Trial court’s authority to dismiss an appeal for failure to pay costs
Don’t use Garamond

Let it go

If  your opponent files an appellate brief with offensive language, should you move for sanctions? Probably not. That’s the lesson from a decision rendered last month by the Louisiana First Circuit in Brumfield v. Village of Tangipahoa, 2022-CA-0730 (La. App. 1 Cir. 3/6/23), — So. 3d —.

In an earlier appeal in the case, one of the parties moved the First Circuit to impose sanctions on the other side for filing a brief with offensive language. The First Circuit denied the motion, holding that Uniform Rule 2-12.2(C) does not authorize the court of appeal to impose sanctions, and that any authority to impose sanctions under La. Code Civ. P. art. 863 is limited to the trial court. Brumfield v. Village of Tangipahoa, 2021-CA-0082 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/20/21), 340 So. 3d 221.

Back in the trial court, the offended party moved for sanctions under art. 863 because of the offensive language in the other side’s appellate brief. The trial court obliged, awarding the moving party $1,500. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the sanction was not authorized by art. 863. The court reasoned that, by its terms, art. 863 applies only to “pleadings,” i.e. petitions, exceptions, written motions, and answers. See La. Code Civ. P. art. 852. Since an appellate brief isn’t a pleading as defined by art. 852, the First Circuit concluded that art. 863 didn’t apply. So the First Circuit reversed and imposed the appeal costs on the party who moved for sanctions. Result: the pursuit of sanctions accomplished nothing except to drag out ancillary litigation and to increase the moving party’s legal expenses.

My suggestion: take note of Brumfield, and use it the next time you have to talk someone down from chasing sanctions against an opponent because of an offensive brief. 

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