United States District Court, D. Arizona
Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Rule 11
Sanctions (Doc. 627). For the following reasons, the Court
will deny the Motion.
April 23, Defendant Yavapai Community College filed a Motion
for Reconsideration of this Court's Order on the
parties' motions for summary judgment. (Doc. 622). In
that motion, Defendant stated that the Court denied summary
judgment on Plaintiff's intentional interference claim as
it relates to “classroom training at Yavapai” in
error, because Judge Rosenblatt had previously dismissed this
claim in 2015 for a failure to state a claim. (Doc. 622 at
1). The Court then directed Plaintiff to file a response.
(Doc. 623). Plaintiff pointed out that Judge Rosenblatt
specifically allowed the intentional interference claim as to
interference with his training to go forward, but
not as to interference with his VA benefits. (Doc. 625 at 4).
The Court agreed and on May 2, denied Defendant's Motion
for Reconsideration. (Doc. 626).
April 27, before this Court ruled on the underlying motion
for reconsideration, Plaintiff served a Rule 11 Motion for
sanctions on Defendant. (Doc. 627). Then, on May 22, after
this Court had ruled on the underlying Motion for
Reconsideration, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Sanctions
under Rule 11 with the Court. (Id.).
Scope of Rule 11 Sanctions
relevant part, Rule 11 requires that “[t]he motion must
be served under Rule 5, but it must not be filed or be
presented to the court if the challenged paper, claim,
defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately
corrected within 21 days after service or within another time
the court sets.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 11(c)(2).
explained in the commentary for Rule 11, “[t]he
revision leaves for resolution on a case-by-case basis,
considering the particular circumstances involved, the
question as to when a motion for violation of Rule 11 should
be served and when, if filed, it should be decided.”
Advisory Committee's Commentary to 1993 Amendments to
Rule 11, Subdivisions (b) and (c). But the commentary notes
that Rule 11 is limited, in that “a party cannot delay
serving its Rule 11 motion until after . . . judicial
rejection of the offending contention.” Id.
Neither the text of the Rule nor the commentary on the
revision resolve the question at issue, which is whether a
Court can impose Rule 11 sanctions if the Court resolved the
underlying motion before the Rule 11 motion was
filed, but after the Rule 11 Motion was
served on the offending party.
purpose of the service requirement in Rule 11 is to “to
provide a . . . ‘safe harbor' against motions under
Rule 11 in that a party will not be subject to sanctions on
the basis of another party's motion unless, after
receiving the motion, it refuses to withdraw that position .
. .” Advisory Committee's Commentary to 1993
Amendments to Rule 11, Subdivisions (b) and (c).
Ninth Circuit has consistently found that a party may not
serve a Rule 11 motion for sanctions on an opposing
party after the Court resolved the offending motion or claim.
See Islamic Shura Council of Southern California v.
FBI, 757 F.3d 870, 873 (9th Cir. 2014); Barbra v.
Miller, 146 F.3d 707, 710 (9th Cir. 1998). And the
Second, Fourth, and Eleventh Circuits have held that a court
may not issue sanctions unless the motion is filed
before the Court has resolved the underlying claim. See
In re Walker, 532 F.3d 1304, 1309 (11th Cir. 2008);
Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng'g
Inc, 369 F.3d 35, 389-90 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc);
In re Pennie & Edmonds LLP, 323 F.3d 86, 89, n.
1-2 (2d Cir. 2003).
“any other interpretation would defeat the rule's
explicit requirements, ” In re Walker, 532
F.3d at 1308, the Court finds that Rule 11 does not allow for
sanctions in this context, where a court has resolved the
underlying motion before a party has had the benefit of the
full 21-day safe harbor. “Any argument to the contrary
renders the safe harbor provision a mere formality.”
however, if this Court is wrong about the law and Plaintiff
has maintained the right to seek sanctions, the Court would
not grant sanctions on the facts of this particular motion.
While sanctions can be an appropriate measure to rein in
counsel when they engage in overly aggressive litigation
tactics, they can also be an instrument by which counsel seek
to vex each other. This Court is of the view that ...