Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Party Cannot Revive Moot Case by Making Its Outcome Determinative of Another, Live Dispute

In Chwarzynski v. Tebbens, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 27129 (7th Cir. Dec. 14, 2009), sanctions were entered against the client (Chwarzynski) and his lawyer (Maher) in the amount of $15,324.25. The client appealed the sanction; the lawyer did not. The plaintiff therefore proceeded to collect the full amount of the sanction from the insurance carrier for the lawyer while the client’s appeal was pending. The client insisted that the case was not moot, even though the sanction had been fully paid, because he had entered into a separate agreement with his counsel, and “if Mr. Chwarzynski prevails on this appeal he will personally collect the amount of the sanction award in the sum of $15,324.25 from his counsel's malpractice insurance carrier in settlement of his legal malpractice claim against his counsel.” Held, the case is still moot:

Chwarzynski's possible malpractice claim against Maher implicates a separate dispute between him and his lawyer. A party cannot establish an interest in one case by making separate contractual obligations contingent on its outcome. We must therefore reject Chwarzynski's attempt to keep this case alive by reference to a collateral proceeding. . . . With the fine fully paid, Chwarzynski no longer has any legally cognizable interest in this appeal. We therefore DISMISS it as moot.

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