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TRADEWELL v. KENNEDY

March 18, 1987

JAMES L. TREADWELL, JR., AND DEBORAH TREADWELL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHARLENE KENNEDY AND THE GEORGE DEVELOPERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, District Judge:

OPINION ORDER

A question of sanctions.

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.

Background

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.

The Present Controversy

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 12(b).

Upon receipt of Plaintiffs' responses, the Court summarily denied both motions.

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
  both,

  an appropriate sanction, which may ...

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