Islamic Shura Council of So. Cal. v. FBI

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 07-31-2013
  • Case #: 12-55305
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Shroeder, Tallman, and M. Smith, Jr.
  • Full Text Opinion

A party’s motion for sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. Pro 11(c) should not be granted when the challenged pleadings have been “corrected” in an in camera proceeding and the district court has already ruled on the merits of the case.

The district court granted the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California’s (“Shura Council”) motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 11(c). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) appealed, arguing that it could not benefit from Rule 11(c)(2)’s safe harbor provision. A party desiring to move for Rule 11 sanctions may not file the motion unless it has strictly complied with Rule 11’s safe harbor provision, which requires the party to serve the offending party at least 21 days before filing the motion with the court. The safe harbor provides the offending party with an opportunity to escape sanctions by correcting or withdrawing its challenged pleading. Furthermore, if the district court has already ruled on the merits of the “underlying dispute giving rise to the questionable filing,” the court cannot grant a motion for Rule 11 attorney’s fees because the court would no longer be serving the rule’s purpose of judicial economy. Shura Council argued that it complied with Rule 11’s safe harbor provision because it served its motion on the FBI 25 days prior to filing with the court, and the FBI did not correct or withdraw its problematic pleading. However, the FBI had already “corrected” its pleadings in an in camera proceeding long before Shura Council filed its motion for sanctions. Although Shura Council could not have moved for sanctions prior to the court becoming aware of the inadequacy of the FBI’s original response, Shura Council’s motion for sanctions came long after the district court had ruled on the issue. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court should not have granted Shura Council’s motion for sanctions. REVERSED and VACATED.

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