This blog’s descriptive adjective is no accident. I’m pretty sure I missed my dose of the reverence gene at birth, one reason one of my favorite maxims remains “There is no worse heresy then that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” – Lord Acton. Lawyers shouldn’t wrap their egos around their profession. It’s always good to remember what the late rock-and-roll pioneer Roy Orbison once crooned, “ain’t no big thing.”
Happily, the public tries to keep us humble. Maybe it’s all those lawyer jokes. But admittedly, there’s something about being a lawyer that elicits sometimes snarky reactions.
Of course, the periodic tales in the press of especially foolish litigation have to be factored a part of the equation. For instance, who can forget that former judge and lawyer who sued his dry cleaners for $67 million over a lost pair of pants? See DCCA Opinion No. 07-CV-872: Pearson v. Chung, et al and Judge sues for $65 million over pants
And then just a few days ago, a story out of Houston described a lawyer who forgot his leather jacket at an airport food court but instead of getting mad at himself for his own forgetfulness, he threatened the airport, the food court people et al. for not taking care of his jacket since it subsequently disappeared! Hello!
The lawyer wrote the restaurant and the airport authority with the kind of letter that endears folks to lawyers. He threatened a lawsuit over his missing jacket unless somebody gave him $800. Lawyer Threatens Suit Over Coat.
Remember the defective thong lawsuit from a couple of years ago? Macrida Patterson sued because a metal piece snapped off her thong underwear and hit her in the eye. See Dinged By A G-String? and Woman Sues Victoria’s Secret Over Thong ‘Malfunction.
But taking the proverbial cake is one of the newer absurdities. Make me wait for my movie DVD and I’ll not only cry but I’ll sue. Susan Uman sues Netflix for making subscribers wait 28 days for newly released DVDs.
When I read news reports like this, I always wonder, “Who’s the joker bringing this suit?” and “Is business that slow?”
Nonlawyers will not know this and they probably won’t believe it either. But lawyers are supposed to be regulated from filing lawsuits that are unreasonable, frivolous, without merit or in other words, that don’t pass the laugh test. It’s Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires lawyers to ensure the pleadings they sign have merit and more specifically, that,
By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper — whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it — an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
Unabating silly season.
Depending on who you ask, it’s an open question on whether or not Rule 11 has had sufficient effect. Some think not, including Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) who introduced S 603, the Frivolous Lawsuit Prevention Act of 2009, a year ago this month to amend Rule 11. The intent of the bill was “to change from discretionary to mandatory the authority of a court to impose sanctions for any representations in a pleading, written motion, or other paper that violate the Rule. Revises the requirements for such sanctions. Allows monetary sanctions to be awarded against a party’s attorneys.”
Grassley’s bill got lost in committee. But with the medical-malpractice lobby still lathered up over their overheated cause, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Grassley’s version of reform reemerges. And with the lawsuit silly season unabating, pols. like Grassley will continue to have sufficient ammunition.