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Young v. Smith

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 13, 2017

MEAGAN YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
BRUCE H. SMITH, JR., Defendant.

          ORDER

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         FINDINGS:

         1. On June 20, 2017, this Court scheduled a July 13, 2017 evidentiary hearing and oral argument on counsel for Plaintiff's Motion for Fees, and this Court's related sua sponte determination that sanctions might result following the Court's further review of this matter and after considering counsel for Plaintiff's argument. ECF No. 652.

         2. The Order provided Plaintiff's counsel with “particularized notice, ” because it stated “the particular factors that [s]he must address if [s]he is to avoid sanctions.” Jones v. Pittsburgh Nat. Corp., 899 F.2d 1350, 1357 (3d Cir. 1990).

         3. In particular, that Order stated as follows at Paragraph 4:

In addition, at the time of the hearing, both parties should be prepared to address whether counsel for Plaintiff's fee request in excess of $727, 000.00, which seeks fees and costs for portions of the litigation that were necessitated by her own vexatious conduct, as against defendants that she ultimately did not prevail, for certain expenses previously held unrecoverable by judges of this Court, and relative to a total settlement of $25, 000.00, violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.

         4. In addition to citing Rule 11, that Order made clear sanctions may be imposed for Plaintiff counsel's “vexatious conduct, ” which conduct is the cornerstone of any sanctions determination under 28 U.S.C. § 1927.

         5. Earlier today, the Court held its oral argument and evidentiary hearing, at which time counsel for Plaintiff reiterated on numerous occasions that she was prepared to contest (and did so contest) the extent to which her conduct was “vexatious.”

         6. Contrary to her misrepresentations during this morning's oral argument, my June 20, 2017 Order was not the first occasion upon which the issue of sanctions for Plaintiff counsel's meritless and vexatious fee petition was raised.

         7. Indeed, despite not filing a separate Rule 11 motion, defense counsel highlighted the propriety of sanctions in its responsive papers to Plaintiff counsel's fee petition, devoting a full section of its argument to the following contention: “Plaintiff's demand for fees for the second trial, where Defendant Smith was not a party, should be the basis for sanctions, a denial of fees, or an overall reduction in fees.” ECF No. 642 at 21-22.

         8. That section specifically states that “Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b), by presenting a paper to this Honorable Court, Plaintiff's counsel certifies that, to the best of her knowledge, the legal contentions are warranted under existing law.” Id. at 21.

         9. In fact, counsel for the Defendant in its opposition brief to Plaintiff counsel's fee petition quoted directly from my 2016 decision imposing Rule 11 sanctions, in which I stated that such sanctions may be appropriate to deter “vexatious conduct” on the part of an attorney who “is simply not getting the message.” ECF No. 642 at 20 (citing Keister v. PPL Corp., - F.Supp.3d. -, No. 4:13-CV-00118, 2016 WL 688031, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 19, 2016), aff'd, 677 F.App'x 63 (3d Cir. 2017)).

         10. Moreover, in a July 10, 2017 Order granting a motion to quash one of Plaintiff counsel's subpoenas, I again reiterated that the issues to be considered at the July 13 hearing included the propriety of sanctions as to counsel for Plaintiff's fee petition. ECF No. 660 ¶ 4.

         11. At today's hearing, I ensured, for what is now at least the third time, that Plaintiff's counsel was aware that the sanctionable conduct at issue was her submitting a fee petition that sought costs and fees for portions of the litigation that were necessitated by her own vexatious conduct, as against defendants from whom she ultimately did not prevail, for certain expenses ...


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