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May 31, 2003

Meaning of 'Frivolous' Lawsuit is the Problem, Bar Chief Says

By Pete Tattersall
The Sun Herald

Instead of disbarring lawyers who file three or more frivolous lawsuits, as one gubernatorial candidate proposed this week, the Mississippi Supreme Court should instead revise the interpretation of frivolous, the president of the Mississippi Bar Association said Friday.

Gubernatorial candidate Mitch Tyner suggested Thursday that any lawyer caught filing three frivolous lawsuits should lose his license. "I don't know of anything that will eliminate frivolous lawsuits quicker, " he said.

Donald Dornan Jr., a Biloxi attorney and president of the bar association, said the organization opposes the filing of any type of frivolous claim or defense.

"The Litigation Accountability Act gives trial judges the authority... to assess monetary and other sanctions against parties and lawyers who file frivolous cases," Dornan said.

The act, however, is seldom used.

"It's only been done a handful of times," Dornan said.

He said that, though the act doesn't call for revoking licenses, as Tyner suggested, "there's plenty of teeth" in the act. The problem, he said, lies in the state Supreme Court's interpretation of frivolous.

"They've interpreted it in a very broad sense... Basically the court has said it's not frivolous unless you don't have any chance at all, so almost everything passes the frivolous test, and that's the problem," Dornan said.

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© Copyright 2003, The Sun Herald. All Rights Reserved.

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