Motions for Reconsideration — Strict Standard — S.D.N.Y. Local Rule — Complaint Urging Positions Previously Rejected or Which District Court Advises Counsel Are Frivolous Merits Rule 11 Sanctions — Mistake, Inexperience No Defense

Hochstadt v. N.Y. State Educ. Dep’t, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 19418 (2d Cir. Sept. 19, 2013):

We review the denial of a motion for reconsideration for abuse of discretion. RJE Corp. v. Northville Indus. Corp., 329 F.3d 310, 316 (2d Cir. 2003). A district court abuses its discretion when its decision: (1) is based on "an erroneous view of the law or on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence"; or (2) "cannot be located within the range of permissible decisions." Sims v. Blot, 534 F.3d 117, 132 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation  marks omitted). Local Rule 6.3 permits a party to move for reconsideration based on "matters or controlling decisions which counsel believes the Court has overlooked."   S.D.N.Y. Local R. 6.3. "The standard for granting such a motion is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked -- matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995).

Here, the MJ did not abuse its discretion in denying Hochstadt's requests for reconsideration of the district court's sanctions order, because the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing sanctions on Hochstadt in the first place. Rule 11(b)(2) requires "the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions" presented in a pleading to be "warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2). This Rule "establishes an objective standard, intended to eliminate any 'empty-head pure-heart' justification for patently frivolous  arguments." Gurary v. Winehouse, 235 F.3d 792, 797 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting advisory committee's notes to 1993 amendments). In her filings here and in the district court, Hochstadt has not challenged the general factual basis for her Rule 11 sanction -- specifically, that she filed a complaint containing arguments that had either been previously dismissed by the court or that the court had advised her to withdraw because they were frivolous.  Hochstadt has instead argued that, to the extent she included sanctionable claims in the fourth amended complaint, the inclusion was the mistake of an overwhelmed and inexperienced solo practitioner. This "empty-head pure-heart" justification is insufficient to protect her from Rule 11 sanctions. See Gurary 235 F.3d at 797. Accordingly, the MJ did not err in denying Hochstadt's requests for reconsideration of the sanctions order.

 

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