Court abused discretion in imposing trebled sanction against attorney

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Appellant Fred Pfenninger appeals sanctions imposed by the trial court for Pfenninger’s conduct as an attorney in a lawsuit involving Appellees Great Lakes Drilling, Inc., and Diversified Blast Hole, Drilling, Inc. (collectively, “Diversified”). Pfenninger raises a laundry list of issues2 on appeal, which we consolidate and restate:

(1) Whether the trial court judge was required to recuse himself;
(2) Whether he was denied due process because he did not receive notice of the second hearing regarding attorney’s fees; and
(3) Whether the trial court abused its discretion in imposing a trebled sanction against Pfenninger.

(slip op. at 15):  In sum, the judge was not required to recuse himself because the basis of request was Pfenninger’s disagreement with the trial court’s ruling on the merits rather than any impropriety on the part of the judge. Second, Pfenninger was not denied due process for the hearing on the amount of sanctions because the Chronological Case Summary reflects that notice of the hearing was sent to both parties. The trial court abused its discretion in trebling the sanction because the relevant authority did not provide for such. Finally, this appeal does not warrant an award of appellate attorney’s fees for Diversified. We remand the case to the trial court to modify the amount of the sanction to $14,398.58.

About Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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