United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS,
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS, and DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
W. EGINTON SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, plaintiff Curtis James
Jackson, III, filed a complaint against defendant William
Leonard Roberts, II. In an amended complaint, plaintiff
asserted a state common law claim for violation of the right
of publicity, alleging that defendant made unauthorized use
of plaintiff's stage name, his voice and his identity for
commercial purposes to promote defendant's album.
pending are defendant's motion to dismiss and/or
alternative motion for judgment as to the amended complaint
and cross motions for sanctions. For the following reasons,
the motions will be denied.
connection with the bankruptcy proceeding, defendant filed a
motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, failure
to state a claim, or to transfer to the Northern District of
Georgia. United States Bankruptcy Judge Ann Nevins denied the
motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim on the merits. She found as moot the
alternative motion to transfer in light of the parties'
expressed intent to file a joint motion to withdraw the
reference to the Bankruptcy Court so that the District Court
could decide the case.
parties filed a joint motion to withdraw reference and
consent to transfer, which contained the following provision:
The Parties stipulate and agree that personal jurisdiction,
subject matter jurisdiction, and venue would be proper before
the District Court. While Defendant waives any right to
challenge personal jurisdiction or venue grounds, Defendant
reserves the right to seek dismissal of the Action before the
District Court on Rule 12(b)(6), 12(c) or 12(e) grounds (to
the extent he has any such rights); provided, however, that
nothing herein shall increase, modify, or otherwise confer
any additional rights on Defendant to seek such relief in
this or any other court.
Bankruptcy Judge Nevins granted the joint motion to withdraw
and consent to transfer, the case was transferred to this
Court. Defendant filed an answer and then a motion to dismiss
and/or alternative motion for judgment as to the amended
motion to dismiss or alternative motion for judgment,
defendant asserted the identical arguments to dismiss for
failure to state a claim made in his motion to dismiss filed
in the bankruptcy action. Plaintiff objects to the motion to
dismiss on the grounds that the Bankruptcy Court has already
considered and denied defendant's arguments for
dismissal; that the consent motion for transfer provided that
defendant would not file a motion to dismiss that had already
been resolved by the Bankruptcy Court; and that defendant has
not met the standard for a motion for reconsideration because
the instant motion was not timely filed and does not assert
any grounds for dismissal based upon error or upon new law or
motion for sanctions asserts that defendant's filing of a
nearly duplicative motion to dismiss after denial of his
prior motion by the Bankruptcy Court is grounds for
sanctions. Additionally, plaintiff maintains that defendant
has made misrepresentations in his brief, including an
implication that plaintiff had waived his defenses applicable
to the law of the case doctrine and the standards applicable
to motions for reconsideration. Plaintiff argues that
defendant has mischaracterized the provision in the consent
motion to transfer providing that defendant had the
“right to seek dismissal of the Action before the
District Court on Rule 12(b)(6), 12(c) or 12(e)
grounds;” plaintiff points out that defendant omitted
the language that such right was limited “to the extent
that he has any such rights” and that nothing within
the consent motion “shall increase, modify, or
otherwise confer any additional rights on Defendant to such
relief in this or any other court.”
cross motion for sanctions argues that plaintiff has made
misrepresentations in its papers and has engaged in misuse of
Rule 11 by “turning it into a sword against meritorious
review of the moving papers and the Bankruptcy Court
decision, the Court agrees with the reasoning of the
Bankruptcy Court decision. Accordingly, the Court will deny
the motion to dismiss on the same grounds as the Bankruptcy
Court will also deny the motions for sanctions. In
determining whether Rule 11 sanctions are warranted, the
Court should consider, inter alia, whether a party
acted in bad faith, relied on falsehood and whether the claim
was utterly lacking in support. Tuf America, Inc. v.
Codigo Music LLC, 2017 WL 3457599, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Aug.
11, 2017). A pleading or motion violates Rule 11 if it was
filed for an improper purpose, or if a competent attorney
could not form a reasonable belief that the pleading was well
grounded in fact and was warranted by existing law or a good
faith argument. Kropelnicki v. Siegel, 290 F.3d 118,
131 (2d Cir. 2002). In determining whether there has been a
Rule 11 violation, courts apply “an objective standard
of reasonableness.” New V & J Produce Corp. v.
NYC Catererers Inc., 2014 WL 5026157, at *5 (S.D.N.Y.
Sept. 29, 2014).
Court will deny the plaintiff's motion for sanctions.
Although defendant's motion has not satisfied the
standards for a motion for reconsideration, defendant did not
act wholly unreasonably by seeking District Court review of
the Bankruptcy Court decision shortly after transfer of the
case to this Court. Defendant was not likely to prevail on
his motion to dismiss and was not forthcoming with all of
facts concerning the prior proceeding. Nevertheless, the
Court finds that defendant's conduct does not rise to the
level of sanctionable conduct. At the same time, the Court
will deny the ...