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Attorney’s Fees as Penalty

In Georgia, a party’s behavior in a case may result in that party paying his/her opponent’s attorneys fees as a penalty. Specifically, Georgia law states that “reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation shall be awarded to any party against whom another party has asserted a claim, defense, or other position with respect to which there existed such a complete absence of any justiciable issue of law or fact that it could not be reasonably believed that a court would accept the asserted claim, defense, or other position.” OCGA §9-15-14(a) (emphasis added). Further, attorney’s fees may be assessed upon a party if the court finds “that an attorney or party brought or defended an action, or any part thereof, that lacked substantial justification or that the action, or any part thereof, was interposed for delay or harassment, or if it finds that an attorney or party unnecessarily expanded the proceeding by other improper conduct, including, but not limited to, abuses of discovery procedures…” OCGA §9-15-14(b). This penalty can be imposed regardless of the financial circumstances of either party.

Two Atlanta women recently found themselves on the losing end of this statute after filing paternity actions against Michel Jordan. Woman ordered to pay Jordan’s legal fees in paternity case, by Alexis Stevens, ajc.com, November 18,2013. In each case, the women sought to establish Jordan’s paternity of their children. However, in each case, other men had already been established to be the father by DNA evidence. The court found these actions to be frivolous and, thus, each woman was ordered to pay Jordan’s attorney’s fees in defending the respective actions.

Though the financial circumstances of these women are unknown, it is likely safe to assume that Michael Jordan has greater assets and income. This shows that the law providing attorney’s fees as a penalty for frivolous actions does not look at one’s ability to pay the fees but, rather, uses them as a penalty for actions in relation to the case.

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Attorney's Fees
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