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CTC Imports and Exports v. Nigerian Petroleum Corp.

argued: May 6, 1991.

CTC IMPORTS AND EXPORTS
v.
NIGERIAN PETROLEUM CORPORATION, GULF SHIPPING AGENCY (NIGERIA, LTD.), UNIVERSE MARITIME PIREAUS, MARZELLI, CASA, MV "VYTINA", NICHOLOS, CAPTAIN STRATIS, RICE UNRUH, RUSSEL, SHELTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF BRITISH PETROLEUM, BRITISH PETROLEUM, SOHIO SUPPLY COMPANY ADDAX OVERSEAS S.A. OF PANAMA V. INDAKWA, JOHN, SCHIEFEN, JACK, MATTHEW A., THOMAS P., OLICKAN, JOSEPH, MATHAI, THOMAS, OMUHAMBE, SHADRAH, INTERNATIONAL MARITIME TRANSPORT, INC. BEHRENS, WOLFGANG, LUDWIG, PETER, DOE, JOHN ROE, JOHN, XYZ CORPORATION CTC IMPORTS AND EXPORTS, SIMON W. TACHE, ESQUIRE, APPELLANTS



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (D.C. Civil Action No. 89-01815)

Before: Mansmann and Nygaard, Circuit Judges and Roney, Circuit Judge*fn*

Author: Nygaard

Opinion OF THE COURT

NYGAARD, Circuit Judge.

CTC Imports and Exports sued to arrest the vessel M/V Vytina. The district court dismissed the complaint and upon motion imposed sanctions against CTC and its attorneys, Obioma Aham and Simon Tache, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927. They appeal from an order denying motions by Tache and Aham for reconsideration of the sanctions. We conclude that Aham is not an appellant. Thus we will dismiss his appeal. We hold that the district court properly sanctioned CTC. Because we further hold that the district court improperly dismissed Tache's motion for reconsideration, we will reverse the order denying Tache's motion and remand the matter to the district court.

I.

CTC through its attorneys, Tache and Aham, falsely arrested a Nigerian oil shipment aboard the Vytina. On March 10, 1989, at about 11:00 P.M., Aham, an attorney for CTC, contacted Tache and requested Tache to act as local counsel for CTC in arresting the Vytina. Thereafter events moved rapidly. On March 11, a day before the Vytina was scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia, Tache filed a complaint against defendants/appellees. The complaint alleged that CTC was the rightful owner of cargo aboard the Vytina at Port of Bonny, Nigeria. It sought arrest of the vessel when it docked at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. On March 12, the district court issued an emergency order authorizing the arrest. On March 13, the Vytina arrived at Marcus Hook and the arrest warrant was executed.

On March 15, the district court vacated the arrest warrant pursuant to the parties' stipulation and the litigation proceeded. In the next two days, Captain Nikolaos Stratis, the master of the Vytina, and John Indakwa, President of CTC, were deposed. Stratis' testimony showed that CTC's claim of legal title was based on forged documents. On March 21, the district court held a hearing to resolve discovery disputes and ordered CTC to produce shipping documents to substantiate its legal title to the cargo. On March 26, defendants moved for an expedited hearing for summary judgment and the court heard oral argument on March 31. Because CTC failed to file a verification with its complaint, the court dismissed the complaint with leave to file a proper verification.

Defendants filed a joint motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927. On April 27, 1990, the district court sanctioned Tache for conducting an inadequate pre-filing inquiry and CTC for filing a frivolous complaint pursuant to Rule 11. The court also sanctioned Aham pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 for entering an appearance after the arrest warrant had been vacated and for joining in all filed papers. It imposed joint and several liability for sanctions among these three parties and awarded the defendants attorneys' fees. On May 2, 1990, the court entered judgment.

On May 9, 1990, Tache on his own behalf filed a motion for reconsideration of the April 27 order. On July 2, 1990, Aham on his own behalf filed a similar motion. On October 22, 1990, the court denied Tache's and Aham's motions without opinion. On November 21, 1990, Tache and CTC filed a timely notice of appeal.

II.

Before discussing the merits of the sanctions, we must decide the threshold issue of whether we have appellate jurisdiction for all parties. The notice of appeal reads:

Notice is hereby given that Plaintiff CTC IMPORTS and EXPORTS, by and through its undersigned counsel, L. Obioma Aham, Esquire; and Simon W. Tache, Esquire, in his own right, hereby appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from the order by this Court of October 22, 1990, denying the motions of Simon Tache, Esquire and L. Obioma Aham, Esquire, for reconsideration of the court's Order imposing Sanctions.

As to Tache, this notice satisfies Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) (Rule 3(c)).*fn1 As to CTC and Aham, ...


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