Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Cappy

June 26, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court

(Chief Judge Kane)


Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, the first filed by the former Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ralph J. Cappy*fn1 and the second filed by Paul J. Killion, Paul J. Burgoyne, and Raymond S. Wierciszewski, all counsel to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (the "Disciplinary Defendants"). For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted and the case closed.


The case pending before the Court relates, in part, to an action that Plaintiff League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania ("Plaintiff" or "the League") first initiated in October 2005, together with Common Cause of Pennsylvania and several individuals. That action was brought against Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and then-Pennsylvania Treasurer Robert P. Casey, Jr., challenging as unconstitutional a Pennsylvania statute that conferred upon legislators, judges, and other elected officials a pay raise. In their second amended complaint filed in the Common Cause case in February 2006, the League and other plaintiffs added then-Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Ralph J. Cappy. As the Pennsylvania General Assembly had repealed the pay-raise legislation by the time the League and its co-plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint, the claims charged defendants from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government with conspiring to enact legislation unlawfully and to prevent subsequent legal challenges to the pay-raise law.

All defendants to the Common Cause action moved to dismiss the second amended complaint and, following oral argument, the Court entered an order on June 12, 2006, granting the motions on the grounds that (1) the plaintiffs' claims were moot; (2) the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the constitutional claims asserted; (3) the plaintiffs failed to state cognizable legal claims; and (4) the Court lacked jurisdiction to grant the relief requested. See Common Cause of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania, 447 F. Supp. 2d 415, 422-38 (M.D. Pa. 2006). The plaintiffs appealed the Court's ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In a lengthy and thorough precedential decision issued on February 26, 2009, the Third Circuit affirmed the Court's order dismissing the Common Cause action, taking care to outline the bedrock principles that rendered Plaintiff's claims non-cognizable in this Court. See Common Cause v. Pennsylvania, 558 F.3d 249 (3d Cir. 2009).

Without waiting for the disposition of its appeal to the Third Circuit, the League commenced the instant lawsuit on May 19, 2008, solely against Ralph C. Cappy, who by this time was no longer a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (Doc. No. 1.) Although the complaint contained numerous incendiary allegations regarding political and judicial corruption, the complaint did little more than republish, rehash, and expand upon the scurrilous allegations firmly rejected by this and the appellate court as a basis for relief. In essence the League alleged that Defendant Cappy engaged in backroom dealing with state legislators in an effort to secure a judicial pay raise in exchange for agreeing to make certain judicial rulings in pending cases. Embellishing the factual allegations of the previous lawsuit, Plaintiff alleged that one of the cases that Defendant Cappy agreed to "fix" was an appeal that the League and other plaintiffs had filed to challenge the constitutionality of the Commonwealth's recently enacted statute authorizing casino gaming ("Act 71"). Plaintiff avers that Defendant Cappy's alleged conduct violated Plaintiff's right to due process under the law. In the complaint, Plaintiff requested entry of an order declaring that Defendant Cappy violated Plaintiff's due process rights and requested payment of fees and costs.

On July 22, 2008, Defendant Cappy moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the Court was without jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff lacked standing to assert them, the claims were moot, and the claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Additionally, Defendant Cappy argued that even if the Court had jurisdiction, Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because all asserted claims were barred by collateral estoppel and because Plaintiff improperly sued a former Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in his official capacity. On August 4, 2008, Plaintiff moved for an extension of time to file a brief in opposition to the motion; the Court granted the motion and directed that Plaintiff file its brief by August 18, 2008. Plaintiff subsequently filed a brief, along with a motion for leave to exceed the allowable page limitation. The brief was stricken for failure to comply with the local rules and Plaintiff's motion for leave to exceed the page limitation was denied. Plaintiff filed nothing for approximately seven more weeks, when it filed an amended complaint.*fn2 The amended complaint changed virtually nothing with respect to the allegations against Defendant Cappy and did not add any claims against him; instead, the amended complaint merely added entirely unrelated claims against the Disciplinary Defendants and requested that the Court declare Rule 8.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct to be unconstitutional.*fn3 In essence, Plaintiff asserts that Rule 8.2(a) is unconstitutional because it: (1) "destroy[s] a hospitable forum in Pennsylvania state courts for the redress of federally protected rights against state judges" (Am. Compl. ¶ 119); (2) prevented Plaintiff from being able to file the instant case in the Pennsylvania courts and impaired Plaintiff from engaging counsel willing to file the action in the Pennsylvania state courts (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 121, 123, 125); and (3) is allegedly "vague and overbroad," both on its face and as applied (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 127, 129).*fn4

In its prayer for relief, Plaintiff requests entry of an order declaring Rule 8.2(a) unconstitutional and enjoining its future performance. Plaintiff also seeks an award of costs and attorney's fees.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993), and is properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to show that no claim has been stated. Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980). Thus, the moving party must show that Plaintiff has failed to "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist." Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (citations omitted). A court, however, "need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906, 908 (3d Cir. 1997).

The Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), has altered the standard of review for a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008). In construing the Rule 12(b)(6) standard generally, the Court required the plaintiff to provide more than a formulaic recitation of a claim's elements that amounted to mere labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. Additionally, the Court held that the complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555. The Third Circuit has held that this language in Twombly applies generally to all motions brought under Rule 12(b)(6) and summed up the Twombly standard as follows: "stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (internal quotations and citations omitted). After Twombly, it is still true that "courts accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Id. at 232 (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).


A. Plaintiff's Claims Against Defendant Cappy Fail to State a Cognizable ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.