Friday, June 23, 2006

Stupidity is a Legitimate Basis for Attorney Sanctions

Per In re Hein, 341 B.R. 903 (Bkrtcy. N.D.Ind. March 1, 2006):

Stupidity--acting without sufficient forethought--is a legitimate basis for imposing sanctions upon an attorney. See e.g., Smith v. Ricks, 31 F.3d 1478 (9th Cir.1994). For example, the failure to appear for a scheduled hearing or conference is the basis for sanctions under Rule 16(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the imposition of sanctions under that rule does not depend upon a finding of bad faith, willfulness, or contemptuousness. Matter of Sanction of Baker, 744 F.2d 1438, 1440-41 (10th Cir.1984). Negligence will suffice. Id. at 1441. See also Harrell v. U.S., 117 F.R.D. 86, 88 (E.D.N.C.1987); Barsoumian v. Szozda, 108 F.R.D. 426 (S.D.N.Y.1985). Similarly, the jurisprudence under Rule 11 does not exempt counsel from sanctions because of stupidity. Quite to the contrary, acting without thinking is the very basis for sanctions under that rule. See, Thornton v. Wahl, 787 F.2d 1151, 1154 (7th Cir.1986). An empty head but a pure heart is no defense. Chambers v. American Trans Air, Inc., 17 F.3d 998, 1006 (7th Cir.1994); Zuniga v. United Can Co., 812 F.2d 443, 452 (9th Cir.1987). In a like manner, whether sanctions are considered pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1987, 11 U.S.C. § 105, or the inherent power of the court, when the issue is whether counsel's actions have needlessly complicated or delayed the proceeding, the failure to consider before you act is not regarded as a defense. Knepper v. Skekloff, 154 B.R. 75 (N.D.Ind.1993). Consequently, although counsel may not have intentionally failed to appear for the matters scheduled in this case for February 7 and 8, 2006, that does not insulate him from sanctions.

… Actions which create such unnecessary costs and delays are clearly sanctionable, both in terms of expecting counsel to reimburse its adversary and, at least to some extent, the United States.


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