In California Superior Courts, what would be some common grounds to ask the judge to sanction the opponent party?

Under what circumstances would such motions be granted, and how often do any such motions presently succeed?


3 Answers 3


While there are certainly statutory and procedural vehicles for sanctions, they are almost never requested or allowed when moved for, and are almost never imposed by judges. Something very severe needs to occur and not just your typical discovery violation ("speaking objections" during depositions, being late with responses, failure to cite to affidavits, affidavits citing conjecture rather than fact, et). It would have to be something quite serious....like misleading the court or directly failing to comply with a direct order or ruling on a motion. It is exceedingly rare. It is most seen in Federal Court.

  • I'm accepting this, because it's basically what an attorney or two told me about the sanctions in Northern California. They're exceedingly rarely granted, indeed.
    – cnst
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 5:50
  • Ya. I practice on the east coast, but have friends who practice all over, and it is one of those things where it's possible, sure...but in reality used only in the most egregious of situations.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 7:17
  • So, are sanctions more commonly granted on the east coast than in California?
    – cnst
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 7:41
  • 2
    No. They are not commonly granted at all, anywhere. Its just not something that happens. Lawyers and judges know that small infractions are the norm. If something big happens then maybe. In Federal Court, the judges are super strict. Ive been in practice over a decade and I have only seen it once or twice for something like failing to abide by a direct order.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 12:40

Sanctions are available in most or all U.S. courts, including California. There are various statutory and rule-based justifications; however, these motions are rarely brought by licensed attorneys, because the standard for sanctions is generally high. They are more often brought by and against pro se parties, whose grasp of the rules tends to be more tenuous.

  • 3
    I have found the opposite to be true in re pro se litigant. The Court tends to give them wide berth as they are not trained attorneys.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 18:25
  • While the liberal tolerance of pro se litigants has been the case in the past, there is evidence the tide is changing. Attorneys are asking that any advantage to prose litigants be removed so as to level the playing field. Courts are seemingly less tolerant to administrative and clerical issues associated with pro se litigants. The cases I track are generally in New York, so this may not be universal.
    – mongo
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 14:16

Yes, parties can file motions for sanctions. In civil cases, this is one of two ways sanctions can be imposed, the other being the court filing a motion under its own authority (Rule 2.30(c)). Likewise, sanctions under the Code of Civil Procedure, section 128.7, refers to a motion for sanctions by the opposing party. The fact that they say "sanctions may only be imposed upon [among other things] a motion by a party" (rather than "a party may file a motion for sanctions") indicates that the normal rule is that when sanctions are allowed, a party can move to impose them (this is, in fact, the case).

Sanctions are granted when a party violates court rules or disobeys court orders. The motion specifies what rule they violated, and the other party can respond, and if the judge finds they broke the rules sanctions can be imposed.

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