Trials & Litigation
Attorney and client fined $15K for frivolous appeal after lawyer didn’t recall arguments
Posted Jun 19, 2014 11:50 AM CDT
By Martha Neil
A California lawyer says a former client either forged his signature or altered the content of some 25 filed documents in trial and appellate court and the Sacramento district attorney's office has been investigating.
But meanwhile a state appeals court on Wednesday imposed a total of $15,000 in sanctions on both the ex-client, Raghvendor "Raj" Singh, and attorney Keith Oliver for filing a frivolous appeal in a long-running legal battle over unpaid business condominium assessment fees, reports News 10. Singh was earlier determined to be a "vexatious litigant."
At a sanctions hearing last month before the 3rd District Court of Appeal, the attorney said he hadn't signed or filed the opening brief in the appeal at issue and Singh said he didn't know who had done so, reports an earlier News 10 article.
In its written opinion (PDF), the three-judge panel said "the opening and reply briefs, as well as other documents filed by plaintiffs in this appeal, do not appear to have been written by an attorney, but instead appear to have been written by Singh himself."
Nonetheless, the panel ordered both Oliver and Singh to pay $7,478.75 to the opposing party, Stephen Lipworth, and $7,500 to the clerk of the court, noting that Oliver hadn't filed an opposition to the sanctions motion, although Singh had.
The opinion said Oliver initially admitted he had filed a notice of appeal and a brief in the case, contending that he had done so in good faith and that "I though the arguments being made on appeal were meritorious." Then, when asked by the court at the sanctions hearing to explain which arguments were meritorious, he said "Um, I haven’t looked at any of the arguments in such a long time, I can’t say.”
When the panel asked Oliver if he had filed the opening brief, the opinion continues, the attorney said he had, but explained he didn't remember what the arguments were because he hadn't looked at the brief since then. Then, when shown a copy of the brief, he said he hadn't.
ABAJournal.com: "Frequent filer keeps the legal system busy despite ‘vexatious litigant’ status"
News 10: "Sacramento man behind frivolous lawsuits accused of forgery, ID theft"