Friday, November 20, 2009
Rule 11: Sanctions, Baby!
Rule 11 of the federal rules of civil procedure and the state rules of civil procedure, require a lawyer to investigate claims made in legal documents that he or she intends to submit and certify by the lawyer's signature that there is a good basis for the factual and legal claims made in the document. Good idea, huh? Screw up, and you the lawyer pay out of your pocket.
In theory this is a great rule, for instance I handled a case where a lawyer sued my clients on behalf of a crazy little old lady who said that my clients, who were her neighbors on either side of her house, were beaming gamma rays into her house screwing with her radio and television reception and peeling the paint off of ther house. The lawyer was an old time inner city advocate--and, the threat to impose Rule 11 sanctions on him was enough to make a frivolous claim go away. But think about, these poor folks, the neighbors who had defend the lawsuit--they had to PAY ME to make a preposterous claim go away.
On the other hand, I've brought cutting edge lawsuits where opposing counsel pursued outrageous motions for Rule 11 sanctions over legitimate arguments about the interpretation of facts or disagreements about the law. An industrial company asked a Judge to award tens of thousands of dollars vis-a-vis me for suing the wrong corporate entity. The company operated under multiple corporate identities; opposing counsel contended in a Rule 11 motion that the federal court should sanction me for not choosing the right one. And, I can't count the times I've been threatened with sanctions. The last time,-- I recounted here, at the deposition of Big Dennis where counsel actually sought sanctions because I asked a "leading question." It gets crazy, I could have asked the court to award sanctions because the request to sanction me was frivolous. But I'm already in the process of paying off major karmic debt, so I can't afford that game.
You see, Rule 11 is too often used to pummel good aggressive attorneys. And no, I don't mean Orly Taitz.
Now I'm going to link to a case that caught my attention from the Legal Profession Blog, so let me issue a caveat, my experience tells me that opinions with outcomes that are inexplicable, or questionable often leave out context that make the decision seem a great deal more reasonable, but here's a case that had me scratching my head, once again a lawyer ill-advisedly getting involved in a dispute among warring neighbors, aaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhh!: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bfae553ef0120a6661869970b
Hell, the West Virginia Supreme Court should have taken this lawyer out and shot him!