Sanctions for Frivolous Appeals
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
California Rules of Court §8.276 allow a judge to impose sanctions on a party or an attorney for violating one or more Rules of Court. Those violations include: taking a frivolous appeal or appealing only to delay; including matter in the record that is not reasonably material to the appeal’s determination; filing a frivolous motion; or committing any other unreasonable violation of these rules. Violations can be imposed on the motion of a party or on the court’s own motion.
Though courts are generally tolerant of parties’ and lawyers’ acts/omissions, applying sanctions “most sparingly to deter only the most egregious conduct,” the court will occasionally impose sanctions as a punishment to the offender and a deterrent to other parties and lawyers. For example, on May 12, 2014, the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven imposed $10,000.00 in sanctions on the Appellants’ attorney in an unpublished opinion Rouzbahan v. Fregoso. Upon Respondent’s motion (which requested $27,000.00 in sanctions), the court found that the Appellants’ attorney pursued a frivolous appeal and filed a misleading brief. According to the unpublished opinion: the opening brief was filed nearly a year after the notice of appeal was filed; the attorney relied on the wrong standard of review for the appeal; the attorney made an argument “unquestionably without merit” regarding substantial evidence; the attorney did not provide a full reporter’s transcript of the trial, “frustrating any meaningful review of the evidence”; the appeal gave a “misleading description of the record”; and the brief “falsely asserted” that Respondents did not present evidence contradicting the Appellants’ version of the underlying incident. Though the court did not impose the full $27,000.00 sanctions requested, the court concluded that “[t]his style of lawyering cannot be condoned” and ordered the Appellants’ attorney to directly pay $10,000.00 to the Respondents. Though sanctions are used sparingly, they are imposed every so often and they can sting a might.
By Kathy Catanzarite
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