Those who practice regularly before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit know that the court has not been reluctant to punish a misbehaving lawyer.
So the court’s recent decision in Riffner v. PNC Bank, No. 15-2142 (7th Cir. Mar. 10, 2017), might come as a bit of a surprise. Unlike (apparently) all the other circuits that have considered the issue, the Seventh Circuit has long allowed “substantial compliance” with Rule 11’s requirement that the party seeking sanctions serve, but not file, its motion and wait 21 days before filing, to give the offending party a chance to back down.
In this case, however, the court, in an opinion written by Judge David Hamilton (joined by Chief Judge Diane Wood), while expressly declining to reconsider adherence to the court’s position on “substantial compliance,” reversed the district court’s imposition of sanctions because the letters that the moving party sent did not substantially comply with the rule.
Judge Richard Posner dissented from the majority opinion and accused his colleagues of being “enamored” with “legal technicalities” or of being “reluctant to punish misbehaving lawyers.”