The New York Law Blog: Keep Your Word
Subscribe | LinkedIn Group

Monday, June 6, 2016

Keep Your Word

When Lawyers Go Back On Their Word
When all is said and done, we are only as good as our word. It is the one thing we have control over in a world that seems irreparably out of control. Our words and action in furtherance of our word create our reputation. 

In court, when an attorney agrees to anything, not only is his word his bond, but the court will make sure that attorneys keep to their word.

Here is a perfect example: I represented a corporation against JPMorgan Chase as part of a muddled dispute involving former partners (the details of which are a story in and of themselves!) At a pre-trial appearance, I presented a stipulation establishing a schedule for the litigation. It included, among other things, a deadline when the parties had to file any motions. Both sides agreed, and the Court ordered the Stipulation. 

Fast forward some months later: JPMorgan Chase hired new attorneys, who moved to dismiss the case, in clear violation of the stipulation. I sent a letter rejecting the motion based on the stipulation. In response, JPMorgan Chase did a motion to vacate the stipulation it agreed to abide by!

My research showed that the law was clearly on my side:  parties to a lawsuit have the freedom to stipulate to just about any aspect of the litigation.  JPMorgan Chase can't simply have a change of heart after agreeing to a stipulation. In fact, courts have a strong interest in promoting settlements and in enforcing settlement agreements, and only fraud, collusion, mistake or accident can relieve a party from the consequences of a stipulation made during litigation. 

The Court agreed, and stopped JPMorgan Chase from disrupting the agreed-upon track for trial. 

Meanwhile, trial preparation would be an even bigger challenge.  But that's a story for another blog!
_____
*Gene Berardelli may be contacted at: GeneBerardelli@ipglegal.com.

Gene is a New York street-smart attorney with an extreme passion for success. Gene specializes in litigation, arbitration and general corporate law for New York-based and international clients. He, also, is the host of a popular New York talk radio program.