Imposing Sanctions For Malicious or Frivolous Lawsuits
SANCTIONS ARE PENALTIES IMPOSED ON PEOPLE WHO ABUSE OR MISUSE THE LEGAL SYSTEM.
In law and the legal system, “sanctions” refers to a variety of penalties that punish misuse of the law and/or the legal system. Sanctions, like punitive damages, exist to encourage compliance with the law (to discourage misuse of the system) and to punish those who misuse the courts or the legal process.
California courts have authority to impose sanctions on parties (or lawyers) who file or maintain malicious or frivolous legal actions (or otherwise abuse the legal system). These sanctions normally take the form of financial penalties (fines). In some situations, the sanctions are paid directly to the court, while in others, the sanctions must be paid to the opposing party. Who receives the sanctions depends on the nature of the sanctions and the conduct which gave rise to the order.
SANCTIONS CAN BE IMPOSED ON THOSE WHO FILE OR MAINTAIN FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS.
The California Code of Civil Procedure contains provisions allowing courts to impose sanctions on parties and attorneys who file frivolous or malicious lawsuits. In some cases, opposing counsel can file a motion requesting the imposition of sanctions; courts can also impose sanctions on their own, whether or not requested by counsel.
Sanctions may include monetary penalties and/or awards of costs and fees to the opposing party. However, generally speaking, a party that receives partial payment of its attorney fees and costs as part of an award of sanctions against the opposing party normally cannot obtain a “double recovery” if subsequently awarded attorney fees and costs in another context or on a different motion.
SANCTIONS AGAINST ATTORNEYS ARE REPORTABLE TO THE BAR ASSOCIATION.
If a court sanctions a lawyer in California (except for sanctions relating to failure to make discovery, or monetary sanctions of less than one thousand dollars ($1,000)), California Business & Professions Code Section 6086.7 also requires the court to report the sanctions to the California Bar Association. Following such a report, the Bar Association is obligated (by the same statute) to investigate whether or not to commence disciplinary hearings, or take disciplinary action, against the attorney.
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