Moran v. Estate of Carl Aase
Order on Motion for Sanctions
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF ALASKA
ESTATE OF AASE,
ORDER FROM CHAMBERS
Motion at docket 87]
I. MOTION PRESENTED
At docket 87, defendant moves for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure against Bruce Weyrauch, former counsel for plaintiff Anthony
Moran. Weyrauch has filed an opposition. Oral argument has not been requested and
would not be of aid to the court.
The court has previously written at length on the background to this litigation.1
The facts recited here are the minimum necessary for a reader to understand the issue
presented and its disposition.
Weyrauch filed a complaint on behalf of his client, Anthony Moran, against the
defendant’s predecessor in interest, decedent Carl Aase, on May 6, 2002. The
Doc. 93, pp. 1-5.
gravamen of that complaint was that Aase had transferred the fishing history of the F/V
NORTHWYN to Moran. The fishing history was alleged to be that relevant to the receipt
of certain compensation from the United States Park Service pursuant to the Glacier
Bay Commercial Fishing Program (“Program”). The complaint recited that both Moran
and Aase had applied for compensation under the Program. Moran sought an order
requiring the Park Service to pay the compensation to Moran rather than Aase. The
complaint was amended on September 11, 2002, to add the Park Service as a
defendant.2 The claim remained essentially unchanged and was based on the theory
that Moran had purchased the fishing history necessary to an award under the Program.
When Carl Aase did not answer Moran’s complaint, Moran sought the entry of default,
and Moran’s default was entered by the Clerk.3 Thereafter, Moran filed a motion for a
default judgment against Moran which the court granted.4 The court requested a
proposed form of judgment from Moran, and Weyrauch submitted a judgment which the
court entered. The text of the judgment proclaims:
Plaintiff Anthony Moran is entitled to judgment against defendant
Carl Aase as follows. Mr. Moran has a right to all funds from the
United States Park Service that meet all four of these criteria:
(1) funds finally awarded, and held or distributed, under the Glacier
Bay Compensation Program; (2) designated for defendant Carl
Aase; (3) as a Tanner crab permit holder; and (4) based on
landings made from the F/V Northwyn.5
Eventually, the default judgment was reversed on appeal for reasons that do not
bear on the issue at hand. Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment to
defendant on the merits.6
Rule 11 is intended to eliminate abuses in pleadings, motions, and other written
submissions to the court. Of particular relevance here, because it is the portion of
Rule 11 upon which defendant relies, the rule requires that a plaintiff’s claims “are
warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification,
or reversal of existing law.”7 In a nutshell, defendant complains that Weyrauch misled
the court by implying in his complaint and amended complaint (upon which the entry of
default was predicated) that Moran was qualified as a matter of law to obtain an award
under the Program, when he was not, and Weyrauch knew that he was not. In fact,
Moran’s application had been denied by the Park Service. According to defendant,
“[t]he part of the [Park Services’s] denial relevant to this motion [for sanctions] is: ‘You
have not provided proof of current State of Alaska commercial fishing permit
ownership in the Tanner Crab fishery . . . .’”8
Defendant says that the disposition of its motion for sanctions depends on
whether the court was misled. Defense counsel frames the issue as follows: “The
question really is this: did the Court understand when it entered judgment for plaintiff
that plaintiff was not directly entitled to the agency award? If the Court was misled, and
the Court feels this was material to the default judgment motion, Mr. Weyrauch should
be sanctioned.”9 The court would condense defendant’s description of the controlling
consideration to say, “The question really is this: was an understanding that plaintiff
was entitled to an award directly from the agency material to the decision to enter the
default judgment?” The answer to that question is that such an understanding was not
material to the entry of the default judgment. The court understood that its judgment
meant that whatever award the agency had or would finally determine to pay to Carl
Aase should in turn be paid over by Carl Aase to Anthony Moran based on the
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2). This aspect of the rule is clearly the basis for the pending
motion. Doc. 87, p. 2.
Declaration of Carew, doc. 88, ¶ 4 (emphasis in original).
Doc. 87, p. 5.
proposition that Carl Aase had sold his right to such compensation to Moran.
Ultimately, the court held that the “Addendum” contract did not effect such a sale,10 but
that does not alter the fact that when the default judgment was entered, the court was
not misled by Weyrauch into believing that Moran was entitled to a direct payment from
the Park Service. That being so, defendant has failed to establish that Weyrauch
violated Rule 11 for the reasons laid out in defendant’s briefing.
For the reasons above, the motion at docket 87 is DENIED. The court feels
compelled to add that the motion at docket 87 appears to the court to be a fair request
for a ruling based on a record from which it might not be apparent to defendant that the
entry of the default judgment was not premised on a misleading statement by Weyrauch
concerning Moran’s possession of a Tanner Crab permit. In short, the court will NOT
entertain a motion for sanctions under Rule 11 against defendant’s counsel for his
having brought the motion at docket 87.
DATED at Anchorage, Alaska, this 7th day of June 2006.
JOHN W. SEDWICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Doc. 93, p. 9.
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