United States District Court, E.D. California
TRAVYON C. HARBOR, Plaintiff,
CHERNISS, et al., Defendants.
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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,
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.
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. 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.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides as follows:
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
(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).
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”).
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).
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 ...