Dentons

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‘High up grew a daffodil…’ — sanctioning lawyers and law firms

By Eddie Reich

Every elementary school student knows that the worst punishment is getting called out in front of the class. Whether it’s being forced to stand in the corner, perform or write something 100 times on the blackboard (see, e.g., Bart Simpson), public humiliation can be an effective deterrent. (I was going to cite a recent post ranking the best Simpson blackboard gags, until I saw that my favourite — ‘I will not waste chalk’ — was remarkably omitted.)  In the attached clip, renowned schoolteacher June Crabtree provides a fine example of this effective method of deterrence.

Lately, courts and litigants have begun to realise that these old-school punishments can be effective in dealing with lawyer misconduct. Frustrated by the apparent lack of impact that a monetary penalty can have on a wealthy corporation or large law firm, lawyers have been subject to increasingly creative — and humiliating — sanctions. You may have read about the Jones Day lawyer who was directed to write, produce and appear in a training video as a sanction for obstructing a deposition. But that’s not the only one. As a sanction for improperly removing a case to federal court, a lawyer’s entire firm was ordered to attend a continuing legal education (CLE) about federal jurisdiction and Rule 11. And a litigant in Texas has asked a court there to require the plaintiff’s general counsel to personally attend every court hearing as a sanction for having filed a baseless cause of action…

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