Muhammad v. Reese Law Group, APC et al

Filing 56

ORDER Denying Reese Law Group's 46 Motion for Sanctions. The Court denies Reese's motion for sanctions and denies Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees. Signed by Judge Michael M. Anello on 6/14/2017. (ag)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SABRINA MUHAMMAD, an individual, Case No.: 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) ORDER DENYING REESE LAW GROUP’S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS Plaintiff, v. REESE LAW GROUP, APC, [Doc. No. 46] Defendant. 16 17 18 Plaintiff Sabrina Muhammad (“Plaintiff”) brings two causes of action against 19 Defendant Reese Law Group (“Reese”) alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection 20 Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”), and California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt 21 Collection Practices Act, California Civil Code § 1788 et seq. (“Rosenthal Act”). See 22 Complaint. On January 23, 2017, the Court granted Reese’s anti-SLAPP motion, 23 dismissing Plaintiff’s Rosenthal Act claims against Reese with prejudice. See Doc. No. 24 31. Reese now moves for sanctions against Plaintiff’s counsel pursuant to Federal Rule 25 of Civil Procedure 11. See Doc. No. 46. Plaintiff filed an opposition to Reese’s motion, 26 to which Reese replied. See Doc. Nos. 49, 52. The Court found the matter suitable for 27 determination on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 28 7.1.d.1. See Doc. No. 53. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Reese’s -1- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 motion for sanctions. 2 BACKGROUND 3 Plaintiff Sabrina Muhammad is an individual residing in Orange County, 4 California. Reese is a law firm headquartered in San Diego, California, which conducts 5 business in the state of California. 6 Plaintiff leased a vehicle from Ford Motor Credit Company, LLC (“Ford”) and 7 defaulted on the loan. Reese obtained a judgment on behalf of Ford against Plaintiff in 8 the Orange County Superior Court on or about March 30, 2001. Reese then garnished 9 Plaintiff’s wages at different times over a period of several years. 10 On or about July 17, 2009, Reese renewed the money judgment in the Orange 11 County Superior Court. Approximately two years later in November 2011, Reese 12 prepared and submitted to the Orange County Superior Court a writ of execution and 13 interest calculation. “The clerk of court issued the writ on November 28, 2011.” Doc. 14 No. 46-1 at 2. 15 Approximately four years later, Reese prepared and submitted another writ of 16 execution and interest calculation to the Orange County Superior Court. The clerk of 17 court for the Orange County Superior Court issued the writ on December 2, 2015, and 18 directed the San Diego County Sheriff to garnish Plaintiff’s wages. 19 Plaintiff asserts that Reese “is collecting more than owed.” Doc. No. 49 at 1. 20 Moreover, Plaintiff claims that despite having no ties to San Diego County, Reese 21 continues to garnish Plaintiff’s wages in a county other than where the debt was created 22 or where Plaintiff resides. See id. Plaintiff therefore argues Reese’s actions violate 23 various provisions of the FDCPA. 24 /// 25 /// 26 27 28 -2- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) LEGAL STANDARD1 1 2 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 provides in pertinent part, that when an 3 attorney or unrepresented party presents a signed paper to a court, that attorney or 4 unrepresented party is certifying that to the best of his or her “knowledge, information 5 and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” that: 6 (1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause 7 8 unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation; (2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law 9 or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing law or for 10 establishing new law; 11 (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, 12 will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further 13 investigation or discovery; and 14 (4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if 15 specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of 16 information. 17 18 Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1)-(4). When one party seeks sanctions against another, the Court must first determine 19 whether any provision of Rule 11(b) has been violated. Warren v. Guelker, 29 F.3d 20 1386, 1389 (9th Cir. 1994). A finding of subjective bad faith is not required under Rule 21 11. See Smith v. Ricks, 31 F.3d 1478, 1488 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting Zuniga v. United 22 Can Co., 812 F.2d 443, 452 (9th Cir. 1987)) (“Counsel can no longer avoid the sting of 23 24 25 26 27 28                                                 1 Plaintiff claims that in the event Defendant prevails on the instant motion, Defendant “is only entitled to attorney fees if they can show the case was filed in bad faith or for the purposes of harassment.” Doc. No. 49 at 21. Plaintiff argues the Court should utilize the statutory fee shifting provision of 15 U.S.C. § 1692k, as opposed to Rule 11. See id. Plaintiff, however, fails to sufficiently demonstrate the applicability of the FDCPA attorney fee provision in this context. In any event, because the Court denies Defendant’s motion for sanctions for the reasons set forth below, the Court need not analyze this argument. -3- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 Rule 11 sanctions by operating under the guise of a pure heart and empty head.”). 2 “Instead, the question is whether, at the time the paper was presented to the Court (or 3 later defended) it lacked evidentiary support or contained ‘frivolous’ legal arguments.” 4 Odish v. CACH, LLC, 2012 WL 5382260, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2012). 5 If the court determines a Rule 11 violation occurred, “the court may impose an 6 appropriate sanction on any attorney, law firm, or party that violated the rule or is 7 responsible for the violation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1) (emphasis added). 8 9 10 11 12 13 DISCUSSION I. Evidentiary Objections As a preliminary matter, both parties filed various evidentiary objections. See Doc. Nos. 50, 52-4. The Court addresses the parties’ objections in turn. A. Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Objections Plaintiff objects to evidence submitted in support of Reese’s motion for sanctions. 14 See Doc. No. 50. Specifically, Plaintiff objects to: (1) Harlan Reese’s declaration in its 15 entirety; (2) Exhibit 2 to Harlan’s Reese’s declaration; (3) Joseph M. Pleasant’s 16 declaration in its entirety, including Exhibit 1; (4) Dana Meyer’s declaration in its 17 entirety, including Exhibits 1-3; and (5) Susan Benson’s declaration in its entirety, 18 including Exhibits 1-2. See Doc. No. 50. Reese filed an opposition to Plaintiff’s 19 evidentiary objections. See Doc. No. 52-3. The Court does not rely on the above- 20 referenced declarations and exhibits in ruling on the instant motion. Accordingly, the 21 Court DENIES AS MOOT Plaintiff’s evidentiary objections. 22 B. Reese’s Evidentiary Objections 23 Reese objects to evidence submitted in support of Plaintiff’s opposition to Reese’s 24 motion for sanctions (objections 1-6). See Doc. No. 52-4. Specifically, Reese objects to: 25 (1) six excerpts of William Jarrell’s declaration; and (2) six excerpts of Sabrina 26 Muhammad’s declaration (objections 7-12). See id. 27 28 As to Mr. Jarrell’s declaration, Reese objects to five of the six excerpts on hearsay grounds. Hearsay is a statement made out of court offered for the truth of the matter -4- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 asserted. Fed. R. Evid. 801(c). The Court finds Reese’s hearsay objections to Mr. 2 Jarrell’s declaration to be without merit because such statements are based on Mr. 3 Jarrell’s personal knowledge and are not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. 4 Accordingly, the Court OVERRULES Reese’s hearsay objections to Mr. Jarrell’s 5 declaration (objections 1-4, 6). Reese objects to one other portion of Mr. Jarrell’s 6 declaration on the ground that the Mr. Jarrell’s testimony calls for a legal conclusion. 7 The Court similarly finds this objection to be without merit because Mr. Jarrell simply 8 paraphrases relevant California law. As such, the Court OVERRULES Reese’s 9 objection on the ground that Mr. Jarrell’s testimony calls for a legal conclusion (objection 10 5). 11 As to Ms. Muhammad’s declaration, the Court does not rely on Ms. Muhammad’s 12 declaration in reaching its conclusion below. As such, the Court DENIES AS MOOT 13 Reese’s objections to Ms. Muhammad’s declaration. 14 II. 15 Reese’s Motion for Sanctions2 The gravamen of Plaintiff’s Complaint is that Reese violated the FDCPA by 16 misrepresenting the amount of Plaintiff’s debt, attempting to collect more money than 17 owed on the money judgment, and initiating a legal action in an improper venue. See 18 Complaint. Reese contends sanctions are proper because there is no evidentiary support 19 for Plaintiff’s accounting allegations, there is no legal support for Plaintiff’s venue 20 allegations, and Plaintiff’s counsel did not perform a reasonable pre-filing inquiry. See 21 Doc. No. 46-1. Plaintiff opposes, arguing that Reese’s motion for sanctions is untimely, 22 Plaintiff’s claims are warranted by existing law, and Plaintiff’s counsel engaged in a 23 reasonable pre-filing inquiry. See Doc. No. 49. The Court addresses each argument in 24                                                 25 26 27 28 2 Mr. Howard Smith, one of Reese’s attorneys, avers he complied with the 21-day safe harbor provision required by Rule 11(c)(2). Doc. No. 46-2 ¶¶ 2-3 (hereinafter “Smith Decl.”). Mr. Smith sent by email and U.S. mail a copy of Reese’s proposed motion for sanctions at least 21 days prior to filing the instant motion. Smith Decl. ¶ 2. Plaintiff does not contest that she received a copy of Reese’s motion for sanctions, or argue that Reese otherwise failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Rule 11. As such, the Court concludes Reese complied with the 21-day safe harbor period requirement. -5- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 2 3 turn. A. Reese’s Motion for Sanctions is Timely Plaintiff asserts the instant motion is untimely because “it was made after [Reese] 4 prevail[ed] on the anti-SLAPP motion.” Doc. No. 49 at 18. Reese, however, contends its 5 motion is timely because it was not until Plaintiff produced “no evidence in opposition” 6 to Reese’s anti-SLAPP motion that Reese believed “there was no evidentiary basis for the 7 filing of the Complaint and that a Motion for Sanctions would be appropriate.” Doc. No. 8 52 at 7. 9 “Ordinarily the motion [for sanctions] should be served promptly after the 10 inappropriate paper is filed, and, if delayed too long, may be viewed as untimely.” Fed. 11 R. Civ. P. 11 advisory committee’s note to 1993 amendment. “Motions for Rule 11 12 attorney’s fees cannot be served after the district court has decided the merits of the 13 underlying dispute giving rise to the questionable filing. This is because once the court 14 has decided the underlying dispute, the motion for fees cannot serve Rule 11’s purpose of 15 judicial economy.” Islamic Shura Council of S. Cal. v. F.B.I., 757 F.3d 870, 872 (9th 16 Cir. 2014). 17 Here, the Court finds Reese’s motion is timely because the Court has not decided 18 the merits of the underlying dispute. While the Court granted Reese’s anti-SLAPP 19 motion on January 23, 2017, the Court only dismissed Plaintiff’s state law claims under 20 the Rosenthal Act. See Doc. No. 31. Thus, the Court has not yet addressed Plaintiff’s 21 federal claims under the FDCPA. See Islamic Shura Council of S. Cal., 757 F.3d at 873 22 (reversing an order granting a motion for sanctions where the motion for sanctions was 23 filed after the Court ruled on the motion underlying the dispute); Grant v. Bostwick, 2016 24 WL 3983075, at *6 (S.D. Cal. July 21, 2016) (denying a motion for sanctions where court 25 decided the merits of the underlying motion before the plaintiff filed the motion for 26 sanctions). Further, because the Court issued its Order granting Reese’s anti-SLAPP 27 motion on January 23, 2017, Reese did not wait an unreasonable amount of time in filing 28 the instant motion on March 10, 2017. Cf. MGA Entm’t, Inc. v. Nat’l Prod. Ltd., 2012 -6- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 WL 4052023, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2012) (noting the defendants’ motion for 2 sanctions was untimely because the defendants did not move for sanctions until more 3 than six months after the plaintiffs’ allegedly improper behavior) (emphasis added); 4 Netbula, LLC v. Bindview Dev. Corp., 2007 WL 1694820, at *1 (N.D. Cal. June 11, 5 2007) (finding Rule 11 motion “untimely because it was not filed until many months after 6 Defendants’ offending contentions were made and long after the presiding judge had 7 already considered or ruled upon the papers containing the offending contentions.”). 8 Accordingly, Reese’s motion for sanctions is timely. 9 B. Plaintiff’s Complaint is Not Frivolous 10 Reese contends Plaintiff’s counsel committed two sanctionable acts: (1) Plaintiff 11 presents no evidence in support of her accounting allegations; and (2) Plaintiff’s venue 12 allegations are not supported by existing law, or by a nonfrivolous argument for the 13 extension of existing law. See Doc. No. 52 at 6. 14 Prior to filing a complaint, “attorneys have a duty, not only to conduct a reasonable 15 factual investigation, but also to perform adequate legal research to confirm whether the 16 underlying theories of the complaint are warranted by existing law or by a good faith 17 argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.” Smith v. Hunt & 18 Henriques, 2013 WL 6141456, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2013) (citing Christian v. 19 Mattel, Inc., 286 F.3d 1118, 1127 (9th Cir. 2002)). When evaluating whether a complaint 20 is frivolous or without evidentiary support, the court “must conduct a two-prong inquiry 21 to determine (1) whether the complaint is legally or factually baseless from an objective 22 perspective, and (2) if the attorney has conducted a reasonable and competent inquiry 23 before signing and filing it.” Christian, 286 F.3d at 1127. The word “frivolous” is a 24 shorthand used by courts to “denote a filing that is both baseless and made without a 25 reasonable and competent inquiry.” Townsend, 929 F.2d 1358, 1362 (9th Cir. 1990) 26 (emphasis added). 27 28 1. Adequate Legal Basis First, the Court must determine whether Plaintiff’s Complaint is legally or -7- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 factually baseless from an objective perspective. See id. at 1362. Reese argues 2 “Plaintiff’s attorneys have been advised of the law repeatedly and RLG provided them 3 with the evidence and explanations showing that RLG did not misapply collections or 4 over collect or violate the FDCPA’s venue provision.” Doc. No. 46-1 at 10. Because the 5 presence of a single frivolous or improper claim can give rise to a Rule 11 violation, 6 courts must individually assess each claim the movant alleges is frivolous to determine 7 whether any claim justifies the imposition of sanctions. See Townsend, 929 F.2d at 1363. 8 Therefore, the Court proceeds to analyze Plaintiff’s accounting allegations and venue 9 allegations separately. 10 11 a. Alleged Accounting Violation Plaintiff alleges Reese misrepresented the amount of Plaintiff’s debt and is 12 attempting to collect more money than owed in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692f. 13 Complaint ¶ 53. Reese claims “there is no evidentiary support for the accounting 14 allegations.” Doc. No. 52 at 6. In response, Plaintiff’s counsel assert that they reviewed 15 numerous documents which led them to conclude that Defendant attempted to garnish 16 more than Plaintiff owed on the judgment. See Doc. No. 49 at 7. 17 The FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from using unfair or unconscionable means 18 to collect to attempt to collect any debt, including “[t]he collection of any amount 19 (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) 20 unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or 21 permitted by law. 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1). 22 Here, Plaintiff’s counsel contends that in reviewing various relevant documents, 23 including garnishment ledgers produced by the Orange County Superior Court, the San 24 Diego County Sheriff’s Levying Office, the IRS, and Reese Law Group, Plaintiff’s 25 counsel “discovered an entry where Defendant appeared to erroneously allocate 26 Plaintiff’s alleged unpaid interest balance to the alleged outstanding principal balance. 27 As such, it appeared Defendant was collecting compound interest, a violation of the 28 FDCPA.” See Doc. No. 49-1 at ¶ 32 (hereinafter “Jarrell Decl.”). Upon review of -8- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 Plaintiff’s Complaint and opposition to the instant motion, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s 2 accounting allegations are not objectively baseless. See Prof’l Real Estate Investors, Inc. 3 v. Columbia Pictures, Indus., Inc., 508 U.S. 49, 60 (1993) (noting that a claim is typically 4 not considered “baseless” unless “no reasonable litigant could realistically expect success 5 on the merits.”). 6 b. Alleged Venue Violation 7 Plaintiff alleges Reese brought a legal action against her in an improper venue in 8 violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692i. Complaint ¶ 52(e). Reese contends “there [i]s no legal 9 support for the venue allegations and [Plaintiff has] provided no argument to change or 10 modify the law in this regard.” Doc. No. 52 at 6. The FDCPA requires a debt collector 11 who brings any legal action on a debt “against any consumer” to “bring such action only 12 in the judicial district or similar legal entity (A) in which such consumer signed the 13 contract sued upon; or (B) in which such consumer resides at the commencement of the 14 action.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692i(a)(2). 15 Here, Plaintiff claims Reese obtained the initial judgment in Orange County, but 16 that Reese later obtained a writ of execution and used it to garnish wages in San Diego 17 County. Plaintiff asserts she never lived in San Diego and did not sign the contract with 18 the original debtor (Ford) in San Diego. See Doc. No. 49 at 7. Thus, because Reese’s 19 garnishment activity took place outside of Orange County, Plaintiff asserts Reese violated 20 § 1692i of the FDCPA. 21 Reese argues Plaintiff’s venue allegations are without merit because the statute 22 requires the debt collector bring a legal action on a debt “against any consumer.” 15 23 U.S.C. § 1692i(a). Reese cites to authority from the First, Eighth and Eleventh Circuits 24 to support its contention that wage garnishment procedures do not qualify as actions 25 against consumers, but instead are actions against third parties, for purposes of the 26 FDCPA’s venue requirements. See Ray v. McCullough Payne & Hann, LLC, 838 F.3d 27 1107, 1111 (11th Cir. 2016); Hageman v. Barton, 817 F.3d 611, 618-19 (8th Cir. 2016); 28 Smith v. Solomon & Solomon, PC, 714 F.3d 73, 75-77 (1st Cir. 2013). Plaintiff, however, -9- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 claims the law in the Ninth Circuit is unsettled on the issue of whether California wage 2 garnishment procedures are actions against a consumer or third party.3 See Doc. No. 49 3 at 10 (noting that the Ninth Circuit has “never specifically addressed the issue of whether 4 the [wage] garnishment qualified as an action against the consumer or a third party.”). 5 Thus, Reese claims Plaintiff’s position is not supported by existing law. The fact that the 6 Ninth Circuit has not yet addressed this issue, however, does not mean Plaintiff’s position 7 is objectively baseless. Plaintiff need not be correct on her “perception of the law,” but 8 need only “state[] an arguable claim.” Riverhead Sav. Bank v. Nat’l Mortgage Equity 9 Corp., 893 F.2d 1109, 1115 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). Moreover, “[a] claim is 10 not objectively baseless as long as there is ‘some plausible basis’ for the argument, even 11 if that basis is ‘quite a weak one.’” Simpson v. Cal. Pizza Kitchen, Inc., 2013 WL 12 12114487, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2013) (citing United Nat. Ins. Co. v. R&D Latex 13 Corp., 242 F.3d 1102, 117 (9th Cir. 2001) (emphasis in original). In the absence of any 14 binding authority to the contrary, Plaintiff’s venue allegations are not objectively 15 baseless. 16 17 2. Reasonable Inquiry Second, the Court must determine if Plaintiff’s counsel conducted a reasonable and 18 competent inquiry before signing the Complaint. See Townsend, 929 F.2d at 1362. 19 Reese claims Plaintiff failed to conduct an adequate pre-lawsuit investigation because 20 Reese’s counsel “explained the accounting issues” to Plaintiff’s counsel prior to Plaintiff 21 filing her lawsuit. See Doc. No. 52 at 2-4. “Rule 11’s requirement of a ‘reasonable 22 inquiry’ means an inquiry reasonable under ‘all the circumstances of a case.’” Townsend, 23 929 F.2d at 1364 (citing Cooter & Gell, 496 U.S. 384, 401 (1990)). This determination is 24                                                 25 26 27 28 3 The Court notes that Plaintiff makes repeated references to the Court’s previous ruling that “wage garnishment activity against the consumer’s employer is not collection activity against the consumer[.]” Doc. No. 49 at 13; see id. at 2, 6, 8, 9, 10. The Court, in granting Reese’s anti-SLAPP motion, however, did not rule on this issue. The Court expressly indicated that Plaintiff failed to meet her burden under the second prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis. See Doc. No. 31 at 11. As such, the Court’s holding is narrower in scope than Plaintiff contends. -10- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 highly fact-intensive. See id. 2 Here, the Court finds Plaintiff’s counsel conducted a reasonable pre-filing inquiry. 3 Mr. Jarrell avers he conducted extensive research for several months to determine 4 whether Plaintiff had any viable claims. Jarrell Decl. ¶ 12. In fact, Mr. Jarrell reviewed 5 hundreds of pages of documents relevant to Plaintiff’s case. Jarrell Decl. ¶ 13. 6 Additionally, Mr. Jarrell “performed more than 35 hours of legal services” including 7 analyzing Reese’s prospective liability, researching relevant California and federal law, 8 and discussing the case with opposing counsel. Jarrell Decl. ¶ 13, 18-20. Further, 9 Plaintiff hired a forensic accountant to review the relevant accounting records who 10 similarly believed that Defendant improperly classified outstanding interest as principal. 11 Jarrell Decl. ¶¶ 34, 36. “Rule 11 is an extraordinary remedy, one to be exercised with 12 extreme caution.” Operating Eng’rs Pension Trust v. A-C Co., 859 F.2d 1336, 1345 (9th 13 Cir. 1988). Sanctions are reserved “for the rare and exceptional case where the action is 14 clearly frivolous. . . .” Id. at 1344. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s counsel conducted a 15 reasonable pre-filing inquiry; thus, this is not a “rare and exceptional case” warranting the 16 imposition of sanctions. 17 3. Conclusion 18 Accordingly, because Plaintiff’s claims are not objectively baseless, and because 19 Plaintiff’s counsel conducted a reasonable inquiry, the Court DENIES Reese’s motion 20 for sanctions. 21 III. 22 Plaintiff is Not Entitled to Attorneys’ Fees Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(2) Finally, Plaintiff asserts that she “is entitled to [attorneys’] fees as the prevailing 23 party to this Motion” pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c)(2) in the amount 24 of $26,280.00. Doc. No. 49 at 5. Rule 11(c)(2) provides in pertinent part that “[a] 25 motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe 26 the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b). . . . If warranted, the court may 27 award to the prevailing party the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred 28 for the motion.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2) (emphasis added). -11- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS) 1 Here, the Court declines to award attorneys’ fees to Plaintiff as the prevailing party 2 on Reese’s motion for sanctions. Plaintiff summarily states “Defendant’s Rule 11 3 Motion is without merit, and is filed for an improper purpose.” Doc. No. 49 at 2. 4 However, “a request for costs . . . requires a showing similar to that required for a motion 5 brought under Rule 11.” Simpson, 2013 WL 12114487, at *5. In the absence of any 6 evidence to the contrary, and based upon a thorough review of the relevant documents, 7 the Court finds Defendant did not bring the instant motion for an improper purpose. 8 While Rule 11(c)(2) permits the Court, in its discretion, to award attorneys’ fees to the 9 prevailing party, Rule 11 does not require the Court to do so. Accordingly, the Court 10 DENIES Plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees. 11 CONCLUSION 12 Based on the foregoing, the Court DENIES Reese’s motion for sanctions and 13 14 DENIES Plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees. IT IS SO ORDERED. 15 16 17 18 19 Dated: June 14, 2017 _____________________________ HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -12- 16cv2513-MMA (BGS)

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