Legal Memorandum: Attorney's Right to an Interlocutory Appeal

Issue: Does an attorney have the right to an interlocutory appeal over the imposition of sanctions, or must he or she wait until final judgment has been rendered?

Area of Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Interlocutory appeal; Imposition of sanctions
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 267 F.3d 331; 348 F.3d 1163; 230 F.3d 1201
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2007

It is axiomatic that “[b]efore reaching the merits of this appeal, [the appellate court] must first ascertain whether it has jurisdiction.”  Butler v. Biocore Med. Techs., Inc., 348 F.3d 1163, 1166 (10th Cir. 2003) (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998)).  “This question the court is bound to ask and answer for itself, even when not otherwise suggested, and without respect to the relation of the parties to it.”  Id.  (quoting Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 94).

By law, the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the final orders of the Superior Court, and may, at the close of a case, entertain direct appeals of a Superior Court order by attorneys who have been sanctioned or aggrieved.  See e.g., Cunningham v. Hamilton County, Ohio, 527 U.S. 198, 198 (1999); see also Comuso v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 267 F.3d 331, 338 (3d Cir 2001) (quoting Richardson-Merrell Inc. v. Koller, 472 U.S. 424, 430 (1985)).  Third Circuit law is clear that attorneys have standing to appeal trial court orders in two distinct situations.  First, when a trial court order fines, disciplines, or otherwise issues sanctions directly upon counsel of record, the attorney may appeal the sanction order upon the conclusion of the litigants’ case.  Bartels v. Sports Arena Employees Local 137, 838 F.2d 101, 104 (3d Cir. 1988); Comuso, 267 F.3d at 339; see also Weeks v. Indep. Sch. Dist. […]

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