Monday, April 18, 2016

Sanctions Affirmed

The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the imposition of Rule 11 sanctions against an attorney who had represented an unhappy seller of real estate and had purported to represent other client in the litigation.

 The appellant, Keven McKenna, represented Mrs. Wells in those legal battles and he purported to represent  several other plaintiffs as well. The Blanchards filed a lawsuit for malicious prosecution and abuse of process, naming Mr. McKenna and others as defendants...During that lawsuit, the Blanchards became aware, through deposition testimony, that several of the named plaintiffs in the prior cases had not been aware that they had been parties to some or all of the lawsuits filed by Mr. McKenna, supposedly on their behalf...

In his written submission to this Court, Mr. McKenna argues that the trial justice erred in granting the motion because: (1) the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to impose sanctions in closed cases; (2) Mr. McKenna was protected "by the Due Process and Freedom of Speech Clauses of the R.I. and U.S. Constitutions"; (3) Mr. McKenna was immune from sanctions under the Anti-SLAPP Act, G.L. 1956 § 9-33-2, and G.L. 1956 § 45-24-67; and (4) the principles of res judicata, collateral estoppel, statute of limitations, laches, and the law of the case doctrine protected Mr. McKenna from sanctions.

The arguments presented to us by appellant in his written submissions are unpersuasive. Further, Mr. McKenna failed to appear before this Court to elucidate his reasoning for challenging the trial justice’s decision. Thus, we are unconvinced that the trial justice abused her discretion in finding that no attorney-client relationship existed between Mr. McKenna and Nicholas S. Mancieri. See In re Briggs, 62 A.3d 1090, 1097 (R.I. 2013) ("this Court reviews a trial justice’s decision to award or deny Rule 11 sanctions under an abuse-of-discretion standard"). Our review of the record demonstrates that Mr. McKenna received adequate notice of the show cause hearing on Rule 11 sanctions, a point that is accentuated by the fact that Mr. McKenna submitted an objection with supporting evidence, appeared at that hearing to present arguments, and even submitted the testimony of a witness in support of his objection to the motion for sanctions.

The sanctions amount to a tad less than $20,000. (Mike Frisch)

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