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Francis Carling v. Kristan Peters

March 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pitman, United States Magistrate Judge:


I. Introduction

By notice of motion dated January 18, 2011 (Docket Item 97), plaintiff Francis Carling moves pursuant to Rule 11(b) and and (c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court's inherent powers to recover sanctions against defendant Kristan Peters. Peters opposes the motion and seeks reimbursement of costs in the amount of $20,000.00 for having to respond to the motion.

For the reasons set forth below, Carling's motion is denied, and Peters' request for reimbursement of costs is also denied.

II. Facts

Carling's motion asserts that Peters engaged in sanctionable conduct in connection with the settlement conference that was conducted in this case on November 4, 2010 (Plaintiff's Brief in Support of His First Motion for Sanctions, dated Jan. 18, 2011 ("Pl.'s Brf."), (Docket Item 98), 2-13). Specifically, Carling contends that Peters (1) "insisted on the Court conducting a [settlement] conference, when she had little interest in settlement, and was in fact motivated by a desire to delay or avoid her deposition," (2) "eavesdropped on a private conference between the Court and plaintiff," (3) "violated a confidentiality order issued by the Court by disclosing what she had overheard . . . to the [a]rbitrator hearing a companion case" and (4) "made misstatements of fact to the Court when her conduct was called to its attention . . . . " (Pl.'s Brf. at 1). Carling seeks the following sanctions: (1) a finding that Peters engaged in professional misconduct and made false and misleading statements to the court, or, in the alternative, a hearing on these allegations, (2) a referral of this matter to the Committee on Grievances of the Southern District of New York and (3) other relief as justice may require (see Docket Item 97; Pl.'s Brf. at 1).

A. Peters' Conduct in Connection with the Settlement Conference

Carling first contends that Peters requested a settlement conference in bad faith because she requested the conference only to delay or avoid her deposition (Pl.'s Brf. at 2-3). Specifically, Carling contends that after the settlement conference was held, Peters "refused to reschedule her deposition [which was originally noticed for October 29, 2010], and served a set of interrogatories which did not comply with the Local Civil Rules, but which she insisted had to be answered before she would submit to a deposition" (Pl.'s Brf. at 2). Carling also states that he "was very skeptical about the utility of [a settlement conference,] because his prior settlement discussions with defendant left him unconvinced that she had any serious intention of settling" (Pl.'s Brf. at 2). Based on the above factual allegations, Carling argues that "it may fairly be inferred . . . that defendant's request for mediation was not made in good faith . . . . " (Pl.'s Brf. at 3).

Carling next contends that during the settlement conference, he exited the jury room after a private session with me and "found [] defendant [] sitting on the bench outside the jury room, in the closest position possible . . . to the door" (Pl.'s Brf. at 3-4). On the basis of this factual allegation, as well as Peters' alleged disclosures about the settlement conference to the arbitrator in a related proceeding, Carling argues that Peters intentionally listened to his private session with me (Pl.'s Brf. 3-4).

B. Peters' Conduct in Connection with the Arbitrator

As noted above, Carling contends that Peters discussed the settlement conference in an e-mail to the arbitrator in a related proceeding (Pl.'s Brf. at 4-5). In so doing, Carling argues that Peters violated a "mediation confidentiality order" entered by the Court at the outset of the settlement conference that "unless the case was settled, all statements and proceedings in the mediation were to be held in strict confidence, and not disclosed, referred to or utilized in any fashion thereafter"*fn1 (Pl.'s Brf. at 3).

In alleging a breach of the putative "mediation confidentiality order," Carling refers to the following statements that Peters made to the arbitrator in an e-mail sent on November 10, 2010:

Carling's views of Judge Pitman are the opposite of what happened. There was a settlement conference, and Mr. Carling was in a screaming match with Judge Pitman that was so loud one could hear it from outside the door on the other side of the courtroom. Judge Pitman made clear that he though [sic] Carling's fraud and defamation claims had no legs and that this was merely an attorney's fees case on his side. So Carling's contentions to the contrary are nonsense. (Pl.'s Brf. at 5) (emphasis in plaintiff's brief omitted). Carling states that Peters made these statements in response to his e-mail to the arbitrator, in which he stated: "Both Judge Marrero and Judge Pitman have now had ample exposure to [defendant's] style of litigation, and I am confident that matters in that case will go from bad to worse, from her perspective, in the coming weeks" (Pl.'s Brf. at 4) (emphasis in plaintiff's brief omitted).

Carling and Peters then sent a series of letters to the Court dated November 10, 2010 in response to each other's contentions. Carling first wrote to the Court and requested that "a swift and adequate sanction" be imposed upon Peters for her conduct (Pl.'s Brf. at 5). Peters responded by letter. Carling contends that this letter contains a number of false and/or misleading statements (see Pl.'s Brf. at 5-6). Specifically, Carling states that the following statements made by Peters are false and/or misleading: (1) "Previously, [plaintiff] told the arbitrator there was a mediation before [the Court] last week," (2) "In [plaintiff's] last e-mail, he indicated that, after that mediation, he had reason to believe that Judge Pitman 'had ample exposure to Ms. Peters' style of litigation, and I am confident that matters in that case will go from bad to worse, from her perspective in the coming weeks,'" (3) "All of this was to imply that, after the mediation, [the Court] had a negative impression of me, which was in violation of the spirit of the mediation," (4) Carling "also tried to make the arbitrator believe that, right after the mediation, you now had 'ample exposure' to me and 'things have gone very badly for me in court' and that there were findings here in court or communications that caused him to represent that he had been successful in 'demonstrating' my alleged 'misconduct'" and (5) "Given that the mediation was the only time I appeared before you, he [plaintiff's] suggestions were clear that you stated something in mediation that caused him to represent these things to the arbitrator" (Pl.'s Brf. at 5-6). ...

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