In re: Taylor, et al

The United States Trustee, Region 3, appealed a district court’s reversal of sanctions originally imposed by the bankruptcy court on attorneys Mark Udren and Lorraine Doyle and HSBC for violating the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. "This case [was] an unfortunate example of the ways in which overreliance on computerized processes in a high-volume practice, as well as a failure on the part of client and lawyers alike to take responsibility for accurate knowledge of a case, can lead to attorney misconduct before a court." At issue were two pleadings that HSBC’s attorneys filed in bankruptcy court. Both documents contained imperfect information and were filed with the court. The attorneys appealed the sanctions order arguing that the facts contained in the filed documents were "actually literally true." Upon review, the Third Circuit found that the statements therein were not wholly true, and faulted counsel for "rubber-stamping" the information taken from its computerized database without additional investigation as to their veracity: "[w]here a lawyer systematically fails to take any responsibility for seeking adequate information from her client, makes representations without any factual basis because they are included in a "form pleading" she has been trained to fill out, and ignores obvious indications that her information may be incorrect, she cannot be said to have made reasonable inquiry." The Court concluded the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in imposing sanctions on Doyle or the Udren Firm itself. However, it found the lower court abused its discretion in imposing sanctions on Udren individually.