Cruz v. Savage, No. 88-1770

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA; CAFFREY
Citation896 F.2d 626
PartiesJuan E. CRUZ, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Robert SAVAGE, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees. . Heard
Decision Date09 June 1989
Docket NumberNo. 88-1770

Page 626

896 F.2d 626
16 Fed.R.Serv.3d 190
Juan E. CRUZ, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
Robert SAVAGE, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.
No. 88-1770.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Heard June 9, 1989.
Decided Feb. 20, 1990.

Page 627

Maria H. Sandoval, with whom Law Office of Nachman & Fernandez-Sein, Santurce, P.R., was on brief, for plaintiffs, appellants.

Isabel Munoz Acosta, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Daniel F. Lopez-Romo, U.S. Atty., Hato Rey, P.R., was on brief, for defendants, appellees.

Before CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge, and CAFFREY, * Senior District Judge.

CAFFREY, Senior District Judge.

This is an appeal of an order and opinion of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico which imposed sanctions in the amount of $3,000.00 against plaintiffs' counsel, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and section 1927 of Title 28 of the United States Code. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11; 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1927. The plaintiffs-appellants in this action are Monica Cruz, an eighteen year-old high school senior, Juan E. Cruz and Julia Cruz, her parents, and Alicia Cruz, her sister. The defendants-appellees include the superintendent, the high school principal, the high school assistant principal, and the board chairman of the Antilles Consolidated School System. 1 The plaintiffs-appellants

Page 628

asserted ten claims, five Bivens claims 2 and five pendant state claims, against the defendants-appellees, who were all federal employees. The plaintiffs' claims arose out of an investigation, search, and related disciplinary proceeding that the defendants conducted to determine if plaintiff Monica Cruz had violated the school's regulations by being in an unauthorized area, by possessing a knife, and by smoking cigarettes and/or marijuana.

After a lengthy jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants on all claims. Thereafter, the defendants-appellees filed a motion requesting attorney's fees in which they moved the court to sanction the plaintiffs and their counsel by requiring them to bear the cost of defendants' attorney's fees and expenses. Pursuant to Rule 11 and section 1927, the district court concluded that the "plaintiffs' attorney ha[d] engaged in frivolous and vexatious conduct and ha[d] unreasonably multiplied the proceedings" and ordered the plaintiffs' counsel to pay $3,000.00 as attorney's fees. Cruz v. Savage, 691 F.Supp. 549, 556-57 (D.P.R.1988). Plaintiffs-appellants now appeal the district court's order imposing this sanction against plaintiffs' counsel. Upon careful review, we conclude that the district court's imposition of sanctions was a proper exercise of its discretion, and accordingly we affirm.

I.

The relevant facts of this case are as follows. On February 10, 1984, plaintiff Monica Cruz along with six other students of Antilles high school were huddled between two parked trucks in an area off-limits to students. Upon seeing these students, Luis J. Falu, the school audio-visual technician, informed the assistant principal, Jean Ruiz, of the location of the students and that he believed the students were smoking marijuana. Ruiz herself then observed the area and noticed smoke rising up from between the two trucks. Ruiz asked the physical education teacher to summons the military police of the base and then went to a location in the school from which she could better observe the area. As the group disbanded, Ruiz observed and identified each student. She saw Monica Cruz leave the group under an umbrella with another student.

The students were thereafter called to the principal's office. Ruiz asked Monica Cruz to accompany her. When they arrived at Ruiz's office, she informed Monica Cruz that she was accused of smoking marijuana. Monica Cruz denied smoking marijuana, but admitted smoking a tobacco cigarette. While Ruiz and Monica Cruz were in the office, Ruiz told Monica Cruz that she had a right to search her. Rather than have Ruiz search her, Monica emptied her own pockets and pocketbook. Monica Cruz removed a knife from her pocketbook and gave it to Ruiz. Ruiz then escorted Monica Cruz to her locker, and Monica emptied her locker to allow Ruiz to inspect its contents.

Monica Cruz's parents were summoned to the school. In the presence of her parents, the military police advised Monica Cruz of her rights and proceeded to question her. Monica Cruz, advised by her parents, refused to answer any questions. Similarly, the parents of the other students were summoned, and the students were read their rights and questioned. One of the six students admitted that they had all shared a marijuana cigarette. Another student admitted smoking a marijuana cigarette with some of the other students, but could not say whether Monica Cruz had smoked it also.

In a letter dated February 15, 1984, the principal, co-defendant Dennis Smith, informed the parents of Monica Cruz of the charges against their daughter. According to the letter, Monica Cruz was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of

Page 629

a dangerous knife, being in an unauthorized area, and smoking during school hours. In this letter, Smith further stated that he had reviewed all the evidence provided by the students and witnesses involved and had evaluated Monica Cruz's statements to Ruiz. Based on a preponderance of this evidence, Smith stated, he concluded that Monica Cruz was in violation of the school disciplinary code on all charges. As a result of these violations, Monica Cruz was suspended from school for ten days, placed on probation for the remainder of the year, and prohibited from participating in all school activities for the rest of the year. The letter further advised that they had a right to appeal this decision to the Disciplinary Advisory Committee and that the disciplinary action would be held in abeyance until the committee issued its decision.

The letter from Smith was given to Monica Cruz in Ruiz's office where Monica was allowed to read it and ask questions regarding its contents. Ruiz explained the letter and the appeal procedure. Thereafter, Monica Cruz delivered a letter to Smith from her father, Juan Cruz, which requested an appeal and information, such as an explanation of the evidence supporting the charges. Neither Smith, nor any other school authority, responded to Juan Cruz's letter. Subsequently, Monica Cruz selected one teacher, one parent, and one student to comprise the Disciplinary Advisory Committee that would review the incident and disciplinary action proposed. On February 23, 1984, the committee assembled, reviewed the evidence and listened to the comments of Monica's father, Juan Cruz. The Committee then unanimously voted to uphold the disciplinary action proposed by the school superintendent and outlined in Smith's letter of February 15, 1984. Mr. and Mrs. Cruz were informed of the Committee's decision, and Monica's Cruz's ten-day suspension began on March 1, 1984. The other five students all received the same punishment.

The plaintiffs, Monica Cruz, her parents and her sister, instituted this action on May 21, 1984. In the complaint, the plaintiffs asserted ten claims against the defendants--five Bivens claims and five pendant state claims. The plaintiffs' first claim alleged that the defendants suspension and further discipline of Monica was without notice and an opportunity to be heard in violation of Monica Cruz's right to due process under the fifth amendment. The second claim also alleged a violation of Monica's rights of due process. In support of the second claim, the plaintiffs alleged that the principal, Smith, had coerced Monica's father, Juan Cruz, not to retain legal counsel, thus depriving Monica Cruz of learning of her due process rights and enabling the defendants to conduct an unfair hearing in which Monica Cruz was denied the opportunity to know the identity of her accusers, to confront and cross-examine them, to present evidence in her favor, to know the standard by which she was being judged, and to have counsel present.

The plaintiffs' third claim alleged that the searches of Monica Cruz's person, pocketbook, and locker were without her consent and in violation of her right to privacy under the fourth amendment. In their fourth claim, the plaintiffs alleged that Monica Cruz was denied her sixth amendment right to counsel in criminal proceedings. The plaintiffs withdrew this claim at trial. The plaintiffs' fifth claim alleged that the defendants violated the Antilles Consolidated School System Code of Student's Rights and Responsibilities and Conduct by not giving Monica Cruz prior notice and a hearing as guaranteed by the Code. The plaintiffs also withdrew this claim at trial because it was, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from plaintiffs' first claim.

The plaintiffs' sixth and seventh claims were defamation claims in which the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had caused them embarrassment, anguish and anxiety by needlessly and carelessly disseminating and publishing false information about Monica Cruz. The plaintiffs' eighth claim further alleged that the defendants' dissemination and publication of this information violated their rights to privacy guaranteed by the laws of Puerto Rico. In the plaintiffs' ninth claim, they alleged that

Page 630

Juan Cruz was caused embarrassment in his employment and irreparable injury to his employment status and career prospects because he was forced to inform his employer of the defendants' actions, all in violation of his right to privacy under the laws of Puerto Rico. Finally, the plaintiffs' tenth claim stated a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress under the laws of Puerto Rico.

Prior to trial, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The court denied this motion because under the required summary judgment standard it had viewed the evidence in the light most...

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188 practice notes
  • Naegele v. Albers, Civil Action No. 03-2507 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • January 3, 2005
    ...acts[, however,] will not support an imposition of sanctions under section 1927." Wallace, 964 F.2d at 1219 (quoting Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626, 631 (1st Cir.1990)). For an act to be considered reckless misconduct, there must be a "conscious choice of a course of action, either with knowl......
  • Amlong & Amlong, PA v. Denny's, Inc., No. 04-14499.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • September 17, 2007
    ...demands an objective analysis and that § 1927 does not require a malicious intent or a bad purpose. For example, in Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626 (1st Cir. 1990), the First Circuit stated, "The attorney need not intend to harass or annoy by his conduct nor be guilty of conscious impropriety ......
  • Amlong & Amlong, P.A. v. Denny's, Inc., No. 04-14499.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • July 31, 2006
    ...an objective analysis and 457 F.3d 1191 that § 1927 does not require a malicious intent or a bad purpose. For example, in Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626 (1st Cir. 1990), the First Circuit stated, "The attorney need not intend to harass or annoy by his conduct nor be guilty of conscious improp......
  • McCarthy v. Azure, No. 93-1842
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 5, 1994
    ..."excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred" due to "unreasonabl[e] and vexatious[ ]" conduct); Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626, 631-32 (1st Cir.1990); see also Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, ---- - ----, 111 S.Ct. 2123, 2131-38, 115 L.Ed.2d 27 (1991) (discussing fe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
188 cases
  • Naegele v. Albers, Civil Action No. 03-2507 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • January 3, 2005
    ...acts[, however,] will not support an imposition of sanctions under section 1927." Wallace, 964 F.2d at 1219 (quoting Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626, 631 (1st Cir.1990)). For an act to be considered reckless misconduct, there must be a "conscious choice of a course of action, either with knowl......
  • Amlong & Amlong, PA v. Denny's, Inc., No. 04-14499.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • September 17, 2007
    ...demands an objective analysis and that § 1927 does not require a malicious intent or a bad purpose. For example, in Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626 (1st Cir. 1990), the First Circuit stated, "The attorney need not intend to harass or annoy by his conduct nor be guilty of conscious impropriety ......
  • Amlong & Amlong, P.A. v. Denny's, Inc., No. 04-14499.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • July 31, 2006
    ...an objective analysis and 457 F.3d 1191 that § 1927 does not require a malicious intent or a bad purpose. For example, in Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626 (1st Cir. 1990), the First Circuit stated, "The attorney need not intend to harass or annoy by his conduct nor be guilty of conscious improp......
  • McCarthy v. Azure, No. 93-1842
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 5, 1994
    ..."excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred" due to "unreasonabl[e] and vexatious[ ]" conduct); Cruz v. Savage, 896 F.2d 626, 631-32 (1st Cir.1990); see also Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, ---- - ----, 111 S.Ct. 2123, 2131-38, 115 L.Ed.2d 27 (1991) (discussing fe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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