Procedural Default Defeats Sanctions Motion


If you wish to move for Rule 11 sanctions, you must take the time to (a) give the other party 21 days to withdraw the offending paper or pleading; and (b) file the motion for sanctions as a separate motion. Failure to do that risks defeat.

This is the case King v. Wang S.D. New York 2018. King argued that Wang had presented frivolous legal theories in an amended pleading. The court never reached those arguments because King did not comply with the procedural requirements of Rule 11. The explanation for the ruling:

This Court declines to discuss the merits of the Kings’ arguments for sanctions because it finds that the Kings have failed to comply with Rule 11’s strict procedural requirements. Specifically, they failed to make their motion “separately from any other motion.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c). Rather, they tacked their motion for sanctions onto their motion to strike the Amended TPC. See Bower, 2015 WL 10437758, at *3 (denying a motion for sanctions where the defendants’ “purported Rule 11 motion consist[ed] of a single, conclusory sentenced” added to the end of a brief); see also Williamson, 542 F.3d at 51 (affirming district court’s decision to deny request for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 because the defendants failed to “make a separate motion for sanctions”).

The Kings also failed to comply with Rule 11(c)’s safe harbor provision. The parties do not dispute that the Second Circuit held in Lawrence v. Richman Grp. of CT LLC, 620 F.3d 153, 158 (2d Cir. 2010), that “the filing of an amended pleading resets the clock for compliance with the safe harbor requirements of Rule 11(c)(2) before a party aggrieved by the new filing can present a sanctions motion based on that pleading to the district court.” The parties dispute, however, whether Lawrence applies when a party has unilaterally amended its pleading, as opposed to when a party was granted leave to replead and then filed a new complaint, as was the case in Lawrence.

This Court finds that the rule in Lawrence applies to “all pleadings” and, therefore, applies even when a party has exercised its right to amend its pleading as a matter of course.[1] Lawrence, 620 F.3d at 157. Other courts in this district have applied Lawrence to pleadings amended as a matter of course under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). See e.g., Rates Tech. Inc. v. Broadvox Holding Co., LLC, No. 13 CIV. 0152 SAS, 2014 WL 46538, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 6, 2014) (holding that defendants were required to serve a new sanctions motion after plaintiffs, who had amended their complaint as a matter of course, filed a new complaint). This Court, like the district court in Lawrence, may be faced with “relentless motion practice”; however, as cautioned by the Second Circuit, that does not give this Court — or the Kings — the ability to “negate the safe harbor requirements of Rule 11(c)(2).” Lawrence, 620 F.3d 160.

Because the Kings have failed to meet the procedural requirements of Rule 11(c)(2) Court is barred from granting “any award of sanctions” and this motion is denied. Targum v. Citrin Cooperman & Co., LLP, No. 12 CIV. 6909 SAS, 2013 WL 6087400, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 19, 2013).

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