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Court's Inherent Authority a Backdoor Around 37(E)?

Case Entry

CAT3 v. Black Lineage

(S.D.N.Y. January 12, 2016)


Why This Case is Important?


An alternative measure for issuing spoliation sanctions may exist for judges who base their ruling on the court's inherent authority.


Overview


In this trademark infringement case, the plaintiff argued that the defendant's similar trademark violated intellectual property that had been used as a domain name, Web site, and online magazine. A forensic analysis revealed that there was more than one version of the plaintiff's original notification email, which had been deleted and replaced with a second email which the plaintiffs produced. CAT3 argued the defendants had "not been deprived of any information or potential evidence" since the altered email was eventually produced.


Ruling


No Sanctions Under "More Lenient" New Rule 37(e)


The court ruled in favor of Defendants based on "the fact that there are near-duplicate emails showing different addresses casts doubt on the authenticity of both." Since there is no missing or destroyed evidence, sanctions cannot be properly imposed under Rule 37 or under a theory of spoliation.


Courts Inherent Authority, Alternative Measure for Spoliation Sanctions?


Outside of Rule 37(e), Magistrate Judge James Francis stated, "where the exercise of inherent power is necessary to remedy abuse of the judicial process, it matters not whether there might be another source of authority that could address the same issue." This opinion goes directly against the committee notes which state that this new rule "forecloses reliance on inherent authority.

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