Jones v. State of Missouri et al
ORDER entered by Judge Nanette Laughrey. Defendant Stewart's motion for Rule 11 sanctions against Plaintiff Jones [Doc. 48] is granted. Stewart shall file a statement of reasonable fees and costs within 14 days of the date of this Order. A copy of this Order was mailed to Jones.(Barragan-Scott, Alana)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
DARRYL LYNN JONES,
STATE OF MISSOURI, et al.,
Defendant Joni Nadine Stewart’s motion for Rule 11 sanctions against Plaintiff
Darryl Lynn Jones [Doc. 48] is granted.
Jones’ lawsuit arose out of a 1993 decree, issued by the Circuit Court of Cape
Girardeau County, Missouri, dissolving Jones’ and Stewart’s marriage.
established custody of a child born during the marriage, and Jones’ child support
obligation. Stewart and Defendant State of Missouri, through its Division of Child
Support Enforcement, took steps to enforce Jones’ support obligation, beginning around
1993 and continuing through the present.
Supportkids Services, Inc., a separate
defendant in this lawsuit and a private child support collection company, was also
involved in enforcement of Jones’ obligation.
Jones filed his federal court case pro se and was granted leave to proceed without
payment of the filing fee. [Doc. 5.] He alleged that he is not the child’s biological father,
that his numerous requests for genetic testing made to Stewart and the State were
wrongfully denied, and that he should not have to pay the past-due support. He asked
this Court for an order requiring genetic testing; requiring Stewart to repay a portion of
the child support payments and to stop defaming and libeling him through garnishment of
his pay checks; and awarding punitive damages. Jones, who was not represented by
counsel, was permitted to proceed without payment of the filing fee. [Doc. 5.]
The Court granted the State’s motion to dismiss [Doc. 16], because the State has
Eleventh Amendment immunity [Doc. 39].
The Court also granted Stewart’s and
Supportkids Services’ motions to dismiss [Docs. 31 and 36] because the Ankenbrandt 1
domestic relations exception foreclosed diversity jurisdiction, and even if it did not, the
Rooker-Feldman 2 doctrine required abstention [Doc. 44].
Stewart states in her Rule 11 motion that on August 15, 2014, she filed and served
Jones with her motion to dismiss and suggestions in support of the motion. On the same
day, she served Jones with her proposed motion for Rule 11 sanctions and a cover letter,
advising Jones that if he failed to voluntarily dismiss his claims against her within 21
days, and the Court granted her motion to dismiss, she would file the Rule 11 motion and
pursue sanctions. [Doc. 49-1.] Jones did not withdraw his claims against Stewart. As she
previously advised Jones, Stewart now seeks sanctions against him for fees and costs
incurred by Stewart in this litigation. Jones did not file a response to her motion for
Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 704 (1992).
Rooker v. Fideltiy Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).
Stewart argues that Rule 11 sanctions are appropriate because Jones had no
evidentiary support sufficient to overcome Ankenbrandt and Rooker-Feldman principles;
and he waived whatever right to relief he had more than twenty years ago.
Under Rule 11(b) (1)-(3), a party presenting a pleading in federal court “certifies
to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry
reasonable under the circumstances” that: the pleading is not being presented for an
improper purpose, such as harassment; the claims are warranted by existing law or
nonfrivolous argument for change in the law; and the factual contentions have evidentiary
support, or are likely to have such support, after further investigation or discovery.
The purpose of Rule 11 “is to deter baseless filings in the district court.” Cooter
& Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 393 (1990). Thus, a person signing a pleading
must have “conducted a reasonable inquiry into the facts and law supporting the
pleading.” Crookham v. Crookham, 914 F.2d, 1027, 1029 (8th Cir. 1990). See also
Coonts v. Potts, 316 F.3d 745, 753 (8th Cir. 2003) (“To constitute a reasonable inquiry,
the prefiling investigation must uncover a factual basis for the plaintiff’s allegations, as
well as a legal basis.”) In determining whether a Rule 11 violation occurred, the district
court applies an objective reasonableness standard, to determine whether the pleading
was frivolous, groundless, or advanced for an improper purpose. Pulaski County
Republican Committee v. Pulaski County Bd. of Election Com’rs, 956 F.2d 172, 173-74
(8th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Courts “traditionally afford pro se parties some leeway under Rule 11,” Mousel v.
Knutson Mortgage Corp., 823 F.Supp. 658, 663 (D. Minn. 1993) (citing Day v. Allstate
Ins. Co., 788 F.2d 1110, 1114 (5th Cir. 1986)), and liberally construe pro se pleadings,
Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 544 (8th Cir. 2014). But Rule 11 applies to persons who
are unrepresented and have been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, that is,
without paying the filing fee, as well as to persons who are represented and have paid the
filing fee. Further, in forma pauperis status does not immunize a plaintiff from all
liability for costs, such as those imposed for frivolous filings. See Warren v. Guelker,
29 F.3d 1386, 1390 (9th Cir. 1994) (and cases cited therein). “ʻRule 11’s express goal is
deterrence; [in forma pauperis] litigants, proceeding at the expense of taxpayers, need to
be deterred from filing frivolous lawsuits as much as litigants who can afford to pay their
fees and costs.’” Adkins v. Cox., 2014 WL 923195, at *5 (D. Nev. 2014) (quoting
Warren, 29 F.3d at 1390, and citing Adv. Comm. Notes to the 1993 Amendments to Fed.
R. Civ. P. 11)).
Here, Jones was specifically given notice, by Stewart, of Ankenbrandt and RookerFeldman, and the federal courts’ lack of jurisdiction with regard to family law matters.
Notwithstanding the notice Jones was given, and the opportunity to correct or withdraw
his claims, he chose not to. It is impossible for Jones to claim ignorance of the law once
he was specifically put on notice of it. And Rule 11 simply does not permit any party to
maintain a frivolous claim. Accordingly, the Court in its discretion grants Stewart’s
motion for Rule 11 sanctions and awards her reasonable fees and costs associated with
Defendant Stewart’s motion for Rule 11 sanctions against Plaintiff Jones [Doc. 48]
is granted. Stewart shall file a statement of reasonable fees and costs within 14 days of
the date of this Order.
s/ Nanette K. Laughrey
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY
United States District Judge
Dated: January 8, 2015
Jefferson City, Missouri
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?