United States District Court, S.D. New York
ANALISA TORRES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
question before this Court is whether decisions made by the
Honorable Stewart D. Aaron are to be considered rulings on
“dispositive” or “non-dispositive”
matters. For the reasons below, the rulings on (1)
attorney's fees, ECF No. 92, and (2) reconsideration of
that attorney's fees opinion, ECF No. 100, shall be
considered rulings on dispositive motions.
procedural history is summarized in brief. On March 8, 2019,
the Court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss, ECF
Nos. 38 & 54, and Defendants' motion for sanctions
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, ECF No. 47.
ECF No. 75. In its holding on sanctions, the Court held that
“the appropriate sanction is requiring LCS and Lobbin,
jointly and severally, to reimburse Shire and Haug for their
reasonable attorney's fees and other expenses associated
with briefing the motion to dismiss and the motion for
sanctions.” ECF No. 75 at 37. The Court ordered the
parties to confer in an effort to reach agreement on
reasonable expenses, and for Defendants to file a motion for
attorney's fees absent such agreement. Id. at
April 5, 2019, Defendants filed a motion for attorney's
fees. ECF No. 80. On April 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed a notice
of appeal from the Court's judgment with respect to the
motions to dismiss and motion for sanctions. ECF No. 83.
April 11, 2019, the Court issued an order of reference to the
Judge Aaron referring, among other motions, the motion for
attorney's fees as a “[n]on-[d]ispositive
[m]otion/[d]ispute.” ECF No. 84.
29, 2019, Judge Aaron issued an opinion and order granting in
part and denying in part Defendants' motion for
attorney's fees. ECF No. 92. On June 12, 2019, Plaintiff
filed a motion for reconsideration of Judge Aaron's
attorney's fees order. ECF No. 96. On June 15, 2019,
Plaintiff amended its notice of appeal to include the
attorney's fees order at ECF No. 96. ECF No. 97. On July
5, 2019, Judge Aaron denied Plaintiff's motion for
reconsideration. ECF No. 100.
August 2, 2019, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal of Judge
Aaron's denial of its motion for reconsideration. ECF No.
104. On January 3, 2020, the Second Circuit issued a mandate
on each of the appeals, ECF No. 105, as further discussed
January 8, 2020, Judge Aaron issued an order concluding that
the “Fees and Reconsideration Opinions shall both be
construed as Report and Recommendations.” ECF No. 106
at 2. On January 9, 2020, Defendants filed a letter motion
arguing that the rulings on attorney's fees and
reconsideration were rulings on non-dispositive matters, and
requested that the January 8, 2020 order be vacated. ECF No.
107. On January 9, 2020, Judge Aaron issued a memorandum
endorsement deferring that question-whether the orders on
attorney's fees and reconsideration are to be considered
rulings on dispositive or non-dispositive issues-to this
Court. ECF No. 108.
order dated December 6, 2019, the Second Circuit held that it
“lack[ed] jurisdiction over the present appeal, ”
and it “need not decide whether the imposition of
attorney's fees as a Rule 11 sanction presents a
dispositive or nondispositive issue, which the [Second
Circuit] left unsettled in Kiobel v. Millson, 592
F.3d 78 (2d Cir. 2010).” Lobbin, et al. v. Shire
LLC, et al., No. 19-2404 (2d Cir. Dec. 6, 2019); see
also ECF No. 105-1 at 2.
the issue is unsettled in this circuit, the Court takes
guidance from Kiobel and the authorities discussed
therein. The Court, with the benefit of additional review of
those and other cases, now holds that the motion for
attorney's fees, and the motion for reconsideration of
the magistrate's ruling on that motion, present
Kiobel, the Second Circuit declined to reach the
question of whether a motion for sanctions under Rule 11 is
to be treated as a dispositive or non-dispositive matter,
because it deemed the statements at issue insufficient to
support a Rule 11 motion regardless of the level of review
that the district court should have applied to the magistrate
court's decision on the motion. 592 F.3d at 83-84.
Court finds compelling the reasoning set forth in the
Honorable José A. Cabranes' concurring opinion in
Kiobel, and the guidance of Bennett v. Gen.
Caster Serv. of N. Gordon Co., 976 F.2d 995 (6th Cir.
1992) and Alpern v. Lieb, 38 F.3d 933 (7th Cir.
1994) on which it relied. 592 F.3d at 83-90. As Judge
Cabranes observed in his concurrence, “the Supreme
Court has compared a motion for Rule 11 sanctions to a
criminal contempt charge insofar as each is ‘a separate
and independent proceeding at law that is not part of the
original action.'” Kiobel, 592 F.3d at 86
(quoting Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496
U.S. 384, 396 (1990)). The Second Circuit has previously
considered “the imposition of sanctions [as] an issue
collateral to and independent from the underlying
case.” Id. (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted); see also Id. at 87 (noting that
sanctions are generally imposed on attorneys, not litigants).
Judge Cabranes further notes that the ability to punish acts
of criminal contempt that occur in the magistrate ...