Court Admonishes Plaintiff’s Counsel For Filing Sloppy, Poorly Researched Pleadings But Declines to Sanction

This is a case where the plaintiff’s counsel’s conduct in filing a sloppy complaint and then in failing to cure the deficiencies of the complaint in an amended filing earned plaintiff’s counsel an admonishment from the District Court. Notably, the court declined to sanction plaintiff’s counsel. The court explains:

Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Kober, behaved “unreasonably and vexatiously” in responding to their pre-motion conference request. In Defendants’ initial letter, Defendants pointed out many of the pleading deficiencies in the initial complaint. Plaintiff then sought this Court’s leave to file an amended complaint, which this Court granted. February 16, 2016 Order [Dkt. No. 14]. At that time, the Court remarked that permitting amendment was the proper course “particularly. . . given the woefully deficient allegations contained in the Complaint at this juncture.” Id. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which, as the above analysis makes clear, failed to meaningfully address many of the basic pleading deficiencies Defendants have identified. Defendants were then forced to bring the instant motion, in response to which Plaintiff finally conceded that several of the claims lacked any merit.

The Court is certainly troubled by the above conduct. A neutral reading of the filings in this case shows that the Amended Complaint, for whatever reason, contained claims which had no clear basis in law, even after that fact was pointed out to him. Further, counsel’s labored explanation that he only felt obligated to amend certain issues in his complaint, while saving any legal research into other potentially faulty claims for a later motion to dismiss undermines the obligation of lawyers to have a good faith belief in their claims prior to bringing them.

Nevertheless, at this stage, the Court declines to issue monetary sanctions under 28 U.S.C. § 1927 or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Counsel’s explanation of his thought process in proceeding as he did, disturbing as it is, assuages the Court that he did not, at the least, act in bad faith or with a vexatious motive of multiplying the proceedings. The Court does take this opportunity to formally admonish him for the above-described conduct in this case. Mr. Kober’s inability to adequately research the claims prior to asserting them in the Amended Complaint unquestionably caused Defendants the burden of having to oppose those claims with a formal motion. It also caused this Court to expend judicial resources in the administration of claims that, after several attempts by the Defendants and the Court to sift through them, even Mr. Kober now concedes lack merit. The Court hopes that this admonishment is a sufficient sanction under Rule 11 at this stage, and counsel will be guided accordingly in future filings.

In sum, plaintiff’s counsel can thank the district court for its mercy.

Source: Sapp v. PREMIER EDUCATION GROUP, LP, Dist. Court, D. New Jersey 2016 – Google Scholar

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