United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
William Reed, Donna Reed, Bonnie Youmans, Jane Yates, Phillip Caulder, all individually and for the benefit and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Big Water Resort, LLC, TLC Holdings, LLC, Richard Clark, James Thigpen, Jimmy “Steve” Lovell, and Ocoee, LLC, Defendants. TLC Holdings, LLC, Richard Clark, James Thigpen, Jimmy “Steve” Lovell, and Ocoee, LLC, Third-Party Plaintiffs,
M. B. Hutson a/k/a M. B. Hudson, Third-Party Defendant.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on the motion for sanctions filed
by third-party plaintiffs TLC Holdings, LLC, Richard Clark,
James Thigpen, Jimmy “Steve” Lovell, and Ocoee,
LLC (“third-party plaintiffs”), ECF No. 302. For
the reasons set forth below, the court grants the motion for
plaintiffs previously moved for sanctions against third-party
defendant Hutson, ECF No. 179, and also moved for summary
judgment on Hutson's counterclaims, ECF No. 183. In the
previous sanctions motion, third-party plaintiffs pointed to
a course of conduct by Hutson which they argued was
tantamount to harassment and abuse of the judicial system.
The conduct cited by third-party plaintiffs included
Hutson's repeated filing of motions lacking factual and
legal support, his accusations of criminal conduct and
threats to contact law enforcement, and his accusations of
unethical conduct by third-party plaintiffs' counsel.
See ECF No. 179-1.
Judge Mary Gordon Baker issued a report and recommendation
acknowledging several improper actions by Hutson, including
his continued filing of trial-related motions despite being
told that such motions were premature and his refiling of a
motion previously denied by Magistrate Judge Bristow
Marchant. Magistrate Judge Baker recommended that third-party
plaintiffs' previous motion be denied in light of the
facts that Hutson was pro se, that he had not been
previously warned that his conduct may merit sanctions, that
he withdrew some of his offending filings, and that he would
no longer be proceeding pro se if this court were to
adopt her recommendations to dismiss his pro se
counterclaims. ECF No. 270 at 13-14. In an order dated May
20, 2016, this court adopted Magistrate Judge Baker's
report and recommendation, declining to impose sanctions on
Hutson and granting summary judgment in favor of the
third-party plaintiffs on Hutson's counterclaims. ECF No.
280 at 8, n.1.
April 21, 2017, Hutson filed a motion to reconsider this
court's order dismissing his counterclaims. ECF No. 298.
Third-party plaintiffs filed a response to the motion,
asserting that it failed to identify any new evidence,
despite Hutson's claims to the contrary; failed to
demonstrate any of the requirements for amending a judgment
under FRCP 59(e), and was untimely under that rule; failed to
satisfy the requirements of FRCP 60; and improperly asked the
court to review a state court judgment in a separate
proceeding. See ECF No. 300. This court denied
Hutson's motion. ECF No. 306.
Hutson filed his motion to reconsider, third-party plaintiffs
then filed the instant motion for sanctions. They argue that
Hutson's bad faith intent is evidenced by his motion to
reconsider, which lacks legal support, falsely purports to
offer new evidence, and repeats the same allegations he has
made in numerous filings throughout the course of this
litigation. Third-party plaintiffs further assert that no
inference can be drawn from Hutson's conduct except that
he desires to harass them and increase their legal expense.
They incorporate by reference their prior motion for
sanctions and supporting memorandum, which sets forth the
history of Hutson's conduct. Third-party plaintiffs
request both monetary and non-monetary sanctions, the latter
in the form of an order barring Hutson from submitting
further pro se filings to the court.
court has the inherent power to impose sanctions on litigants
when merited by their conduct:
Rule 11 has not robbed the district courts of their inherent
power to impose sanctions for abuse of the judicial system.
In Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 49111 S.Ct.
2123, 115 L.Ed.2d 27 (1991), the Court was quite clear that
“the inherent power of a court can be invoked even if
procedural rules exist which sanction the same
conduct.” The Court stated that there was “no
basis for holding that the sanctioning scheme of the statute
and the rules displaces the inherent power to impose sanction
for . . . bad-faith conduct . . . .”
Drake v. Ham, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58060, at *4
(D.S.C. 2007) (quoting Methode Elecs. v. Adam
Techs., 371 F.3d 923, 927 (7th Cir. 2004)). “Due
to the very nature of the court as an institution, it must
and does have an inherent power to impose order, respect,
decorum, silence, and compliance with lawful mandates. This
power is organic, without need of a statute or rule for its
definition, and it is necessary to the exercise of all other
powers.” United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co.,
11 F.3d 450, 461 (4th Cir. 1993). “Sanctions authorized
under the court's inherent powers include the striking of
frivolous pleadings or defenses, disciplining lawyers,
punishing for contempt, assessment of attorney's fees,
and outright dismissal of a lawsuit.” Drake,
2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58060 at *4-5. Sanctions imposed under
the court's inherent power serve the purpose of
penalizing and deterring violations of the judicial process.
In re Howe, 800 F.2d 1251, 1252 (4th Cir. 1986). The
court's inherent power to sanction includes penalties up
to and including outright dismissal of the offending
party's claims. Chambers v. Nasco, 501 U.S. 32,
44-45 (1991). “[A]n assessment of attorney's fees
is undoubtedly within a court's inherent power.”
Id. at 45. “A court may assess attorney's
fees when a party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously,
wantonly, or for oppressive reasons.” Id. at
45-46. Unlike the statutory and rule-based sanctioning
schemes, which reach only certain conduct, “the
inherent power extends to a full range of litigation
abuses.” Id. at 46.
pro se parties are not exempt from the Rules of
Civil Procedure or from the requirements of respect and
decorum before the court. District courts must “not
allow liberal pleading rules and pro se practice to
be a vehicle for abusive conduct.” Spears v. Warden
FCI Williamsburg, 2016 WL 2935894 (D.S.C. Apr. 20,
2016), at *1.
status as a pro se party in this matter ended when
this court granted summary judgment on his counterclaims in
favor of third-party plaintiffs. Since that time, his
capacity as a party to this case has been limited to his
status as a third-party defendant defending the equity