Georgia Attorney Sandra Finch represented her client in a fire damage claim against Allstate Insurance. Attorney Finch was accused of obtaining without permission photographs of a Steamatic guide that was stored in Mark Gould’s office while Attorney Finch was waiting to depose Gould. During the deposition Attorney Finch showed Gould a number of photograph’s of the Steamatic Guide. In addition, Attorney Finch also showed Gould a photograph of the inside of Gould’s office. All of this agitated Gould.
According to the court transcript:
“Gould accused Finch of trespassing, at which point Finch responded, “I caution you on defaming me, because if you defame me, I can promise you it will not be good.”
On July 1st , 2016, the US District Court instructed Finch to file a sworn affidavit detailing out she had obtained the photographs of the inside of Gould’s office and the Steamatic Guide by July 5th, 2016. Finch responded on July 5th by filing an objection to the order. On July 6th the court gave Attorney Finch till the end of the day to file the affidavit. Attorney Finch did not file the affidavit. On July 7th, Finch asked for and was granted more time to file the affidavit and was told to file by the end of day. This did not happen.
On July 11th the court held a show cause hearing on not complying with the affidavit. At that time Finch stated that she had not filed the affidavit because it violated her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. A few days after that hearing the district court entered an order finding that Finch had acted in bad faith by refusing to comply with its July 1 and July 6th orders and ordered Finch to pay Allstate’s attorney fees for the affidavit hearings which amounted to $1,548 as well as write an essay on the consequences of ignoring court orders and failing to be candid with the court.
The US 11th Circuit found that Attorney Finch had waited too long to raise her 5th Amendment rights objection and affirmed the district courts sanctions order to pay Allstate’s attorney fees but not the essay. The appeals court refused reconsider the matter.
As a side light, the original issue of did Attorney Finch trespass and how she obtained the Steamatic Guide was dropped as the underlying case was settled out of court.