In re Pimentel-Soto, 042320 FED1, 17-1967

Docket Nº:17-1967
Opinion Judge:KAYATTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party Name:KENDYS PIMENTEL-SOTO, Appellant.
Attorney:Kendys Pimentel-Soto, pro se. Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, with whom Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, was on brief, for the United States.
Judge Panel:Before Howard, Chief Judge, Thompson and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 23, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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KENDYS PIMENTEL-SOTO, Appellant.

No. 17-1967

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 23, 2020

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge]

Kendys Pimentel-Soto, pro se.

Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, with whom Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, was on brief, for the United States.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Thompson and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

KAYATTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

Attorney Kendys Pimentel-Soto appeals from the district court's order sanctioning her for failing to appear at a status conference. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the issuance of the sanction.

I.

The District Court for the District of Puerto Rico appointed attorney Pimentel-Soto to represent a single defendant in a criminal case under the Criminal Justice Act on September 1, 2015.1 Two weeks later, Pimentel-Soto failed to appear at a status conference scheduled for September 16, 2015. The district court opened the conference by imposing a one-hundred-dollar monetary sanction on Pimentel-Soto for her failure to appear. In her absence, the government provided updates on the case, and the court set the dates for a pretrial conference and trial.

Hours after the district court imposed its sanction, Pimentel-Soto filed a motion for reconsideration asking the court to excuse her non-appearance. She explained that her absence was due to "mistake," because she "scheduled the hearing in her electronic calendar for [the following day] September 17th, 2015, at 9:00 a.m." According to her, at the time of the hearing, she was meeting with her client in preparation for the hearing, which she believed was to be held the next day. She pointed the court to evidence of her "active attention to th[e] case," including her prompt and timely filing of motions upon her recent appointment.

The district court denied the motion for reconsideration on the same day, and ordered that payment be made in two days. Pimentel-Soto then filed a second motion for reconsideration, also on the same day. This time, she insisted that the district court grant her a hearing so that she might show cause for why her failure to appear "[did] not merit this type of sanction," in light of the "punitive character of such sanction and its stigma on [her] professional reputation and record." In support of her motion, Pimentel-Soto attached a copy of the calendar she used, showing the scheduling error she had made. She also noted that this was the first occasion on which her punctuality at court had been criticized. The district court denied the second motion for reconsideration without holding any hearing.

On September 18, 2015, Pimentel-Soto asked the district court to stay payment of the sanction pending her appeal to this court. The district court denied this request. Pimentel-Soto paid the fine and filed a motion indicating that she did so under protest. In her appeal, she alleges continuing harm to her reputation as a result of the sanction.

II.

Pimentel-Soto first contends that the district court abused its discretion by not providing a justification for imposing its sanction. Second, she asserts that the district court had no ability to sanction her given that her absence was a mistake, and she did not act in bad faith, recklessly, or with willful disobedience of a court order. Third, she claims that the district court imposed a monetary sanction "without prior notice and opportunity to be heard," such that the court's actions "constituted an abuse of discretion and...

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