Moving for Sanctions under Rule 11 means to ask a Judge to Penalize another Party or Attorney for Making a Baseless Claim in a Civil Litigation

Rule 11 sanctions means a punishment or penalty imposed by a federal court in a civil litigation against an attorney or a party.  Sanctions, in this context, means a punishment or penalty.   Rule 11 refers to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.  When a party moves for Rule 11 sanctions it makes a motion asking the Court to punish another attorney or party.

Rule 11 is intended to make sure that when an attorney or a party submits a legal document to the Court in a civil litigation, he believes in good-faith that the document is truthful, supported by the law, and is being submitted for an appropriate purpose.


Rule 11 Authorizes Sanctions Against Attorneys and Parties for Certain Types of Misconduct  in a Civil Litigation

According to Rule 11, when an attorney (or an unrepresented party) submits a complaint, defense, memorandum of law, or other written submission to the court he is certifying that the document (i) is not being submitted for an improper purpose such as to harass someone; (ii) the legal arguments have a basis under existing law or there is a good-faith basis to change the law or create new law; (iii) the facts are supported by evidence or will be supported by evidence; and (iv) denials of any facts are supported by evidence or will be supported by evidence.

Rule 11 also provides that if the Rule is violated, a court may impose a punishment on any attorney, law firm or party responsible for the violation.

The punishment could include, among other things, fines paid to the Court, compensating the other party, and paying another party’s attorneys fees.

A Party has 21 Days to Correct or Withdraw a Submission that Violates Rule 11

Before filing a motion for sanctions, the party seeking sanctions must notify the other party that it intends to seek sanctions and provide the other party with 21 days to correct or withdraw a submission that violates Rule 11.  This enables the parties to work out a dispute themselves, without involving the Court.

Moving for Rule 11 Sanctions: An Example

Let’s say Peter Plaintiff sues Delta Company for unlawfully firing him.  But Peter never actually worked for the company.

If Delta believes that Peter lacks a good-faith belief that the allegations in the Complaint are true and that his claims are unsupported by the law, then Delta could seek Rule 11 sanctions against Peter.

Delta will first provide Peter with 21 days to withdraw or correct his Complaint.  If after 21 days Peter refuses to withdraw or correct his Complaint, then Delta may file its motion for Rule 11 sanctions.    That is, Delta will submit the motion for sanctions to the Court and ask the judge to punish Peter or his attorney pursuant to Rule 11.  Among other things, in this case, Peter might have to withdraw the Complaint and  pay Delta’s attorney fees.

The party or the attorney signing and filing the Complaint could be subject to sanctions under Rule 11 if they do not have a good-faith basis to believe that the allegations in the Complaint are true and that there is a legal basis for the claim.

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