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Rubino v. Lackawann County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 14, 2020

AUTUMN (BRIAN) RUBINO, Plaintiff,
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT D. MARIANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Here the Court considers "Defendants', Correctional Care, Inc., and Edward Zaloga, D.O., Motion Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 to Preclude Physician Diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria" (Doc. 42). With this motion, Defendants Correctional Care, Inc., and Edward Zaloga, D.O. ("Moving Defedants") request that the Court issue an Order that no physician has diagnosed Plaintiff with gender dysphoria and preclude Plaintiff from presenting any evidence of any physician diagnosis of gender dysphoria. (Doc. 42 at 3; Doc. 42-1 at 1.)

         The basis of this request is Plaintiffs representation in his "Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction" ("Emergency Motion") (Doc. 21) that the need for the administration of Estradioal and Spironolactone while incarcerated were supported by Plaintiff's "formal[] diagnosis [] by medical doctors as suffering from gender dysphoria" (Doc. 22 at 2) and his averment in the Emergency Motion that the "prescriptions and diagnoses were made by Joshua Fleetman, MD, a trained medical doctor licensed under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (Doc. 21 ¶ 10). (Doc. 43 at 1-2.) Moving Defendants assert that this information contained in Plaintiffs Emergency Motion and supporting brief (Docs. 21, 22) is false because Dr. Fleetman testified at his May 20, 2019, deposition that he did not himself make a definitive diagnosis of gender dysphoria or conduct a full evaluation of Plaintiff but rather relied upon the evaluation and diagnosis of Licensed Professional Counselor Susan Decker. (Doc. 43 at 4.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 provides in pertinent part that:

(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 nonfrivolous 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; and
(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b).

         Rule 11 further provides, that "[i]f, 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(1). The clear language of the Rule allows the Court discretion to decide whether to impose sanctions. See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b), (c) advisory committee's note, 1993 amendment ("Whether a violation has occurred and what sanctions, if any, to impose for a violation are matters committed to the discretion of the trial court...."). The Court also "has discretion to tailor sanctions to the particular facts of the case." Doering v. Union Cnty. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 857 F.2d 191, 194 (3d Cir.1988). "The court has available a variety of possible sanctions to impose for violations, such as striking the offending paper; issuing an admonition, reprimand, or censure; requiring participation in seminars or other educational programs; ordering a fine payable to the court; referring the matter to disciplinary authorities..., etc." Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 Advisory Committee Notes to 1993 Amendment. "A district court's choice of deterrent is appropriate when it is the minimum that will serve to adequately deter the undesirable behavior." Doering, 857 F.2d at 194 (internal quotation omitted).

         The goal of Rule 11 is correction of litigation abuse. Gaiardo v. Ethyl Corp.,835 F.2d 479, 483 (3d Cir. 1987). "Sanctions are to be applied only 'in the "exceptional circumstance" where a claim or motion is patently unmeritorious or frivolous.'" Ario v. Underwriting Members of Syndicate 53,618 ...


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