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Foley v. Valdes

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 8, 2020

MICHAEL FOLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
JUAN CARLOS VALDES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          GLORIA M NAVARRO, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs, (ECF No. 61), filed by Defendants AP Express Worldwide, LLC, AP Express, LLC, Jeffery Pont, and World Pack USA (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff Michael Foley (“Plaintiff”) filed a Response, (ECF No. 62), and Defendants filed a Reply, (ECF No. 64).

         Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment, (ECF No. 63), regarding the Court's Order, (ECF No. 58), declaring him a vexatious litigant. Defendants filed a Response, (ECF No. 66), and Plaintiff did not file a Reply.

         For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from allegations of a conspiracy to interfere with Plaintiff's custody over his children. According to Plaintiff, Defendants engaged in manipulative tactics- including filing fake child abuse allegations against Plaintiff-to deprive Plaintiff of his custodial rights. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 44).

         Plaintiff's first Complaint, (ECF No. 6), alleged that the Court had diversity and federal question jurisdiction over the case. (Compl. 1:24-26). The Court dismissed the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff failed to allege the citizenship of Defendants Patricia Foley (“Foley”) and World Pack USA (the “LLC Defendant”). (See First Order to Dismiss 3:1-4:18, ECF No. 35). Plaintiff then filed the Amended Complaint, which alleged that Foley was a citizen of Mexico, and the Court had diversity jurisdiction. (Am. Compl. 1:24-26). The Court again dismissed the Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff again failed to properly allege the citizenship of the LLC Defendant. (Second Order to Dismiss (“Order”) 3:17-4:22, ECF No. 58). The Order also deemed Plaintiff a vexatious litigant and subjected his future complaints before the Court to pre-screening. (Id. 4:24-8:2).

         Defendants now move for an award of $190.11 in costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) and $50, 072.50 in attorney fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and 42 U.S.C. § 1988. (Mot. Fees 6:1-15:10, ECF No. 61). Plaintiff seeks relief from the portion of the Court's Order declaring him a vexatious litigant. (Mot. Relief, 3:5-26, ECF No. 63).

         II.LEGAL STANDARD

         a. Motion for Attorney Fees

         By statute, a court may impose attorney fee liability on a party “admitted to conduct cases in any court of the United States . . . who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously” such that “excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees” were “reasonably incurred because of such conduct.” 28 U.S.C. § 1927. “Recklessness or bad faith is required to support a fee award under § 1927.” Cline v. Ind. Maint. Eng. & Contracting Co., 200 F.3d 1223, 1236 (9th Cir. 2000). “Bad faith is present when an attorney knowingly or recklessly raises a frivolous argument, or argues a meritorious claim for the purpose of harassing an opponent.” Estate of Blas v. Winkler, 792 F.2d 858, 860 (9th Cir. 1986). Notably, commencing a lawsuit by filing a complaint “may be sanctioned pursuant to Rule 11 or a court's inherent power, but it may not be sanctioned pursuant to § 1927.” Moore v. Keegan Mgmt. Co., 78 F.3d 431, 435 (9th Cir. 1995).

         When a party brings a claim under federal civil rights laws, the court may award the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. See 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). The defendant may be entitled to a fee award under § 1988, “but only where the action brought is found to be unreasonable, frivolous, meritless, or vexatious.” Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421 (1978).

         b. Motion for Relief from Judgment

         Under Rule 60(b), a court may relieve a party from a final judgment, order or proceeding only in the following circumstances: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a satisfied or discharged judgment; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the judgment. Backlund v. Barnhart, 778 F.2d 1386, 1387 (9th Cir. 1985). “Relief under Rule 60(b)(6) must be requested within a reasonable time, and is available only under ...


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