District Court Declines to Reopen Case To Allow A Party To File A Rule 11 Motion


This opinion, denying a motion for Rule 11 sanctions, is unusual except that, two months after judgment, the defendant attempted to reopen the case to file a Rule 11 motion. The court declined the invitation ruling that the motion was untimely. The court’s reasoning is as follows:

Defendants served Plaintiff’s counsel with the Motion for Sanctions on June 15, 2015, and waited twenty-one days (during which Plaintiff did not take any “corrective action,” although with summary judgment granted and the case “closed,” the only “corrective action” Plaintiff could take was to pay Defendants’ claimed attorney’s fees) to file the motion, in accordance with the letter of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2). Defs.’ Mot. to Reopen ¶ 14. Yet, more is required: “It is important that [a Rule 11] motion be `served promptly after the inappropriate paper is filed, and, if delayed too long, [it] may be viewed as untimely.'” Hunter v. Earthgrains Co. Bakery, 281 F.3d 144, 152 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 Advisory Committee’s Note (1993) (“Rule 11 Note”)). Less than two weeks before serving Plaintiff, Defendants first notified her of the perceived Rule 11 violations, “twenty-six (26) days after this Court issued its final Memorandum Opinion granting summary judgment in favor of the Ourisman Defendants.” Defs.’ Mot. to Reopen ¶ 5 (emphasis added). Defendants view this as timely, insisting that “[i]t was not until this court issued its decision on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment that the full effect of Plaintiff’s conduct became evidence or that Defendants were fully aware of the extent of Plaintiff’s counsel’s inappropriate conduct.” Defs.’ Reply 2. But, Defendants should have known of the alleged unfounded factual allegations in the Complaint as early as Ms. Sterling’s deposition on March 27, 2014, or in June 2014, when she supplemented her discovery responses, or, at the very latest, September 2, 2014, when they completed and filed their summary judgment motion. Their June 2015 notification and service and July 2015 filing were unnecessarily (and unreasonably) delayed, rendering their motion untimely. SeeHunter, 281 F.3d at 152; Rule 11 Note.

In other words, its not fair to wait sixty days after the court has granted your summary judgment motion to seek sanctions.

Source: Sterling v. OURISMAN CHEVROLET OF BOWIE INC., Dist. Court, D. Maryland 2016 – Google Scholar

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