This case caught my eye because the opinion denies an unusual sanctions motion. Plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion for sanctions against Defendant’s counsel on the ground that the defense lawyer had been pressuring the plaintiff to settle or drop the claim. The sanctions motion was based on the inherent authority of the court. The court explained:
Plaintiff alleges defense counsel is “using threats and intimidation to extract settlement, is making settlement offers without authority from his clients, is threatening administrative actions against Plaintiff’s counsel and her son in order to gain tactical advantage in this action, is tampering with a witness by offering free representation, is demanding that Plaintiff’s counsel agree to restrict her future practice of law, and is conducting this litigation with a wanton disregard for civility and professionalism.” (Doc. 82, p. 2.) Plaintiff asks the Court to (1) refer defense counsel to the State bar for further investigation; (2) admonish defense counsel that should his allege conduct continue, he will be subject to disqualification from representing Defendant, and (3) award monetary sanctions in the amount of Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees incurred in bringing and defending the motion for sanctions. (Doc. 82-1, p. 18.)
The district court denied the sanctions motion because it was based on out-of-court activity. Moreover, plaintiff could file his own ethics complaint against defense counsel if he wished to. This case is worth reading because it correctly distinguishes between out-of-court activity and in-court activity.
My take on this case is that plaintiff’s counsel was whining about defense counsel but was unwilling to file his own ethics complaint but chose to hide behind the district court. The court ruled correctly in denying the motion.