The Wisconsin Supreme Court has fined a lawyer $100 for providing an improper citation to a court case. The fine was imposed in a footnote in 2008 unpublished opinion, Espitia v. Fouche. Here is the 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Counsel for Espitia cites to an unpublished case assertedly upholding a stipulated damages clause due to the difficulty of ascertaining "the exact amount of income certain vending machines would produce."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 Buellesbach indeed is unpublished but it has nothing to do with liquidated damage clauses or vending machines; it is a misrepresentation case brought by newlyweds against a wedding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 At last we located the unpublished case that addresses the subject matter for which counsel cited Buellesbach: Stansfield Vending, Inc. v. Osseo Truck Travel Plaza, LLC, 2003 WI App 201, 267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 Different name, different citation, different district (District IV) but, as promised, unpublished.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 Rule 809.23(3) to cite to unpublished opinions.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).
We have a bigger problem in Tennessee. I was having lunch with an appellate court judge recently and we were discussing how West (or whatever its name is now) is taking briefs written by lawyers and selling them to other lawyers. The judge remarked that courts were seeing one of the effects of this, with lawyers cutting and pasting from the briefs of other lawyers who had written on the same area of law. How did the judges know the material had been written by another lawyer? The "new" brief still contained the names of the parties from the "old" brief.