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Landon v. Hunt

filed: July 19, 1991.

EUGENE LANDON, CYRIL A. MOYER AND MARTIN CAMPBELL, APPELLANTS
v.
BRUCE HUNT, CAROL J. HUNT AND A. CRUICKSHANKS, IV, APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; D.C. Civil No. 88-00231.

Mansmann and Hutchinson, Circuit Judges, and O'Neill, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Per Curiam

Opinion OF THE COURT

Per Curiam

In this appeal, the plaintiffs and their attorney request that we overturn monetary sanctions imposed upon them by the district court pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 119.1(b). In moving for the imposition of sanctions, the defendants had alleged that the plaintiffs and their attorney had abused the process of the district court, had filed frivolous pleadings and had failed to appear at trial.

We find that neither authority supports the imposition of sanctions here, but we will remand for the district court to consider whether to impose sanctions against the plaintiffs through an exercise of the court's "inherent power," an issue raised and preserved by the moving parties. See Chambers v. Nasco, Inc., 111 S. Ct. 2123, 115 L. Ed. 2d 27, 59 U.S.L.W. 4595 (1991). Since the plaintiffs' attorney did not file a notice of appeal on his own behalf, we lack jurisdiction to review the sanction order insofar as it applies to him. See F.R.A.P. Rule 3(c).

I.

This action arose out of Carol J. Hunt's purchase and later resale of an 18th century Chippendale Secretary. Carol Hunt and her husband Bruce Hunt learned of the existence of the Secretary from Martin Campbell and Cyril Moyer. Subsequent to the purchase of the Secretary, the Hunts engaged Eugene Landon to assist in the authentication and marketing of the piece. The Hunts and Landon agreed that Landon was to receive a certain percentage of the sale price of the Secretary as a commission. Allen Ertel, an attorney, represented Landon during his negotiations with the Hunts.

The Secretary was sold. Prior to the distribution of the proceeds from the sale, Ertel, acting on behalf of Moyer and Campbell, asserted to the Hunts that Moyer and Campbell owned a 40% interest in the Secretary. As a result of this alleged interest, the proceeds from the sale of the Secretary could not be disbursed.

On January 6, 1988, Carol Hunt filed an action in the Court of Common Pleas for the Eighth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina against Moyer and Campbell and their antique business, the Carolinian Antiques Gallery. Hunt sought a declaration that Campbell and Moyer held no ownership interest in the Secretary.

Two weeks later, on January 22, 1988, Ertel, on behalf of Landon, filed a complaint against the Hunts and others in the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. That action had been commenced by writ of summons in November of 1987 and subsequently was removed to the district court.

After removal, the Hunts joined Campbell and Moyer as third-party defendants in this action. On their behalf, Ertel filed a counterclaim and crossclaim against the Hunts in which Campbell and Moyer sought a determination as to whether they had any ownership interest in the Secretary, the same issue which was pending in the South Carolina action.

The district court proceeded to resolve a series of dispositive pre-trial motions. On November 8, 1989, the court filed a memorandum and order which entered judgment in favor of the Hunts on the claims of Campbell and Moyer. This memorandum and order disposed of all of Moyer and Campbell's claims as counterclaim and crossclaim plaintiffs. As a result, the sole issues remaining for trial were Landon's claim concerning his alleged entitlement to a commission on the sale of the Secretary and the Hunts' claims over against Campbell and Moyer.

On September 29, 1989, the district court entered an order listing this case and six other cases for jury selection on November 13, 1989. On that date, the case was called for trial. When Landon and Ertel did not appear, the district court ...


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