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Ewing v. Gonow Travel Club, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 26, 2019

ANTON EWING, Plaintiff,
v.
GONOW TRAVEL CLUB, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER: (1) SANCTIONING PLAINTIFF; (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF’S EX PARTE MOTION TO LODGE DVD; AND (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION [ECF NOS. 41, 44]

          HON. CYNTHIA BASHANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On September 16, 2019, Plaintiff Anton Ewing filed a document entitled “Joint Motion to Strike.” (ECF No. 37.) The document states that Plaintiff and Defendant GoNow Travel Club, LLC “hereby stipulate and do jointly . . . move” to strike a declaration from the record. (Id. at 1.) The document was signed by Plaintiff and looked to be electronically signed by defense counsel James Brasher. That same day, Mr. Brasher filed a declaration informing the Court that he had not given Plaintiff permission to file the motion. The Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for filing the “joint” motion. Brasher then filed a supplemental declaration, and Plaintiff filed a response to the Court Order. After reviewing all filings, the timeline of events is now clear.

         On September 11, 2019, the Parties attended an early neutral evaluation (“ENE”) conference with Magistrate Judge Schopler. (ECF No. 36.) At the ENE, the Parties agreed that a certain document could be stricken from the record, and Plaintiff was to prepare the joint motion to strike. Later that day, Plaintiff emailed Mr. Brasher a proposed joint motion to strike. The next day, Thursday September 12, 2019, Mr. Brasher sent Plaintiff a letter[1] wherein he informed Plaintiff he did not agree to the joint motion, and he requested Plaintiff instead make changes to the document and send back a revised copy. (ECF No. 38.) On Monday September 16, 2019, Plaintiff filed the joint motion on the record. After learning that the document was not agreed to by Mr. Brasher, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for filing the document. (ECF No. 39.) Plaintiff responded to the Court’s Order. (“Ewing Response, ” ECF No. 43.)

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Courts have inherently broad authority to impose penalties and sanctions for a party’s failure to comply with the rules of conduct governing the litigation process. Through the district court’s inherent powers, monetary sanctions in the form of attorney’s fees may be imposed against a party who acts in bad faith, such as disrupting the litigation process of failing to abide by a court order. Leon v. IDX Systems Corp., 464 F.3d 951, 961 (9th Cir. 2006); see also Rodeway Exp., Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 766 (1980).

         Pro se litigants are subject to sanctions. Simpson v. Lear Astronics Corp., 77 F.3d 1170, 1177 (9th Cir.1996) (vacating district court’s order declining to impose sanctions on pro se litigant and remanding for a determination of whether a Rule 11 violation had taken place and, if so, what sanctions should be imposed); Warren v. Guelker, 29 F.3d 1386, 1390 (9th Cir.1994) (holding Rule 11 applies to unrepresented parties, and district courts are not at liberty to automatically exempt them from sanctions). The court must, however, take a party’s pro se status into account when determining whether the party’s actions were reasonable. Id. The Court “can properly consider [a party’s] ability to pay monetary sanctions as one factor in assessing sanctions.” Warren, 29 F.3d at 1390.

         Regardless of whether sanctions are imposed under the Federal Rules or pursuant to a court's inherent power, the decision to impose sanctions lies within the sound discretion of the court. See Lasar v. Ford Motor Co., 399 F.3d 1101, 1109– 14 (9th Cir. 2005) (reviewing sanctions imposed under the court's inherent power); Payne v. Exxon Corp., 121 F.3d 503, 510 (9th Cir. 1997) (upholding sanctions imposed under the Federal Rules).

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Court finds it appropriate to sanction Plaintiff, and this finding is supported by a variety of reasons.[2]

         Blocking Domain Names.

         Plaintiff has made it very clear to defense counsel Mr. Brasher that he may not email Plaintiff, and that Plaintiff has “blocked” Brasher’s domain so that no emails will come through. (Exhibits 3 and 4 to Declaration of James Brasher, ECF No. 42.) Plaintiff is a litigant very familiar to this Court, and has had cases in front of and appeared in front of many district and magistrate judges in this courthouse. In a prior case, Plaintiff similarly blocked the domain name of the defendant’s counsel. When counsel objected, Magistrate Judge Lopez held:

Notably, Plaintiff cites no case or other law to support his argument that he should be allowed to block Defendant from emailing Plaintiff. As set forth above, Plaintiff and Defendant are required to “be courteous and civil in all communications” and “attempt to informally resolve disputes with opposing counsel.” Civ. L.R. 83.4(a)(1). Additionally, the Federal Rules require the parties to confer, communicate, and cooperate. See, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 5, 26, 37. Email provides immediate and convenient notice and its use has become commonplace for a primary means of communication between parties in litigation.

(19-cv-845-CB-LL, ECF No. 31, at 6–7.) She ordered Plaintiff to stop blocking defense counsel’s emails. (Id. at 7.) Therefore, Plaintiff is well aware that there is no basis for him to block defense counsel’s emails in a case. Yet he has done so here. For the remainder of this case, Plaintiff SHALL unblock Mr. Brasher’s emails and the parties may communicate civilly through email. If Plaintiff believes he has good reason to continue blocking the emails, he must request Court permission to do so.

         To avoid further confusion, the Court orders the following. In any case currently pending or later filed in this district where Plaintiff is a party, if Plaintiff wishes to block the domain name or emails of opposing counsel, he must file a motion in the case requesting court ...


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