Legal Memorandum: Sanctions and Dismissal of Complaint

Issue: Under the federal rules applied in Illinois, under what circumstances may sanctions be available to a defendant even though the plaintiff has already dismissed its complaint?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Dismissal of a complaint; Sanction
Jurisdiction: Federal, Illinois
Cited Cases: 883 F.2d 1184
Cited Statutes: 28 U.S.C. §1927
Date: 02/01/2001

Under federal law, a court may impose Rule 11 sanctions even after a plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed the complaint.  Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384 (1990).  Under Cooter & Gell, a plaintiff may not escape the possibility of sanctions even by dismissing the complaint before the defendant files an answer or motion for summary judgment.  496 U.S. at 393-94.  Because Illinois follows the federal interpretation of Rule 11 in construing Rule 137, Cooter & Gell might offer a basis on which to impose sanctions for the verified petition, even though it was withdrawn. 

Under federal law, an additional means for assessing costs against vexatious attorney conduct exists beyond the Rules of Civil Procedure:

                        Any attorney or other person admitted to conduct cases in any court of the United States or any Territory thereof who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.


28 U.S.C. §1927 (Supp. 1992).  Unlike Rule 11 sanctions, however, a court must find that an attorney acted in bad faith before imposing sanctions under this statute.  Williams v. Giant Eagle Markets, Inc., 883 F.2d 1184, 1191 (3d Cir. 1989).  There does not appear to be an Illinois counterpart to 28 U.S.C. § 1927.  See Jeffrey A. Parness, Observations on Recent Efforts to Deter Frivolous Papers in […]

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