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Quarrie v. Wells

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

May 14, 2019

LINDSAY O'BRIEN QUARRIE, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN WELLS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

          GREGORY B. WORMUTH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on NMT Defendants' Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions. Doc. 105. Defendants ask the Court to impose sanctions on Plaintiff for misconduct in filing his Motion for Leave to Amend Second Amended Complaint (doc. 94). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Plaintiff's conduct does not merit sanctions under Rule 11, and therefore DENIES Defendants' Motion.

         I. Background

         Defendants filed their Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions on April 11, 2019, seeking sanctions of attorney's fees and costs related to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Second Amended Complaint (doc. 94). Doc. 105. Prior to filing their sanctions motion, Defendants served the motion on Plaintiff via email on March 20, 2019. Id. at 1. Defendants then waited twenty-one days before filing as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(2).

         Plaintiff filed a response on April 25, 2019, in which he argued that 1) Defendants' sanctions motion was untimely because they had already responded to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, 2) Defendants themselves should be sanctioned, and 3) Plaintiff's Motion to Amend did not merit sanctions. Doc. 113. Rather than presenting an independent argument as to why the Motion to Amend did not merit sanctions, Plaintiff “incorporate[d] by reference” his Reply to his Motion to Amend (doc. 100) and his Objections to the PFRD on the Motion to Amend (doc. 110), apparently believing that an appropriate response to the Motion for Sanctions was contained somewhere therein.

         Defendants filed their reply on May 9, 2019. Doc. 119. The Motion for Sanctions is now before the Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the court to sanction any attorney, law firm, or party that has violated the provisions of Rule 11(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c). The court may impose sanctions sua sponte, “after notice and a reasonably opportunity to respond, ” or upon motion of a party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(1)-(2). “A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(2). Motions for sanctions must be served under Rule 5, and may not be filed or otherwise presented to the court if the challenged filing is withdrawn or corrected within 21 days. Id.

         An attorney or unrepresented party is subject to sanctions for violations of Rule 11(b). This rule states:

By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of that person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery[.]

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b). Therefore, Rule 11 enables sanctions against attorneys or unrepresented parties “who file signed pleadings, motions or other papers in district court which are not well grounded in fact, are not warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for its extension, or are filed for an improper purpose.” EnterpriseManagement Consultants, Inc. v. United States, 883 F.3d 890, 895 (10th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). The standard of Rule 11 is one of “reasonableness under the circumstances.” Burkhart ex rel. Meeks v. Kinsley Bank, 804 F.2d 588, 589 (10th Cir. 1986) (citing Rule 11 Notes of Advisory Committee on 1983 amendments). District courts have “broad ...


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