Affirming Firm Sanctions: The Authority to Sanction Law Firms Under 28 U.S.C. § 1927
By Vincent J. Margiotta
A circuit split exists as to whether 28 U.S.C. § 1927 allows for an award of sanctions against nonattorneys or nonrepresentatives. Five federal courts of appeals—the Second, Third, Eighth, Eleventh, and the District of Columbia Circuits—hold that, to further the purpose of 28 U.S.C. § 1927, courts have the authority to sanction a law firm for the conduct of its attorneys, in addition to the authority to sanction individual officers of the court. The Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits disagree, concluding that the statute allows federal courts to sanction only individuals—“attorney[s] or other person[s] admitted to conduct cases in any court of the United States.”
In In re MJS Las Croabas Properties, Inc., the U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the First Circuit recently recognized this split of authority. The appellate panel discussed the text of § 1927 as well as policy considerations supporting its applicability to law firms. Although the panel noted that the statute does not expressly provide for vicarious liability, it nonetheless concluded that § 1927 implicitly allows for the imposition of sanctions against a law firm.
This Note analyzes federal courts’ interpretations of § 1927 and argues that law firms ought to be within reach of the statute.