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Different Types of Sanctions Considered for EEOC eDiscovery Disputes

Posted on April 5th, 2013

In our last blog, we reviewed the plaintiff eDiscovery issues in EEOC v. The Original Honeybaked Ham Company of Georgia, No. 11-cv-02560-MSK-MEH (D.Co. Feb. 27, 2013). While the court found the EEOC attorneys’ conduct caused delays in the discovery process, it grappled with what sanctions might be appropriate.

The court considered:

  • Rule 11 sanctions, which require a showing of bad faith.
  • 28 U.S.C. § 1927, which authorizes the court to impose sanctions against counsel personally.
  • Fed. Rule Civ. Pro. 37(d) or 37(f), which allow for sanctions for violations of court orders.

The court found that none of the above laws or rules was applicable in this situation. Although the EEOC pushed the limits of the spirit of the orders, the attorneys’ conduct did not quite rise to the level of non-compliance.

So under what authority could the court order sanctions?  The court eventually came to the conclusion that Rule 16(f)(1) was applicable for “sanctions” arising out of conduct concerning scheduling or pretrial conferences. Rule 16(f)(1) was fleshed out in the case In Mulvaney v. Rivair Flying Serv., Inc., 744 F.2d 1438 (10th Cir. 1984) (en banc). The appeals court noted that the management of the court docket and the avoidance of unnecessary burdens is an important task for judges. “The primary purpose of sanctions in this context is to insure reasonable management requirements for case preparation.” Id. at 1442.

As the delays affected the court’s management of its docket and caused unnecessary burdens on the opposing party, the court ordered sanctions under Rule 16(f)(1) against the EEOC. Specifically, the judge ordered the EEOC to pay Honeybaked’s attorney fees in bringing the Motion for Sanctions.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts

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