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George v. Jackson

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

September 18, 2019

ANNE R. GEORGE, Plaintiff,
v.
LONNA L. JACKSON Defendants,

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR CONTEMPT AND SANCTIONS

          BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter involves the allegation by Plaintiff Ann R. George, that her adult daughter, Defendant Lonna L. Jackson, misappropriated funds from Ms. George while acting as Ms. George's attorney-in-fact. In a previous order, this Court granted a third request by Defendant for an extension of time to produce written discovery and a Court-ordered accounting. Dkt. No. 45. The Court set the deadline for the production of these materials for August 23, 2019 but warned that "NO FURTHER EXTENSIONS WILL BE GRANTED AND FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THIS ORDER WILL RESULT IN SANCTIONS." Id. at 3 (emphasis in original). August 23 has come and gone and the parties have informed the Court that Defendant has still not fully complied with the Court's order. As such, the Court will grant Plaintiffs motion for contempt and sanctions. Dkt. No. 33. The reasoning for the Court's decision follows.

         II. BACKGROUND

         As stated above, the underlying issue involves a claim by Plaintiff that her daughter, Defendant, misappropriated funds while serving as Plaintiffs attorney-in-fact.

         Pursuant to Plaintiffs request, this Court ordered Defendant to provide an accounting of all of the financial transactions she performed while serving as Plaintiffs attorney-in-fact. Dkt. No. 27. The accounting was to be produced no later than June 4, 2019 and the Court warned that failure to comply would "result in a finding of contempt and sanctions." Id. at 2.

         On June 4, Defendant moved for an extension of time to produce the accounting, Dkt. No. 30, and Plaintiff opposed noting that the request violated the Court's standing order that such motions be made three business days before expiration of the relevant deadline, Dkt. No. 31 at 2 (citing Dkt. No. 24 at 4). The Court granted the extension to June 25, 2019. Dkt. No. 32.

         June 25, however, came and went with no production of the accounting. On June 27, Plaintiff moved for contempt and sanctions for Defendant's failure to produce the accounting. Dkt. No. 33. Defendant, in addition to failing to produce the accounting, failed to respond to the motion for sanctions. The Court scheduled a telephonic hearing to take place on August 2, 2019. Dkt. No. 36.

         During the telephonic hearing, Plaintiffs counsel informed the Court that Defendant had, to that date, neither produced the required accounting nor any discovery requested by Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 36. Defendant's counsel provided no justification for Defendant's failure to produce the accounting, discovery, or her failure to respond to the motion for contempt and sanctions. The Court granted Plaintiffs reiterated motion to compel production and gave Plaintiff until August 9 to reply, a date by which Defendant's counsel assured the Court that production would be feasible.

         August 9 came and went with no production. On August 12, Plaintiff provided notice of Defendant's continued failure to comply with this Court's orders. In response, the actual deadline having already passed, Defendant for a second time untimely moved for an extension of time. Dkt. No. 41. The Court, again, granted the motion for production this time no later than August 23, 2019, but specifically warned that "NO FURTHER EXTENSIONS WILL BE GRANTED AND FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THIS ORDER WILL RESULT IN SANCTIONS." Dkt. No. 44 at 3 (emphasis in original).

         On August 26, 2019, Plaintiff informed the Court that Defendant had not yet produced either the requested discovery nor the accounting. Dkt. No. 46. The Court ordered Defendant to respond no later than 5:00 pm on August 26, 2019. At 4:55 pm Defendant responded but provided no good cause for her failure to comply with the Court's multiple orders. Dkt. No. 48.

         On August 28 the Court ordered the parties to provide briefing on their progress. Dkt. No. 49. Along with her response to the Court's order, Defendant provided the written discovery requested by Plaintiff and, as such, Plaintiff has withdrawn her motion for contempt and sanctions as to the failure to provide written discovery. Dkt. No. 54 at 1 n.1. Defendant also provided some bank records related to the accounting, Dkt. No. 52 at 2, but Plaintiff informs the Court that the records are incomplete and do not constitute a full accounting. Dkt. No. 54 at 2-3. Defendant states that her counsel "has been actively and thoroughly pursuing the bank records of Defendant and is currently still awaiting bank records from Wells Fargo and other relevant institutions." Dkt. No. 52 at 1-2; see also Dkt. No. 53 (declaration of defense counsel outlining recent efforts to obtain bank records from Wells Fargo).[1]

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         "[C]ourts have inherent power to enforce compliance with their lawful orders through civil contempt." Spallone v. United States,493 U.S. 265, 276 (1990) (quoting Shillitani v. United States,384 U.S. 364, 370 (1966)); see also Mitchell Repair Info. Co., LLC v. Rutchey, No. 08-500, 2009 WL 10677092, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 8, 2009). Civil contempt, in turn, "is a refusal to do an act the court has ordered" Bingman v. Ward, 100 F.3d 653, 655 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting In re Sequoia Auto Brokers Ltd., Inc.,827 F.2d 1281, 1283 n.1 (9th Cir. 1987)). A district court "has 'wide latitude in determining whether there has been a contemptuous defiance of its ...


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