Articles Posted in Sanctions

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This case is newsworthy.The 11th Circuit affirmed a contempt finding against a lawyer who allegedly wrongfully procured evidence from the defendant. The Court set forth the facts as follows:

Attorney Sandra Finch represented Elane Armstead in Armstead’s lawsuit against Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Company. In the weeks leading up to trial, Finch, on Armstead’s behalf, filed a motion in limine to exclude or strike the deposition testimony of Allstate’s fact witness Mark Gould. Allstate filed a response in opposition that, among other things, described what happened during Gould’s deposition, which it supported by citing the deposition transcript and Gould’s affidavit. The transcript showed that during the deposition Finch handed Gould page-by-page photographs of a document titled “Steamatic Guide to Restoration Services” (an outdated company document) and that when Gould asked Finch where she had found that document, Finch refused to answer. Gould in his affidavit stated that he “got very upset when it became apparent [that Finch] had obtained the document from my office without my permission.”

The photographs of the Steamatic Guide were not the only photographs Finchshowed Gould during his deposition. At one point she handed Gould a photograph of the inside of his office, but refused to explain where she had gotten the picture. Gould accused Finch of trespassing, at which point Finch responded, “I caution you on defaming me, because if you defame me, I can promise you it will not be good.”

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This is not a legal malpractice case, but it is worth considering. The Fifth Circuit affirmed a $1000 sanction against two lawyers for the defendant who failed to disclose three audio recordings to the plaintiff. The lawyers were sanctioned because they certified that their initial Rule 26 disclosures were complete.

The case arose out of an alleged sexual assault at a private prison. The plaintiff sued and alleged that she had been assaulted by a prison employee. The lawyers representing the defendants obtained three audio tapes of recorded phone calls from the plaintiff to family members. The recordings could be construed to cast doubt on the plaintiff’s version of events.

At her deposition the lawyers for the defendants played the tapes and questioned plaintiff about them. Plaintiff then filed a motion for Rule 37 sanctions against the lawyers for failing to disclose the audio tapes. The district court sanctioned each lawyer $1000.

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IN RE MARRIAGE OF WIXOM AND WIXOM, Wash: Court of Appeals, 3rd Div. 2014 – Google Scholar.

This is an appeal from a divorce case in which a lawyer (Robert Caruso) and his client (Rick Wixom) were held jointly and severally liable for a $55,000 sanction award. The lawyer and client were sanctioned because, in the underlying custody litigation, they made false charges about Rick’s ex-wife Linda.

Here is where the lawyer made an error. He appealed the sanctions against himself and filed an appeal for his client, Rick Wixom. The court explains how the lawyer threw the client under the bus: