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Calhoun v. Mann

March 25, 2009

DAVID CALHOUN PLAINTIFF,
v.
KENYA MANN, JOEL GOLDSTEIN, UNITED STATES MARSHALS, AND LAWRENCE MURRAY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Buckwalter, S.J.

MEMORANDUM

BUCKWALTER, S. J.

Presently before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (Docket No. 26). This Motion seeks the imposition of sanctions, not limited to "the costs of the Court to analyze the details of the claims made within this [Motion]," against Assistant United States Attorney Charlene Fullmer. (Pl.'s Mot. For Sanctions, p. 1.) For the reasons discussed below, this Motion is denied.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 11 imposes an affirmative duty on an attorney to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the factual and legal bases of all claims before filing any document with the court. Business Guides, Inc. v. Chromatic Commc'ns Enters., Inc., 498 U.S. 533, 551 (1991); Bensalem Twp. v. Int'l Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 38 F.3d 1303, 1314 (3d Cir. 1994). Rule 11 provides:

(b) Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) it 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 non-frivolous 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...

(c) Sanctions.

(1) In General. If, after notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond, the court determines that Rule 11(b) has been violated, the court may impose an appropriate sanction on any attorney, law firm, or party that violated the rule or is responsible for the violation. Absent exceptional circumstances, a law firm must be held jointly responsible for a violation committed by its partner, associate, or employee.

(2) Motion for Sanctions. A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b). The 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. If warranted, the court may award to the prevailing party the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred for the motion.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1)-(3), (c)(1,2).

Courts applying Rule 11 must utilize an objective standard of reasonableness under the circumstances. Mary Ann Pensiero, Inc. v.. Lingle, 847 F.2d 90, 92 (3d Cir. 1988); see also Brubaker Kitchens, Inc. v. Brown, 280 F. Appx. 174, 185 (3d Cir. 2008) ("It is well-settled that the test for determining whether Rule 11 sanctions should be imposed is one of reasonableness under the circumstances, the determination of which falls within the sound discretion of the District Court."). The Third Circuit has held that "[a]n inquiry is considered reasonable under the circumstances if it provides the party with "an ...


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