Prince’s Briefcase: Hunter v. EarthGrains Co. (Glannon Civil Procedure)


Professor Glannon Civil Procedure: Rule 11

Here is a case from my Civil Procedure course which explains Rule 11, which are sanctions against lawyers for poor trial preparedness. In this case, bringing a frivolous law suit to court can cost a lawyer her job.

Case Name, Citation Number, Author
Hunter v. EarthGrains Co. Bakery, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (281 F.3d 144 (4th Cir. 2002)

prince's briefcase (princesdailyjournal)Procedural History
Plaintiffs lawyer brought a class action on behalf of minority employees of a bakery that was eventually closed. Complaint included claims for employment discrimination against the bakery etc. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant on both the merits and the arbitration defense. The court then issued an order (sua sponte) to the plaintiffs’ lawyer to show cause that she should not be sanctioned under Rule 11. Ultimately the court suspended the lawyer from practice in the federal district courts for five years.

Facts
–Civil rights lawyer brought a class action suit against bakery for employment discrimination and fraudulent misrepresentations in connection with its shut down
–Defendant denied the allegations and argued that the law suit was precluded because the class discrimination claims were subject to binding arbitration under a collective bargaining agreement.
–The court then issued an order to the plaintiffs’ lawyer to show cause why she should not be sanctioned under Rule 11.

Issue
Is the Civil Rights lawyer subject to sanctions under Rule 11?

Holding
Yes, because Hunter (plaintiff’s lawyer) advanced a frivolous legal position.

Reasoning
–Austin was incorrectly decided.
–No existing

Rule
Plaintiff theory must be warranted by existing law

Disposition
Suspension from practice vacated

Notes
Rule 11(b)(2): The claims, defenses, and other legal contention are warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

Prince’s Takeaway
Have existing law to support your legal contentions before you present it in court. Not correctly warranting to an existing law, under a legal theory, you will violate Rule 11(b)(2) and be suspended. Rule 11(c).

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