Tuesday, February 03, 2009, 1:13 PM

COA Upholds Rule 11 Sanctions Against Lawyers For Disparaging Comments

Today in Johns v. Johns the Court of Appeals (COA) upheld Rule 11 sanctions against a law firm based on the disparaging content of a motion it filed in the context of a hotly contested divorce proceeding. The motion, according to the trial court, was "filled with unverified, irrelevant and disparaging comments about the personal history and character of" the wife and her teenage daughter from an earlier marriage, including comments about the wife's issues with ex-husbands. Faced with a Rule 11 motion charging that the lawyers made the disparaging comments for an "improper purpose," the lawyers argued that they "had the obligation to their client to use the facts and their research to advocate his position." The lawyers added, "[s]ome of the allegations made are unsavory, but a lawyer must take the facts as he finds them." Apparently not. In upholding the Rule 11 sanctions, the COA issued this warning: "The mere existence of facts derogatory to the opposing party does not warrant their submission to the trial court without a showing that the facts are relevant to the issues before the court."

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