For centuries, the legal profession has had rules of professional conduct. Although they were unwritten, they were well known. The rules covered honesty in pleading and practice and also required the general politeness expected of decent people. These rules were not always followed, nor were they always enforced when not followed. Sadly, in modern times, these rules are being disregarded more frequently and the costs to others, both within and outside the profession, are increasing dramatically. This deplorable situation has caught the attention of the organized bar, and codes of professional civility have been issued in recent times. The Virginia State Bar has an elaborate system for prosecuting professional misconduct. Though the system is operating aggressively, it has been effective in curtailing only the most gross and obvious offenses. The traditional remedies-contempt of court proceedings and actions for malicious prosecution-also have their limitations. In order to deal with the unprofessional behavior that was recognized by the bar but not adequately dealt with, the General Assembly, in 1987, enacted Virginia Code section 8.01-271.1, which was closely modeled upon Federal Rule of Civil Procedure No. 11. The purpose of this essay is to describe the application of section 8.01-271.1 in practice.
W. Hamilton Bryson, Motions for Sanctions Annual Survey of Virginia Law, 30 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1509 (1996).