United States District Court, N.D. New York
June 14, 2004.
FRANK D. LANGDON, GRANT D. LANGDON, Plaintiffs,
COUNTY OF COLUMBIA; PAUL PROPER, Former Sheriff of Columbia County; DAVID PROPER, Deputy Sheriff for Columbia County; CHARLES WILSON, Deputy Sheriff for Columbia County; INVESTIGATOR VICK, Investigator for Columbia County Sheriff's Department; INVESTIGATOR COZZALINO, Investigator for Columbia County Sheriff's Department; JASON SHAW, as Employee of Rappaport, Meyers, Whitebeck, Shaw & Rodenhausen, LLP; CARL G. WHITBECK, JR., Columbia County Attorney, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOWARD MUNSON, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
On August 9, 1999, the Clerk's Office for the Northern District
of New York received correspondence from pro se plaintiff,
Grant D. Langdon ("Langdon"), which included a notice of motion
and an affidavit in support of his request for sanctions for full
recovery of damages, presumably made pursuant to Rule 11(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against defendants.
Previously, on July 14, 1999, the court granted defendants'
motion to dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure holding that Langdon and his
son's case was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. See
Langdon v. Proper, 1999 WL 263554 (N.D.N.Y. July 14, 1999).
Judgment was entered for defendants the same day. Dkt. No. 41.
Plaintiff never appealed the court's order of dismissal to the
Second Circuit Court of Appeals, thus rendering this court's
judgment final and the case closed.
On June 1, 2004, the court received a Mandate from the Second
Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied Langdon's mandamus
petition to compel the district court to decide Langdon's motion
for sanctions. The Second Circuit noted that Langdon had "failed
to submit evidence that the motion for sanctions, which is
neither reflected on the district court's docket sheet nor
present in the record, was actually filed in the district court . . .
If [Langdon] wishes to contest the accuracy of the district
court's records, application should be made to that court." Dkt.
On June 4, 2004, the court received correspondence from Langdon
in which he contested the accuracy of the district court's records. Langdon cited his
motion papers dated August 4, 1999, and noted that in reply to
his motion for sanctions, counsel for defendants had submitted an
affidavit in opposition. After review of Langdon's submissions,
the court determines that Langdon submitted a motion for
sanctions that should have been filed and surmises that, due to
clerical error, plaintiff's motion for sanctions was never file
stamped and thereafter remained in the correspondence section of
the case file.*fn1 The court will now address Langdon's
motion for sanctions.
I. Plaintiff's Pro Se Status
Because plaintiff proceeds pro se in this matter, the court
must hold his submissions to "less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); accord
Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994) ("[W]e read
[the pro se party's] supporting papers liberally, and will
interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest."). This liberal standard, however, does not excuse a
pro se litigant from complying with relevant rules of
procedural and substantive law. See Traguth v. Zuck,
710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983).
II. Alleged Sanctionable Conduct
In his August 9, 1999, affidavit, Langdon alleges that
"[l]awyers for the defendant and the named defendants Obstructed
Justice by destruction Of evidence, the willful withholding of
evidence and filing a frivolous motion To conceal the illegal
actions of the County of Columbia and the defendants." In his
June 4, 2004, affidavit, Langdon alleges that James Resila, Esq.,
counsel for defendants, submitted affidavits he knew to be false. Langdon
further alleges that Resila withheld exculpatory evidence from
the Grand Jury and District Attorney. Langdon requests that the
court award "sanctions covering the full damages caused by the
defendants" in the amount of $50 million and bar Carter, Conboy,
Case, Blackmore, Napierski & Maloney, P.C. from appearing before
the Federal Courts and practicing law within the State of New
York. Langdon Aff. August 9, 1999; Langdon Aff. June 9, 2004.
III. Rule 11 Procedural Requirements
As noted above, Langdon failed to specify under or upon which
statute he was bringing his motion for sanctions against
defendants. Based upon the allegations contained in Langdon's
affidavits, as summarized above, the court infers that Langdon
brought his motion pursuant to Rule 11(b) and Rule 11(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11(b)(3) states
By representing to the court . . . a pleading,
written motion, or other paper, an attorney or
unrepresented party is certifying that to the best of
the person's knowledge, information, and belief,
formed after an inquiry reasonable under the
circumstances, (3) the allegations and other
factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if
specifically so identified, are likely to have
evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity
for further investigation or discovery.
Rule 11(c) states "[i]f after notice and a reasonable opportunity
to respond, the court determines that [Rule 11](b) has been
violated, the court may . . . impose an appropriate sanction upon
the attorneys, law firms, or parties that have violated
[Rule 11](b) or are responsible for the violation."
A. Service and Filing
To comply with Rule 11's procedural requirements, a party must
make its motion for sanctions separate from other motions or
requests, describe the specific conduct alleged to violate
Rule 11(b), provide notice to opposing counsel, and serve the motion
at least twenty-one days prior to filing the motion with the
court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(1)(A); see Kron v. Moravia Central
School Dist., 2001 WL 536274, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. May 3, 2001). Although
Rule 11 does not specify what type of notice is required, the
advisory committee notes provide that "[i]n most cases, . . .
counsel should be expected to give informal notice to the other
party, whether in person or by a telephone call or letter, of a
potential violation before proceeding to prepare and serve a
Rule 11 motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 Advisory Committee Notes.
Although Rule 11 does not specify when a party should move
thereunder, its drafters advise early action:
Ordinarily the [Rule 11] motion should be served
promptly after the inappropriate paper is filed, and,
if delayed too long, may be viewed as untimely. In
other circumstances, it should not be served until
the other party has had a reasonable opportunity for
discovery. Given the "safe harbor" provisions . . . a
party cannot delay serving its Rule 11 motion until
conclusion of the case (or judicial rejection of the
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 Advisory Committee Notes (1993 Amendments).
Because "a Rule 11 motion cannot be made unless there is some
paper, claim, or contention that can be withdrawn, it follows
that a party cannot wait to seek sanctions until after the
contention has been judicially disposed. A party must . . . serve
a Rule 11 motion on the allegedly offending party at least
twenty-one days prior to conclusion of the case or judicial
rejection of the offending contention." Ridder v. City of
Springfield, 109 F.3d 288, 295 (6th Cir. 1997) (emphases
added). Similarly, the Second Circuit has observed that Rule 11's
"`safe harbor' provision functions as a practical time limit, and
motions have been disallowed as untimely when filed after a point
in the litigation when the lawyer sought to be sanctioned lacked
an opportunity to correct or withdraw the challenged submission."
In re Pennie & Edmonds, LLP, 323 F.3d 86
, 89 (2d Cir. 2003);
see also Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng'r, Inc.,
2004 WL 1161940, at *2 (4th Cir. May 26, 2004) (explaining
that Rule 11 "sanctions cannot be brought after summary judgment has been
granted"); Barber v. Miller, 146 F.3d 707
, 710-11 (9th Cir.
1998) (reversing district court's award of sanctions where the
moving party requested sanctions after the district court had
already dismissed the complaint with prejudice). Service and
filing of a Rule 11 motion must occur prior to final judgment and
quite clearly then, a party cannot move for sanctions after the
court has already dismissed the case. See Brickwood, 2004 WL
1161940, at *2 ("It is clear from the language of the rule that
it imposes mandatory obligations upon the party seeking
sanctions, so that failure to comply with the procedural
requirements precludes the imposition of the requested
IV. Motion For Sanctions Is Time-Barred
Here, the court is unable to determine whether Langdon complied
with Rule 11's service and filing requirements because there is
no indication when he notified or served Resila, the target of
his motion for sanctions. Therefore, the court cannot determine
whether Langdon served the motion twenty-one days prior to filing
the motion with the court. Irrespective, however, of when Langdon
served the motion on Resila, it is clear that he filed*fn2
his motion twenty-three days after the court dismissed the case
and judgment was entered for defendants. Rule 11 does not permit
the court to entertain motions for sanctions filed after the
conclusion of the case or judicial rejection of the offending
contention. See id. 2004 WL 1161940, at *2 ("If a
non-compliant motion nonetheless is filed with the court, the
district court lacks authority to impose the requested
sanctions."). Therefore, the court DENIES Langdon's motion for
sanctions with prejudice.
WHEREFORE, after careful consideration of the file in this
matter and the parties' submissions, as well as the applicable law, the court hereby
ORDERS that Langdon's motion for sanctions is DENIED; the
ORDERS that to the extent the court opened the case, the case
is again closed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.