The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, District Judge:
If a competent attorney would find no basis for a legal argument, the
attorney who creates needless expense by proffering such a claim must
face the consequences.
Rule 11 brings costs home to those who create them.
Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1982 alleging
Defendants racially motivated refusal to rent them an apartment.*fn1
According to the complaint, Deborah Treadwell, a white female, arranged
in March 1984 to rent a two-bed-room apartment in Springfield, Illinois,
from The George Developers. After viewing the apartment, Treadwell
delivered to Doug Williams, an agent of the company, a completed lease
and $255 toward a security deposit. Two days later, Deborah's black
fiance, James Treadwell, met with the agent and saw the unit. Shortly
thereafter, Defendant Charlene Kennedy, manager and leasing agent for the
building, informed the Plaintiffs that they would be unable to rent the
apartment since it had already been leased. She further indicated that no
other units were available.
The Plaintiffs then complained to the Springfield Fair Housing Board
which employed "testers" to investigate the allegations. Apparently, the
Defendants offered a white tester an apartment but declined to give a
lease or application to a black tester. On April 10, 1985, the Housing
Board found that the evidence indicated Kennedy, as landlord of the
premises, had violated the Springfield Fair Housing Ordinance by refusing
to rent the unit to the Plaintiffs because of James Treadwell's color. A
recommendation that the matter be prosecuted in the Illinois circuit
court was sent to corporate counsel for the City of Springfield. City of
Springfield v. Kennedy, No. 86-OV-66, ended with the Defendant stipulating
to her guilt and paying a fifty dollar fine.
In response to the instant complaint, Defendants filed both a motion to
strike and dismiss. To support the former, Defendants maintained that
since Charlene Kennedy was not an owner of the property as alleged, the
complaint was "completely incomprehensible." Further, they contended the
complaint was flawed since several of the paragraphs were immaterial and
irrelevant, and it did not allege that a security deposit was made in
full. The half-page memorandum buttressing the motion simply reiterated
Defendants' claims without citing a single authority or naming the rule
under which the motion was brought, as required by Local Rule 12(b).
The motion to dismiss similarly stated that since Defendant Kennedy had
no interest in the apartment building, the complaint failed to state a
cause of action against her even though it alleged her agency status as
well. The memorandum in support of that position cursorily indicated the
motion to dismiss was self-explanatory. It too violated Local Rule
Upon receipt of Plaintiffs' responses, the Court summarily denied both
Now before the Court is the Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions pursuant
to Fed. R.Civ.P. 11. They submit that Defendants' motions to strike and
dismiss were totally baseless under current law and no attempt was made
to argue for a modification of that law. As a result, Plaintiffs incurred
superfluous expense in responding. Their position is well taken.
Rule 11 as applied to motion practice provides:
The signature of an attorney or party constitutes a
certificate by him that he has read the . . . motion
. . . that to the best of his knowledge, information,
and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well
grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a
good faith argument for the extension, modification,
or reversal of existing law, and that it is not
interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass
or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in
the cost of litigation. . . . If a . . . motion . . .
is signed in violation of this rule, the Court, upon
motion or upon its own initiative, shall impose upon
the person who signed it, a represented party, or
an appropriate sanction, which may ...