Sanctions — Sophisticated Pro Se Litigants

It is well-settled that pro se litigants are subject to Rule 11 and may be sanctioned for their misconduct. See the Advisory Committee Note to the 1983 amendment to Rule 11. It is equally well-settled that their pro se status is a relevant consideration for the Court in assessing whether sanctions are appropriate. That generally means that they are treated somewhat more leniently, at least until they have demonstrated that they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. See Joseph, Sanctions: The Federal Law of Litigation Abuse § 7(C)(3)(a) (4th ed. 2008).

But not all pro se litigants are created equal. That is the lesson of Magistrate Judge James C. Francis’s opinion in Spithogianis v. Haj-Darwish, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 824 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 7, 2008). More is reasonably expected of non-lawyers with experience in legal matters:

While the court should "consider the special circumstances of litigants who are untutored in the law," ... a litigant's pro se status does not give him "license to harass others, clog the judicial machinery with meritless litigation, and abuse already overloaded dockets." .... Furthermore, where a litigant has some experience with the legal system, courts may treat him less leniently than "wholly inexperienced pro se litigants." Muniz v. Goord, No. 9:04-CV-0479, 2007 WL 2027912, at *6 n.30 (N.D.N.Y. July 11, 2007); see also Kadan v. Williams, 89 Civ. 3379, 1990 WL 47680, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. April 11, 1990) (imposing sanctions on businessman familiar with litigation); Bryant v. American Embassy (AMC), No. 88 Civ. 0294, 1988 WL 68740, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (noting that pro se plaintiff's ability "to consult with an attorney" exposed him to a higher risk of sanctions).

[Certain citations omitted.]

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