Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harbor v. Cherniss

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 7, 2017

TRAVYON C. HARBOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CHERNISS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds against defendants Cherniss, Olmedo, and Duffy on claims arising from Cherniss's alleged sexual harassment of plaintiff. Defendants initially appeared in this case on July 27, 2016, and filed an answer to the most recent iteration of the pleading on April 26, 2017.

         Pending now are two motions filed by plaintiff in which he claims that defense counsel impermissibly sought discovery from the California Medical Facility's (“CMF”) Prison Litigation Coordinator, resulting in a legal litigation hold on and denial of access to plaintiff's prison central file. Plaintiff seeks sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Defendants oppose these motions.

         At issue here is a July 18, 2016, letter written by defense counsel advising the CMF Litigation Coordinator to preserve and retain documents relevant to this litigation.[1] Decl. of Joseph R. Wheeler in Supp. of Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Sanct. (ECF No. 25-1) ¶¶ 2-5. The letter specifically asked that, among other records, plaintiff's central file be preserved notwithstanding any document retention policies of the institution. Id. The letter does not instruct the Litigation Coordinator to withhold the inmate's access to his central file or any other record (inasmuch as the inmate would be entitled to view it per prison regulations / policy). Id.

         Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides as follows:

         By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an attorney or unrepresented party 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; and
(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b).

         By its own terms, Rule 11 is inapplicable here because defense counsel's July 18, 2016, letter was sent to the CMF Litigation Coordinator, not submitted to or filed with the court. It is therefore not a document “present[ed] to the court.” In fact, the letter is ostensibly related to discovery since it concerns a litigation hold, and Rule 11 specifically excludes itself from matters relating to discovery. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(d) (titled, “Inapplicability to Discovery”).

         Nonetheless, 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). This includes the “inherent power to dismiss an action when a party has willfully deceived the court and engaged in conduct utterly inconsistent with the orderly administration of justice.” Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. Natural Beverage Distrib., 69 F.3d 337, 348 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting Wyle v. R.J. Reynolds Indus., Inc., 709 F.2d 585, 589 (9th Cir. 1983).

         In the Ninth Circuit, sanctions are appropriate only in “extreme circumstances” and where the violation is “due to willfulness, bad faith, or fault of the party.” Fair Housing of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 905 (9th Cir.2002.) (quoting United States v. Kahaluu Constr. Co., Inc., 857 F.2d 600, 603 (9th Cir.1988) (citations omitted)). However, “disobedient conduct not shown to be outside the control of the litigant is all that is required to demonstrate willfulness, bad faith, or fault.” Hyde & Drath v. Baker, 24 F.3d 1162, 1167 (9th Cir. 1994). The party ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.