Ouch! That has to hurt! Running for a judicial seat and then sanctioned and reported to the State Bar. This just happened to attorney Judy Conard, who practices in Lake County, California.
The First Appellate Court found the appeal to be frivolous and not only sanctioned Ms. Conard $6,000, but issued $15,000 in sanctions against her client as well.
Last October, Theodore Parfet, who lives in Michigan, appealed an order that he pay the attorney fees for Amy Tucker, the Respondent in the Family Law case, incurred while she opposed his motions to modify child custody, visitation and child support, according to the decision, which can be read here.
Ms. Conard said they appealed the amount of attorneys’ fees, which at nearly $80,000 were in excess of what the interim fees were to be. The three appellate justices found “the degree of objective frivolousness and delay is extremely high,” and that “pursuing a meritless appeal of an attorney fee award under the circumstances of this case flies in the face of the very purpose of the Family Code attorney fees statutes.” Further, they found that Conard had a professional responsibility not to pursue a frivolous appeal just because her client instructed her to do so, the justices said Conard violated her duties by facilitating the appeal “and by advancing arguments which exceed the bounds of both common sense and sound advocacy.”
The justices also stated “We join other courts in recognizing that the respondent is not theonly party damaged by a frivolous appeal.” ‘Others with bona fide disputes, as well as the taxpayers, are prejudiced by the wasteful diversion of an appellate court’s limited resources.’ The handling of this appeal has imposed a burden on this court.”
To add insult to injury, Ms. Conard and the court clerk were each ordered to forward a copy of this opinion to the State Bar upon return of the remittitur. Whether charges will be filed by the bar against Ms. Conard has yet to be seen. The lesson here for attorneys? Beware of filing an appeal just because your client wants you to, be sure that there is merit to the appeal, it could cost you, not only monetarily but professionally.