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United States v. Rodgers

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

March 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CURTIS RODGERS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before me on defendants' motion and second motion to set aside sanctions. On February 20, 2019, I struck defendants' answers for their repeated, willful failures to comply with the prior Orders of this Court, including their failure to file their required pretrial filings. I imposed this sanction after due consideration of the repetitive nature of defendants' conduct and its effect on the ability to proceed with the resolution of this case.

         Eight days after I struck defendants' answers and ordered plaintiff to file a motion for default judgment, defendants filed a trial brief and a motion to set aside sanctions. The barebones motion is one page long and unsupported by any legal authority or affidavits. In the motion, defense counsel claims that his office was having difficulties with electronic filing and that he mistakenly thought the trial brief was filed on time. In the second motion to set aside sanctions, defendants simply restate their first motion and include an attachment entitled “Notice Regarding Magistrate Judge Jurisdiction” dated February 14, 2019. According to defendants, this document “was found today indicating [defense counsel's] staff communication with the Clerk's office during the failed attempt to e-file the required pleading.”

         Although plaintiff did not file a response to defendants' motions to set aside sanctions, it did file a timely motion for default judgment with accompanying evidence. Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief in the amount of $461, 844.85. The requested damages include $20, 191.00 for the unauthorized timber harvested from the easement and $441, 653.85 to restore the dams on the easement to their original condition. The damages calculation is supported by the affidavits of two witnesses, Clifford J. Baumer and Nate Goodrich.

         After due consideration, the motions to set aside sanctions will be denied. Defendants argue that they attempted to comply with the Court's December 17, 2018 Order by filing a trial brief, but due to “filing difficulties” could not. Defendants, however, offer no explanation as to what these “filing difficulties” were or why they waited eight days to correct these “filing difficulties” or seek relief from this Court. Moreover, the document entitled “Notice Regarding Magistrate Judge Jurisdiction” does not demonstrate any alleged “filing difficulties” that convince this Court to set aside the sanctions.

         More importantly, even if defendants had not experienced these “filing difficulties” and actually filed their trial brief on time, they would have still failed to comply with this Court's December 17, 2018 Order setting this case for trial. That Order required defendants to file the following pretrial materials by no later than February 14, 2019:

1. Stipulation:
Meet and jointly prepare and file with the Clerk a JOINT Stipulation of all uncontested facts, which may be read into evidence subject to any objections of any party set forth in said stipulation.
2. Witnesses:
(a) Deliver to opposing counsel, and to the Clerk, a list of all proposed witnesses, identifying those witnesses who will be called to testify and those who may be called.
(b) Except for good cause shown, no party will be permitted to call any witnesses not listed in compliance with this Order.
3. Exhibits:
(a) Mark for identification all exhibits to be offered in evidence at the trial (Plaintiffs to use Arabic numerals and defendants to use letters, e.g., Pltf-1, Deft.-A, or Pltf Jones-1, Deft Smith-A, if there is more than one plaintiff or defendant), and deliver to opposing counsel and to the Clerk a list of such exhibits, identifying those that will be introduced into evidence and those that may be introduced. The list shall clearly indicate for each business record whether the proponent seeks to authenticate the business record by affidavit or declaration pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 902(11) or 902(12).
(b) Submit said exhibits or true copies thereof, and copies of all affidavits or declarations pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 902(11) or 902(12), to opposing counsel for examination. Prior to trial, the parties shall stipulate which exhibits may be introduced without objection or preliminary ...

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