Sanctions Warranted for Self Represented Litigant

Posted: February 3, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yes, as a self represented litigant you can also be sanctioned by the Court with sanctions for your conduct against the other party as happened in In Re Marriage of Falcone & Fyke (2008 ) 164 Cal.App.4th 814.

The Wife in this case filed 10 appeals/writs after Husband filed for dissolution in 2003.  Wife’s latest motion against Husband was a contempt action alleging 54 counts of contempt against Husband because he paid temporary spousal/child support monthly, rather than semi-monthly as ordered, and that he failed to pay additional support based on excess income.  Husband’s attorney asked Wife’s attorney to amend or dismiss contempt because all base support had bee paid and the order was not specific enough to be enforced by contempt.  Wife’s attorney refused and Husband’s attorney served a motion in limine to dismiss the contempt citation with prejudice and   Husband’s attorney then served a copy of a proposed 128.7 sanctions motion on Wife.  Wife’s attorney promptly withdrew from the case, making her a self represented litigant.  Wife then waited until the day of the hearing to request a continuance to find another attorney and asked for attorney fees from Husband, both of these were denied by the Trial court.  The Trial court then dismissed the contempt with prejudice, which means that Wife could not file this motion again against Husband, and set a motion for sanctions against Wife.  Husband’s attorney then served the 128.7 motion with an updated declaration that Wife had been offered a continuance days before and refused, only to then request one at hearing.  Husband’s attorney filed a motion for Family Code section 271 sanctions.

The Trial Court ordered sanctions against Wife of $32,500, $15,000 in favor of Husband’s attorney and $17,500 for Husband’s family law attorneyy.  Wife then filed motions for new trial on contempt and sanctions hearings.  Husband responded with a motion for more sanctions against Wife, alleging a persistent pattern of delaying and obstructive conduct, including filing objections or motions for new trial following every unfavorable ruling she received, sometimes after orders were signed and filed.  The Trial Court ordered Wife to pay $12,000 in attorney fees and $20,000 additional sanctions, for a total of $64,500.  Wife appealed and the Court of Appeal confirmed and held that the sanctions were warranted by Wife’s conduct.  The Court of Appeal found that Wife’s motions were reckless, baseless and frivolous.  Such conduct is an abuse of the legal system that is ‘not fair to the opposing litigant who is victimized by such tactics.’  Such abuse also involves the Trial Courts or the courts of appeal and other litigants to be prejudiced by the useless diversion of the courts’ attention.  The judicial system and the taxpayers are damaged by what amounts to a waste of the court’s time and resources.  Wife’s status as a self represented litigant is no excuse and she is entitled to no greater consideration than other litigants and attorneys.

The Court also found that the sanctions against Wife did not impose an unreasonable financial burden as she had real property that was going to be sold from which the sanctions could be paid.  It should be noted that Wife’s intense opposition and delays prevented this property from being sold, which probably only added to the Court’s displeasure with Wife.

What this means is the Court’s are not happy with parties, represented or not, who take up the Court’s time with unnecessary and unwarranted motions and appeals.

  1. scaccesstojustice says:

    I had not heard about this. Hmm, thanks for sharing. -RFW

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