Lawyer Fined $100 for Getting a Case Citation Wrong
From the ABA Law Journal
By Debra Cassens Weiss

A Wisconsin lawyer has been fined $100 for getting a citation wrong in a brief submitted to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The appeals court expressed its frustration in a footnote to an unpublished opinion, Espitia v. Fouche, Legal Blog Watch reports. The court imposed the penalty and explained the reason for it in a footnote to a 2008 unpublished opinion, Espitia v. Fouche. Here is the entire footnote:

Counsel for Espitia cites to an unpublished case assertedly upholding a stipulated damages clause due to the difficulty of ascertaining "the exact amount of income certain vending machines would produce." The cite provided is "Buellesbach v. Roob, 2005 AP 160 (Ct.App.Dist.I)." Buellesbach indeed is unpublished but it has nothing to do with liquidated damage clauses or vending machines; it is a misrepresentation case brought by newlyweds against a wedding photographer. Also, "2005 AP 160" is the docket number, which we discovered only after reaching a dead end at 2005 WI App 160, 285 Wis.2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433. At last we located the unpublished case that addresses the subject matter for which counsel cited Buellesbach: Stansfield Vending, Inc. v. Osseo Truck Travel Plaza, LLC, 2003 WI App 201, 267 Wis.2d 280, 670 N.W.2d 558. Different name, different citation, different district (District IV) but, as promised, unpublished. It is a violation of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.19(1)(e) to provide citations which do not conform to the Uniform System of Citation and of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(3) to cite to unpublished opinions. One reason may be that they can be time-consuming to locate. A $100 penalty is imposed against Espitia’s counsel. See Hagen v. Gulrud, 151 Wis.2d 1, 8, 442 N.W.2d 570 (Ct.App.1989).
The lawyer cited an unpublished case that supposedly upheld a stipulated damages clause in a vending machines contract. But a search for the case based on the name provided by the lawyer turned up a misrepresentation case brought by newlyweds against a wedding photographer.

The cite wasn’t helpful, either. It was listed as “2005 AP 160,” which sent the appeals court to 2005 WI App 160 and another “dead end,” the footnote said. When the court finally found the real case—which had an entirely different name—it learned “2005 AP 160” was the docket number.

“Different name, different citation, different district (District IV) but, as promised, unpublished,” the court said in the footnote.

The lawyer who will have to pay the fine wasn’t identified.