McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge.
Morgan's Foods, Inc., (appellant) appeals from a final order entered in the District Court
Jurisdiction was proper in the district court based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343.
The following statement of essential facts, which are not in dispute, is based upon the district court's June 8, 2000, Memorandum and Order and the record reviewed as a whole. See Morgan's Foods, Inc., 99 F.Supp.2d at 1057-59. Nick filed suit against appellant on June 15, 1998, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. At that time, appellant was represented by outside counsel Robert Seibel, but all business decisions were made by appellant's in-house counsel Barton Craig. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(f), a pretrial scheduling conference was held on May 20, 1999. The parties consented to ADR with a court-appointed mediator pursuant to E.D.Mo.L.R. 6.01 - 6.05 ("the local rules"), and agreed to report back to the district court with the results of the ADR by September 30, 1999. On August 2, 1999, the district court issued an Order Referring Case to Alternate Dispute Resolution ("Referral Order") mandating that the ADR process be conducted in compliance with the local rules and listing other specific requirements. See App. at 40 (Referral Order (citing E.D.Mo.L.R. 6.01 - 6.05)). These requirements included, inter alia, that, at least seven days before the first ADR conference, each party shall supply the mediator with a memorandum presenting a summary of the disputed facts and its position on liability and damages; that all parties, counsel, corporate representatives and claims professionals with settlement authority shall attend all mediation conferences and participate in good faith; and that noncompliance with any court deadline could result in the imposition of sanctions against the appropriate party or parties.
On appellant's request, the district court agreed to postpone the first ADR conference until October 18, 1999. Appellant did not file the memorandum that was required to be filed at least seven days before the first ADR conference. In attendance at the conference on October 18, 1999 was the court-appointed mediator; Nick; Nick's counsel; appellant's outside counsel, Seibel; and a corporate representative of appellant who had no independent knowledge of the facts of the case and had permission to settle only up to $500. Any settlement offer over $500 had to be relayed by telephone to Craig, who chose not to attend the ADR conference on the advice of outside counsel Seibel. During the ADR conference, Nick twice made offers of settlement that were rejected without a counteroffer by appellant. The ADR conference ended shortly thereafter without a settlement having been reached.
After the ADR conference, the mediator informed the district court of appellant's minimal level of participation, and the district court issued an order directing appellant to show cause why it should not be sanctioned for its failure to participate in good faith in the court-ordered ADR process. In an October 29, 1999 response, appellant asserted that the Referral Order was only a set of nonbinding guidelines and admitted that it decided not to comply with the guidelines because doing otherwise would be a waste of time and money. On the same day, Nick moved to sanction appellant for failing to participate in good faith in the ADR process and requested attorneys' fees and costs arising out of her participation in the mediation.
The district court held a hearing on its show cause order and Nick's motion for
On December 20, 1999, appellant filed a Motion for Reconsideration and Vacation of the Court's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions (motion for reconsideration). The district court denied the motion for reconsideration and imposed additional sanctions against appellant and appellant's counsel in the amount of $1,250.00 each to be paid to the Clerk of the District Court for vexatiously increasing the costs of litigation by filing a frivolous motion. This appeal followed. Appellant appeals the sanctions levied against it that are to be paid to the Clerk of the District Court; Appellant does not contest the sanctions levied against it that are to be paid to Nick and her counsel.
We review sanction orders under the abuse of discretion standard. See National Hockey League v. Metropolitan Hockey Club, Inc., 427 U.S. 639, 642, 96 S.Ct. 2778, 49 L.Ed.2d 747 (1976) (applying abuse of discretion standard in reinstating sanction of dismissal against party that ignored court order); Martin v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 251 F.3d 691, 694 (8th Cir.2001) (explaining standard of review for sanctions imposed under inherent powers doctrine is abuse of discretion) (DaimlerChrysler); Hill v. St. Louis Univ., 123 F.3d 1114, 1121 (8th Cir.1997) (finding no abuse of discretion). "Judicial discretion is `the responsible exercise of official conscience on all the facts of a particular situation,' taking into consideration the purpose of the exercised power." Wright v. Sargent, 869 F.2d 1175, 1176 (8th Cir. 1988) (quoting Welsh v. Automatic Poultry Feeder Co., 439 F.2d 95, 97 (8th Cir.1971)). Part of the purpose of the sanctioning power — the power at issue here — is to control litigation and to preserve the integrity of the judicial process. See DaimlerChrysler, 251 F.3d at 695 (including integrity of court proceedings as one reason to uphold sanction). Upon review of the record as a whole, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion.
Appellant argues that the district court lacked authority to impose sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(f).
The Referral Order issued in this case provided that the ADR conferences were to be conducted in accordance with the procedures outlined in the local rules. See App. at 40, ¶ (b) (Referral Order). The Referral Order also added other directions to facilitate settlement in this particular case, including the requirements that each party provide a memorandum to the mediator presenting a summary of disputed facts and a narrative description of its position on liability and damages, and that all parties, counsel, and corporate representatives with authority to settle claims shall attend all conferences and participate in good faith.
Rule 16(f) provides that
Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(f). Rule 16(f) also permits the district court to require the party, the party's attorney, or both to pay reasonable expenses incurred because of noncompliance with this rule, unless the noncompliance was substantially justified. See id. These sanctions may be imposed in lieu of, or in addition to, any other sanctions the judge deems appropriate. See id. Local Rule 6.05(A) requires the mediator to immediately inform the judge of any failure to attend any ADR conference, to comply with the Referral Order, or to otherwise cooperate with the ADR process. Like Rule 16(f), Local Rule 6.05(A) also permits the district court to impose any sanctions deemed appropriate. See also Everyday Learning Co. v. Larson, 242 F.3d 815, 818 (8th Cir.2001) (explaining that selection of proper sanction is entrusted to wide discretion of trial judge). Accordingly, we hold that the district court was authorized to invoke its sanctioning power under Rule 16(f) and the local rules for noncompliance with a pretrial order such as the Referral Order.
Appellant argues that, whereas Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes monetary fines payable to the court, Rule 16 does not. See Brief for Appellant at 31-32. There is no merit to this position. Appellant cites no cases for the proposition that monetary fines are not authorized by Rule 16(f). Rule 16(f) expressly permits a judge to impose any
Appellant urges that the "uncontroverted facts on the record conclusively establish that all of the conduct which irritated the Trial Court was the exclusive product of Appellant's trial lawyer and unknown to Appellant." Brief for Appellant at 3. Appellant argues that the affidavits of Craig and Seibel establish that it had no knowledge that its conduct was sanctionable and that its outside counsel was solely responsible for the noncompliance. See App. at 110-11 (motion for reconsideration). Appellant claims that Seibel did not pass along to Craig the necessity for a memorandum, and that, although Seibel advised Craig of the district court's Referral Order and the relevant local rules, Craig read neither and relied instead on the advice of Seibel.
It is undisputed that appellant did not provide the court-ordered memorandum to the mediator because appellant's outside counsel considered it unnecessary and duplicative, and thus too costly. See App. at 56, 57 (appellant's response to show cause order). It is further undisputed that appellant's corporate representative at the ADR conference had settlement authority limited to $500, see id. at 176 (Referral Order), and that any settlement offer over $500 could only be considered by Craig, who was not present and only available by telephone.
It is a well-established principle in this Circuit that a party may be held responsible for the actions of its counsel. See, e.g., Boogaerts v. Bank of Bradley, 961 F.2d 765, 768 (8th Cir.1992) ("A litigant chooses counsel at his peril."). It is of no consequence when the abuses are perpetrated by counsel, rather than the client. See id. While forcing parties to answer for their attorneys' behavior may seem harsh, as this court noted in Inman v. American Home Furniture Placement, Inc., 120 F.3d 117, 119 (8th Cir.1997), litigants who are truly misled and victimized by their attorneys have recourse in malpractice
Because a client may be sanctioned for the actions of its counsel; because Rule 16(f) permits the district court judge to impose sanctions on the party; the party's attorney or both; and because the amount of the sanctions is proportionate to the abuses at issue in the present case; we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in sanctioning appellant. As the district court reasoned,
App. at 87-88 (transcript of motion for sanctions).
In sum, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing monetary sanctions against appellant for its lack of good faith participation in the ADR process, for its failure to comply with the district court's August 2, 1999, Referral Order, and for vexatiously increasing the costs of litigation by filing a frivolous motion for reconsideration. The order of the district court is affirmed.