Nance v. Miser et al

Filing 98

ORDER denying 88 Plaintiff pro se Keith P. Nance's Motion for Violation of Rule Eleven, F.R.C.P. On 3/31/2014 at 10:00 AM, the parties shall participate telephonically in a pretrial conference to discuss the lodged "Defendants' Port ion of the Joint Preposed Pretrial Order (Doc. 93 ). Plaintiff shall appear by telephone. Counsel for the defendants shall provide the Court with a telephone number where plaintiff may be contacted and make the necessary arrangements for his appearance by telephone at the hearing. Following the Pretrial Conference, the Court will issue the Final Pretrial Order and set a trial date for this action. Signed by Senior Judge Robert C Broomfield on 3/7/14.(TLB)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Keith P Nance, Plaintiff, 10 11 12 No. CV-12-00734-PHX-RCB ORDER v. Allen Miser, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 Currently pending before the court is a “Motion for Violation of [Fed.R.Civ.P.] 16 Eleven[,]” filed by plaintiff pro se Keith P. Nance (Doc. 88). Because there is no factual 17 or legal basis for plaintiff’s motion, the court will deny it. Further, as detailed herein, the 18 parties shall participate in a telephonic Pretrial Conference to discuss, among other 19 things, the “Defendants’ Portion of the Joint Proposed Pretrial Order” lodged on January 20 28, 2014 (Doc. 93). 21 Background 22 On December 13, 2013, this court ordered the plaintiff and defense counsel to 23 prepare a proposed Joint Final Pretrial Order (“PJPTO”) “and lodge it with the . . . Court 24 by no later than January 13, 2014.” Ord. (Doc. 79) at 1:24-25. The court placed the 25 “responsibility” on plaintiff Nance “to ensure that the [PJPTO] is properly prepared and 26 timely lodged[,]” while simultaneously requiring the defendants to “fully cooperate with 27 the plaintiff” in that regard. Id. at 1:26-28. 28 Slightly less than a week later, on December 19, 2013, defense counsel, Michael 1 J. Hrnicek, informed the plaintiff that after it received his input, Hrnicek’s office would 2 prepare the PJPTO. Nance Decl’n (Doc. 89), exh. 2 thereto at 8. On January 3, 2014, 3 the plaintiff mailed a copy of his PJPTO to the defense counsel (Doc. 82). On January 9, 4 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking a one week extension of time in which to lodge 5 the PJPTO. Joining in that motion, attorney Hrnicek advised the court that “[t]he parties 6 ha[]d exchanged various drafts of the [PJPTO].” Resp. (Doc. 85) at 1:20. As relevant 7 here, attorney Hrnicek further advised the court that after receiving plaintiff’s “hand- 8 written 15-page portion[,]” he and his secretary “compiled and forwarded a typed 22- 9 page draft of the [PJPTO]” to the plaintiff two weeks earlier. Id. at 1:24-2:1. Granting 10 the plaintiff’s motion for an extension, the court ordered the parties to lodge their PJPTO 11 by January 21, 2014, at the latest. 12 The parties did not do that. Instead, on that date the plaintiff filed this motion 13 claiming violations of Fed.R.Civ.P. by attorney Hrnicek. The plaintiff baldly asserts that 14 attorney Hrnicek “fail[ed] to confer with [him] as ordered by the court[.]” Mot. (Doc. 88) 15 at 2. In addition, the plaintiff claims that attorney Hrnicek violated Rule 11 because 16 supposedly there was no “evidentiary support” for two factual assertions in the 17 defendants’ response to his motion for an extension of time (“the Response”). See id. 18 First, the plaintiff disagrees that the parties “exchange[d] various drafts of their 19 [PJPTO].” See Resp. (Doc. 85) at 20; see also Nance Decl’n (Doc. 89) at 3, ¶¶ 9-10. 20 Second, the plaintiff denies ever having received the 22-page draft PJPTO. Nance Decl’n 21 (Doc. 89) at 3, ¶ 10. 22 “certificate of service” to “validate[:]” (1) the exchange of the draft PJPTOs; and (2) the 23 forwarding of the 22 page draft PJPTO to the plaintiff. Mot. (Doc. 88) at 2; see also 24 Nance Decl’n (Doc. 89) at 4, ¶ 12. Plaintiff Nance is not, however, seeking any of the 25 suggested sanctions in Rule 11(c). Plaintiff indirectly challenges attorney Hrnicek to provide a 26 Opposing this motion, the defendants state that certificates of service are not 27 required when exchanging draft PJPTOs. They also state that Rule 11 “does not apply to 28 draft exchanges of the [PJPTO][.]” Resp. (Doc. 97) at 1:24-25, ¶ 2. 2 The former 1 statement is accurate, but the latter misapprehends the plaintiff’s motion. As the court 2 construes this motion, the alleged Rule 11 violation is not based upon the exchange of the 3 draft PJPTOs per se. Rather, in addition to alleging failure to confer, the plaintiff is 4 alleging that the defendants’ Response contained two factual misrepresentations. 5 Construing plaintiff’s motion in that way, the court will turn to an examination of Rule 6 11. Discussion 7 8 “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 provides for the imposition of sanctions when 9 a filing is frivolous, legally unreasonable, without factual foundation or brought for an 10 improper purpose.” Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 695 F.3d 946, 957 (9th Cir. 11 2012) (citation omitted), cert. granted, --- U.S. ---, 134 S.Ct. 50, 186 L.Ed.2d 962 (2013). 12 Pursuant to subsection (b)(3) of that Rule, “[b]y presenting to the court a pleading, 13 written motion, or other paper . . . an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the 14 best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry 15 reasonable under the circumstances: the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, 16 if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable 17 opportunity for further investigation or discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(3). “A motion 18 for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the 19 specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(2). As the party 20 moving for sanctions, “[t]he burden of proof and persuasion rests on” plaintiff Nance. 21 See TEGG Corp. v. Beckstrom Electric Co., 2008 WL 5216169, at *3 (W.D.Pa. Dec. 10, 22 2008) (citing, inter alia, G. JOSEPH, SANCTIONS: THE FEDERAL LAW OF 23 LITIGATION ABUSE, § 17(A)(5) (2008)); see also Phinney v. Paulshock, 181 F.R.D. 24 185, 197 (D.N.H. 1998). 25 Additionally, as the party seeking Rule 11 sanctions, plaintiff Nance must comply 26 with Rule 11(c)(1)(A)’s “strict procedural requirements[.]” Radcliffe v. Rainbow Const. 27 Co., 254 F.3d 772, 788 (9th Cir. 2001). That Rule “gives an attorney the opportunity to 28 withdraw or correct a challenged filing by requiring a party file a Rule 11 motion to serve 3 1 the motion 21 days before filing the motion.” Retail Flooring Dealers of Am., Inc. v. 2 Beaulieu of Am., LLC, 339 F.3d 1146, 1150 (9th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, Rule 11(c)(2) 3 requires a motion for sanctions to “be served under Rule 5, but it must not be filed or be 4 presented to the court if the challenged paper, . . . , contention or denial is withdrawn or 5 appropriately corrected within 21 days after service[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(2). The Ninth 6 Circuit has explained “that ‘[t]he purpose of the safe harbor . . . is to give the offending 7 party the opportunity, within 21 days after service of the motion for sanctions, to 8 withdraw the offending pleading and thereby escape sanctions.’” Retail Flooring, 339 9 F.3d at 1150 (quoting Barber v. Miller, 146 F.3d 707, 710 (9th Cir. 1998) (emphasis in 10 original)). Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit has consistently held “that the procedural 11 requirements of Rule 11(c)(1)(A)’s ‘safe harbor’ are mandatory.” Radcliffe, 254 F.3d at 12 789 (quoting Barber v. Miller, 146 F.3d 707, 710-11 (9th Cir. 1998)). As such, the 13 Radcliffe Court reversed and found that the district court abused its discretion when it 14 awarded Rule 11 sanctions where the defendant did not comply with that Rule’s safe 15 harbor provision. See id. at 789. 16 In the present case, the plaintiff did not serve his Rule 11 motion 21 days prior to 17 its filing, as Rule 11(c)(2) mandates. Plaintiff directs his Rule 11 motion to defendants’ 18 Response, filed an served on January 13, 2014. But, the plaintiff did not, as Rule 19 11(c)(2) requires, give the defendants the opportunity to withdraw that supposedly 20 “offensive” Response. See Retail Flooring, 339 F.3d at 1150 (internal quotation marks 21 and citation omitted). Instead, the plaintiff served his motion by mail on January 16, 22 2014, and filed it on January 21, 2014. See Mot. (Doc. 88) at 2. Plaintiff Nance’s failure 23 “to comply with Rule 11’s procedural requirements” renders his “ request for sanctions 24 ‘procedurally defective.’” Chavez v. Northland Group, 2011 WL 317482, at *9 (D.Ariz. 25 Feb. 1, 2011) (quoting Potter v. Crosswhite, 2010 WL 5573635 at *8 (D.Or. Dec. 2, 26 2010) (denying motion for Rule 11 sanctions that was not filed until after plaintiff's 27 claims had been dismissed because filing the motion at such time deprived defendant of 28 an opportunity to correct the alleged Rule 11 violation.)). Thus, because plaintiff Nance 4 1 “deprived [the defendants] of the opportunity to correct the alleged Rule 11(b) violation 2 and violated the procedural requirements of Rule 11(c)(2)[,]” the court denies his motion 3 for Rule 11 sanctions. See Chavez, 2011 WL 317482, at *9; see also Huminski v. 4 Heretia, 2011 WL 2910536, at *3 (D.Ariz. July 18, 2011) (citation omitted) (denying 5 motion for Rule 11 sanctions where the plaintiff did not give the defendant “the 6 opportunity to correct the issue as required by Rule 11(c)(2)’s ‘safe harbor provision[]’”). 7 Even if plaintiff Nance had followed Rule 11(c)’s procedural safeguards, he has 8 not met his burden on the merits. His unsupported and conclusory allegation that 9 attorney Hrnicek did not confer with him is not a sufficient basis for awarding Rule 11 10 sanctions. See Azizkhan v. First Franklin Loan Servicing, 2010 WL 2231999, at *2 11 (E.D.Cal. June 3, 2010). 12 certificate of service to support assertions in their Response, the plaintiff is impermissibly 13 shifting the burden of proof to the defendants, the non-moving party. “No party should 14 have the burden of proving the validity of its factual assertions until the party seeking 15 sanctions first makes a specific showing that the facts asserted are, in fact, not well- 16 grounded in fact.” See Pruitt v. Russell, 1992 WL 535789, at *1 (W.D.N.C. Oct. 14, 17 1992). Plaintiff Nance has made no such showing. Similarly, by demanding that the defendants provide a 18 For these reasons, the court hereby ORDERS that: 19 (1) plaintiff pro se Keith P. Nance’s “Motion for Violation of Rule Eleven, 20 F.R.C.P.” (Doc. 88) is DENIED; and (2) 21 on March 3l, 2014, at 10:00 a.m., the parties SHALL participate 22 telephonically in a Pretrial Conference to discuss the lodged “Defendants’ Portion of the 23 Joint Proposed Pretrial Order” (Doc. 93). 24 Counsel for the defendants shall provide the Court with a telephone number where 25 plaintiff may be contacted and make the necessary arrangements for his appearance by 26 ... 27 28 5 The plaintiff shall appear by telephone. 1 telephone at the hearing. Following that Pretrial Conference, the court will issue the 2 Final Pretrial Order and set a trial date for this action. 3 Dated this 7th day of March, 2014. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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