Walter Olson’s excellent Overlawyered reports on an interesting sanction imposed by a judge in California against an entire law firm. The sanction requires every one of the firm’s 80 lawyers to undergo six hours of ethics training; the firm’s lead attorney on the case was ordered to take 20 hours of such training. The firm, the lead attorney and the client were also required to pay $5,000 each as monetary sanctions.
According to an article in law.com, the firm Lozano Smith was sanctioned by a federal judge for alleged repeated misrepresentation of facts and the law in a case involving aid for a learning-disabled student.
The plaintiff in the case was represented by solo practitioner Maureen Graves who “practices out of her garage”. She recovered $250,000 in fees and costs; no word as to whether she’s moving her office.
The firm tries to put things in perspective:
Firm managing shareholder Peter K. Fagen said that when the judge warned of potential sanctions a year ago, the firm “immediately engaged an expert in legal ethics to assist us in improving our quality control protocols and to advise us on augmenting our training.”
After Wanger’s order, Fagen said he scheduled a retreat for the entire firm to “take the case apart from start to finish … to look at what went wrong and to put procedures and mechanisms in place to make sure it won’t happen again.”
No mention of the sanctions on the firm web site as of this morning; clients of the firm still voice support, however.
I learned two things from this:
— always listen to a federal judge who uses the word “sanctions”; and
— never underestimate an attorney who practices out of her garage.