Sanctions are one tool courts can use to keep attorneys and clients in line when they are not complying with the court’s rulings or abusing the legal process. While generally a last step, issuing sanctions can be a powerful tool to get someone’s attention, punish wrong-doing, and even set a precedent for an entire industry.
Types of Sanctions
The types of sanctions available to a court vary by court, but in a civil context, generally refer to monetary fines levied against one party or the other. Sanctions can also be levied against lawyers and law firms involved in a particular case. These are issued when someone violates the rules of the judicial process or acts in a way that is designed to abuse or corrupt the process.
Civil courts also have the ability to dismiss a case as a form of sanction, though this power is used only on very rare occasions. Cases can be dismissed with or without prejudice. If a case is dismissed with prejudice, it means that the parties have already had their “bite at the apple” and cannot re-try the same case in the future. A dismissal without prejudice means parties are free to bring the case again, often under the guidance of different counsel.
Sanctions Against Attorneys
Clients cannot always control what their attorneys do and, when attorneys make decisions that are unethical, obstruct justice, or simply go against the court’s orders, then the courts can issue sanctions. This often occurs when attorneys do not comply with court procedure, are unnecessarily belligerent, hassle opposing parties or witnesses, or engage in other types of inappropriate conduct.
Sanctions Against Clients
At times, it is the clients who are causing the problems. While the court may warn their attorneys to encourage the cooperation of the parties, there may be little their attorney can do to ensure compliance. Particularly in cases of discovery abuse, where one party is withholding necessary documents requested by the other or refusing to allow witness depositions, then the court may leverage sanctions against the party to encourage compliance. It’s amazing what several-thousand-dollar-per-day sanctions can do to encourage compliance.
Courts often like to issue sanctions that give the party the “key to their own cell,” where the sanction involves a fee-per-day on non-compliance. So if, for example, they have failed to provide documents during discovery, then a fee-per-day can quickly add up and encourage people to comply with the court.
Whatever your case, the experienced team of litigators at the Dunn Law Firm can help you determine what needs to be done to defend your business. We work hard to ensure you have a fair hearing, but we understand and follow all ethical rules and help you understand your duties and role during a lawsuit. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 and set up a free consultation today.