Richmond v. Mikkelson et al

Filing 72

ORDER granting Joint Motion 71 to (1) Vacate In Part Order Granting Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and Motions for Rule 11 Sanctions 38 And (2) Vacate in Full Order Awarding Sanctions Under Rule 11 62 . Signed by Judge Thomas J. Whelan on 11/21/2022. (cxl1)

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Case 3:20-cv-01925-W-KSC Document 72 Filed 11/21/22 PageID.7456 Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 CHRISTOPHER RICHMOND, Case No.: 20-cv-1925 W (KSC) Plaintiff, 12 13 v. 14 DAVID MIKKELSON and BRAD WESTBROOK, 15 (1) VACATE IN PART ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND MOTIONS FOR RULE 11 SANCTIONS [DOC. 38]; AND Defendants 16 17 and 18 SNOPES MEDIA GROUP, INC., 19 ORDER GRANTING JOINT MOTION [DOC. 71] TO: (2) VACATE IN FULL ORDER AWARDING SANCTIONS UNDER RULE 11 [DOC. 62] Nominal Defendant. 20 21 22 Pending before the Court is the parties’ joint motion to (1) vacate in part the 23 September 29, 2021 order granting Defendants’ motions to dismiss and motions for rule 24 11 sanctions and (2) vacate in full the January 25, 2025 order awarding sanctions against 25 Plaintiff and his attorney. The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and 26 without oral argument. See Civ.L.R. 7.1d1. For the reasons that follow, the Court will 27 GRANT the joint motion [Doc. 71]. 28 1 20-cv-1925 W (KSC) Case 3:20-cv-01925-W-KSC Document 72 Filed 11/21/22 PageID.7457 Page 2 of 4 1 2 I. DISCUSSION On September 29, 2021, this Court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss and 3 motions for Rule 11 sanctions against Plaintiff Christopher Richmond and his attorney, 4 Matthew Hrutkay (the “Dismissal/Rule 11 Order” [Doc. 38]). On January 25, 2022, this 5 Court sanctioned Richmond in the amount of $30,000 and Hrutkay in the amount of 6 $10,000, payable towards Defendants’ attorneys’ fees (the “Sanction Order” [Doc. 62]). 7 Richmond and Hrutkay appealed the orders. 8 9 While the appeal was pending, the parties reached a global settlement of “this and several other disputes between them, including those pending in state court.” (P&A 10 [Doc. 71-1] 3:8–11.) The parties now move jointly under Federal Rule of Civil 11 Procedure 60(b) to vacate (1) in part the Dismissal/Rule 11 Order and (2) in full the 12 Sanction Order. (Id. 3:14–16.) 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Rule 60(b) provides, in relevant part, On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: ... (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief. Although the rule “provides the basis for a district court’s vacation of judgments when the equities so demand, … it does not establish what substantive standards should be employed.” Am. Games, Inc. v. Trade Products, Inc., 142 F.3d 1164, 1168 (9th Cir.1998); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). 23 24 25 26 27 28 In Dilley v. Gunn, 64 F.3d 1368 (9th Cir. 1995), the Ninth Circuit explained that two equitable considerations govern a district court’s decision on whether to vacate: “‘the consequences and attendant hardships of dismissal or refusal to dismiss’ and ‘the competing values of finality of judgment and right to relitigation of unreviewed disputes.’” Id. at 1371 (quoting Ringsby Truck Lines Inc. v. Western Conference of 2 20-cv-1925 W (KSC) Case 3:20-cv-01925-W-KSC Document 72 Filed 11/21/22 PageID.7458 Page 3 of 4 1 Teamsters, 686 F.2d 720, 722 (9th Cir. 1982)). Ultimately, “granting or denial of [60(b)] 2 motions is left largely to the discretion of the district court.” Savarese v. Edrick Transfer 3 & Storage, 513 F.2d 140, 146 (9th Cir. 1975). “Although it may vacate a judgment upon 4 settlement, ‘a district court is not required to vacate a judgment pursuant to settlement, 5 otherwise, ‘any litigant dissatisfied with a trial court's findings would be able to have 6 them wiped from the books.’” Click Entertainment v. JYP Entertainment Co. Ltd, 2009 7 WL 3030212, *2 (D. Hawaii 2009) (citing Bates v. Union Oil Co. of California, 944 F.2d 8 647, 650 (9th Cir.1991)). 9 Here, although the settlement is not contingent on granting the parties’ joint 10 motion, it is a term of the settlement and represents part of the consideration for the 11 parties’ global resolution of the numerous disputes between them. (P&A 3:14–16.) To 12 the extent courts “should, where appropriate, support the negotiations and terms of 13 settlement,” the Court agrees that the policy of encouraging settlement weighs in favor of 14 granting the motion. See Click Entertainment, 2009 WL 3030212, *2 (citing Ahern v. 15 Central Pacific Freight Lines, 846 F.2d 47, 48 (9th Cir. 1988)). Additionally, because the 16 global resolution of the parties’ disputes was not contingent on the success of this joint 17 motion, it does not appear that the primary motive for entering the settlement was 18 vacating the Sanction Order and vacating, in part, the Dismissal/Rule 11 Order. This also 19 weights in favor of granting the motion. Id. at *3 (citing Am. Games, 142 F.3d at 1170 20 (affirming decision vacating judgement based, in part, on finding that the possibility of 21 vacating the judgment was not the primary motive of conduct rendering action moot)). 22 Finally, because the motion was jointly filed by the parties, the Court finds there will be 23 no hardships in granting the motion. Id. 24 As regard to the second consideration, the parties are not seeking to vacate the part 25 of the Dismissal/Rule 11 Order that dismissed Plaintiff’s action with prejudice. (P&A 26 4:19–20.) Additionally, according to the joint motion, the parties’ global settlement was 27 conditioned on the “waiver of all known or unknown claims arising from or related to the 28 3 20-cv-1925 W (KSC) Case 3:20-cv-01925-W-KSC Document 72 Filed 11/21/22 PageID.7459 Page 4 of 4 1 facts in the underlying action.” (Id. 4:19–24.) Thus, the Court finds there is no concern 2 with regard to the competing considerations of finality of judgment and relitigation of 3 unreviewed disputes. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 II. CONCLUSION & ORDER For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS the joint motion [Doc. 71] and ORDERS as follows: • the September 29, 2021 order granting Defendants’ motions to dismiss and motions for Rule 11 sanctions [Doc. 38] is VACATED to the extent it awarded sanctions against Plaintiff and his attorney, and • the January 25, 2022 order awarding sanctions under Rule 11 [Doc. 62] is 12 VACATED in full. 13 IT IS SO ORDERED. 14 Dated: November 21, 2022 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 20-cv-1925 W (KSC)

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