Posts tagged as:

sanctions

EEOC roundup

by Walter Olson on March 18, 2014

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February 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 20, 2014

  • “Woman Arrested Nine Years After Failing to Return Rented Video” [S.C.: Lowering the Bar, more]
  • “Why India’s Ban Against Child Labor Increased Child Labor” [James Schneider, EconLib]
  • “I’ve never seen an attorney general sanctioned.” Court hits Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto with sanctions after collapse of robosigning suit against mortgage servicer that state hired D.C.’s Cohen Milstein to bring [Daniel Fisher, update (case settles)]
  • Another review of the new collection The American Illness: Essays on the Rule of Law (Frank Buckley, ed.) [Bainbridge, earlier]
  • They would be major: “The Gains from Getting Rid of ‘Run Amok’ Occupational Licensing” [David Henderson]
  • E-cigarettes could save lives [Sally Satel, Washington Post]
  • How incentives to avoid tax can lead to social tragedy, in this case via ABBA stage outfits [Guardian]

“In a blistering ruling against Cal Fire, a judge in Plumas County has found the agency guilty of ‘egregious and reprehensible conduct’ in its response to the 2007 Moonlight fire and ordered it to pay more than $30 million in penalties, legal fees and costs to Sierra Pacific Industries and others accused in a Cal Fire lawsuit of causing the fire. … Sierra Pacific, the largest private landowner in California, was blamed by state and federal officials for the blaze, with a key report finding it was started by a spark from the blade of a bulldozer belonging to a company working under contract for Sierra Pacific.” The company has contended that the cause determination was reached in haste and pursued with an eye to extracting legal proceeds for an agency-run settlement fund later found to be illegal. [Sacramento Bee; Robert Hilson, Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists]

On the other hand, it seems to be open season on opponents in the Nutmeg State: lawyers will continue to enjoy “absolute immunity” from being sued by their opponents on charges of fraud. “Donna Simms [client of the lawyers in question] said she wasn’t excited about the decision because she’s been involved in court proceedings with her ex-husband for three decades and there may be more legal fights.” [Insurance Journal]

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It’s against a law firm for allegedly wrongly naming a car dealership as a defendant in an asbestos case. The (unpublished) decision, denying a SLAPP-law motion, is here (Tulare SAG, Inc. v. Keller, Fishback, and Jackson LLP). Note: Link is a document download, not a page, and may not work for all browsers or users.

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Undocumented = unmentionable?

by Walter Olson on September 21, 2013

“An Indiana lawyer has been suspended for 30 days for a comment about the immigration status of his divorce client’s spouse in a letter sent to opposing counsel and the judge in the case.” [ABA Journal]

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Intellectual property roundup

by Walter Olson on September 18, 2013

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on June 10, 2013

  • FBI looks at allegations Dallas DA filed fraud suit as favor to donor [Free Beacon]
  • “Suing ex-client for $500K in divorce fees led to disbarment ruling for former bar president” [Virginia; former "titan" of D.C. matrimonial bar, ABA Journal]
  • “Appeals court cuts ‘unconscionable’ estate legal bill from $44M to perhaps $3M” [ABA Journal on Graubard Miller / Alice Lawrence case, earlier]
  • Empirical puzzler: advent of lawyer advertising doesn’t seem to have had the expected fee-reducing effect [Nora Freeman Engstrom, SSRN via LEF] Law firm marketers were all over the Metro-North crash case [Eric Turkewitz]
  • “DOJ Inspector General’s report: US Attorney unlawfully leaked to discredit critic” [of "Fast and Furious" operation; John Steele]
  • “Lawyer accused of bilking real estate investors through false claims of criminal probes takes plea” [New Jersey; ABA Journal]
  • Claim: disciplinary decisions to reinstate errant lawyers should be more guided by experts [Bruce Green and Jane Moriarity, SSRN via LEF]
  • If you find it hard to believe opponents would gin up flimsy “speech-gave-offense” charges against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones, recall the earlier ginned-up (and now mostly forgotten) charges against distinguished appellate judges Dennis Jacobs and Alex Kozinski.

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A lawyer who’d been widely and scathingly criticized over his handling of a case — unfairly he thought — proceeded to sue bloggers and journalists for defamation, so many that the total of defendants reached 74. It’s over now, but a New York state judge declined to award sanctions, which may possibly say something about the difficulty of obtaining sanctions under today’s prevailing legal standards, especially in New York. [Tom Crane, San Antonio Employment Law Blog; Popehat ("Our legal system is so broken that it can take years to resolve even the most patently vexatious, harassing, and incompetently prosecuted lawsuits like this one.")]

P.S. “Loser pays would have been valuable here. Costs to each defendant would teach a memorable lesson.” [@erikmagraken]

To allege scienter (intent or knowledge of wrongdoing) in securities fraud cases, lawyers sometimes avow to the court that they have one or more confidential sources who tipped them off to the wrongdoing. If the court accepts this story, they may keep a case alive for which there would otherwise be no or inadequate evidence. Trouble is, the confidential informants can be, if not entirely a mirage, then flimsier on inspection than the court might have assumed. Cory Andrews of WLF tells of a recent ruling by Judge Richard Posner in a case called City of Livonia Employees’ Retirement System v. Boeing:

Seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that Boeing Company, along with its CEO and the head of its commercial aircraft division, committed securities fraud in violation of federal law. The district judge dismissed the complaint for failing to allege sufficient facts to properly plead the requisite scienter for fraud. Not to be deterred, plaintiffs promptly filed an amended complaint, but this time with detailed bombshell revelations from a confidential source. Ultimately, however, the allegations in the amended complaint could not withstand even the slightest scrutiny.

As Posner describes it:

The plaintiffs’ lawyers had made confident assurances in their complaint about a confidential source — their only barrier to dismissal of their suit — even though none of the lawyers had spoken to the source and their investigator acknowledged that she couldn’t verify what (according to her) he had told her.

Their failure to inquire further puts one in mind of ostrich tactics —of failing to inquire for fear that the inquiry might reveal stronger evidence of their scienter regarding the authenticity of the confidential source than the flimsy evidence of scienter they were able to marshal against Boeing.

Noting that the same law firm [Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd] had been accused of “similar conduct” in three other reported cases, Posner [on behalf of a unanimous panel] remanded the matter back to the district judge, who would be in a better position to calculate a dollar amount for Rule 11 sanctions.

Although our system is (alas) set up to make it very difficult for defendants to recover legal fees from losing plaintiffs, it is not too surprising that this case would be an exception given a judge’s scathing findings against the plaintiffs’ conduct — not to mention the recent agreement by the ASPCA, one of the animal rights groups, to pay the Ringling owner $9.3 million. [ABA Journal]

Durable as a matter of folk law though carrying no weight at all within most courts as actually constituted, various widely circulated theories (“free man,” “sovereign citizen,” etc.) purport to establish a right of litigants to escape courts’ ordinary jurisdiction; sometimes it’s also alleged that tax laws and other longstanding enactments are flawed and of no binding effect. Last month a Canadian jurist by the name of J.D. Rooke handed down an opinion anatomizing different varieties of “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument” ["OPCA"] seized on as a basis for vexatious litigation [Meads vs. Meads, Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, Sept. 18]

P.S. A glimpse of the “sovereign citizen” scene in the U.S., h/t Lowering the Bar.

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May 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 7, 2012

  • NY lawyer sanctioned $10K for behavior at deposition [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
  • Obvious dangers and the W.V. frat-house rear-launched bottle rocket case [Popehat, earlier here, here]
  • Review of Liberty’s Refuge, new book on freedom of assembly by Washington U. lawprof John Inazu [Anthony Deardurff, Liberty Law]
  • If forfeiture and asset freeze can be deployed in a copyright enforcement case, where will they strike next? [Timothy Lee, Cato]
  • Hard-hitting Kim Strassel column on Al “Crucify Them” Armendariz [WSJ, earlier] Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson: “If you want to live by the precautionary principle, then crawl up in a ball and live in a cave.” [Coyote] Washington Post on the case for the Keystone pipeline [Adler]
  • Losing two looks like carelessness: second Durham County D.A. removed from office for misconduct [Volokh, KC Johnson]
  • Why won’t the Eighth Circuit recognize fraudulent misjoinder? [Beck]

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“A federal judge in Indiana ordered lawyers including the prominent firm of Motley Rice to pay ITT Educational Services almost $400,000 in legal fees for pursuing a ‘frivolous’ lawsuit the judge said was ‘based on a completely false story.’” In line with the reluctance of American judges to award Rule 11 sanctions, the judge awarded only a small fraction of the defendant’s actual outlay in attorney’s fees, which ran into many millions. Motley Rice is a chief beneficiary of the ongoing income stream of the tobacco litigation fees, which return $500 million a year to an assortment of plaintiff’s firms. [Dan Fisher, Forbes]

Locked in litigation with the Associated Press over whether his famous poster improperly infringed on the copyright of the news photograph on which it was based, Shepard Fairey did not conduct himself well. According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Fairey “went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantage in his civil litigation, creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process.” [AP]

Longtime Twin Cities attorney John Murrin lost money in a dodgy business deal, and started out by pressing what critics agree were some meritorious complaints arising from it. But courts began to look askance as he added more and more actions, pleadings and (nearly four dozen) defendants. Now a sanctions order has resulted in a bankruptcy proceeding. ["Lawyer's tactics leave him bankrupt," Minneapolis Star-Tribune].

To quote the court: Texas lawyer Evan Stone, mass-suing file-sharers and seeking to uncover their identities, “asked the Court to authorize sending subpoenas to the ISPs. The Court said ‘not yet.’ Stone sent the subpoenas anyway.” [ArsTechnica, Volokh]

A court has dismissed the Illinois action, saying that to let such cases proceed “could potentially open the floodgates to subject family childrearing to … excessive judicial scrutiny and interference.” [Chicago Tribune/SLT; Volokh]

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