California Lawyers Sanctioned for 9/11 Truther Lawsuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 03, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Two California attorneys were slapped with sanctions last month for filing a frivolous appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The attorneys, William Veale of Walnut Creek and Dennis Cunningham of San Francisco, along with Mustapha Ndanusa of New York, were representing April Gallop, the plaintiff in the 9/11 “Truther” Lawsuit.

Gallop, an Army Specialist who suffered "head and brain" injuries in the Pentagon attack, claimed that a bomb planted by a coalition of senior U.S. military and civilian leaders - not American Airlines Flight 77 - is what caused the damage at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Moreover, Gallop denies that a plane even crashed into the building.

The district court dismissed Gallop's claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Gallops attorneys, including Veale and Cunningham, appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the dismissal. The appellate court deemed the lawsuit frivolous, and ordered the attorneys to show cause why they should not be sanctioned.

Before responding to the order, Gallop's team moved to disqualify the panel, as well as any like-minded colleagues, due to "evident severe bias, based in active personal emotions arising from the 9/11 attack." The court was not amused.

Even after Veale, who signed the motion, apologized and pleaded that he had filed the motion in good faith, the court opted to fine the attorneys $15,000, plus double costs to the government for filing a frivolous appeal.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to accept Veale's "good faith" claim that the appeal had merit, stating that "any attorney acting in good faith, particularly an attorney who ... avers that he taught criminal trial practice at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law for 11 years, could [not] sincerely believe that he was justified in demanding disqualification of the three panel members ... or that his affidavit was otherwise legally sound and meritorious."

The court ordered Cunningham, who didn't demonstrate remorse for the recusal stunt, to show cause why he shouldn't be further sanctioned on top of the already-imposed attorney sanctions.

Courts can impose attorney sanctions for frivolous lawsuits under 28 U.S.C. §1927, (penalizing attorneys who multiply proceedings "unreasonably and vexatiously"), and under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38, (providing for "just damages and single or double costs to the appellee.")

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals' attorney sanctions against Veale and Cunningham could potentially affect the lawyers' ability to practice in California. In September, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals imposed sanctions on an attorney for submitting gibberish complaints, and then forwarded its ruling to the attorney's state disciplinary board. If the Second Circuit forwards its ruling, Veale and Cunningham could be forced to defend their actions to the California bar.

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