United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SANCTIONS, MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT, AND ADMINISTRATIVE MOTIONS TO SEAL RE: DKT. NOS.
59, 60, 71, 76
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are Defendant's motions for sanctions
and summary judgment, and the parties' administrative
motions to file documents under seal. For the reasons
articulated below, the Court DENIES
Defendant's motion for sanctions, Dkt. No. 76;
GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary
judgment on the Title VI claim and REMANDS
the remaining state law claims to state court, Dkt. No. 60;
GRANTS Defendant's motion to file under
seal, Dkt. No. 59; and GRANTS IN PART and
DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's corrected
motion to file under seal, Dkt. No. 71.
RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Lawrence Haley filed his complaint in San Francisco Superior
Court on October 24, 2018. Dkt. No. 1-1
(“Compl.”). Plaintiff's complaint includes
seven state causes of action and one federal cause of action,
retaliation in violation of Title VI. Compl. ¶¶
19-65. Defendant Clark Construction Group-California, Inc.
removed the action on December 14, 2018, based on the Title
VI federal cause of action. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 3-7.
Court had its initial case management conference with the
parties in March 2019. Dkt. No. 17. Since the case management
conference, the Court granted Defendant's motion to
modify the scheduling order (which the Court construed as a
motion to strike Plaintiff's jury demand) and denied
Plaintiff's ex parte application to modify the scheduling
order. Dkt. Nos. 56, 57, 58.
filed its motion for summary judgment on October 10, 2019,
seeking summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's causes of
action. Dkt. No. 60. The Court held a hearing on the motion
on November 27, 2019. Dkt. No. 73. At the hearing, Plaintiff
conceded that summary judgment was appropriate as to the
Title VI claim and told the Court that it was
“inadvertently alleged as a Title VI” claim, when
it “should have been a Title VII” claim. Dkt. No.
76-3, Ex. B at 2:21-3:3. Plaintiff's counsel also
represented that she “believe[s] that there are no
facts to support retaliation anyway with respect to Title
VII.” Id. The Court informed the parties that
because summary judgment was appropriate as to the only
federal cause of action, it would remand the case in light of
the Ninth Circuit's clear direction on this point and in
consideration of the factors under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c).
Id. at 5:23-7:4. Defendant expressed its intention
to bring a motion for sanctions and requested that the Court
retain jurisdiction to rule on the motion before remanding
the case. Id. at 9:25-13:2.
Court now rules on both Defendant's motion for sanctions
and the motion for summary judgment.
MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
requests sanctions based on Plaintiff and his counsel
“litigating a frivolous Title VI claim that they admit
is meritless and which they never intended to plead in the
first place.” Dkt. No. 76 at 1. It contends that
Plaintiff “recklessly and frivolously failed to dismiss
his meritless Title VI claim, seek remand, or otherwise
advise the Court and Clark that he has abandoned the only
claim upon which federal jurisdiction rests.”
Id. at 2. Defendant seeks sanctions under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1927 or the Court's inherent powers. Id.
Section 1927 and the Court's Inherent Powers
Any attorney or other person admitted to conduct cases in any
court of the United States or any Territory thereof 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. Sanctions are appropriate under §
1927 only on a showing “of the attorney's
recklessness or bad faith.” Estate of Blas Through
Chargualaf v. Winkler, 792 F.2d 858, 860 (9th Cir.
1986); see also Kohler v. Flava Enterprises, Inc.,
779 F.3d 1016, 1020 (9th Cir. 2015) (section 1927 requires
proving that “the opposing party acted with
‘subjective bad faith'” (citation and
quotations omitted)). For purposes of § 1927, bad faith
is present “when an attorney knowingly or recklessly
raises a frivolous argument ... or argues a meritorious claim
for the purpose of harassing an opponent.” Estate
of Blas, 792 F.2d at 860 (citations omitted).
the court's inherent power, federal courts may impose
sanctions only when there is a “specific finding of bad
faith.” In re Keegan Mgmt. Co., Sec. Litig.,
78 F.3d 431, 436 (9th Cir. 1996). While recklessness is
sufficient for § 1927, “mere recklessness, without
more, does not justify sanctions under a court's inherent
power.” Fink v. Gomez, 239 F.3d 989, 993-94
(9th Cir. 2001). Sanctions are available for a “variety
of types of willful actions, including recklessness when
combined with an additional factor such as frivolousness,
harassment, or an improper purpose.” Id. at
994. “For purposes of imposing sanctions under the
inherent power of the court, a finding of bad faith
‘does not require that the legal and factual basis for
the action prove totally frivolous; where a litigant is
substantially motivated by vindictiveness, obduracy, or mala
fides, the assertion of a colorable claim will not bar the
assessment of attorney's fees.'” Id.
at 992 (citation and quotations omitted).