Rule 11 is a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure that sanctions (fines) attorneys who submit arguments or pleadings that are factually or legally incorrect. In the case of Golden Eagle Distributing Corp. v. Burroughs, 801 F.2d. 1531, (9th Cir. 1986), a major law firm is appealing a lower court’s imposition of sanctions on an attorney for providing incomplete information to the court, violating the duty of candor toward the court. The firm, in its argument, omitted three cases that were adverse to its position and asserted another misleading argument. Although the appeals court agreed that the adverse decisions should have been included in the lawyer’s arguments, it refrained from imposing the burdensome Rule 11 sanctions because to do so would have a chilling effect on a lawyer’s duty to zealously represent his or her client. The court concluded that zealous advocacy sometimes requires extension, modification, or reversal of the law, and to impose sanctions for arguments that are unconventional would be too harsh.
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