Give Extensions – Don’t be a Jerk

A lesson in practicing with civility.

Beyond the letter and purpose of the legal standards, conscientious judges and attorneys attempt to implement our litigation system with reasonable efficiency, civility, and common sense. This episode illustrates an egregious breach of those professional and cultural values. Counsel for Perrina Construction Company, a large Boston firm, has engaged in a mean-spirited and wasteful tactic. It has wasted the time and effort of an opposing attorney practicing in a small office. It has wasted the time and effort of the Superior Court. If one were to dramatize the public’s worst image of the contemporary litigator, it would employ the present scenario in which a large firm procures an instantaneous default and then stonewalls against its removal in utter disregard of the letter and purpose of the governing legal standards. The performance of the Perrina attorneys would be rich grist for the mill of a contemporary Dickens.

REMEDIAL ORDER FOR SANCTIONS

This cynical shenanigan will exact a price from its practitioners. The court will entertain a motion for an award of fees and costs from attorney Murphy. He will file and serve that application, supported by a verified itemization of the fees and costs, within ten days of the entry of the present Ruling and Order. From the date of service, counsel for Perrina Construction will have seven days for filing and service of any opposing papers.

The court will conduct a hearing upon that application on March 15, 2006. Attorney Murphy will attend. The court orders all three attorneys whose names appear on Perrina Construction Company’s opposition to the removal of default to attend that hearing. Attendance is not optional. All three attorneys shall attend.

3 Responses to Give Extensions – Don’t be a Jerk

  1. salam1982 says:

    Let me preface this by saying, I don’t believe in this argument. I thought I’d take a shot at arguing the other side. I definitely think the sanctions were appropriate, Perrina counsel seem like a bunch of dicks, (kind felt like being one too. God, it sounds so Republican….)

    Leniency and compassion are truly necessary aspects of professionalism. It is incumbent upon every attorney to act in a courteous and chivalrous manner. However, in reading the Court’s lengthy discussion on professionalism and civility, one cannot help but wonder whether the same results would have taken place if the tables were turned. (If Murphy were to have sought a default judgment against Perrina, for being a day late). I believe it is human nature to support the underdog, and that the Court here based its decision on sympathy rather than the law. What I mean is that, had a smaller firm acted the same way, had it gone after Goliath for failing to respond to an answer, the results would surely have been different. Nevertheless, it is well within the Court’s discretion to grant leave to a party, and in suspending the default judgment, it acted appropriately.

    Regarding sanctions however, the Court acted inappropriately. To reciprocate the Courts literary allusions (comparing Perrina to the misers of Dickens’ day), it must be stated that the judiciary’s role is one of balance, impartiality and the law. It is not the Court’s role to act as a Fairy Godmother or an Excalibur. It is not the Court’s job to sweep down in times of “high drama” and offer the protagonist additional divine might.

    In this adversarial profession, deadlines, dates, and accuracy are everything. They often define whether pending litigation ends quickly and efficiently, or whether it drags on forever. As servants to our clients we owe them a great duty of due diligence. We certify this duty by, effectively and efficiently taking all necessary steps to obtain the desired outcome. Furthermore, attorneys take on the duty to conduct business (for clients) without unreasonable costs and delays. Forgoing the opportunity to resolve a case at its outset, in favor of “cutting some slack” to an adverse party is treasonous to our clients.

    If an attorney chooses to “be nice” and help out the other guy, and later loses the case, how does he explain this to the client. “Oh, I just wanted to be a nice guy.” The truth is, attorneys are not paid to conduct almsgiving, they are paid to obtain results. While compassion and empathy are essential to civil society, one must remember his duty to his client.

    Salam Tekbali

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