A federal appeals court in Washington today tossed a sanctions order against a lawyer who paid $3,000 for alleged improper statements in a pleading in an age discrimination lawsuit.
Magistrate Judge John Facciola of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the sanction in 2006 against attorney John Karl Jr. of Washington’s McDonald & Karl. Facciola found that certain statements made in a response to a motion for summary judgment were “classic examples of inferences disguised as statements of fact” that violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Click here for Facciola's opinion.
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the sanctions order. Karl was not immediately reached for comment today. Stephen Leckar, a lawyer in Washington who argued for him in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, praised today’s appellate ruling.
“I’m sure Judge Facciola didn’t take any joy in writing that opinion, and I’m sure John Karl didn’t take any joy being on the receiving end of it,” said Leckar, special counsel at Washington's Shainis & Peltzman. Leckar called the appellate court opinion, written by Judge Merrick Garland, “masterful.”
Garland wrote that Facciola used an incorrect legal premise to impose sanctions.
“To take the magistrate judge’s example: If an attorney has evidence that a man “walked into a room with a wet umbrella” at a certain time, the attorney does have ‘evidentiary support’ for the ‘factual contention’ that ‘it was raining’ at that time," Garland wrote. "He may not have proof by a preponderance, but he certainly has ‘support.’"