena's mother who helps care for the boy; and $15,000 in moving costs for Cadena and an additional $30,000 in moving and housing costs for his mother.

Buck's lawyer, Tristan Bullington, said Tuesday that Buck planned to challenge the attempt to move the case to federal court.

"We believe this is an issue that should be resolved by the state court. The removal to federal court does not change any of the court’s prior orders. Amber will continue to take appropriate steps to ensure her child is safely returned to the State of Illinois. Regardless of what court hears the issue, we look forward to having a best interests hearing to resolve custody issues," said Bullington.

According to Hill, Cadena's decision to relocate to Massachusetts 16 months ago violated an Illinois law that requires parents who have primary custody of a child to obtain the court's permission before making the move. 

Cadena and Buck both lost custody of their son in 2016 when the child was placed in foster care for several months over allegations related to the parents' drug use. The child was returned to Cadena in September 2016. 

Buck was deemed to be a fit parent by a judge in June 2017 after she was placed on probation on drug charges.

Cadena's arguments filed in McLean County court allege Buck was emotionally and physically abusive to her son during the first years of his life.

Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny

McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.