Rocket Real Estate, LLC et al v. Maestres
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 253 and 254 Motions to Bifurcate Issues Relating to Defendant's Motion for Attorney's Fees, Request for Extension of Time, and Request for Evidentiary Hearing and Oral Argument. Please see Order for details. Signed by Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer on 12/23/2016. (pb00)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
CASE NO. 15-62488-CIV-COHN/SELTZER
ROCKET REAL ESTATE, LLC, and
LOURDES E. MAESTRES,
THIS CAUSE has come before the Court upon [DE 253] and [DE 254] Motions to
Bifurcate Issues Relating to Defendant’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees, Request for Extension
of Time, and Request for an Evidentiary Hearing and Oral Argument. The motions were
filed respectively by Plaintiffs’ former counsel, Joseph E. Altschul, and by Plaintiffs and
Plaintiffs’ current counsel, Bruce L. Udolf, Esq. and Bruce L. Udolf, PA. The motions are
essentially identical and will, therefore, be addressed collectively and referred to as
Defendant’s Verified Motion for Award of Attorney’s Fees [DE 249] is, in reality, a
motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the court’s
inherent power to sanction parties for committing fraud on the court. Defendant asserts
three grounds for sanctions: (1) Plaintiffs’ allegations of damages under the Stored
Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., lacked any reasonable legal or factual
basis in violation of Rule 11; (2) Plaintiffs’ allegations that Defendant illegally accessed an
electronic service provider’s facility lacked any reasonable legal or factual basis in violation
of Rule 11; and (3) Eric Romanow committed fraud on the court by pursuing his SCA claim
against Defendant while allegedly knowing (and concealing) that Defendant had access
to emails on her phone through the email account itself, and not through accessing a
Consideration of whether sanctions are warranted will be strictly limited to the issues
as set forth above. In addition, Plaintiffs anticipate raising procedural defenses to the
sanctions motion. The Court will, of course, consider the procedural defenses. However,
the Court finds that bifurcation is not necessary. “The party seeking bifurcation ‘bears the
burden of demonstrating that bifurcation would serve judicial economy, avoid
inconvenience, and not prejudice any of the parties.’” Brown v. Toscano, 630 F. Supp. 2d
1342, 1345 (S.D. Fla. 2008) (quoting Innovative Office Prods. v. Spaceco, Inc., 2006 WL
1340865, at *1 (E.D.Pa. 2006)). The Court finds that none of these goals will be served
by bifurcation. For this reason, the Motions to Bifurcate will be denied.1
In a prior Order [DE 257], the Court granted Plaintiffs’ Request for an Extension of
Time to Respond to the Verified Motion for Attorney’s Fees and noted that a briefing
schedule would be set once the Motion to Bifurcate was resolved. The Motion to Bifurcate
having been denied, the Court will adopt a briefing schedule for the response and reply
Plaintiffs request an evidentiary hearing and oral argument on the Verified Motion
for Attorney’s Fees. Upon receipt and review of the response and reply memoranda, the
Plaintiffs also seek leave to take discovery concerning the amount of attorney’s
fees Defendant has actually paid. The Court will defer ruling on this request until after the
Court determines whether or not sanctions will be imposed.
Court will determine whether an evidentiary hearing and/or oral argument is necessary.
At this time, however, the request for an evidentiary hearing and oral argument is denied.
In light of the foregoing discussion, it is hereby
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED as follows:
Plaintiffs’ Motions to Bifurcate [DE 253] and [DE 254] are DENIED.
Plaintiffs’ Motions for Enlargement of Time [DE 253] and [DE 254] are
GRANTED. In light of Plaintiffs’ counsel’s medical condition, Plaintiffs’
responses to the Verified Motion for Attorney’s Fees will be due on or before
January 20, 2017. Defendant’s reply memorandum will be due on or before
January 30, 2017. Further enlargements of time will be granted only upon
a showing of good cause.
Plaintiffs’ request for an evidentiary hearing and oral argument is DENIED
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this 23rd day of
copies furnished counsel via CM/ECF
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