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DAME v. MONAHAN

March 14, 1991

J. ALBERT DAME AND PENNSYLVANIA BROADCASTING ASSOCIATES, II, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
J. DOMINIC MONAHAN AND DOW, LOHNES & ALBERTSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCLURE, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs J. Albert Dame and Pennsylvania Broadcasting Associates, II, commenced this diversity action against defendants on September 11, 1990. Plaintiffs allege that they suffered damages due to the professional negligence of the defendants, J. Dominic Monahan, Esquire and the law firm of Dow, Lohnes & Albertson. On October 8, 1990 the defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to stay this proceeding. Plaintiffs then filed, on October 26, 1990, a motion for an order enjoining prosecution of a related action filed by the defendants in Washington, D.C.

II. RELEVANT FACTS

However, it was ascertained that U.F.C.U. did not have uncontested ownership of the radio station. Plaintiffs discovered that there did in fact exist an outstanding complaint against the station. At the time the defendants reviewed the files, a Petition for Reconsideration contesting the sale of the station to U.F.C.U. was pending before the F.C.C. This petition, which was filed by the former owners of the station on December 23, 1987, challenged the ability of U.F.C.U. to own, operate and/or sell the station.

This incident led to a dispute between Dame and the defendants. While the defendants requested that Dame pay the legal fees incurred by their search of the F.C.C. files, Dame demanded that the defendants pay to the plaintiffs an amount in excess of $50,000 for additional expenditures caused by the defendants' negligent legal work.*fn1 After settlement negotiations between the parties failed, the defendants filed a suit in Washington, D.C. in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on August 31, 1990 to recover their legal fees, and on September 11, 1990 the plaintiffs filed the instant action to recover damages for legal malpractice.

III. ANTI-INJUNCTION ACT

Plaintiffs maintain that this court is required to enjoin the Washington, D.C. action pursuant to the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283, because that action interferes with this court's proper exercise of jurisdiction. The Anti-Injunction Act is an unequivocal prohibition against enjoining state court proceedings, subject only to three narrowly construed exceptions. Federal courts may only stay state court proceedings if such an injunction is 1) expressly authorized by Act of Congress, 2) necessary in aid of the federal court's jurisdiction, or 3) necessary to protect or effectuate the federal court's judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 2283. "`Any doubts as to the propriety of a federal injunction against state court proceedings should be resolved in favor of permitting the state courts to proceed in an orderly fashion to finally determine the controversy.'" Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp., 433 U.S. 623, 630, 97 S.Ct. 2881, 2887, 53 L.Ed.2d 1009, 1016-1017 (1977), quoting Atlantic Coastline R.R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 297, 90 S.Ct. 1739, 1748, 26 L.Ed.2d 234, 246-47 (1970).

Plaintiffs argue that the exceptions authorizing a federal court to issue an injunction where it is necessary in aid of its jurisdiction or to protect or effectuate its judgment apply in this case. This argument lacks merit. It is beyond question that these exceptions do not apply to the instant action.

Parallel in personam actions have never been viewed as interfering with the jurisdiction of either court. Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp., supra, 433 U.S. at 641-42, 97 S.Ct. at 2893, 53 L.Ed.2d at 1023 (a simultaneous in personam action in state court does not interfere with the jurisdiction of a federal court in a suit involving the same subject matter).

Therefore, plaintiffs' motion for an order enjoining prosecution of the related action by defendants in ...


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