An attorney who missed a filing deadline, then tried to fix the mistake with a misleading brief, has been sanctioned to the tune of $3,408.
U.S. District Judge Renee Bumb in Camden cited 12 “misstatements and/or mischaracterizations” in Philadelphia solo Demetrius Parrish’s motion to vacate dismissal of an employment suit, Nanavanti v. Cape Regional Medical Center, 12-cv-3469.
Among them were Parrish’s contentions that neither he nor his co-counsel Adrian Moody, of Philadelphia’s Moody & Shields, received timely notice of the dismissal motion, but Parrish received electronic notification of all filings.
Parrish also said Moody sought two extensions to respond to the motion, when only one had been requested, the judge said.
And Parrish said a motion to dismiss was granted on Sept. 19, 2012, when it was granted on Oct. 23, 2012, Bumb said.
Bumb said sanctions, which represent costs of defending the motion to vacate dismissal, are warranted because of “the pervasive nature of the misconduct.”
His client, physician Suketu Nanavanti, had sued the Cape Regional Medical Center, alleging his participation on the EKG reading panel was revoked because he failed to comply with a hospital order to attend a behavior-modification course.
Nanavanti claimed that he was discriminated against due to his Indian ancestry and dark complexion, in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981, and that the hospital engaged in breach of contract and tortious interference with economic advantage.
Defense counsel Sarah Beth Johnson of Fox Rothschild in Atlantic City filed the motion to dismiss on Sept. 18, 2012.
Parrish was notified electronically that his opposition was due Oct. 1 and that the motion hearing was on Oct. 15.
On Oct. 19, Moody sent a letter to Bumb, asking for an extension to Nov. 15 to respond. She did not receive the letter until Oct. 24, the day after she granted the defense motion.
After receiving Parrish’s Nov. 7 motion to vacate the dismissal, and “peeling back the false layers of the motion,” Bumb ordered Parrish and Moody to attend a hearing on the false statements.
During the hearing, they “admitted to making several misstatements in the motion and consequently misleading the court.” Parrish later wrote to apologize for the “inaccurate and misleading” content.
Bumb found a violation of Rule 11(b)(3), which requires lawyers to submit pleadings whose factual contentions have or will have evidentiary support.
But she vacated the Oct. 23, 2012, dismissal order because it was unopposed and because the plaintiff sought belated permission to oppose it.
Parrish says he is being punished for actions by Moody, who was admitted to the case pro hac vice and was not subject to the sanction.
“I moved for the admission of another attorney, not licensed in New Jersey. I’m ultimately responsible for pleadings that are filed on behalf of him, as the so-called captain of the ship,” says Parrish.
Bumb also said she considered as mitigation Moody’s significant contribution to “the offending motion.”
She said she intended to revoke Moody’s pro hac vice admission, but he voluntarily withdrew his appearance on April 27.
Bumb said any discipline of him was best left to jurisdictions where he is admitted.
Gerard Hanlon, of Hanlon, Dunn & Robertson in Morristown, who represents lawyers in ethics matters, says candor could have prevented the sanction.
“If they had said, hey judge, I screwed up, the court would have said, I don’t like this, but would have allowed a response,” says Hanlon.
Moody could not be reached.
William Honan of Fox Rothschild in Atlantic City, who, along with Johnson, represented the defendants, declined to comment.