Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Runnebaum v. Magellan Healthcare, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 21, 2019

KENDALL RUNNEBAUM, Plaintiff,
v.
MAGELLAN HEALTHCARE, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          KATHRYN H. VRATIL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 19, 2019, the Court directed plaintiff's counsel Peter C. Rombold to show cause on or before October 3, 2019 why he should not be sanctioned and referred to the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator for professional discipline. Memorandum And Order And Order To Show Cause (Doc. #6) at 6. As of the date of this order, plaintiff's counsel has not responded to the Court's show cause order. For reasons stated below, the Court orders that Rombold pay to the Clerk of the Court as sanctions in this case the sum of $500.00. The Court also refers this matter to the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator for such further proceedings as may be appropriate.

         Factual Background

         On March 18, 2019, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant alleging unlawful employment practices in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, K.S.A. § 44-1001 et seq. Complaint (Doc. #1). As of June 17, 2019, the deadline for service under Rule 4(m), Fed. R. Civ. P., plaintiff had not served the summons and complaint on defendant.

         On June 24, 2019, the chambers of U.S. Magistrate Judge Gwynne E. Birzer contacted Rombold by email regarding the status of this action. Judge Birzer's chambers informed him that if chambers did not receive any formal filings or informal status reports which indicated the status of service, Judge Birzer would proceed with a show cause order. Rombold did not respond.

         On July 10, 2019, Judge Birzer found that the deadline for service had expired and that plaintiff had yet to secure service on defendant. Notice And Order To Show Cause (Doc. #4). Accordingly, Judge Birzer ordered plaintiff to show good cause in writing why the Court should not dismiss this action with prejudice for lack of prosecution under Rule 41(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. Id.

         On July 24, 2019, Rombold filed a response to Judge Birzer's show cause order. Response To Order To Show Cause (Doc. #5). He asserted that “plaintiff had neglected and failed to comply with a material obligation owed to [counsel]” but that he and plaintiff “have conferred and counsel has agreed to modify his fee contract and proceed with prosecution of this case.” Id. Rombold filed the summons with the response to the show cause order.

         On September 19, 2019, the Court found that dismissal with prejudice was not appropriate at that time and exercised its discretion to extend the time for plaintiff to secure service of process on defendant to October 1, 2019. Memorandum And Order And Order To Show Cause (Doc. #6) at 4, 6. In addition, the Court ordered Rombold to show cause why the Court should not impose sanctions and refer him to the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator for professional discipline. Id. at 6. The Court found that Rombold's stated reason for failing to secure service on defendant was that his client had failed to pay a bill. The Court stated that this appeared to be a violation of this Court's rules and a dereliction of Rombold's professional obligations. Id. The Court explained that while breach of a fee arrangement may constitute sufficient grounds for counsel to file a motion to withdraw from a case, counsel must continue to vigorously represent his client unless and until the Court permits him to withdraw. See D. Kan. R. 83.5.5(a)(1) (lawyer seeking to withdraw must file motion to withdraw); see also Kan. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3 (lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing client); Comment 3 to Kan. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3 (lawyer should carry to conclusion all matters undertaken for client).

         As of the date of this order, Rombold has not responded to the Court's order to show cause and the docket does not reflect that plaintiff has effectuated service on defendant.

         Analysis

         I. Authority To Impose Sanctions

         This Court has adopted the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, as promulgated by the Kansas Supreme Court, as the applicable standards of professional conduct. See D. Kan. Rule 83.6.1. Under D. Kan. Rule 11.1(c), the Court has discretion whether to impose sanctions for violation of a local rule. Federal courts also possess inherent authority to sanction both attorneys and litigants for conduct that amounts to abuse of the judicial process. See Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 766 (1980); Morris v. Adam-Millis Corp., 758 F.2d 1352, 1357 n.7 (10th Cir. 1985). This inherent authority “extends to a full range of litigation abuses, ” Chambers, 501 U.S. at 46, including attorneys who violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. See Hammond v. City of Junction City, Kan., 126 Fed.Appx. 886, 889 (10th Cir. 2005) (magistrate judge did not exceed jurisdiction when he imposed sanctions for violation of Kansas Rule of Professional Conduct); Myers v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 173 F.R.D. 296, 300 (D. Kan. 1997) (sanctions for violation of Model Rules of Professional Conduct may include report to state disciplinary authority, monetary sanctions or other appropriate sanctions); see also Chambers, 501 U.S. at 43 (federal court has power to control admission to its bar and to discipline attorneys); In re Snyder, 472 U.S. 634, 645 n.6 (1985) (state code of professional responsibility did not by its own terms apply to attorney sanctions in federal courts, but in exercising inherent power under standards imposed by federal law, federal court may charge attorneys with knowledge of and conformity to state codes); Roadway, 447 U.S. at 766 (power of court over members of its bar is at least as great as its authority over litigants); Fink v. Gomez, 239 F.3d 989, 991-992 (9th Cir. 2001) (sanctions may be imposed under court's inherent authority for “bad faith” actions which include broad range of “willful improper conduct”); Carlucci v. Piper Aircraft Corp., 775 F.2d 1440, 1447 (11th Cir. 1985) (even absent explicit legislative enactment, court has power to impose reasonable and appropriate sanctions upon errant lawyers practicing before it). This Court's “inherent power” to sanction errant lawyers “can be invoked even if procedural rules exist which sanction the same conduct.” Chambers, 501 U.S. at 49.

         II. Counsel's Conduct

         The deadline for effectuating service of process on defendant was June 17, 2019. Rombold's stated reason for failing to comply with Rule 4(m), Fed. R. Civ. P., was that his client had failed to comply with a material obligation she owed him. His conduct in this regard was a violation of his professional obligation under Rule 1.3 of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct. See Kan. R. Prof. Conduct Rule 1.3 (lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing client); Comment 1 to Rule 1.3 (lawyer should pursue matter on behalf of client despite personal inconvenience to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.