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Thomas v. Alcoholic Rehabilitation Services Of Hawaii, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

January 28, 2016

MICHAEL THOMAS; DEBORAH LEE THORPE, Personal Representative of the Estate of Blake Snyder, Deceased; DEBORAH LEE THORPE, Individually, Plaintiff,


Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

Before the Court is a Motion for Sanction Under Rule 11(c)(2) and Rule 30 and Under Modal[1] Rules 3.3, 3.4, and 8.4 Misconduct (“Motion”) filed on December 15, 2015 by pro se Plaintiffs Michael Thomas (“Thomas”); Deborah Lee Thorpe, Personal Representative of the Estate of Blake Tyler Snyder (“Snyder”), Deceased; and Deborah Lee Thorpe, Individually (“Thorpe, ” collectively “Plaintiffs”). [Dkt. no. 87.] Defendant the Alcoholic Rehabilitation Services of Hawaii, Inc. (“Defendant”) filed its memorandum in opposition on January 4, 2016. [Dkt. no. 90.]

The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). After careful consideration of the Motion, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, the Motion is HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.


The Motion arises out of ongoing litigation between the parties related to Plaintiffs’ efforts to get Snyder admitted to Defendant’s Hina Mauka facility. Snyder was not admitted to Hina Mauka, and he unfortunately died a few weeks later. [Notice of Removal, filed 4/15/14 (dkt. no. 1), Exh. A (First Amended Complaint) (“Amended Complaint”) at ¶¶ 43-44.] Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint includes claims for, inter alia, violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. [Id. ¶¶ 53-67.]

The Motion seeks Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 30 sanctions against Defendant’s attorney Gregory K. Markham, Esq., and also alleges that he violated the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct. [Motion at 2.]


Plaintiffs are proceeding pro se, and as such the Court must construe their filings liberally. See, e.g., Pregana v. CitiMortgage, Inc., Civil No. 14-00226 DKW-KSC, 2015 WL 196667, at *2 (D. Hawai`i Apr. 30, 2015) (“The Court liberally construes the [plaintiffs’] filings because they are proceeding pro se.” (citing Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987))).

I. Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct

Plaintiffs state that the Motion is brought pursuant, in part, to “Mod[e]l Rules 3.3, 3.4, and 8.4 Misconduct of the American Bar Association’s Mod[e]l Rules of Professional Conduct.” [Motion at 2 (emphasis omitted).] Local Rule 83.3 states, “[e]very member of the bar of this court and any attorney permitted to practice in this court pursuant to LR83.1(d) or (e) shall be governed by and shall observe the standards of professional and ethical conduct required of members of the Hawaii State Bar.” Thus, “[t]he Local Rules of the District of Hawaii require attorneys practicing in the district to comply with the Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct.” United States v. Gaitan-Ayala, CR No. 07-00268-01 JMS, 2008 WL 1752678, at *3 (D. Hawai`i Apr. 17, 2008) (citation omitted).

This district court has noted that “The Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct, along with the Rules of numerous other states, are taken from the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.” Baham v. Ass’n of Apartment Owners of Opua Hale Patio Homes, Civ. No. 13-00669 HG-BMK, 2014 WL 413495, at *2 n.2 (D. Hawai`i Feb. 4, 2014). The Court therefore CONSTRUES Plaintiff’s Motion as seeking relief pursuant to the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct state, in pertinent part:

Violation of a Rule should not itself give rise to a cause of action against a lawyer nor should it create any presumption in such a case that a legal duty has been breached. In addition, violation of a Rule does not necessarily warrant any other nondisciplinary remedy, such as disqualification of a lawyer in pending litigation. The Rules are designed to provide guidance to lawyers and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through disciplinary agencies. They are not designed to be a basis for civil liability. Furthermore, the purpose of the Rules can be subverted when they are invoked by opposing parties as procedural weapons. The fact that a Rule is a just basis for a lawyer’s self-assessment, or for sanctioning a lawyer under the administration of a disciplinary authority, does not imply that an antagonist in a collateral proceeding or transaction has standing to seek enforcement of the Rule. Nevertheless, since the Rules do establish standards of conduct by lawyers, a lawyer’s violation of a rule may be evidence of breach of the applicable standard of conduct.

Haw. R. Prof’l Conduct, Scope at ¶ 7. Further, “[f]ailure to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by a Rule is a basis for invoking the disciplinary process.” Id. at ¶ 6. It is clear from the plain language of the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct that they may not be enforced against an opposing party via sanctions. As such, insofar as Plaintiffs’ Motion seeks sanctions under the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct, the Motion is DENIED.

II. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11

Plaintiff’s Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 claim primarily concerns the deposition of non-party witness Elizabeth Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”), Synder’s former social worker. [Amended ...

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