Comenout et al v Pierce County Superior Court et al

Filing 64


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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT TACOMA 6 7 8 9 10 11 ROBERT REGINALD COMENOUT SR., EDWARD AMOS COMENOUT III, THE ESTATE OF EDWARD AMOS COMENOUT JR., ROBERT REGINALD COMENOUT JR., MARLENE COMENOUT and LEE A. COMENOUT SR., 12 CASE NO. 3:16-cv-05464-RJB ORDER DENYING THE STATE DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SANCTIONS Plaintiffs, v. 13 J. MARK KELLER, et al., 14 Defendants. 15 16 BEFORE THE COURT is the State Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions. Dkt. 49. The 17 Court has considered pleadings filed in favor of and against the motion and the remainder of the 18 file herein. 19 20 The Court recited the procedural posture of the case in its Order on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint (Dkt. 63), which should be incorporated herein. 21 The State Defendants seek sanctions against Plaintiffs for filing the Motion for Leave to 22 File Third Amended Complaint (Dkt. 46). The State Defendants argue that the Third Amended 23 24 ORDER DENYING THE STATE DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SANCTIONS - 1 1 Complaint relitigates issues already decided in this and other cases, harasses the State 2 Defendants, and fails to correct defects that the State Defendants identified to Plaintiffs by letter. 3 “Filing a complaint in federal court is no trifling undertaking.” Christian v. Mattel, Inc., 4 286 F.3d 1118, 1127 (9th Cir. 2002). Instead, by filing a pleading, an attorney “is certifying” that, 5 to the best of that person’s belief, and formed after a reasonable inquiry: 6 7 8 9 10 11 (1) [the pleading] is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation; (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 reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and (4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information. 12 Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b). When the complaint is the focus of the Rule 11 inquiry, courts must 13 determine, “(1) whether the complaint is legally or factually baseless from an objective 14 perspective, and (2) if the attorney has conducted a reasonable and competent inquiry before 15 signing and filing it.” Id. quoting Buster v. Greisen, 104 F.3d 1186, 1190 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal 16 quotations omitted). 17 1. Legally/factually baseless? 18 The Third Amended Complaint does contain some allegations that lack support under the 19 law. For example, attempting to challenge the constitutionality of Washington’s tax on cigarettes 20 sold by Indian retailers to non-Indian purchasers is without merit, because the issue is well- 21 settled. Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation v. Gregoire, 658 F.3d 1078 22 (9th Cir. 2011). Nonetheless, other allegations may be warranted by gray areas in existing law or 23 include nonfrivolous arguments. 24 ORDER DENYING THE STATE DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SANCTIONS - 2 1 2. Reasonable and competent inquiry? 2 From the procedural history, including Plaintiffs’ withdrawal of a prior iteration of the 3 complaint, Plaintiffs’ attorneys obviously put considerable work and study into their Third 4 Amended Complaint. The Court cannot say that their attempts and inquiry, though unsuccessful, 5 were not reasonable and competent. 6 Therefore, the State Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions should be denied. *** 7 8 The State Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. 49) is HEREBY DENIED. 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. 10 11 12 13 14 15 The Clerk is directed to send uncertified copies of this Order to all counsel of record and to any party appearing pro se at said party’s last known address. Dated this 29th day of March, 2017. A ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 ORDER DENYING THE STATE DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SANCTIONS - 3

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