United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER AFFIRMING THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December 30, 2015, the Defendants filed a motion for
sanctions against James Stile, requesting that the Court
dismiss the pending lawsuit due to Mr. Stile’s failure
or refusal to respond to questions from defense counsel
during a court-ordered deposition on December 10, 2015.
Mot. for Sanctions (ECF No. 69). Mr. Stile objected
to the motion on April 25, 2016. Pl.’s Resp. to
Def.’s Mot. for Sanctions (ECF No. 106). The
Defendants replied on May 9, 2016. Defs.’ Reply in
Support of Mot. for Sanctions (ECF No. 110). The
Magistrate Judge issued his Recommended Decision on June 27,
2016. Recommended Decision on Defs.’ Mot. for
Sanctions (ECF No. 131) (Recommended Decision).
Both the Defendants and Mr. Stile objected to the Recommended
Decision on July 25, 2016. Defs.’ Objection to
Magistrate’s Recommended Decision on
Defs.’ Mot. for Sanctions Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 (ECF No
139) (Defs.’ Objection); Pl.’s
Objection to Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation as Pertains to (ECF No. 131) in the
Above-Docketed Case (ECF No. 141) (Pl.’s
Objection). The parties had until August 11, 2016 to
file responses to each other’s objections. See
Defs.’ Objection; Pl.’s Objection.
On August 8, 2016, Mr. Stile filed a response; the Government
did not. Resp. to Def.’s Objection to
Magistrate’s Recommended Decision on the Def.’s
Mot. for Sanction (ECF No. 151) (Pl.’s
Court has reviewed and considered the Magistrate
Judge’s Recommended Decision, together with the entire
record and has made a de novo determination of all matters
adjudicated by the Magistrate Judge’s Recommended
Decision. The Court concurs with the Magistrate Judge’s
recommendations for the reasons set forth in his Recommended
doing so, the Court notes that the Magistrate Judge’s
Recommended Decision is narrow. The Magistrate Judge rejects
only the Defendants’ demand that the case be dismissed.
The Magistrate Judge expressly left open the possibility that
Mr. Stile’s conduct merits the imposition of sanctions
short of dismissal. In fact, following this Court’s
review, the Magistrate Judge intends to schedule a telephone
conference to discuss what lesser sanctions should be imposed
to control the future course of the litigation.
Recommended Decision at 1 n.1, 5, 6 n.2.
Court agrees with both the Magistrate Judge and the
Defendants that Mr. Stile’s conduct during the December
11, 2015 deposition was deplorable, especially since the
Defendants scheduled Mr. Stile’s deposition pursuant to
a lawful order of this Court. Report of Telephone Conf.
and Order at 1 (ECF No. 61). The First Circuit has
observed that the courts “cannot function if litigants
may, with impunity, disobey lawful orders.” HMG
Property Investors, Inc. v. Parque Indus. Rio Canas,
Inc., 847 F.2d 908, 916 (1st Cir. 1988). Typically,
before dismissing a case, the courts will assess the nature
of the litigant’s violation, whether the conduct is
part of a larger pattern of non-compliance, and whether the
litigant had been previously warned against such conduct and
the potential consequence of dismissal. Mulero-Abreu v.
P.R. Police Dep’t, 675 F.3d 88, 94 (1st Cir. 2012)
(noting that the plaintiffs were warned twice that if they
failed to comply by a specific date, their case would be
dismissed); HMG Property Investors, 847 F.2d at
the Magistrate Judge properly characterized Mr. Stile’s
conduct at the deposition as unacceptable, disrespectful, and
egregious. The Court agrees with each of these
characterizations. In addition, defense counsel traveled a
long distance at considerable expense to his client secure in
the knowledge that the deposition would proceed pursuant to
court order. In light of the “totality of the
circumstances, ” Mr. Stile is treading on thin legal
ice. Mulero-Abreu, 675 F.3d at 93. Specifically, the
Court warns Mr. Stile that future conduct of the sort
evidenced in the deposition, including the use of foul and
obscene language, the refusal to answer legitimate questions,
and personal attacks against defense counsel, may well lead
to the dismissal of this lawsuit. Id. at 94
(“[E]ven though the sanction of dismissal is reserved
for a limited number of cases, it must be available so the
trial courts may punish and deter egregious
the Court appreciates the Defendants’ frustration with
Mr. Stile’s conduct and the lack of an effective
sanction given his impecunity, the Court observes that the
Magistrate Judge has foreshadowed a series of restrictions
that he may impose to make certain the remainder of the case
proceeds in an orderly fashion.
Court responds to Mr. Stile’s objections. First, the
Court disagrees with Mr. Stile that the Magistrate Judge
mischaracterized his statement about objecting to all
questions. Pl.’s Objection at 1. Mr. Stile
read a statement into the record, which began:
“Plaintiff objects to counsel’s questions at this
time.” Dep. Under Oral Examination of James
Stile, 8:25-9:1 (ECF No. 70) (Stile Dep.). The
Court notes that Mr. Stile later stated that he would
“endeavor to answer the questions of this deposition
today, ” but expressly noted that he was doing so
“[w]ithout waiving objection.” Id.
10:15-11:4. The Magistrate Judge fairly interpreted his
statement to posit a general objection to all questions. The
Court agrees and overrules Mr. Stile’s objection.
Mr. Stile objects to the Magistrate Judge’s statement
that he did not permit counsel to ask anyone at FCI Fort Dix
to make another copy of his answers to the Defendants’
interrogatories. Pl.’s Objection at 2. Mr.
Stile’s objection is overruled. During the deposition
the following interchange took place:
Q. If - - Mr. Stile, I’m looking at your handwritten
Interrogatory answers here. If I am able to convince somebody
here to make a photocopy of this, do you have any objection
A. Yeah, I would.
Stile Dep. 25:22-26:2. It is true that later Mr.
Stile said that he did not have control over whether the Fort
Dix personnel can or will make copies, but it is equally
clear that he informed defense counsel that he objected to
copies being made.
the Court rejects Mr. Stile’s argument that it was Mr.
Marchesi, not he, who suspended the deposition.
Pl.’s Resp. at 1-2. Mr. Marchesi’s
comment occurred after the discussion about whether defense
counsel could obtain a copy of Mr. Stile’s completed
answers to interrogatories. Stile Dep. 25:22-27:9.
Mr. Stile had informed Mr. Marchesi that “[t]here is no
reason you need a copy of those if I’m telling you that
I mailed them to your office” and Mr. Marchesi told Mr.
Stile that he “wrong about that” and Mr. Marchesi
was “entitled to a signed sworn copy of them.”
Id. 27:7-12. At that point, Mr. Marchesi told Mr.
Stile that “this deposition will be suspended and not
completed today pending my receipt and review of these
answers.” Id. 27:16-19. The deposition went on
for another thirty-four pages until Mr. Stile told Mr.
Marchesi that he was “not going to allow it” and
that he was to “[p]ack up, fellow. Pack up.”
Id. 62:19-20. It is apparent that by his earlier
comment, Mr. Marchesi was putting Mr. Stile on notice that he
was reserving the right to re-depose him in the event his
review of Mr. Stile’s signed interrogatories required
him to do so. Mr. Marchesi did not suspend the deposition; he
informed Mr. Stile that the deposition “will be”
suspended and not completed today.” Id.
27:16-19. In other words, once the deposition had been
completed, Mr. Marchesi was going to suspend it pending
receipt of the signed answers. The deposition, however, was
never completed because Mr. Stile prevented its completion.
The Court rejects Mr. Stile’s contention that Mr.
Marchesi was the one who obstructed the deposition.
the Court rejects Mr. Stile’s complaint that it was
defense counsel who was acting inappropriately. To the
contrary, the defense lawyer did not rise to Mr.
Stile’s repeated use of vulgarity, his refusal to
answer properly asked questions, and his ultimate decision to
tell defense counsel to “[p]ack up.” Id. ...