Motion for Sanctions United States District Court–At A Glance

Following are all the basic federal rules of civil procedure related to a motion for Rule 11 sanctions in the United States District Courts. For more detailed information, including local rules, on bringing a motion for Rule 11 sanctions in a specific United States District Court, please see the SmartRules United States District Court Motion for Sanctions (Non-Discovery), Opposition to Motion for Sanctions and Reply in Support of Motion for Sanctions Guides for the court where your action is pending.

Rule 11 Certification

By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper — whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it — an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of theperson’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

It is not being presented for an improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

The claims, defenses and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

The factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

The denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

FRCP 11(b).

“Safe Harbor” Service and Filing

A motion based on Rule 11 must be served, but it must not be filed or be presented to the court if the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service. FRCP 11(c)(2).


Any sanction must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. The sanction may include nonmonetary directives; an order to pay a penalty into court; or an order directing payment to the movant of part or all of the reasonable attorney’s fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation. FRCP 11(c)(4).

Sanctions may be imposed against any party who violates Rule 11. FRCP 11(c)(1). These may include parties, attorneys, and law firms. Absent exceptional circumstances, a law firm must be held jointly responsible for a violation committed by its partner, associate, or employee. FRCP 11(c)(1).

Other Rule 11 Motion for Sanctions Rules

 Papers that are not “presented to the court” by signing, filing, submitting or advocating, are not sanctionable under Rule 11. FRCP 11(b).

A motion for sanctions based on FRCP 11 must be made separately from any other motion. FRCP 11(c)(2).

A motion for sanctions based on FRCP 11 must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b). FRCP 11(c)(2).

 In its order imposing sanctions, the court must describe the sanctioned conduct and its basis for imposing the sanction. FRCP 11(c)(6).

The authorities cited in this At A Glance Guide are current as of the publication date. For authorities updated in real time, please see the SmartRules Guide for the litigation document you are drafting.