United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Argued: October 15, 2014.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:08-cv-00705).
David A. Schlesinger argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs was A.P. Pishevar.
HL Rogers argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief were Peter G. Jensen and Timothy E. Kapshandy.
Before: ROGERS and WILKINS, Circuit Judges, and RANDOLPH, Senior Circuit Judge. OPINION filed by Circuit Judge WILKINS.
Wilkins, Circuit Judge:
Following an acrimonious, three-year discovery process, the District Court awarded $183,480.09 in monetary sanctions to Appellee Seid Hassan Daioleslam for attorney's fees and expenses he accrued in defending a defamation action brought by Appellants the National Iranian American Council and Trita Parsi. Throughout discovery, the Appellants engaged in a disturbing pattern of delay and intransigence. Seemingly at every turn, NIAC and Parsi deferred producing relevant documents, withheld them, or denied their existence altogether. Many of these documents went to the heart of Daioleslam's defense. The Appellants' failure to produce documents in a timely manner forced Daioleslam--whom they had haled into court--to waste resources and time deposing multiple witnesses and subpoenaing third parties for emails the Appellants should have turned over. Even worse, the Appellants also misrepresented to the District Court that they did not possess key documents Daioleslam sought. Most troublingly, they flouted multiple court orders.
Although we discuss these penalties individually below, all implicate an enduring issue: the power of a district court to sanction those who disobey its instructions and interfere with its proceedings. We have previously recognized a trial judge's authority to punish and deter abuses of the discovery process, and we do so again today. A court without the authority to sanction conduct that so plainly abuses the judicial process cannot function. We affirm the bulk of the District Court's sanctions as the wages of Appellants' dilatory, dishonest, and intransigent conduct, though in a couple of minor respects, we reverse and remand for reconsideration under the proper standard.
This appeal is brought by plaintiffs below, the National Iranian American Council (" NIAC" ), a Washington-based nonprofit " dedicated to promoting Iranian American involvement in American civic life," and its president and co-founder Trita Parsi, an expert in United States-Iran relations who has published extensively on the subject. J.A. 20-21, 73, 77-78, 102. Daioleslam, the defendant below, is a resident of Arizona who publishes a website called Iranianlobby.com. J.A. 20-21.
In April 2008, the Appellants filed a complaint alleging Daioleslam defamed them in a series of articles and blog posts claiming that they had secretly lobbied on behalf of the Iranian regime in ...