United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
PEREZ-MONTES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE
the Court are two separate Motions for Sanctions (Record
Documents 60 and 82) filed by Defendants, Brian E. Crawford
(“Crawford”) and Allyson Campbell
“Defendants”). Crawford requests the Court to impose
sanctions against Judge Sharon Marchman
(“Marchman”) and her counsel, Joseph Ward
(“Ward”) and Sedric Banks (“Banks”)
(collectively “counsel”) for violating Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Campbell only seeks to impose
sanctions against Marchman's counsel for violating Rule
11. See Record Document 85. The Defendants are also
seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 against
Marchman's counsel. For the reasons which follow, the
Defendants' Motions for Sanctions are GRANTED IN
PART AND DENIED IN PART.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
factual and procedural background of this case is extensive.
This Court as well as the Fifth Circuit have meticulously set
forth the factual and procedural background. See
Record Document 94; Marchman v. Crawford, 726
Fed.Appx. 978, 985-87 (5th Cir. 2018)(unpublished).
Therefore, for purposes of this Memorandum Ruling, addressing
both Crawford and Campbell's Motions for Sanctions, the
Court adopts by reference the prior factual and procedural
backgrounds of this Court and the Fifth Circuit.
litigation, as well as several other related cases, involves
allegations by Marchman and others that Campbell engaged in a
number of unethical and/or illegal activities during
Campbell's tenure as a law clerk for the Fourth Judicial
District Court (“JDC”). See Record
Document 1 at ¶¶ 7-18. Marchman's only issue
with Crawford in this action arose out of statements made in
pleadings filed during his representation of Campbell in
Palowsky v. Campbell. See Record Document 1
at ¶¶ 16, 71-77, and 82. Specifically, Marchman and
her counsel contend that Crawford (and Campbell) lied when
they misrepresented to the Fourth JDC that Marchman
improperly and illegally disclosed Campbell's private
employment information. See id. As noted extensively
in prior rulings, Marchman's issues with Campbell are
more prevalent and are the subject matter of the litigation.
filed the instant federal civil rights lawsuit on April 19,
2016. See Record Document 1. She argues that
Defendants' actions have caused her a loss of reputation,
“turned her into a virtual pariah at the courthouse,
” caused her to lose her position as chair and member
of the personnel committee, and generally have harmed her
ability to perform her duties as a judge. Record Document 22
at ¶¶ 85-96. On May 13, 2016, Marchman filed an
Amended Complaint in which she clarified that she is suing
all of the Defendant Judges, Pettiette, and Caldwell for
damages in their individual capacities and is seeking only
prospective injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and
attorney's fees against the Defendant Judges and
Pettiette in their official capacities. See
Record Document 22 at ¶ 6.
Amended Complaint, Marchman also added several new causes of
action. See id. at ¶¶ 103-105 and 112-114.
Thus, Marchman's causes of action are as follows: (1)-(3)
42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986 causes of action
against all Defendants for violation of the First Amendment
right to freedom of speech; (4)-(6) 42 U.S.C. §§
1983, 1985, and 1986 causes of action against all Defendants
for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal
protection; and (7)-(10) 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2202
causes of action against all Defendants for injunctive relief
to prevent future violations of the First and Fourteenth
Amendments and declaratory relief that Defendants' past
actions violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. See
id. at ¶¶ 97-122. Finally, Marchman sought her
attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
See id. at ¶¶ 123-124.
Court dismissed all of Marchman's claims pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on February 17,
2017. See Record Documents 94 and 95. Marchman
appealed this Court's dismissal of her claim that
Defendants retaliated against her for exercising her First
Amendment right to free speech. The Fifth Circuit affirmed
this Court's decision. See Record Document 106.
Accordingly, Crawford and Campbell's Motions for
Sanctions are now ripe for review.
Court will first analyze whether a violation of Rule
11(b)(1)-(3) occurred and if so, whether sanctions are
warranted. Finally, the Court will analyze whether the Court
can award relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 against
Marchman's counsel for excessive costs.
Sanctions Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c)(1) provides that sanctions may
be imposed by the Court on “any attorney, law firm, or
party that violated the rule or is responsible for the
violation.” Rule 11 provides in relevant part:
(b) Representations to Court. By presenting
to the court (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or
later advocating) a pleading, written motion, or other paper,
an attorney ... is certifying 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 or to cause unnecessary
delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal
contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a
nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or
reversal of existing law or the establishment of 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 . . . .
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1)-(3). “In determining whether
an attorney has met his Rule 11 obligation, the court applies
the “snapshot rule, ” which focuses on the
attorney's conduct as of the moment the document was
signed. Jordaan v. Hall, 275 F.Supp.2d 778, 787
(N.D. Tex. 2003) (citing Thomas v. Capital Security
Services, Inc., 836 F.2d 866, 874 (5th Cir.1988) (en
banc) (“Like a snapshot, Rule 11 review focuses upon
the instant when the picture is taken-when the signature is
placed on the document.”)). “Once the snapshot
has been taken, the court measures Rule 11 compliance under
an objective standard of reasonableness.”
Jordaan, 275 F.Supp.2d at 787.
Whether a violation of Rule 11(b)(1) occurred.
11(b)(1) prohibits an attorney from filing a federal action
for any improper purpose, i.e., harass, cause
unnecessary delay or needlessly increase the cost of
litigation. See Jordaan v. Hall, 275 F.Supp.2d 778,
786 (N.D. Tex. 2003); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(1).
Consequently, where it is objectively ascertainable that an
attorney has submitted a paper to the court for an improper
purpose, sanctions may be imposed. Id. at 786
(citations omitted). Because attorneys' conduct are now
analyzed by courts under an objective, not subjective,
standard of reasonableness under the circumstances, good
faith alone is not enough to protect attorneys from Rule 11
sanctions. See Childs v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins.
Co., 29 F.3d 1018, 1024 (5th Cir. 1994).
2014 in Palowsky v. Cork, Ward and Banks have been
making allegations against Campbell and Defendant Judges.
See Record Document 40, Exhibits 1, 2, and 4. After
counsels' efforts to gain recusal of the entire Fourth
Judicial District Court, they moved on to suing Campbell and
Defendant Judges personally. See id., Exhibits 2, 4
and 5. In Palowsky v. Campbell, counsel, on
Palowsky's behalf, accused the Defendant Judges and
Campbell of conspiring to inflict intentional torts upon and
violate Palowsky's constitutional rights, in addition to
purportedly being complicit in Campbell's alleged
document destruction and payroll fraud. See id.,
Exhibit 5. Furthermore, by her own admission, Marchman has
had complaints about Campbell since 2010, and has actively
(but unsuccessfully) sought her termination. See
Record Document 1 at ¶¶ 18, 41, 49. Furthermore,
Defendants cite to a letter to the Fourth Judicial District
judiciary and the District Attorney from the State Inspector
General, dated April 15, 2016, four days before the present
lawsuit was filed, to show that the present action was filed
for an improper purpose. The letter stated that “the
available facts do not provide a sufficient cause for the
arrest of Ms. Campbell for any criminal offense”,
i.e., document destruction and payroll fraud. Record
Document 40, Exhibit 13. Because Campbell did not suffer
criminal consequences due to her alleged actions, Defendants
contend that Marchman and her counsel wanted ...