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CARLOCK v. COLLINS MOTORS

September 16, 2005.

GAYNOR CARLOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
COLLINS MOTORS, INC., ET AL., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NAPOLEON JONES, District Judge

ORDER:
(1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES; and
(2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES.
Currently before the Court are Defendants' Collins Motor Company, Richard H. Collins' Sr., Richard H. Collins, Jr., Rita A. Collins, and Kristen Collins' ("Defendants") Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs ("Defendants' Motion") and Plaintiff Gaynor Carlock's ("Plaintiff") cross Motion for Attorney's Fees ("Plaintiff's Motion"). Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1, the Court decides the Motions on the pleadings submitted and without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion.

Background Facts

  On February 20, 2004, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") and related state law claims. [Doc. No. 1.] On March 28, 2005, this Court issued an order denying Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on his ADA and state law claims and granting partial summary judgment on certain factual issues. [Doc. No. 44.] The March 28, 2005 Order also required Plaintiff to show cause why his claims should not be dismissed for lack of standing and mootness. (March 28, 2005 Order at 8.)

  On May 2, 2005, this Court ordered that Plaintiff be declared a vexatious litigant and issued a pre-filing injunction against Plaintiff. [Doc. No. 70.] The Court found that Plaintiff was filing an inordinate number of ADA and related state law claims with the bad faith motive of harassing businesses in order to extract quick cash settlements. (May 2, 2005 Order at 10.)

  Finally, on May 4, 2005, this Court issued an Order dismissing Plaintiff's ADA claim for lack of standing and mootness and dismissing Plaintiff's state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. [Doc. No. 71.]

  Legal Standards

  I. Attorney's Fees and Costs Pursuant to the ADA

  The ADA provides that "the court in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee, including litigation expenses, and costs[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 12205. When the prevailing party is the defendant, attorney's fees should be awarded only if "the plaintiff's action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation." Brown v. Lucky Stores, 246 F.3d 1182, 1190 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted).

  II. Attorney's Fees and Costs Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927

  Title 28, United States Code, Section 1927 ("Section 1927") provides that "[a]ny 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1927. Section 1927 does not permit sanctions for the initial filing of the complaint; rather, the sanctions only apply to subsequent filings and tactics which multiply the proceedings. Moore v. Keegan Mgmt. Co., 78 F.3d 431, 435 (9th Cir. 1996). To award sanctions under Section 1927, the court must make a finding of recklessness or bad faith. See Fink v. Gomez, 239 F.3d 989, 993 (9th Cir. 2001); see also West Coast Theater Corp. v. City of Portland, 897 F.2d 1519, 1528 (9th Cir. 1990).

  III. Attorney's Fees and Costs Pursuant to the Court's Inherent Power

  In addition, a federal court has the inherent power "to levy sanctions, including attorneys' fees, for willful disobedience of a court order . . . or when the losing party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons." Fink, 239 F.3d at 992 (citing Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 766 (1980)); see also Chambers v. NASCO, 501 U.S. 32, 44-45 (1991) (stating that as an "appropriate sanction for conduct that abuses the judicial process," "an assessment of attorney's fees is undoubtedly within the court's inherent power.").

  Sanctions under the court's inherent power are only warranted when an attorney has acted in bad faith. Id. at 993; see also Keegan, 78 F.3d at 436. Bad faith is found where an attorney "knowingly or recklessly raises a frivolous argument, or argues a meritorious claim for the purpose of harassing an opponent." Primus Auto Fin. Servs. v. Batarse, 115 F.3d 644, 649 (9th Cir. 1997); see also Fink, 239 F.3d at 992 (bad faith includes a broad range of improper ...


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