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Huntsman v. Perry Local Schools District Board of Education

December 5, 2008

BARD HUNSTMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PERRY LOCAL SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge John R. Adams United States District Court

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [Resolving Doc. 17]

JUDGE JOHN R. ADAMS

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Sanctions and Fees ("Motion") (Doc. 17) filed by Defendants Perry Local Schools District Board of Education and Kenneth Hartwick against Plaintiff and his counsel, Attorney Larry Shenise (Attorney Shenise). For the reasons that follow, this Court finds that Defendants' Motion is GRANTED as it relates to Attorney Shenise, and DENIED as it relates to Plaintiff.

I. Statement of Facts and Procedural History

The Court hereby incorporates the extensive statement of the underlying facts in this matter as it was set forth in the Court's Memorandum of Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff's motion to dismiss (Doc. 18). That statement set forth the history of this case from inception to the resolution of the state court proceedings before the state appellate court, which resolution was not favorable to Plaintiff.

On August 11, 2005, Huntsman filed a notice of appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. The court declined jurisdiction and dismissed the case on November 23, 2005. Huntsman filed a motion for reconsideration on December 5, 2005, which the court denied on January 25, 2006.

Nicole Donovsky ("Donovsky"), counsel for Defendants, received a letter dated December 5, 2005, from Larry Shenise ("Shenise"), counsel for Huntsman, in which Shenise indicated that he intended to move the matter to federal court because his "client ha[d] a more favorable opportunity at prevailing in that forum." On December 12, 2005, Donovsky sent a letter to Shenise in which she stated that any federal suit would be barred by both the doctrine of res judicata and the applicable statute of limitations, and that she would consider a federal action frivolous and would seek sanctions.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court on November 23, 2007, alleging five causes of action. Donovsky sent Shenise another letter on April 1, 2008, reiterating her intention to pursue sanctions, attorneys' fees and costs against Shenise and Plaintiff if Plaintiff did not dismiss his complaint in federal court. There is no indication in Donovsky's affidavit that Plaintiff or Shenise responded to either of Donovsky's letters.

Defendants filed their motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 14) on April 9, 2008, which the Court granted on August 19, 2008 (Doc. 18), dismissing the matter in its entirety with prejudice. The Court supported its dismissal with three compelling findings, though any one of the three alone would have supported a dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint. First, the Court found that Plaintiff's Complaint was clearly barred by the applicable statute of limitations*fn1 , noting that "[u]nder no possible interpretation of the facts could Plaintiff be said to be within the statute of limitations period." (Doc. 18 at p. 8.) Second, it determined that "Plaintiff's underlying claims [were] entirely meritless."*fn2 (Doc. 18 at p. 8.) Finally, this Court found that the doctrine of res judicata precluded it from making a determination on Plaintiff's claims.*fn3

Defendants filed this Motion against Plaintiff and Attorney Shenise on April 19, 2008. No opposition was filed.

II. Legal Standard

Pursuant to authority granted by the Rules Enabling Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2072,*fn4 the Supreme Court of the United States promulgated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to "govern the procedure in the Unites States district courts in all suits of a civil nature." Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 391 (1990) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1). The Supreme Court stated that Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 should be interpreted "according to its plain meaning . . . in light of the scope of the congressional authorization." Id. (citing Pavelic & LeFlore v. Marvel Entm't Group, 493 U.S. 120, 123 (1989)).

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a) requires every attorney to sign "[e]very pleading, written motion, and other paper." Where documents are filed electronically, "[t]he party identification name and password will constitute the party's signature for Fed R. Civ. P. 11 purposes." United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Electronic Filing Policies and Procedural Manual, at p. 8. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) provides in relevant part:

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 ...


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