23 Feb Virginia: Special Cases – a Lawyer’s Sanctions
On February 12, 2016, Environment Specialist, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank Northwest, N.A., No. 150693, was handed down by the Virginia Supreme Court. It reversed the Circuit Court of Stafford County on its award of $1,200.00 in sanctions against plaintiff’s counsel. Id. at 10.
The Virginia Supreme Court observed in Environment Specialist that “the trial court does not have inherent authority to justify its [sanctions] actions.” Id. at 5. Also, “the award of sanctions is patently incorrect and completely without basis under the governing provisions of Code §8.01-271.1. Id.
Further, Environment Specialist delineated that “there is a difference between behavior that appropriately honors an attorney’s obligation to his client’s best interest, behavior that falls short of aspirational standards, and behavior that is subject to discipline and/or sanctions”. Id. at 10. By pursuing default judgment instead of supporting time extension, plaintiff’s counsel “did not engage in behavior that could be characterized as unprofessional, an ethics violation or behavior that is subject to statutory sanctions”. Id.