Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 19, 2019


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

Lawyer Won’t Need to Pay Sanction Imposed Under Statute Applying Only to Parties


By a MetNews Staff Writer


An attorney was relieved yesterday of the obligation to pay a $1,000 sanction to her client’s opposing party because, the Court of Appeal for this district held, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge imposed the penalty under a statute that applies only to conduct of parties, not their attorneys.

Justice Anne H. Egerton of Div. Three wrote the unpublished opinion that reverses a sanction imposed by Judge Charles Q. Clay III on Irvine attorney Julie A. Ringquist. Clay on March 24, 2016, ordered her client, the husband in a dissolution of marriage action, to pay his wife $9,000, apparently based in excessive delays, and directed the lawyer to hand over $1,000 to her.

The judge made findings and signed an order 14 months later, on May 26, 2017. The sanctions were imposed pursuant to Family Code §271, which provides:

“[T]he court may base an award of attorney’s fees and costs on the extent to which the conduct of each party or attorney furthers or frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys.”

Refers to Parties

However, it also says:

“An award of attorney’s fees and costs as a sanction pursuant to this section shall be imposed only after notice to the party against whom the sanction is proposed to be imposed and opportunity for that party to be heard.”

It adds:

“An award of attorney’s fees and costs as a sanction pursuant to this section is payable only from the property or income of the party against whom the sanction is imposed, except that the award may be against the sanctioned party’s share of the community property.”

Egerton pointed out that “[a]ny sanctions under section 271—even if based on an attorney’s conduct—may be awarded against a party only” and said that Clay “lacked authority to award sanctions against Ringquist, a nonparty, under section 271.”

Appropriate Section

She noted that sanctions were not sought under Code of Civil Procedure §128.5, and said:

“Neither the court’s minute order nor its findings and order after hearing—prepared by wife’s counsel—mention any statute other than section 271 as a basis for its order awarding sanctions against Ringquist.  We thus do not infer that the court awarded sanctions on any other grounds.”

The case is Martinez-Huff v. Huff, B284241.

Although Ringquist will not be obliged to tender $1,000 to the wife in the divorce action, she is not apt to be money ahead in light of the Court of Appeal filing and expenses in preparing a brief. The appeals court awarded no costs.

However, the lawyer will be spared the necessity of explaining the sanction to the State Bar to which any sanction of $1,000 or more must be reported.

The State Bar Court on March 25 issued a public reproval to Ringquist, pursuant to a stipulation, declaring that she had “engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, including abandoning a client, failing to promptly refund unearned fees and failing to participate in a State Bar investigation.”

Ringquist, whose law degree is from Western State, was admitted to the State Bar in 1999. She was sued by the U.S. government in 2009 for nonpayment of a student loan and stipulated that she would make a payment $44,575.91.


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