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Tahnisha Lamb v. The New Horizons Center, Inc., 2010AP2030, District 1, 3/8/11

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); case activity

Briefing – Argumentation

¶10      We reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.[3]  We are also disturbed by the tendentious tone of both parties’ briefs and remind counsel that respect for the courts and counsel requires civility.  See Wis. SCR 62.02; Aspen Services, Inc. v. IT Corp., 220 Wis. 2d 491, 508–509, 583 N.W.2d 849, 856 (Ct. App. 1998).

Here’s a partial quote from Aspen Services:

Aspen’s argument teeters on the line between permissible and impermissible advocacy with respect to counsel’s obligation to maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers. See State v. Rossmanith, 146 Wis. 2d 89, 430 N.W.2d 93 (1988). It is unfortunate that the same absence of civility in the trial court proceedings has also been exhibited in the appeal. Civility is one aspect of professionalism that all attorneys should strive for. See id. at 90, 430 N.W.2d at 94.

So the court’s reference to that case makes clear just how seriously the violation is perceived. For that matter, the court could have imposed much harsher punishment than a scolding. Pointed reference to Rule 62 ought to convey the idea that discipline may be imposed for violating the civility principle, e.g., Bettendorf v. St. Croix County, 2008 WI App 97, ¶17. More: the court is empowered to strike the brief as a sanction, e.g., Mogged v. Mogged, 2000 WI App 39, ¶24, concretely demonstrating that incivility is only going to irritate the court, doing your client no favor. One more example of argumentation to avoid at all costs, for the morbidly curious: U.S. Bank National v. City of Milwaukee, 2003 WI App 220, ¶18 n. 4.

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