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Judge scolds Rep. Joe Walsh in child-support case with ex-wife

LEFT: LaurWalsh outside Daley Center courtroom Wednesday. RIGHT: Rep. Joe Walsh town hall meeting BarringtAugust. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times Jerry Daliege~for

LEFT: Laura Walsh outside a Daley Center courtroom on Wednesday. RIGHT: Rep. Joe Walsh at a town hall meeting in Barrington in August. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times and Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 10, 2011 10:04AM

A Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in his child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering the Tea Party favorite to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind in child-support payments.

Cook County Circuit Judge Raul Vega also wanted to know why Walsh wasn’t in court Wednesday — the McHenry Republican’s ex-wife, Laura Walsh, was there — and initially said he expected him to show up for the next hearing.

In court, Walsh’s attorney, Janet Boyle, asked Vega “for what purpose” he wanted the congressman in court.

Vega gave her a puzzled look — to which Boyle responded: “Mr. Walsh is a U.S. congressman.”

“Well, he’s no different than anyone else,” the judge replied.

But after Laura Walsh’s attorney said he didn’t think the congressman needed to appear at the next hearing, Vega ultimately did not issue an order requiring the congressman to appear.

But Vega did issue a “rule to show cause” — which means Walsh has to tell the court why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling so far behind in child support over the past five years.

Laura Walsh argues her ex-husband owes more than $100,000, a number the congressman disputes. But Vega’s ruling means that the burden is now on the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe the money, attorneys for both Walshes agree.

Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.

She says her ex-husband started making half-payments years ago and then completely stopped sending any money. He claimed he was broke, she said.

But last year, when she saw he had made a $35,000 contribution to his own congressional campaign, she became suspicious about his claims that he had no money. She had her attorney file the motion that Vega granted on Wednesday.

After Wednesday’s court hearing, Laura Walsh spoke about having to shoulder the financial burden of three children — two of them now adults — on her own for the last several years.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” she said. “We get through one day at a time.”

Laura Walsh — a public policy analyst for pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly and Co. — said the issue before the court is straightforward: “It’s child support. Either he paid it, or he didn’t. I’m certainly pleased with the ruling today.”

Boyle said her client, too, “is very satisfied with the judge’s orders of today, as it will finally afford him the opportunity to present his case to the court.”

She also said she most likely wouldn’t proceed with a motion that asked Eli Lilly for Laura Walsh’s salary history and other documents. Laura Walsh’s attorney, Jack Coladarci, had called that request “harassing.”

“That may eliminate some of the contentiousness going on,” Boyle said.

Vega stayed a subpoena to Eli Lilly.

Rep. Walsh recently hired Boyle — his fifth lawyer in the case — after attorneys were unable to reach a settlement at a private session a few weeks ago.

In less than a year in Congress, the telegenic, silver-haired freshman has catapulted to the top of the cable television short-list, offering pithy anti-Obama sound bites that often criticize the White House for fiscal irresponsibility.

In a video lecturing Obama on the need to get the country’s finances in order, Walsh said, “I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money.”

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