How to Appeal a Sanctions Order

Can a lawyer obtain appellate review of a sanctions order by piggy-backing on her client’s notice of appeal? The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit raised this question sua sponte in a decision issued on March 26, 2014, In re Joannie Plaza-Martinez.

A federal public defender appealed a sanctions order against her as well as her client’s sentence in a single notice of appeal. The notice of appeal was “unarguably proper” as to the client. Whether it was also proper as to the public defender’s appeal of the sanction order was “an unresolved jurisdictional question.”

The court noted that “the better practice is for an attorney who wishes to challenge a sanctions order directed at him or her to file a separate notice of appeal.” Nonetheless, the court held that it has “jurisdiction over a claim of error made by a lawyer who, rather than filing a separate notice of appeal to challenge a sanction imposed in the course of a case, piggy-backs on the client’s notice of appeal; provided, however, that the notice of appeal unambiguously manifests the lawyer’s intention to appeal the sanction.”