Legal Ethics

Judge Sanctions Lawyers Up to $5 Million

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In a blistering rebuke of some of Philadelphia’s most prominent lawyers and law firms, a federal judge has sanctioned them—and their clients—for failing to cooperate with discovery in a medical insurance coverage class action.

Among those being required to pay up to $5 million in plaintiffs costs by U.S. District Judge James Knoll Gardner is John Summers, a past chair of the professional responsibility committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association and the brother of a former Harvard University president, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Gardner found that Summers, who is a partner at Philadelphia’s Hangley Aronchick, Segal & Pudlin, acted in bad faith by delaying. However, Summers is not someone who would “lightly violate a professional rule,” firm chairman William Hangley says. “He has been wrongly vilified.”

Adds Lawrence Fox, who represents other sanctioned lawyers, “I think the lawyers did not only what they were supposed to do, but what they are required to do. This turns conduct which we thought was perfectly proper in zealous representation into actionable behavior.”

But Media, Pa., attorney Kenneth Jacobsen, who represents a lead plaintiff physician, had no problem with Friday’s sanctions ruling. “I think Judge Gardner got it right,” he says. “There was a concerted effort to protract the proceedings to wear us out.”

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