United States District Court, E.D. California
JAGJEEVAN K. DHALIWAL, et al., Plaintiffs,
NIRMAL SINGH, et al., Defendants.
ORDER IMPOSING SANCTIONS FOR PLAINTIFFS' FAILURE TO APPEAR AT SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE (ECF Nos. 99, 100, 113)
STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.
A settlement conference in this action was scheduled for July 28, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. before the undersigned. Plaintiffs Jagjeevan K. Dhaliwal and Mohinder Gil did not appear at the settlement conference. Following the settlement conference, an order issued requiring Plaintiff Dhaliwal and Gil to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for their failure to appear. On August 14, 2014, Defendants KS Chandi & Sons, Inc. and Chandi Brothers, LLC submitted a memorandum of costs for their attendance at the settlement conference. On August 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a response to the order to show cause.
An order to show cause hearing was held on September 3, 2014. Counsel Lee Durst was present with Plaintiffs Dhaliwal and Gil and Counsel Marc Robinson appeared for Defendants. The Court has considered the papers filed by the parties and the arguments at the September 3 hearing and issues the following order.
The Court has inherent power to sanction parties or their attorneys for improper conduct. Chambers v. Nasco, Inc. , 501 U.S. 32, 43-46 (1991); Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper , 447 U.S. 752, 766 (1980); Fink v. Gomez , 239 F.3d 989, 991 (9th Cir. 2001). A specific finding of bad faith must precede any imposition of sanctions under the Court's inherent powers. United States v. Stoneberger , 805 F.2d 1391, 1393 (9th Cir. 1986).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 provides that a court may issue any just order for the failure to appear at a pretrial conference or failing to obey a scheduling or other pretrial order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(f)(1)(A) and (B). Rule 16(f)(2) mandates that "the court must order the party, its attorney, or both to pay the reasonable expenses-including attorney's fees-incurred because of any noncompliance with this rule, unless the noncompliance was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust." Further, pursuant to Local Rule 110 the Court can impose any and all sanctions for the failure of counsel or a party to comply with the Local Rules or any order of the Court.
A. Sanctions Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rules
When counsel appeared for the settlement conference he represented to the Courtroom Clerk that the individual in attendance was his client. It was not until the notice from defense counsel was received that the Court became aware that the individual attending the settlement conference was not a plaintiff in this action. At the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel informed the Court that while the person accompanying him was his client, he was not his client in this particular federal case. It is apparent that the confusion arose therein from the initial statement by counsel. Based upon the circumstances presented here, the Court does not find bad faith on the part of Plaintiffs. Accordingly, the Court will not issue sanctions under its inherent power.
However, Local Rule 270(f)(1) provides that unless otherwise specifically permitted by the Court conducting the settlement conference, "counsel shall be accompanied in person by a person capable of disposition, or shall be fully authorized to settle the matter at the settlement conference on any terms." Furthermore, the order issued October 9, 2013 provided that "the attorneys who will try the case shall appear at the Settlement Conference with the parties and the person or persons having full ...