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An Angry Brief Won’t Win You Anything But A Sanction

by Carolyn Elefant on December 3, 2005 · 0 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Legal Research and Writing, Mistakes/What NOT To Do

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Debra Koven’s ranting appellate brief (see excerpts at 5-8) isn’t something that as a lawyer, I’d ever write and as a judge I’d ever want to read.  Among other things, Koven accused opposing counsel of suborning perjury and claimed in her brief that “the fix was in.”  As a result, the court ordered a $2000 sanction and a referral to the State bar for investigation, as reported here in  California Appellate Panel Unleashes Its Contempt on Lawyer, Mike McKee, The Recorder (12/1/2005).

You may think you’re zealously representing a client when you hurl out
these kinds of arguments, but in reality, you’re hurting your clients
when you make statements you can’t support.  Though many times, I think
judges (or the bar) go overboard with sanctions when they’re criticized by attorneys who are just doing their job responsibly,
here, Koven probably deserved the fine.  But Koven’s also made her
apology and presumably will pay the fine – and I don’t think that any
further action by the Bar, beyond an informal reprimand or
recommendation that Koven take a brief-writing or anger-management
class – is justified.

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