TEXAS – A lawyer who is accused of “butt shaking” had his ass handed to him by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal after he shook his butt at an opposing lawyer before the court months earlier. Dennis Duffy, for making obscene and threatening comments and gestures, no longer works at his law firm but managed to escape being sanctioned by the court.
Here’s what Judge Rosenthal had to say about the lawyer:
One of the sentences a judge does not imagine—much less welcome—writing includes the words “butt shaking” in describing a lawyer’s alleged actions at a mediation. Sadly, those words fit here. In February 2020, White sought sanctions against Chevron and the lawyer then representing it in this case, Dennis Duffy, for making obscene and threatening comments and gestures at White’s lawyer at the mediation months earlier.
White asked this court to disqualify Duffy from working on the case, restrain him from communicating with White or her attorneys, and award White money sanctions. (Id.). Chevron disputes White’s allegations and argues that, among other things, White’s motion is moot because Chevron had Duffy withdraw from the case shortly after the sanctions motion was filed.
The declarations show significant disagreement about what occurred. While Duffy’s behavior was clearly outside professional bounds, neither counsel was a role model of professional conduct. “Proper objectives of Rule 11 sanctions are to deter, to punish[,] and to compensate opposing parties. The court should use the least severe sanction that is adequate to fulfill this purpose.”
The principle of restraint also applies when a court exercises its inherent power to sanction. No further or formal sanction is necessary at this point. Duffy has had to withdraw. Before he did so, he received national press coverage when the sanctions motion “went viral.” Duffy’s professional reputation, and the closely related ability to attract new business, will no doubt suffer, and they should.