Legal Ethics

Judge Orders Paul Weiss, Lowenstein to Pay $1.96M in Fees for Frivolous Suit

A New Jersey judge who found that two BigLaw law firms filed a frivolous suit has ordered them to pay $1.96 million for their opponents’ legal fees.

The firms, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and Lowenstein Sandler, had filed the suit on behalf of billionaire Ronald Perelman, the American Lawyer reports. The action had claimed Perelman’s former father-in-law had promised a larger share of his estate to Perelman’s ex-wife, before her death in 2007, or to the couple’s daughter—a share equaling that given to the ex-wife’s brother.

Judge Ellen Koblitz of Bergen County didn’t care for the firms’ argument against sanctions, the story says. “Paul Weiss and Lowenstein Sandler argue that since they are both such important, well-regarded law firms, the mere finding that they engaged in frivolous litigation is deterrence enough,” Koblitz wrote. “They argue that this court’s finding of frivolous litigation has been widely publicized and besmirches their reputation, which will cost them untold, unspecified damages. A monetary sanction, however, is clearly appropriate here.”

Both law firms issued statements saying they acted properly in the Perelman suit and vowing to appeal.

Benjamin Clarke, a lawyer for Perelman’s former brother-in-law from DeCotiis, FitzPatrick and Cole in Teaneck, N.J., applauded the ruling. “We hope that the award will serve to curtail abuses of the judicial process by making clear to all litigants and attorneys that our courts stand ready to hold them accountable for litigation misconduct,” he said in a statement (PDF).

Updated at 11:45 a.m. to include Clarke’s statement.

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