The issue in this appeal is whether a court may impose sanctions in the form of attorney fees under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137(a) against a plaintiff to compensate an attorney defending himself against a frivolous cause of action.

In support of his request for sanctions, defendant alleged that plaintiff made false statements in his complaint. Defendant requested sanctions in the amount of $11,232.55 as a result of having to defend against “plaintiff’s unfounded, fallacious and specious allegations and pleadings.” Defendant later amended the sanction expense to $12,106.03.

The Trial Court awarded the defendant attorney fees that he had to expend to defend himself.

The Appellate Court ruled that the plaintiff should be sanctioned but did not award the defendant attorney fees because defendant is an attorney himself.

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed on attorney fees. It awarded attorney fees to the defendant attorney.

The plain language of Rule 137 authorizes a court to impose sanctions against a party or counsel for filing a motion or pleading that is not well grounded in fact; that is not supported by existing law or lacks a good-faith basis for the modification, reversal, or extension of the law; or that is interposed for any improper purpose. It is settled that “[t]he purpose of Rule 137 is to prevent abuse of the judicial process by penalizing claimants who bring vexatious and harassing actions.”

Nothing in the plain language of Rule 137(a) precludes imposition of a sanction for filing of a frivolous lawsuit in the form of an award of fees in favor of a pro se defendant who is also an attorney.

McCarthy v. Taylor, 2019 IL 123622 (June 20, 2019) Cook Co.

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