Legal Ethics

11th Circuit OKs Sanction for Brief Calling Judge's Findings 'Half Baked' and Wine Peace Offering

A federal appeals court has ruled the First Amendment doesn’t protect a Florida lawyer who wrote a brief calling a judge’s findings “half-baked” and then sent a bottle of wine to his chambers in an attempt to make up.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sanction, a 60-day suspension from bankruptcy practice, against longtime lawyer Kevin Gleason, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

Gleason was sanctioned after writing a brief contesting a ruling by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Olson, the blog says. “It is sad when a man of your intellectual ability cannot get it right when your own record does not support your half-baked findings,” Gleason wrote.

Later, Gleason sent a bottle of wine to Olson’s chambers with a note that read, “Dear Judge Olson, A Donnybrook ends when someone buys the first drink. May we resolve our issues privately?” Olson returned the bottle along with the unopened note, according to Gleason.

Gleason had maintained he shouldn’t have been sanctioned for the “tone” of the brief, which he describes as “truthful responses to a string of unjustified abuses.” The 11th Circuit disagreed in an opinion (PDF) issued Monday.

“Gleason has identified no authority supporting his contention that the First Amendment shields from sanctions an attorney who files an inappropriate and unprofessional pleading and then contacts a presiding judge ex parte with an offer to share a bottle of wine and ‘privately’ resolve their dispute,” the appeals court said.

Prior coverage: “Longtime Lawyer’s Letter re Judge’s ‘Half-Baked Findings’ Results in Historic En Banc Hearing” “Lawyer Accuses Judge of ‘Half-Baked Findings’ in Scathing Response to Sanctions Threat”

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