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Nair v. Copeland

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

November 14, 2019

JAYAKRISHNAN K NAIR, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHANNA COPELAND, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR FEES AND COSTS

          MARSHA J. PECHMAN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The above-entitled Court, having received and reviewed Defendant Channa Copeland's Motions for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Dkt. No. 30)[1], all attached declarations and exhibits, and relevant portions of the record, rules as follows:

         IT IS ORDERED that the motion is DENIED as to both causes of action.

         Discussion

         Defendant Copeland filed this motion the day after the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration as to No. C19-1296, withdrew its sua sponte dismissal and reopened the case. (Dkt. No. 29.) She seeks attorney's fees and costs in two matters before this Court in which she is currently a defendant (C19-1296 and C19-1307[2]). Defendant's motion chronicles a history of threatening and abusive behavior and questionable litigation tactics by Plaintiff Jayakrishnan Nair stretching from August 2018 to the present. (See Motion, Statement of Facts, pp. 5-9.) While the Court is not without some sympathy for the travails of a pro bono Guardian ad Litem who has been subjected to extraordinary demands in the course of fulfilling her duties, that does not translate to an entitlement to fees and costs at this point in this litigation.

         The Court will analyze the motion separately for each of Defendant's two cases.

         C19-1296: Nair et al. v. Copeland et al.

         This case is still ongoing, and Defendant's request must be analyzed in that light. The result is that some of her claims of entitlement to fees and costs are untimely; others are simply not supported by the statutory requirements. Defendant asserts her right to reimbursement of fees and costs under the following statutes and procedure rules:

28 USC § 1447(c): This statute concerns the right to attorney fees in removal matters, and only applies to orders of remand. C19-1296 is not a case which was removed from state court, neither was it remanded to state court.
FedRCivP Rule 11: This rule requires that any motion for sanctions be filed separately from any other motion (FRCP 11(c)(2)), which was not done in this instance.
FedRCivP Rule 68: This procedural rule applies to offers of judgment. Although an offer of judgment was made in C19-1296, the matter is still open and Plaintiff did not accept the offer, so the rule is not (yet) applicable to this case.
28 USC § 1927: This is the one statute which arguably might support Defendant's request for an award of fees and costs; it permits an award of fees and costs against anyone who “multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously.” It appears from the case law that courts have applied this statute against an offending party during the pendency of the litigation, except at the outset (on the rationale that the filing of a complaint in and of itself cannot operate to “multiply” the proceedings; see, e.g., Jensen v. Phillips Screw Co., 546 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2008)).[3]

         However, while the Court understands that Defendant Copeland has a long and arduous history with Plaintiff, and might well believe that he has unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied the various proceedings in which they have been jointly involved, the Court must confine itself to the proceedings within this particular lawsuit in applying the statute. A review of those proceedings indicates that, while Plaintiff himself has filed a multitude of motions of questionable merit, Defendant has only been required to respond substantively to one of them (see Dkt. No. 17, Defendant Channa Copeland's Answer and Affirmative Defenses). Under those circumstances, it cannot be said that she qualifies for relief under § 1927 as regards this litigation in its current posture.

         Based on the foregoing reasoning, the Court must conclude that Defendant Copeland is not presently entitled to an ...


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