In a unanimous en banc ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Townsend v. Holman Consulting Corp., held that an attorney may be sanctioned under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for a partially frivolous pleading. The court rejected the argument that the pleadings could not be the subject of sanctions because they also included non-frivolous requests for relief. Prior Ninth Circuit decisions had permitted imposition of Rule 11 sanctions only when the pleading as a whole was frivolous. This decision expands attorney liability under Rule 11 and vacates an earlier panel decision of the Ninth Circuit, which had reversed the district court's orders imposing sanctions.
Donna H. Mullen,
Civil Procedure - Townsend v. Holman Consulting Corp.: Rule 11 Sanctions, Ignorance or Vigorous Litigation Is No Excuse, 21 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.