Brief Fact Summary.
3 attorneys are FRCP 11 sanctioned for a misrepresentation they included in a motion.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
It is not necessary for the attorney to act in bad faith to be FRCP 11 sanctioned.
Rule 11 is not a strict liability provision, and a showing of at least culpable carelessness is required before a violation of the Rule can be found.View Full Point of Law
Plaintiff Young brought a §1983 suit against Defendant City of Providence for the shooting death of her son by Providence police officers. She was represented by Barry Scheck and Nicholas Brustin, New York attorneys admitted to practice in Rhode Island pro hac vice and by Robert Mann, admitted to practice in Rhode Island who was acting as local counsel. The parties argued over a diagram that Plaintiff’s attorneys wanted to use, and Plaintiff’s attorneys finally agreed to Defendant City’s proposition that part of the diagram was inaccurate. During trial, Plaintiff’s attorneys realized that the diagram was entirely incorrect, so a young associate at Scheck’s firm drafted a memorandum requesting the judge to release Plaintiff Young from the stipulation. The memo alleged that the court required Plaintiff Young to agree to the Defendant City’s stipulation, which the judge read as a misrepresentation. Although Young’s attorneys did not act in bad faith and attempted to explain that they did not mean to suggest that they were forced to accept the stipulation, the judge nonetheless stripped Scheck and Brustin of their pro hac vice admissions and sanctioned them under FRCP 11. The judge also found that Mann violated FRCP 11 but did not sanction him.
When the court initiated a FRCP 11 investigation must there be bad faith?
No, when the court initiated a FRCP 11 inquiry there need not be bad faith involved. Violations set aside, admonition and sanction are vacated, and the pro hac vice status of Scheck and Brustin are restored.
1. FRCP 11 prohibits filings that are made for any improper purpose, offerings of frivolous arguments, and the assertion of factual claims without evidentiary support.
2. This standard applies whether the party or the court initiate the inquiry into FRCP 11 violations. There is not heightened standard when a court initiates the inquiry.
3. The court should not initiate FRCP 11 inquiries for minor infractions as this would needlessly tie the courts up, there need not be serious misconduct for the court to invoke FRCP 11.
4. Although the court did not have to find intentional misrepresentation in order to begin the FRCP 11 inquiry, FRCP 11 sanctions are still warranted.
5. Plaintiff Young’s memo had drafting errors but the document as a whole was clearly not intended to mislead the judge. It also did not seem that any of the statements in the memo were untrue or intended to indicate that the trial judge coerced 6.Plaintiff Young into agreeing to the stipulation.
7.Violations set aside, admonition and sanction are vacated, and the pro hac vice status of Scheck and Brustin are restored.