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Lawyer Lessons From The Birther Debate


Looks like those birthers can finally be put in their place and be made to shut up now that President Obama has released his long form birth certificate.  I’m sure that those naysayers will finally take the President’s credentials for what they are and leave this whole fiasco behind . . .  Nope, spoke too soon.  Now why the heck would anyone think it’d be that easy to make these nut jobs disappear, especially with Fox News helping to continue to fan the flames of insanity?

But I get it though; when you decide to dedicate your life to something, however short that amount of time may be and no matter how insignificant the issue, finding out that you just wasted a good chunk of years on an ultimately pointless endeavor would probably send most people into denial.  I’m sure all those people who wanted to see President Obama’s long form birth certificate really did believe that he wasn’t a US citizen and that they were actually helping to correct an injustice.  Now that they’ve gotten what they wanted, they just don’t know what to do anymore.  And as for their de facto leader, the crazy bugged-eye Orly Taitz (who by the way isn’t a US born citizen), it’s obvious why she isn’t letting the birther thing go.  Without this, no one in the media has any use for her.  Her cash stream would dry up and she’d just be labeled as another crazy conspiracy theorist with too much time on her hands.

Though there is one good thing that did come out of all of this, and that one thing is that the general public finally learned how easy it is to finish law school and become a lawyer because if Orly Taitz can become an attorney, so can my dog.

As good of a lesson as this was, another equally important morsel of wisdom was also thrown our way.  Taitz’s foray into the public spotlight demonstrated what a lawyer should not do if he or she wants to continue being a practicing lawyer, which is to become recognized by the court system as a pain in the ass.

Taitz was sanctioned $10,000.00 by the court presiding over one of her insane birther-related lawsuits.  The court found her to have acted in willful bad faith in filing her claim against the President, stating that she was using her client, a US Army physician, as a pawn to further her own campaign against Obama.

Now in the legal world, sanctions are one of the worst penalties next to disbarment that can be laid on an attorney.  It’s basically like a public censure where you’re held out to the masses and told that you’ve been an idiot and now you’re going to be punished.  In federal court, sanctions are authorized under rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and can be applied to not only attorneys, but also to their clients as well.  It’s something that you want to avoid because not only is it embarrassing to be publicly scolded, but the accompanying punishment can be monetary or an order to do something.

What kind of something?  Pretty much anything that the court sees fit if it believes that it will help teach you not to do it again, whatever it is that you did wrong.  Generally this can mean anything from picking up trash to attending some sort of continuing education class to even being forced to give a lecture to a class about what you did wrong.  Sound demeaning?  Well, that’s sort of the point.

But what’s even more interesting about FRCP 11 sanctions is that typically they aren’t monetary in nature and mostly instead fall into the latter category.  Money sanctions are usually reserved for only the most egregious of offenders, and even those fines rarely ever reach the $10,000 limit.  This goes to show you how big of a pain Taitz really was.

Oh, and just in case you’re thinking you’re safe from sanctions because everything is in state court, think again.  Most state court rules have their own sanction provisions, too, which are usually based around the FRCP rules.

So how can you avoid becoming such public embarrassment?  Well, the best way is to not do anything that would piss of the court in the first place, such as harassing the other side or disrupting the court proceedings.  Clients sometimes have an understandably harder time staying calm in court, especially when they feel something unfair is going on.  But the best thing you can do is shut up and make sure your attorney has your back when it’s your side’s turn to talk again.  Remember, real court isn’t like Judge Judy (though I do wonder sometimes).

But what if you have a whacked out attorney like Taitz who gets you into trouble?  How do you get out of that?  Easy.  Just be like the client Taitz was representing when she got sanctioned and completely disavow your attorney’s representation of you in regards to the bad conduct.  Sure it will lead to a really awkward relationship with your attorney afterwards, if you even decide to keep him or her, but it’s better than having to fork over some cash or pick up garbage along the highway.


  • A Liberal in Lakeview

    “What kind of something? Pretty much anything that the court sees fit if it believes that it will help teach you not to do it again, whatever it is that you did wrong.”

    How nice. Judges are parents, too, and their will is law. But what are the possible remedies with which to correct the childish justices of the SCOTUS? It would seem that none are permitted, at least not through their couts.

  • Andrew Dat

    @ A Liberal in Lakeview

    Yep, that’s pretty much how it goes. The US government is run on a system of checks and balances after all. So if the SCOTUS does something nobody likes, than it’s up to the legislature to pass a law to correct it. Of course, then the SCOTUS could then theoretically rule on that laws constitutionality and so forth across the endless cycle. I’m not saying the system doesn’t work of course (since we still appear to be standing so far), but simply that this is how it works…

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