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Court Fines Lawyer for Sloppy Cite

A Wisconsin lawyer has been penalized $100 by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for the sloppiness of a citation in a brief. The court imposed the penalty and explained the reason for it in a footnote to a 2008 unpublished opinion, Espitia v. Fouche. Here is the entire footnote:

Counsel for Espitia cites to an unpublished case assertedly upholding a stipulated damages clause due to the difficulty of ascertaining "the exact amount of income certain vending machines would produce." The cite provided is "Buellesbach v. Roob, 2005 AP 160 (Ct.App.Dist.I)." Buellesbach indeed is unpublished but it has nothing to do with liquidated damage clauses or vending machines; it is a misrepresentation case brought by newlyweds against a wedding photographer. Also, "2005 AP 160" is the docket number, which we discovered only after reaching a dead end at 2005 WI App 160, 285 Wis.2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433. At last we located the unpublished case that addresses the subject matter for which counsel cited Buellesbach: Stansfield Vending, Inc. v. Osseo Truck Travel Plaza, LLC, 2003 WI App 201, 267 Wis.2d 280, 670 N.W.2d 558. Different name, different citation, different district (District IV) but, as promised, unpublished. It is a violation of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.19(1)(e) to provide citations which do not conform to the Uniform System of Citation and of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(3) to cite to unpublished opinions. One reason may be that they can be time-consuming to locate. A $100 penalty is imposed against Espitia's counsel. See Hagen v. Gulrud, 151 Wis.2d 1, 8, 442 N.W.2d 570 (Ct.App.1989).

OK, now there is a small kicker to this story of a sloppy cite. I learned about it from a post this week at WisBlawg. WisBlawg credited its source as Law Librarian Blog. Law Librarian Blog said it got it from Legal Writing Prof Blog. And Legal Writing Prof Blog identified its source as Lisa Mazzie at Marqette.

At where? Yes, it seems that Legal Writing Prof Blog forgot that u-after-q rule and mangled the name of a major law school. That was not the only error in this short Legal Writing Prof Blog post. It identified its quote of the court's opinion as taken from footnote 5. It then cited the quote as "2008 WI App 160, ¶ 14 n.4." Was it footnote four or footnote five?

Leads me to wonder whether bloggers should be subject to fines for sloppiness in their posts. But on second thought, nahhhh. I'd go broke in no time.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 13, 2009 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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