United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER REGARDING SANCTIONS
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
August 12, 2016, this Court issued an Order to Show Cause as
to why Plaintiffs' counsel, Kristan Peters-Hamlin, should
not be sanctioned for causing undue delay in the jury trials
of this matter. See Order to Show Cause, ECF No.
316. The Court also issued a supplemental Order to Show Cause
on May 26, 2017, noting additional concerns regarding Ms.
Peters-Hamlin's conduct. See Supp. Order to Show
Cause, ECF No. 580. The Court then held an Order to Show
Cause Hearing on August 31, 2017, at 11:00 a.m.
the hearing, the Court heard evidence and argument regarding
whether to impose sanctions under 28 U.S.C. § 1927.
Specifically, the Court considered whether sanctions were
appropriate with respect to the following conduct by Ms.
Peters-Hamlin: (1) Ms. Peters-Hamlin's failure to
properly communicate with the Court regarding trial
scheduling in this matter; (2) Ms. Peters-Hamlin's
decision to file a premature appeal to the United States
Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (“Second
Circuit”); (3) Ms. Peters-Hamlin's undisclosed
disbarment from the United States Supreme Court
(“Supreme Court”); and (4) Ms.
Peters-Hamlin's repeated disregard of the Court's
instructions during the jury trial of Kim Hannah's
reasons set forth below, the Court declines to order
sanctions with respect to Ms. Peters-Hamlin's
communications regarding scheduling, her recent disbarment,
and her conduct during the jury trial of Ms. Hannah's
claims. The Court does order sanctions in the amount of $1,
000, however, as to Ms. Hannah's filing of a premature
appeal with the Second Circuit.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case arises out of employment discrimination claims brought
by Kim Hannah and Michael Barham (together
“Plaintiffs”) against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and
Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. (together “Walmart” or
“Defendants”). Two separate jury trials were held
as to Mr. Barham's claims and Ms. Hannah's claims.
See Minute Entries, ECF Nos. 427, 552. At the
conclusion of the jury trial as to Mr. Barham's
retaliation and discrimination claims under Title VII, the
jury entered a substantial verdict against Walmart for
retaliation in violation of Title VII. Jury Verdict, ECF No.
430. At the conclusion of the jury trial as to Ms.
Hannah's Title VII retaliation claim, the Court granted
Walmart's Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law
and dismissed Ms. Hannah's claim. Minute Entry, ECF No.
the course of this litigation, the Court entered two separate
orders to show cause in connection with the conduct of
Plaintiffs' counsel, Kristan Peters-Hamlin. Orders to
Show Cause, ECF Nos. 316, 580. Four specific issues were the
subject of the Court's concern. Id. First, as
outlined in the Court's initial Order to Show Cause, Ms.
Peters-Hamlin failed to properly notify the Court of a
scheduling conflict between the jury trial in this matter,
which was initially scheduled for September 6, 2016, and an
unrelated state court trial, which was scheduled after the
scheduling order had already been entered as to this trial.
Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 316.
Ms. Peters-Hamlin filed a premature appeal to the Second
Circuit following the Court's partial grant of summary
judgment, despite the absence of any final judgment in this
case at the time. See Supp. Order to Show Cause, ECF
No. 508. Defendants filed both motion to dismiss and a motion
for sanctions in the Second Circuit, and after the parties
briefed their respective arguments, the Second Circuit
dismissed the appeal and specified that this Court could
consider Defendants' motion for sanctions in connection
with the outstanding sanctions issues already before the
Court. See Mandate Dismissing Appeal, ECF No. 357.
Ms. Peters-Hamlin did not specifically notify the Court
regarding reciprocal discipline imposed against her in
connection with an earlier disciplinary proceeding.
See Supp. Order to Show Cause at 2-3, ECF No. 508.
During the August 31st hearing, Ms. Peters-Hamlin
clarified that all proper notifications had since been filed
in connection with this incident.
at several points throughout the jury trial of Ms.
Hannah's claims, Ms. Peters-Hamlin disregarded the
Court's instructions regarding permissible lines of
questioning and other evidentiary issues. Id. The
Court confronted Ms. Peters-Hamlin about these incidents
during the course of trial and informed Ms. Peters-Hamlin
that sanctions may be necessary based on her repeated
disregard for the Court's instructions at trial.
August 31, 2017, the Court held a show cause hearing to
determine whether to impose sanctions as to each of these
issues. Minute Entry, ECF No. 624. Ms. Peters-Hamlin
submitted voluminous filings in advance of that hearing,
including several briefs and numerous letters of support from
various individuals. See Show Cause Filings, ECF
Nos. 611-617, 620-622.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
U.S.C. § 1927 provides that “[a]ny attorney . . .
who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably
and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy
personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys'
fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.”
Under this statute, the imposition of sanctions is warranted
where “there is a clear showing of bad faith on the
part of an attorney.” Shafii v. British Airways,
PLC, 83 F.3d 566, 571 (2d Cir. 1996).
with sanctions imposed pursuant to a court's inherent
power, in the § 1927 context, bad faith may be inferred
‘only if actions are so completely without merit as to
require the conclusion that they must have been undertaken
for some improper purpose such as delay.'”
Schlaifer Nance & Co. v. Estate of Warhol, 194
F.3d 323, 336 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Shafii, 83
F.3d at 571) (internal quotation marks omitted). “In
addition to attorney's fees and costs, other inherent
power sanctions available to courts include fines, contempt
citations, disqualifications or suspensions of counsel, and
drawing adverse evidentiary inferences or precluding the
admission of evidence. . . . A finding of bad faith is
ordinarily a prerequisite to the issuance of ...