Posted Feb 02, 2012 10:24 pm CST
Local counsel beat the rap. But in an en banc ruling today, the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that that two other lawyers involved in the filing of a 9/11 case described by a U.S. District Court judge as a “cynical delusion and fantasy” should pay a substantial penalty for filing a frivolous complaint.
The court eliminated sanctions previously imposed against local counsel Mustapha Ndanusa, who played only a minor role in the filing of a 2008 lawsuit accusing then-vice president Dick Cheney and secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld of causing the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. But by doing so, the appeals court apparently increased the penalty that attorneys Dennis Cunningham and William Veale must pay. The court agreed with an earlier 2nd Circuit panel that the lawyers should be jointly and severally liable for a $15,000 monetary sanction and double the government’s defense costs, according to Reuters. Hence, because the same penalty now presumably will be split between two lawyers rather than three, the burden on Cunningham and Veale will be heavier.
Reached by the news agency, Veale said “We are not delusional by any means. We have the facts, and they cannot be explained.” He formerly worked as chief assistant for the Contra Costa County, Calif., public defender’s office.
Cunningham did not immediately respond.
In addition to agreeing with U.S. District Judge Denny Chin that the suit the lawyers filed on behalf of an injured Pentagon worker was frivolous, the 2nd Circuit was not pleased that the lawyers sought to recuse members of an appeals court panel that earlier approved the same sanctions, the Reuters article notes.
The attorneys had contended in a motion requesting an en banc hearing that the panel judges “and any like-minded colleagues” on the 2nd Circuit should be disqualified due to “severe bias, based in active personal emotions arising from the 9/11 attack.”
An earlier ABAJournal.com post provides additional details: