Patterson v. Target Center et al
ORDER denying 46 Motion for Sanctions (Written Opinion). Signed by Senior Judge David S. Doty on 5/19/2011. (PJM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Civil No. 09-1243(DSD/JSM)
IATSE Local 13,
Richard T. Wylie, Esq., 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite
500, Minneapolis, MN 55415, counsel for plaintiff.
Brendan D. Cummins, Esq., Francis P. Rojas, Esq. and
Miller, O’Brien & Cummins, 120 South Sixth Street, Suite
2400, Minneapolis, MN 55402, counsel for defendant.
This matter is before the court upon the motion for sanctions
and attorneys’ fees by defendant IATSE Local 13 (Local 13).
on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the
following reasons, the court denies the motion.
Plaintiff Christa Patterson has filed numerous actions against
Local 13 in this court and various administrative bodies.
present action, Patterson claimed breach of the duty of fair
representation, violation of the Labor Management Reporting and
Disclosure Act (LMRDA) and the Labor Management Relations Act
(LMRA), gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and gender and disability
discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act
Patterson withdrew her Title VII claim at oral argument,
and the court dismissed the other claims on December 14, 2010.
December 30, Patterson filed another case in this court, realleging her Title VII claim.1
Local 13 moves for sanctions under
Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The court now
considers the motion.
Rule 11(b) states:
By presenting to the court a pleading, written
motion, or other paper — whether by signing,
filing, submitting, or later advocating it —
an attorney or unrepresented party certifies
that to the best of the person’s knowledge,
information, and belief, formed after an
inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper
purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary
delay, or needlessly increase the cost of
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal
contentions are warranted by existing law or
by a nonfrivolous argument for extending,
modifying, or reversing existing law or for
establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary
support or, if specifically so identified,
will likely have evidentiary support after a
investigation or discovery;
Patterson dismissed the Title VII action on March 3, 2011.
See No. 11-cv-1, ECF No. 5.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b).
Following notice and an opportunity to
respond, the court may impose “an appropriate sanction” if it finds
a violation of Rule 11(b).
Id. R. 11(c)(1)
As an initial matter, the court rejects Patterson’s argument
that she did not receive notice under Rule 11(c)(2).
The March 12,
2010, letter of Local 13 gave notice of the alleged violation and
an opportunity to cure.
The evidence shows that Local 13 sent, and
Patterson received, a detailed letter and motion. See Cummins Aff.
Ex. 1; id. Ex 2. (letter from Patterson to Local 13 stating, “This
is in response to your letter to Christa Patterson dated March 12,
2010, and you[r] Rule 11 motion papers filed with the court.”).
Therefore, the court proceeds to the merits of the instant motion.
Local 13 first argues that Patterson filed the present action
to harass Local 13 and needlessly increase the cost of litigation.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1).
In support, Local 13 argues that
Patterson has demonstrated a pattern of filing frivolous actions in
various administrative agencies and this court.
however, was her first action in federal court, and she filed it
Her second action was also pro se, and covered a different
time period than the first.
See Compl. 1, No. 09-cv-3145, ECF No.
Patterson requested joinder of the first and second actions.
automatically make subsequently filed federal actions harassing.
Cf. Gurley v. Hunt, 287 F.3d 728, 731 (8th Cir. 2002) (NLRB does
not have jurisdiction over LMRDA claim).
While Patterson has now
reached the point where future actions arising out of the same
facts would be harassing, the present action does not rise to that
level, and sanctions are not warranted based on Rule 11(b)(1).
Local 13 next argues that Patterson violated Rule 11(b)(2)
because her claims lacked nonfrivolous legal grounds.
Patterson’s arguments were tenuous and ultimately
rejected by the court, however, her arguments that the acts of
Local 13 made her a de facto member of the union and that other
areas of labor law do not preempt state antidiscrimination law are
nonfrivilous arguments that have a basis in prior law.
sanctions are not warranted based on Rule 11(b)(2).
Local 13 also argues that Patterson violated Rule 11(b)(3) by
failing to investigate a principal factual allegation: Patterson’s
membership in Local 13.
See Second Am. Compl. ¶ 4 (“Plaintiff is
a member of Defendant IATSE Local 13.”). Patterson’s counsel later
admitted that he “did not understand that Plaintiff was not a
‘member’ of Local 13 in the traditional sense” when he filed the
second amended complaint.
See Pl.’s Mem. Opp’n 1, ECF No. 38.
Patterson explains, the acts and statements of Local 13 provided a
plausible, albeit incorrect, basis for her believe that she was a
member of Local 13 for purposes of this action.
See id. at 1–4.
Therefore, sanctions are not warranted under Rule 11(b)(3).
Although the court does not find Rule 11 violations in the
present action, the court notes that should Patterson attempt to
relitigate these claims, or bring additional claims based on the
certain, as it would then be an abuse of discretion for a court not
to impose sanctions.
See Kountze ex rel. Hitchcock Foundation v.
Gaines, 536 F.3d 813, 819 (8th Cir. 2008).
Accordingly, based on the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the
motion for sanctions and attorneys’ fees [ECF No. 46] is denied.
May 19, 2011
s/David S. Doty
David S. Doty, Judge
United States District Court
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