Friday, October 16, 2009

Lawyers are Admonished and Fined for Sloppy Work

In the past few months, there has been some news about judges criticizing lawyers and imposing fines on them for poor written products.

The first matter in the news was in the case of Nault v. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Foundation, United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Case no. 6:09-cv-1229-Orl-31GJK. Judge Presnell was irritated at Plaintiff's attorney for filing moving papers "riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly render the entire Motion incomprehensible." Judge Presnell denied the motion without prejudice and ordered the attorney to "read the Local Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in their entirety" and file a Notice of Compliance with the court.

The other matter in the news was the 2008 unpublished opinion, in the case of Espitia v. Fouche, where the Wisconsin Court of Appeals imposed a $100 fine on an attorney for providing an inaccurate case citation in his court brief. The Court explained its frustration with the lawyer's work in that the case citation was wrong, the case title was wrong, and it was from a different district. Apparently, the court had to spend a great deal of time locating the case cited in the lawyer's brief, all of which could have been prevented by the lawyer verifying and proof-reading his work. Here is the entire footnote from the Court's opinion justifying the $100 fine:

"Counsel for Espitia cites to an unpublished case assertedly upholding a stipulated damages clause due to the difficulty of ascertaining "the exact amount of income certain vending machines would produce." The cite provided is "Buellesbach v. Roob, 2005 AP 160 (Ct.App.Dist.I)." Buellesbach indeed is unpublished but it has nothing to do with liquidated damage clauses or vending machines; it is a misrepresentation case brought by newlyweds against a wedding photographer. Also, "2005 AP 160" is the docket number, which we discovered only after reaching a dead end at 2005 WI App 160, 285 Wis.2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433. At last we located the unpublished case that addresses the subject matter for which counsel cited Buellesbach: Stansfield Vending, Inc. v. Osseo Truck Travel Plaza, LLC, 2003 WI App 201, 267 Wis.2d 280, 670 N.W.2d 558. Different name, different citation, different district (District IV) but, as promised, unpublished. It is a violation of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.19(1)(e) to provide citations which do not conform to the Uniform System of Citation and of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(3) to cite to unpublished opinions. One reason may be that they can be time-consuming to locate. A $100 penalty is imposed against Espitia's counsel. See Hagen v. Gulrud, 151 Wis.2d 1, 8, 442 N.W.2d 570 (Ct.App.1989)."
Such judicial criticism and sanctions come as little surprise. With the current volume of litigated case, and relative shortage of judicial officers, judges are typically assigned a large case load. Since judges can allocate little time to each matter, they appreciate well-drafted pleadings and documents from the litigators.

Some of the information for this blog were gathered from Robert J. Ambrogi's blog, and ABA Journal.

Robin Mashal is a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal, LLP, and can be reached at (310) 286-2000. His practice focuses on business law, real estate law and civil litigation. Hong & Mashal LLP is a California business law firm.

1 comment:

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