(a) Every pleading, petition, written notice of motion, or
other similar paper shall be signed by at least one attorney of
record in the attorney's individual name, or, if the party is not
represented by an attorney, shall be signed by the party. Each paper
shall state the signer's address and telephone number, if any. Except
when otherwise provided by law, pleadings need not be verified or
accompanied by affidavit. An unsigned paper shall be stricken unless
omission of the signature is corrected promptly after being called to
the attention of the attorney or party.
(b) By presenting to the court, whether by signing, filing,
submitting, or later advocating, a pleading, petition, written notice
of motion, or other similar paper, an attorney or unrepresented
party is certifying that to the best of the person's knowledge,
information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the
circumstances, all of the following conditions are met:
(1) It is not being presented primarily for an improper purpose,
such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase
in the cost of litigation.
(2) The claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein are
warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the
extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the
establishment of new law.
(3) The allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary
support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have
evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further
investigation or discovery.
(4) The denials of factual contentions are warranted on the
evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on a
lack of information or belief.
(c) If, after notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond, the
court determines that subdivision (b) has been violated, the court
may, subject to the conditions stated below, impose an appropriate
sanction upon the attorneys, law firms, or parties that have violated
subdivision (b) or are responsible for the violation. In determining
what sanctions, if any, should be ordered, the court shall consider
whether a party seeking sanctions has exercised due diligence.
(1) A motion for sanctions under this section shall be made
separately from other motions or requests and shall describe the
specific conduct alleged to violate subdivision (b). Notice of motion
shall be served as provided in Section 1010, but shall not be filed
with or presented to the court unless, within 21 days after service
of the motion, or any other period as the court may prescribe, the
challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, allegation, or denial
is not withdrawn or appropriately corrected. If warranted, the court
may award to the party prevailing on the motion the reasonable
expenses and attorney's fees incurred in presenting or opposing the
motion. Absent exceptional circumstances, a law firm shall be held
jointly responsible for violations committed by its partners,
associates, and employees.
(2) On its own motion, the court may enter an order describing the
specific conduct that appears to violate subdivision (b) and
directing an attorney, law firm, or party to show cause why it has
not violated subdivision (b), unless, within 21 days of service of
the order to show cause, the challenged paper, claim, defense,
contention, allegation, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately
corrected.
(d) A sanction imposed for violation of subdivision (b) shall be
limited to what is sufficient to deter repetition of this conduct or
comparable conduct by others similarly situated. Subject to the
limitations in paragraphs (1) and (2), the sanction may consist of,
or include, directives of a nonmonetary nature, an order to pay a
penalty into court, or, if imposed on motion and warranted for
effective deterrence, an order directing payment to the movant of
some or all of the reasonable attorney's fees and other expenses
incurred as a direct result of the violation.
(1) Monetary sanctions may not be awarded against a represented
party for a violation of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b).
(2) Monetary sanctions may not be awarded on the court's motion
unless the court issues its order to show cause before a voluntary
dismissal or settlement of the claims made by or against the party
that is, or whose attorneys are, to be sanctioned.
(e) When imposing sanctions, the court shall describe the conduct
determined to constitute a violation of this section and explain the
basis for the sanction imposed.
(f) In addition to any award pursuant to this section for conduct
described in subdivision (b), the court may assess punitive damages
against the plaintiff upon a determination by the court that the
plaintiff's action was an action maintained by a person convicted of
a felony against the person's victim, or the victim's heirs,
relatives, estate, or personal representative, for injuries arising
from the acts for which the person was convicted of a felony, and
that the plaintiff is guilty of fraud, oppression, or malice in
maintaining the action.
(g) This section shall not apply to disclosures and discovery
requests, responses, objections, and motions.
(h) A motion for sanctions brought by a party or a party's
attorney primarily for an improper purpose, such as to harass or to
cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of
litigation, shall itself be subject to a motion for sanctions. It is
the intent of the Legislature that courts shall vigorously use its
sanctions authority to deter that improper conduct or comparable
conduct by others similarly situated.
(i) This section shall apply to a complaint or petition filed on
or after January 1, 1995, and any other pleading, written notice of
motion, or other similar paper filed in that matter.