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House Passes Bill to Sanction Lawyers

From The E-LawLibrary Weblog (September 16, 2004)
House Passes Bill to Sanction Lawyers

The House of Representatives passed a bill - The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004 - on Tuesday that would require sanctions against lawyers who file lawsuits judged frivolous. The bill is meant to "amend Rule 11 of the Federal Civil Rules of Procedure to improve attorney accountability, and for other purposes."

Rule 11 is entitled "Signing of Pleadings, Motions, and Other Papers; Representations to Court; Sanctions." The rule currently leaves sanctions to a judge's discretion and allows those filing a lawsuit to avoid any sanctions if the suit is withdrawn within 21 days of the filing of a motion for sanctions. The legislation would require sanctions and abolish the 21-day period.

Rule 11 requires that attorneys perform a competent level of legal research. In a Capital University law review article, Marguerite Butler, Associate Professor and Law Library Director at Texas Southern University, identified four types of inadequate research in Rule 11 cases:

1. Ignorance of an Unbroken Line of Contrary Authority.
2. No Citation to Cases in Support of the Argument.
3. Citation to Inappropriate Authority in Support of the Argument.
4. Failure to Argue for the Modification, Extension, or Reversal of Existing Law.

Sources:
1. 28 USC Appendix - Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 11, Office of the Law Revision Counsel.
2. "Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004," H.R. 4571, 108th Cong. (2004), GPO Access.
3. Marguerite Butler, "Rule 11 - Sanctions and a Lawyer's Failure to Conduct Competent Legal Research," 29 Cap. U.L. Rev. 681 (2002).
4. Carl Hulse, "Bill to Require Sanctions on Lawyers Passes House," New York Times, September 15, 2004.