Appellant, Morgan Foods, Inc. et al., appealed a lower courts decision to sanction Appellants for not cooperating with an order for ADR and Appellants subsequent motion for reconsideration of the sanction.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The court may impose monetary sanctions to parties not complying with pre-trial instructions under Rule 16(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Appellee, Gee Gee Nick, filed a sexual harassment claim against Appellants. The district court judge and the parties agreed to ADR negotiations. Each side was instructed to submit a memorandum describing the essential facts and arguments, but Appellant did not submit their memo. The sides were also instructed to send all parties that were necessary to finalize a settlement to the ADR meetings, but Appellant did not send the necessary personnel. The lower court judge asked Appellants why they did not make a good faith effort to participate in the ADR meetings, and Appellant responded that their outside counsel instructed them that the judge’s instructions were merely guidelines. The lower court imposed sanctions against Appellants and outside counsel, demanding that they pay Appellee and her counsel’s fees, the fees for the ADR and court clerk costs. When Appellants filed for a motion to reconsider the sanctions, the court further sanctioned them for frivolous motions. A
ppellant argues that the lower court did not have the authority under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 16 to make them pay costs to the Clerk of the District Court.
The issue is whether the District Court judge exceeded their authority when they imposed sanctions that required Appellant to pay fines to the Court of the District Court.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the district court judge did not abuse their discretion in their sanction order. The trial court, through Rule 16 and local court rules, can order pre-trial conferences to encourage early settlements. Rule 16(f) outlines the court’s authority to sanction parties if they do not participate, and there is no precedent that argues that Rule 16 does not provide monetary penalties.
The court gives judges wide discretion in imposing sanctions to ensure that parties comply with a judge’s instruction