What it Means When You Sign a Pleading

November 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

We talked Monday about what can happen when one knowingly files a false pleading.

Aside from the fact that it’s patently unethical to do so, there is a specific requirement in the MRCP about a lawyer’s representations to the court via her pleadings. It’s in R11(a), which states in part:

Every pleading or motion of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record … The signature of an attorney shall constitute a certificate that the attorney has read the pleading or motion; that to the best of the attorney’s knowledge, information, and belief there is good ground to support it; and that it is not interposed for delay …

That’s pretty straightforward. You have to have read the pleading, and if you fail to do that, you are still responsible for its contents since you certified to the court that you are aware of what is in it. You have to do more than take your client’s word for it that there is good ground to support the claims, because you are certifying to the court that you have made sufficient inquiry to determine that it is, indeed, a meritorious claim. And you can never file an unmeritorious pleading just to hold things up while your client makes good his escape or otherwise arranges his affairs to his advantage.

If the court finds that you have not signed pleadings or signed them with intent to defeat the purpose of the rule, you are subject to the sanctions in R11(b), including discipline, reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees. The sanctions extend both to the client and to the lawyer.

Carelessness is no excuse. The rule requires that you put some thought and attention into the pleadings that you file.

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