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Isaac Brooks D/B/A Tots v. Whirlpool Corporation

August 23, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charmiane G. Claxton United States Magistrate Judge


Before the Court is Defendant Whirlpool Corporation's ("Whirlpool") Motion for Sanctions (Docket Entry "D.E." #23). The instant motion was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Charmiane G. Claxton for determination. (D.E. #42). For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion for Sanctions is hereby GRANTED.

I. Background

In the instant motion, Whirlpool contends that Plaintiff Isaac Brooks ("Plaintiff Brooks") and his counsel, Stephen C. Brooks ("Attorney Brooks"), collectively "Plaintiff," violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by filing and continuing to advocate claims in federal court that are clearly barred by res judicata. Whirlpool also alleges that Plaintiff Brooks attempted to mislead and commit fraud upon the Court by producing a forged contract attached to his Amended Complaint and that Attorney Brooks continued to perpetrate the fraud by later advocating it. Plaintiff responded to Whirlpool's Motion for Sanctions on January 19, 2011, by denying the allegations and requesting that the Court grant sanctions against Whirlpool. After the Motion for Sanctions and the Response were filed, United States District Judge J. Daniel Breen granted Whirlpool's Motion to Dismiss.

At a hearing before the Magistrate Judge on July 13, 2011, Plaintiff orally amended the Response to the Motion for Sanctions. Attorney Brooks asserted that all filings had been in good faith, that he had never been subject to any Rule 11 sanctions in the past, and that Whirlpool's proposed fees were extremely excessive. Attorney Brooks also noted that the spirit of Rule 11 is to ensure deterrence of future behavior, and he assured the court that no such pleadings would be filed by Plaintiff in the future. Plaintiff Brooks gave testimony in which he essentially repeated his objections to the dismissal on the grounds of res judicata that had already been entered by the District Court. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Magistrate Judge permitted Defendant one week to file an affidavit setting forth the proposed attorneys' fees and permitted Plaintiff one week from the filing of the affidavit to file his response. On July 20, 2011, Defendant filed his Affidavit requesting $30,970.27 in attorneys' fees and costs. To date, Plaintiff has not filed a response.

II. Applicable Law

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) provides as follows:

By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion or other paper - whether by signing, filing, submitting or later advocating it - an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Rule 11(c)(1) provides in pertinent part:

If, 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 on any attorney, law firm, or party that violated the rule or is responsible for the violation.

Rule 11(c)(2) provides:

A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b). The motion must be served under Rule 5, but it must not be filed or be presented to the court if the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service or within another time the court sets. If warranted, the court ...

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