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Lawyer gets reprimand for flawed lawsuit

The Virginia State Bar has reprimanded a Martinsville lawyer for filing a lawsuit the judge called “dead on arrival.”

William Swezey sued three people on behalf of a veterinarian who was angered by allegations against him at a hearing on his professional license. The lawsuit claimed the witnesses at the hearing conspired to lie and injure the veterinarian’s business.

Swezey’s suit never made it past the pleadings. As witnesses at a quasi-judicial hearing, the defendants all were protected by absolute immunity, the court ruled. The court imposed more than $30,000 in sanctions against Swezey and the veterinarian, finding Swezey persisted in the untenable claims despite ample warning about the merits of his case.

Swezey’s action resembled a “spite suit,” said Judge Clifford Weckstein in a 2010 opinion. “It appears to be part of a multi-front campaign to punish the defendants for engaging in protected speech,” Weckstein wrote.

Part of Weckstein’s sanction required Swezey to take six hours of continuing legal education on ethics.

Now, Swezey gets a public reprimand from the bar as an additional penalty for his misguided litigation.

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