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Amann v. Office of Utah Attorney General

United States District Court, D. Utah

February 28, 2019

PAUL G. AMANN, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICE OF THE UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL, SEAN REYES, and BRIDGET ROMANO, in their official and individual capacities Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RULE 11 SANCTIONS

          Jill N. Parrish United States District Court Judge

         This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions filed on July 16, 2018. (ECF No. 15). Defendants filed a response on August, 6, 2018, (ECF No. 22), to which plaintiff replied on August, 20, 2018, (ECF No. 27). With leave of court, defendants also filed a sur-reply. (ECF No. 34). The court heard oral argument on this motion on February 13, 2019. On the basis of that hearing, the parties' memoranda, applicable law, and for the reasons below, plaintiff's motion for sanctions is denied.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in relevant part:

(b) Representations to the Court. 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 the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law; In short,

         Rule 11 requires that motions be, “to the best of the signer's knowledge, well grounded in fact, warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and . . . not interposed for any improper purpose.” Coffey v. Healthtrust, Inc., 1 F.3d 1101, 1104 (10th Cir. 1993).

         Rule 11 further provides that “[i]f, 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.”

         II. ANALYSIS

         Mr. Amann asks this court to sanction defendants for filing a motion to dismiss grounded, in part, on legal arguments that were refuted by a state court prior to removal of this action to federal court. The motion to dismiss denied by the state court was premised on Mr. Amann's alleged failure to comply with the Utah Governmental Immunity Act's (UGIA) undertaking requirement. Mr. Amann contends that defendants are barred from relitigating the undertaking issue in this court, and that their motion seeking to do just that was therefore not “warranted by existing law[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11.

         Mr. Amann also urges this court to find that defendants' motion to dismiss was brought for an improper purpose, appending to his reply a declaration by a non-party lawyer who purports to have heard defendants' counsel represent that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) files motions to dismiss as a matter of course, whether or not those motions are well-founded. (ECF No. 27-1 at 2).

         A. Defendants' Motion was Warranted by Existing Law

          Defendants argue, and the court agrees, that neither collateral estoppel nor the Rooker-Feldman doctrine are implicated by the relationship between the state court's order denying defendants' motion ...


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