United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
John J. Mudge, Jr. and Lisa S. Mudge
Bank of America, N.A. and TD Bank, N.A No. 2014 DNH 089
JOSEPH DiCLERICO, Jr., District Judge.
John and Lisa Mudge brought claims against Bank of America and TD Bank that arose from the defendants' actions related to the Mudges' mortgage and the attempted foreclosure on their home. Summary judgment has been entered in favor of Bank of America and TD Bank on all of the Mudges' claims. Bank of America filed a motion for sanctions and an award of costs against the Mudges, arising from the Mudges' unsuccessful motion to strike two affidavits submitted by Bank of America in support of its motion for summary judgment. The Mudges move "to alter or amend" the summary judgment order, entered on March 25, 2015.
I. Motion for Sanctions and an Award of Costs
Bank of America contends that it is entitled to an award of its attorneys' fees incurred in responding to the Mudges' motion to strike. In support, Bank of America cites the history of immaterial allegations and arguments the Mudges have raised in this case, particularly with respect to the Mudges' insistence that the location of the note was material to their claims when the court had previously ruled otherwise. Bank of America candidly acknowledges that no statute or rule authorizes the relief it seeks and asks the court to exercise its inherent powers to sanction the Mudges. The Mudges object to the motion, arguing that their motion to strike was justified.
Although the general rule is that each party pays its own attorneys' fees, federal courts have the inherent power to award attorneys' fees when a party brings an action in bad faith and to sanction willful disobedience of a court order and actions taken in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons. Marx v. Gen. Revenue Corp., 133 S.Ct. 1166, 1175 (2013) (citing Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 45-46 (1991)). A sanction imposed under the court's inherent powers, therefore, must be based on a finding of bad faith conduct by the party to be sanctioned. Chambers, 501 U.S. at 50. "A district court exercising this power must describe the bad faith conduct with sufficient specificity, accompanied by a detailed explanation of the reasons justifying the award." F.A.C., Inc. v. Cooperative de Seguros de Vida de P.R., 563 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2009).
The circumstances surrounding the Mudges' motion to strike do not rise to the level of bad faith conduct. Instead, it appears, for the most part, that the Mudges' counsel misunderstood the respective discovery burdens of the parties and the requirements for subpoenaing a non-party for a deposition. Therefore, grounds are lacking to impose sanctions under an exercise of the court's inherent power.
II. Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment
The Mudges move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), to alter or amend the summary judgment order issued on March 25, 2015, that granted Bank of America's motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims of breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. They argue that there is "ample evidence" to establish a genuine dispute as whether Bank of America breached the contract with them and breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Mudges also contend that Bank of America was the holder of the note at times other than the one month period in 2011. Bank of America objects to the motion on the grounds that it is procedurally and substantively deficient.
In their requests for relief, the Mudges ask the court to "[s]chedule a hearing on these matters." "Except as otherwise provided the court shall decide motions without oral argument. The court may allow oral argument after consideration of a written statement by a party outlining the reasons why oral argument may provide assistance to the court." LR 7.1(d).
The Mudges did not provide any statement in the motion, memorandum, or otherwise to support their request for a hearing. The court finds no reason to schedule a hearing on the motion.
B. Timeliness of the Motion
Rule 59(e) provides that "[a] motion to alter or amend judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." Judgment has not been entered in this case. The March 25, 2015, order is an interlocutory order, granting Bank of America's motion for summary judgment. Therefore, Rule 59(e) does not apply.
If the motion were construed as a motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment order issued on March 25, it was not timely filed. "Motions to reconsider an interlocutory order of the court, meaning a motion other than one governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 or 60, shall demonstrate that the order was based on a manifest error of fact or law and shall be filed within fourteen (14) days from the date of the order unless the party seeking reconsideration shows cause for not filing within that time." LR 7.2(d). The Mudges' motion was filed on April ...