The plaintiffs appealed to the Second Circuit, arguing they should not be punished for Rawlins' actions. The circuit vacated the sanctions and remanded the case.
Winter said that the sanction of dismissal with prejudice must be supported by clear evidence of misconduct and specific factual findings.
"Further, mindful that the sanction of dismissal with prejudice has harsh consequences for clients, who may be blameless," he said, Second Circuit case law holds that "it should be used only in 'extreme situations.'"
Winter said Cogan afforded the proper procedural safeguards in the matter, repeatedly warning Rawlins about the consequences of failing to abide by a detailed scheduling order and giving the plaintiffs a full hearing on the motion to reconsider.
Four of the five factor "fault standards" outlined in Lucas v. Miles, 84 F.3d 532 (2d Cir. 1996), were met here and weigh in favor of dismissal, Winter said. Noting there was noncompliance for a full 18 months, plaintiffs were given notice that future misconduct would result in dismissal, further delays would "continue to waste the time and resources of adversary parties" and "the court has a clear need to manage its docket, which Rawlins seriously disrupted."
Winter said the court was only taking issue with the fifth factor, "whether alternative sanctions not involving serious harm to counsel's clients were adequately considered."
"A wide panoply of sanctions was, and is, at the district court's disposal," Winter said, including monetary sanctions on counsel, the assessment of costs and attorney fees and "mandated disclosure by counsel of his sanctionable conduct to the bar, to future clients, and to courts in which Rawlins may appear."
Mitchell Perry of the Rawlins Law Firm represented the plaintiffs.
Brooke Anthony of the Law Offices of Raymond A. Giusto in West Bay Shore represented the defendants.
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