Trials & Litigation

Lawyer accused of taking sneaky photos of technical manual loses bid for rehearing on sanctions

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A federal appeals court won’t reconsider sanctions imposed against a Georgia lawyer who refused to address allegations that she snuck into the office of a deposition witness and took photos of a technical manual.

Last week, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a rehearing en banc for the lawyer, Sandra Finch, Law360 (sub. req.) reports. The Daily Report (sub. req.) wrote about the rehearing bid in August.

U.S. District Judge William Duffey Jr. of Atlanta had ordered Finch to pay more than $1,500 and to write an essay on the consequences of ignoring court orders and failing to be candid with the court. The essay should be submitted to the Georgia Bar Journal and the Arizona Attorney, according to Duffey’s Dec. 6 opinion.

Duffey had ordered Finch to explain how she obtained the photographs, but she missed the deadline to comply and later argued the order violated her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The $1,548 sanction represented Allstate Insurance’s attorney fees in connection with the sanctions hearings.

The 11th Circuit affirmed in a July 14 opinion that mentioned the monetary sanction but not the essay. The court said Finch had not raised her Fifth Amendment objection in time.

The dispute arose in suit against Allstate over a a claim for fire damages by Finch’s client. A deposition witness who worked for restoration contractor Steamatic was surprised when Finch showed him pictures of professional certificates in his office and a Steamatic guide. The witness accused Finch of trespassing.

Finch stated in an affidavit accompanying a court motion that the doors were unlocked when she went to the office of the witness to deliver a subpoena.

Duffey had imposed the sanctions after the case settled based on his inherent powers.

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