Trials & Litigation

Small firm sanctioned nearly $282K by federal judge for pursuing frivolous case

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A long-running case over Native American land rights has resulted in a steep sanction for a small Minnesota law firm.

Known for its civil rights litigation, three-partner Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson was ordered Friday to pay $281,906.34 in legal bills for its opponents. A federal judge said the firm had engaged in frivolous litigation by pursuing a case over a promised 1863 land grant without adequate legal basis, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The defendants had initially sought $350,000, an amount that partner Erick Kaardal told the court would hit his firm hard. However, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said no proof was submitted to show that the firm could not afford the sanction.

The firm has 30 days to pay, but Kaardal told the newspaper in an email that it intends to appeal.

“This is an extremely complex area of the law in which the claims span over a hundred-year time frame,” he wrote. “The fact that two law firms spent over $320,000 in total for briefing and arguing one motion bears to the complexity and difficulty of the issues at hand. We will not argue this case in the papers and look forward to the opportunity for our day in court.”

Update, June 28, 2016: “Small civil-rights law firm wins reversal of $282K sanction”

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