In this post, I discuss how the Arkansas Supreme Court is fighting frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning those who file frivolous appeals.
Most people have heard about the problem of frivolous lawsuits and the extreme cost of both time and money associated with this issue. A problem related to frivolous lawsuits is the problem of frivolous appeals.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is concerned about the issue of frivolous appeals, as well, and has therefore adopted rules to help curb this abusive practice. Appeals are time-consuming and expensive, and so the Civil Rules of Appellate Procedure provide that the filing of an appeal in the State of Arkansas constitutes a certification by the filing party that the appeal is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the modification of existing law.
Inversely, filing an appeal for an improper purpose, such as to harass the other side or to cause needless delay or increased litigation costs subjects the filing party to sanctions. Frivolous appeals are a matter of great concern for the Court, and an appeal that has no reasonable legal or factual basis subjects its filer to punishment.
While frivolous lawsuits are difficult to stop, through the adoption of this rule, the Supreme Court hopes to reduce the number and frequency of frivolous appeals. The punishments available to discourage such abusive practices include:
- Striking a brief, motion, or other filing.
- Awarding actual costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, to the adverse party.
- Imposing a fine.
- Awarding damages caused by the delay or misconduct.
- Where there has been a delay, advancing the case on the docket and affirming the findings of the lower court—thus entering an adverse action against the appellant.
If the other party believes that the appeal is frivolous, it may may file a motion with the Court requesting that sanctions be imposed, or the Court may impose sanctions on its own prerogative. In the former case, the party subject to sanction may file a response within 21 days of the filing of the motion. In the latter case, the court will order the party subject to sanction to demonstrate in writing why a sanction should not be imposed.
So, while the party subject to potential sanctions will have the opportunity to defend itself, it is certainly not a desirable position in which to find oneself. Therefore, all filings must be done in good faith, as Arkansas’ highest court is doing its part to fight frivolous lawsuits.