Dalenko v. Stephens et al
ORDER denying 176 Motion to Vacate; granting 179 Motion to Accept Affidavit as Timely Filed; denying 186 Motion to Stay; and denying 187 Motion for Sanctions. Signed by Senior Judge James C. Fox on 1/17/2017. Copy sent to Carol Dalenko, 1709 Horton Road, Knightdale, NC 27545-8577 via US Mail on 1/17/2017. (Grady, B.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
DONALD W. STEPHENS, et al.,
This matter is before the court on the following motions by Plaintiff: (1) Motion to
Vacate Judgment for Defendants' Misconduct [DE-176], (2) Motion to Accept Affidavit as
Timely Filed [DE-179], (3) Motion for Sanctions [DE-187], and (4) Motion to Stay [DE-186].
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motions to vacate, to stay, and for sanctions are DENIED,
and Plaintiffs motion to accept affidavit is ALLOWED.
On July 20, 2015, the court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment in this
action and ordered the case closed., [DE-173]. On the same day, Plaintiff moved to vacate the
judgment. 1 On September 6, 2016, Plaintiff notified the court of her intention to seek sanctions
against Defendants and moved to stay these proceedings until Defendants responded to her
sanctions motion. [DE-186].2 On October 4, 2016, Plaintiff moved for sanctions against
Defendants pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [DE-187]. 3
Defendants responded on August 9, 2016 and Plaintiff replied on September 2, 2016. [DE-181, -185].
Defendants did not respond.
Defendants did not respond.
MOTION TO VACATE JUDGMENT
Plaintiff argues that Defendant Wake County improperly withheld a description of three
guards' duties, despite having been ordered to produce the information on May 14, 2015. 4
Despite the court's order, Plaintiff contends that Wake County failed to provide the requested
information until July 16, 2015. 5
Rule 60(b) allows the court to "relieve a party or its legal representative from a final
judgment, order, or proceeding for ... fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic),
misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3). To prevail, a
movant under Rule 60(b) must establish three factors: (1) the existence of a meritorious claim or
defense; (2) misconduct, proven by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) the misconduct
prevented the movant from fully presenting its case. Square Con'str. Co. v. Wash. Metro. Area
Transit Auth., 657 F.2d 68, 71 (4th Cir. 1981). If the movantproves these three elements, the
court then "must balance the competing policies favoring the finality of judgments and justice
being done in view of all the facts, to determine within its discretion, whether relief is
appropriate in each case." Schultz v. Butcher, 24 F.3d 626, 630 (4th Cir. 1994) (quoting Square
Constr. Co., 657 F.2d at 71).
Here, even assuming the truth of Plaintiff's factual allegations, she cannot prevail
because she fails to establish the existence of a meritorious claim. The court granted summary
judgment in Defendants' favor because Plaintiff failed to present evidence of deliberate
indifference. See Order of July 20, 2015 [DE-173] ("Here, there is no record evidence that any
See Order of May 14, 2015 [DE-154] at 7 (requiring Defendants, by May 28, 2015, to produce the following
information with regard to the three guards: "the individual's full name and any aliases in the last (5) years, person's
current residential and work address and telephone numbers, and the person's place of employment during the
'relevant time period', [sic] title of position held, duties, and name of the person's immediate supervisor" (quoting
Pl.'s Mot. [DE-134] at 1) (emphasis added) (alteration in original)).
See Notice [DE-175].
guard subjectively believed that Plaintiff was suffering from an objectively serious condition.").
The allegedly withheld information-a description of the guards' duties-would not alter the
court's analysis on this issue. Accordingly, Plaintiffs motion to vacate is DENIED.
III. MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
Plaintiff moves for sanctions against Wake County, arguing that in addition to
withholding the description of the guards' duties, Wake County violated Rule 11:
By denying the fact that they continued to withhold relevant "duties" of the
(3) guards until after their Motion For Summary Judgment was submitted to
the Court [DE-175];
By equivocating around the fact that the Plaintiff has not filed amended claims
against the (3) guards, that what the Court allowed was not a "Motion To
Amend"; [sic] and
By misrepresenting applicable law from Schultz v. Butcher, 24 F.3d 626 (4th
Cir, [sic] 1994) by relying in their Response on summary judgment Order
procured by their misconduct.
Mem. Supp. Sanctions [DE-192] at 3-4.
Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that by submitting a pleading, an
attorney "certifies that to the best of [his] knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an
inquiry reasonable under the circumstances" that his "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," and his "factual contentions
have evidentiary support or ... will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable
opportunity for further investigation or discovery." Violation of Rule ll(b) may lead to
sanctions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1l(c)(l).
Under Fourth Circuit law, "maintaining a legal position to a court is only sanctionable
when, in applying a standard of objective reasonableness, it can be said that a reasonable
attorney in like circumstances could not have believed his actions to be legally justified."
McNeil! v. Melvin, No. 5:12-CT-3169-FL, 2014 WL 4701592, at *3 (E.D.N.C. Sept. 22, 2014)
(quoting Hunter v. Earthgrains Co. Bakery, 281 F.3d 144, 153 (4th Cir. 2002)). As Wake County
has prevailed in this matter, its legal arguments can hardly be called unreasonable.
As for Wake County's failure to timely produce the guards' identity information, the court
finds this allegation-undisputed by Wake County-troubling. There is little excuse for failure
to comply with the court's clear and direct order. Nonetheless, the court does not find Wake
County's actions sanctionable, as Plaintiff could have and should have pursued this matter prior
to entry of summary judgment. 6 Instead, she chose to respond to Defendants' motion for
summary judgment without th'e benefit of the withheld information. The court will not issue
sanctions against Wake County now, when Plaintiff failed to pursue the matter while the
litigation was pending. 7
The court perceives no basis on which to impose sanctions against Wake County.
For the foregoing reasons, it is ordered as follows:
Motion to Vacate Judgment for Defendants' Misconduct [DE-176] is DENIED;
Motion to Accept Affidavit as Timely Filed [DE-179] is ALLOWED;
Motion for Sanctions [DE-187] is DENIED; and
Motion to Stay [DE-186] is DENIED.
On June 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Discovery Sanctions and Show Cause Order for Criminal Contempt
[DE-161], seeking sanctions against Defendants for failure to fully comply with the court's May 14, 2015 Order. On
June 19, 2015, Plaintiff withdrew the motion. [DE-166].
Further, although Wake County's alleged actions fail to exemplify the best practices of the legal profession, they
resulted in no harm to Plaintiff, as the information she sought would have had no impact on the outcome of the case.
·11 day of January, 2017.
Senior United States District Judge
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