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Court Criticizes, Lawyer Has No Remedy

Posted Aug 17, 2007 7:27 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An attorney whose conduct is criticized in a court ruling may have no right to intervene or sue to clear his name, at least in the Federal Circuit.

That's the gist of a recent appellate decision, which resulted from an attorney's complaint that a federal judge had criticized him in a ruling in a patent case in which he wasn't even directly involved, reports New York Lawyer (sub. req.), in a reprint of a National Law Journal article. The criticism came when a federal trial judge held that the lawyer, in earlier litigation, had engaged in inequitable conduct that made it impossible to enforce a patent in the current case.

Because the complaining lawyer was only a witness in the current patent case, and because no formal judicial action, such as a reprimand, was taken against him, he has no legal remedy, the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held in an Aug. 13 opinion written by Judge William Bryson. Nisus Corp. v. Perma-Chink Systems Inc. v. Teschner (PDF).

"To allow appeals by attorneys, or others concerned about their professional or public reputations, merely because a court criticized them or characterized their conduct in an unfavorable way would invite an appeal by any nonparty who feels aggrieved by some critical statement made by the court in an opinion or from the bench," Bryson wrote.

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