Supreme Court of Virginia Says "No Way" to Wells Fargo's Request to Fine an Opposing Lawyer

Hooray to the Supreme Court of Virginia. It recently turned down Wells Fargo Bank's bid to have an opposing lawyer sanctioned because that lawyer would not agree to an exention of time for Wells Fargo to answer a Complaint.

Here's how this deal goes down:

First, understand that there are deadlines for everything in the law.

The plaintiff's lawyer filed the lawsuit on time. By the time Wells Fargo got its lawyer involved, time was running short to answer. The Wells Fargo lawyer asked for an extention of time to answer and the plaintiff's lawyer did exactly what he is duty bound to do - he consulted with his client. See, if the answer isn't filed on time the client may be awarded a "default" judgment (i.e. a "win").

His client said "no", so the plaintiff's lawyer told the Wells Fargo lawyer "no."

The Wells Fargo lawyer then did what she is supposed to do and she filed a motion with the court asking for the extention. This happens all the time.

The Wells Fargo lawyer then did something very wrong, in my view - she asked the court to sanction, with a monetary fine, the plaintiff's lawyer for following his client's directions. (Had the lawyer not followed his client's instructions he would have been subject to both a legal malpractice claim and a bar ethics investigation)

Amazingly, the trial court did fine the plaintiff's lawyer for "failing to voluntarily agree to extend the time for Wells Fargo to answer."

Nonsense. Lawyers can't be fined for failing to do a voluntary act, especially one that may subject them to a lawsuit or disciplinary charges!

It was shameful for Wells Fargo, and its lawyer, to press this issue. Shameful because it cost the plaintiff's lawyer thousands of dollars in time and expenses to defend his good name with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which held, in Env't Specialist, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank Nw., N.A., No. 150693, 2016 WL 550440, at *2 (Va. Feb. 12, 2016) that Wells Fargo's claim for sanctions was nonsense.

 

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