United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: SANCTIONS
MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.
The Court has before it Defendant The Bank of Delmarva's Motion for Sanctions [Document 10] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court has held a hearing and had the benefit of the arguments of counsel.
Defendant The Bank Of Delmarva ("the Bank") seeks to have the Court sanction Plaintiff Judy Harris ("Harris") and/or Harris's counsel pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 1927. The Court finds, however, that Harris, the client, should not be burdened with sanctions due to the actions of her counsel.
As set forth in the Memorandum and Order Re: Summary Judgment [Document 16], Harris's contentions - as "explained" by counsel at the summary judgment hearing - were meritless, based upon an unrealistic view of the evidence, and purportedly supported by reckless charges of impropriety. See [Document 16] at 17-24. Indeed, Harris testified at her deposition that she was unaware of any facts, circumstances, or documents that supported a contention that she was terminated due to her age. See Harris Dep. 67:3-13, 68:14-69:5.
Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part:
(b) By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper - whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it - an attorney... 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....
Title 28 U.S.C. § 1927 provides:
Any attorney... who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.
While the Court could impose sanctions on Harris's counsel pursuant to either authority, it shall proceed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and exercise its discretion to limit the extent of the sanctions to the Bank's expenses pertaining to the summary judgment motion hearing.
The Court will assume that Harris's counsel, in drafting the Complaint, believed that Harris presented a nonfrivolous claim. The Court will further assume that counsel so believed even after receiving Harris's deposition transcript and the Bank's letter of June 4, 2014 [Document 10-5] presenting cogent reasons why Harris should not proceed with the case. The Court also will further assume - albeit the assumption hardly is warranted - that Harris's counsel had a plausible basis to believe that he could draft a plausible Response to the Bank's Motion for Summary Judgment. However, the Court will assume no further.
The Court finds that in light of Harris's Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment (such as it was) and the Bank's Reply, Harris's counsel did not - and could not - reasonably believe that there ...