CHICAGO (CN) – An estranged attorney will have to pay sanctions for a frivolous suit he filed on behalf of a young Romanian girl after the child’s guardian fired him, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Cristina Zvunca is a Romanian citizen, minor, and permanent resident of Illinois. In 2002, when Zvunca was 7 years old, her mother was run over by a Greyhound Bus and killed. The mother’s husband, Tiberiu Klein, took custody of the girl, and attorney David Novoselsky, representing MB Financial, was appointed as a guardian of her financial interests.
Novoselsky filed suit on Zvunca’s behalf against six defendants, including other attorneys who had represented the girl. He alleged, among other things, that they had abused Zvunca. Before the suit was filed, however, Zvunca’s general guardian, Klein had fired Novoselsky.
Novoselsky voluntarily dismissed the complaint when the defendants pointed out the flaw. They filed a counterclaim for sanctions arising from the expenses of defending the suit and its defamatory nature. Klein moved to intervene, also seeking sanctions against Novoselsky.
Before the Illinois court could rule on the motion, Novoselsky removed the case to federal court. The case was remanded to state court within a month, despite what the court called a “deluge of motions” by Novoselsky.
The defendants then sought an award of attorneys’ fees for wrongful removal. Novoselsky was ordered to pay over $12,000 in fees. He appealed.
The 7th Circuit was less than pleased with Novoselsky’s performance, writing that the removal “was worse than unreasonable; it was preposterous.”
The court included a “partial” list of the problems with Novoselsky’s removal. First, Novoselsky cannot remove a lawsuit simply as a lawyer, not a party to the case. Second, only a defendant can remove. Third, all defendants must consent. Fourth, no diversity of citizenship was present. And finally, Novoselsky missed the 30-day deadline for filing his notice of removal.
“Ignoring the fundamental problems we have identified was irresponsible. The sanctions meted out by the district court were richly deserved,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for a three-judge panel.
On remand, the District Court can calculate additional legal fees that the defendants can recoup for the cost of the appeal, the panel added.