SJC Discusses BBA Amicus on Attorney Sanctions

On Tuesday, March 3, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) heard oral argument in the case of Wong v. Luu, for which the BBA submitted an amicus brief.  We encourage you to watch the video here

Our recent Issue Spot blog post describes the process our Amicus Committee took in reviewing this case and drafting the brief.  The case concerned whether an attorney could be sanctioned for violating an assumption of confidentiality in global settlement discussions and whether a full evidentiary hearing should be held before a judge could sanction him.  Our brief requested clarification from the SJC on the scope of a Superior Court’s inherent authority to sanction an attorney for out-of-court conduct that was not in violation of a court order.  In addition, it argued that, before resolving disputed facts in such cases, a trial court should ordinarily conduct an evidentiary hearing to try to establish a basis for finding bad faith and prejudice to the administration of justice. 

It is clear that our brief plays an important role in argument, as the appellant’s attorney opens his remarks with a direct quote.  The brief is mentioned again around 4:42 and at the 10:00 minute mark, when Justice Botsford asks the appellant’s attorney his opinion on our brief’s recommended standard for attorney sanctions.  Much of the discussion revolves around the brief’s main points, most notably at around the 6:00 minute mark, when Chief Justice Gants clarifies with the appellant’s attorney that even if the attorney’s actions at issue in the case were plainly in violation of a disciplinary rule and even if it was found that he was given an evidentiary hearing (two points of contention in the underlying case), that the Superior Court still did not have standing to sanction the attorney for his actions.  Our brief and the appellant’s attorney argue that it does not.

We will keep you updated when the decision is released.