Two related questions. Situation is, Bob sues Alice, but has zero evidence (basically, extortion, hoping Alice settles to avoid legal costs and a trial). Alice decides to take things to court.

In the course of the trial, the judge decides that Bob has no case due to lack of any evidence corroborating the accusations.

  • First, in purely legal terms, does a judge have leeway to make the plaintiff (Bob) pay for Alice's legal costs defending the suit at all?
  • Second, does the judge generally have any leeway to punish Bob for bringing a clearly baseless lawsuit to court in other ways?
  • Lastly, if either one is a "yes", does that actually happen with any frequency?

Jurisdiction: USA, if individual states differ let's say New York. But I'm also interested in "national standard baseline" if one exists, e.g. what do majority of states do.

I'm OK if the answer says "Judge can't do himself BUT can do so if defender's attorney makes a motion for that" - as long as it's part of the same trial/case.

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    This happens often when a countersuit is filed, so you may want to clarify if you mean purely at the judge's discretion if Alice's attorney doesn't think to make a counterclaim. Commented Jan 9 at 17:57
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    Note that outside the US, the loser paying the winner’s costs is the norm, not the exception.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 9 at 19:47
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    @MichaelHall - is the countersuit part of "the same case"? If not, then yes I meant judge's actions in original case only
    – user0306
    Commented Jan 10 at 3:14
  • Hi. Your first paragraph starts with "Bob sues Alice" but then moves on to "Alice decides to take things to court". Do you mean that Alice actively engages in a countersuit?
    – Stef
    Commented Jan 10 at 13:24
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    @Stef I believe OP is just saying that Alice chooses to continue with litigation, rather than quickly settling the case that Bob filed.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 10 at 13:26

1 Answer 1



A federal court may impose sanctions for any filing that violates Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which imposes the following requirements on every filing:

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery;

(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fee shifting -- forcing one party to pay for the other's lawyer -- is probably the paradigmatic example of a Rule 11 sanction. But the rule also allows sanctions in the form of a payment to the court itself, or "nonmonetary directives," which could include striking a filing in part or in whole, dismissing a case, granting default judgment, or ordering a lawyer to take additional classes.

And if he's really ticked off the judge, a lawyer may be required to:

copy out, legibly, in his own handwriting, and within 30 days of the date hereof, the text ( i.e., without footnotes ) of section 3722 in 14A C. Wright, A. Miller, and E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil (1985), together with the text of that section's update at page 43 of the 1993 pocket part of volume 14A [and] turn in the resulting product to the Clerk of this Court, with a certification that it was made solely by himself and in his own handwriting.

Curran v. Price, 150 F.R.D. 85, 87 (D. Md. 1993).

(I don't have access to the 1985 edition, but the current version consists of about 32,000 words.)

22 NYCRR 130-1.1 imposes different standards, but seems to generally allow similar relief.

Sanctions are certainly not the norm, but nor are they uncommon. Judges usually don't like doing any more work than they have to, so you can expect them to get prickly if they learn you're deliberately wasting their time.

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    Or if you are a certain ex-lawyer, you might sue for a picture with "Wrong on so many levels" only to be struck with 6-figures for you and your client to pay the legal costs of the other side because you filed a frivolous lawsuit because you never checked the terms that applied to the picture when it was posted. Yes, it's a Liebowitz case.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 9 at 19:34
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    @trish Both of those assertions are incorrect. Both categories of cases must sometimes be litigated in state court.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 10 at 13:25
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    @Trish That is different from what you just said, but it is also incorrect. You may wish to read your own source more closely.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 10 at 14:12
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    Capitol Records v. Naxos, 4 N.Y.3d 540, (N.Y. 2005) is probably the best example.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 10 at 15:30
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    Apologies -- I cited to the correct case but linked to the wrong one. The correct case is here: casetext.com/case/…
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 10 at 16:49

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