Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Willful Disobedience of Court Order Warrants Case-Ending Sanction Where Obedience Is within the Party’s Control

From Pray v. Michaels, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 27190 (9th Cir. Dec. 17, 2008):

[T]he district court did not abuse its discretion in using its inherent powers to impose terminating sanctions on [Defendant] Soderberg. Willful disobedience of a court order may justify terminating sanctions. See Stars' Desert Inn Hotel & Country Club, Inc. v. Hwang, 105 F.3d 521, 525 (9th Cir. 1997). Twice, Soderberg willfully disobeyed the magistrate judge's order requiring him to post security.... The magistrate judge expressly warned Soderberg that failure to comply with the order to post security could result in a default judgment against him.

Although Soderberg's disobedience may be excused if his failure to comply with the court's order was out of his control, see Jorgensen v. Cassiday, 320 F.3d 906, 912 (9th Cir. 2003), the district court rejected as not credible Soderberg's eleventh-hour claim that he could not afford to pay security. This factual finding was not clearly erroneous. See Leon v. IDX Sys. Corp., 464 F.3d 951, 958 (9th Cir. 2006) ("The district court's factual findings . . . are reviewed for clear error."). Because the district court adequately considered the appropriate factors, see Yourish v. Cal. Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999), terminating sanctions were within its discretion.

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