United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REGARDING SANCTIONS
J. RICHARD CREATURA, Magistrate Judge.
The District Court has referred this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action to United States Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), and local Magistrate Judge Rules MJR1, MJR3 and MJR4.
The Court granted plaintiff in forma pauperis status and directed the clerk's office to attempt service of this action by mail ( see Dkt. 5). The Court's service order stated that a defendant who returned the waiver of service of summons had sixty-days from the date designated on the notice of lawsuit to file an answer or a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 ( see Dkt. 5, p. 2). The waiver of service of summons forms also contained information telling each defendant that judgment could be entered if an answer or motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 was not filed within sixty-days of October 29, 2014 ( see Dkt. 10-17). Defendants' counsel signed the waiver of service of summons form for each defendant ( id. ).
Defendants failed to comply with the Court's instructions to file an answer or a motion permitted under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, within sixty days of the date designated on the notice of lawsuit (Dkt. 5). On January 29, 2015, as a direct result of defendants' failure to act, the Court issued an order directing plaintiff to take action (Dkt. 26). Defendants filed an untimely motion to dismiss the next day, on January 30, 2015 (Dkt. 27). In compliance with the Court's instruction to take action, plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment (Dkt. 28).
The Court addressed plaintiff's motion for default judgment in a Report and Recommendation that is currently pending before Judge Settle, recommending that plaintiff's motion for default judgment be denied, opting in favor of having the matter proceed on the merits, rather than entering judgment based on defendants' procedural default (Dkt. 38). The Court also stayed this action ( id. ). The Court entered a separate order to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed against defendants' counsel (Dkt. 39). Counsel has filed a response and a declaration asking that sanctions not be imposed (Dkt. 41, 42).
Legal standard for monetary sanctions.
Paragraph two of Western District Local Civil Rule 11(c) provides in relevant part:
An attorney or party who without just cause fails to comply with... an order of the court, ... may, ... be required by the court to satisfy personally such excess costs and may be subject to such other sanctions as the court may deem appropriate.
Counsel argues that the most severe sanction available is the granting of default judgment ( see Dkt. 41 p. 2). Counsel states the default judgment should not be granted unless the responsible party acts in bad faith ( see Dkt. 41 p. 2). This Court agrees. Counsel analogizes monetary sanctions to entry of default judgment ( see Dkt. 41, pp. 2-3.). On this point, the Court disagrees. A monetary sanction is not comparable to the severe sanction of default judgment.
Counsel admits in his declaration that the failure to file a timely answer or motion "was my error, and I apologize to the Court for that oversight and omission." (Dkt. 42, p. 3.) The Court accepts counsel's explanation and has no reason to believe this circumstance is the result of intentional conduct, but rather inadvertence or mistake. The Court notes that counsel also took steps to communicate his mistake to his colleagues to help ensure a similar mistake does not occur in the future. However, the record shows that counsel signed the waiver of service of summons form for each defendant. Presumably, counsel is or should be versed in the rules of this court. Therefore, counsel is not without fault for failing to comply with court rules.
Counsel's failure to act has caused a considerable expenditure of Court resources. The Court prepared an order to show cause that it directed to plaintiff (Dkt. 26). The Court prepared a Report and Recommendation on plaintiff's motion for default judgment (Dkt. 38). The Court prepared an order to show cause regarding sanctions directed to defendants' counsel. In addition, the District Court must now consider the Report and Recommendation on plaintiff's motion for default judgment. The District Court must then issue an order.
Further, plaintiff has suffered a delay in a resolution of his case. Parties are entitled to have their matters proceed with deliberate speed and an attorney's inadvertence or mistake that led to an unnecessary delay of that process should have some consequence. This action has been delayed from late in December of 2014, until late in April of 2015. The expenditure of Court ...