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Wright v. Williams

July 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.


Presently before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10) and Plaintiff's Motions for Demand for Trial by Jury (Doc. No. 14) and to Strike / Set Aside Defendant's Motion (Doc. No. 18). Plaintiff James Wright, proceeding pro se, has filed civil rights claims against Defendant A. Taylor Williams related to Defendant's services as defense counsel in a prior civil suit brought by Plaintiff over which the Undersigned presided, Wright v. O'Nembo, 06-cv-2251. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be granted and Plaintiff's Motions will be denied.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

In 2006, Plaintiff filed a civil suit against James Onembo,*fn1 the District Court Administrator of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Defendant represented Onembo in those proceedings as an attorney with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. In the 2006 suit, Plaintiff alleged that as Administrator of the Court, Onembo had denied him oral argument on two of his filings in a state court civil action that he brought in 2002 in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County.

Wright v. O'Nembo, 2006 WL 3857487, *1 (E.D. Pa., Dec. 28, 2006). This 2002 state court civil rights claim, Wright v. Fritzinger, arose from Plaintiff's 1996 Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, in which Fritzinger had filed a proof of claim. Id. This Court granted Onembo's Motion to Dismiss with prejudice because Plaintiff's claims were not ripe, since he had filed the federal civil rights claim against Onembo while his state court claim was still proceeding. Id. at *3. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that there is no federal constitutional right to oral argument in state court civil proceedings. Wright v. O'Nembo, 07-1308 (3d Cir. Aug. 3, 2007).

Plaintiff now alleges that Defendant, as Onembo's attorney, made "numerous false claims" in violation of Rule 3.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. (Compl. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff further asserts that "Defendant operat[ed] capriciously to obtain her objective in her Brief previously submitted . . . to commit Fraud upon Plaintiff and the Court." (Compl. 5.) Plaintiff brings his claims "for Neglect to Prevent Violations of Clearly Established Law and Acting Unreasonably by Submitting Numerous False Claims to Circumvent a Previous Civil Rights Claim" pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985, 1986, and 14141. However, beyond these assertions, the majority of Plaintiff's Complaint contains allegations against Onembo related to the previous 2006 suit. Plaintiff seeks $655,000.00 in damages, which he claims he lost through fraud, and any additional damages the Court deems appropriate. (Compl. 5.)

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action on January 14, 2009 (Doc. No. 5), after the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 4). On December 24, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Recuse the Undersigned based on the Court's prior involvement in Wright v. O'Nembo (Doc. No. 2), which the Court denied on January 30, 2009 (Doc. No. 6). Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10) on March 9, 2009. On March 11, 2009, Defendant filed a Motion for Protective Order Staying Discovery Pending Ruling on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 12), which this Court granted on March 23, 2009 (Doc. No. 13).

Plaintiff filed a Motion for Demand for Trial by Jury on March 27, 2009 (Doc. No. 14). Plaintiff then filed a Motion to Strike / Set Aside Defendant's Motion on May 11, 2009 (Doc. No. 18), which this Court treated as a response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Strike on May 26, 2009 (Doc. No. 19).

II. Parties' Contentions

Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for two reasons. First, Defendant claims that since she was an attorney acting on behalf of her client in the attorney-client relationship, she cannot have engaged in a conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Further, since the § 1985 claim must fail, so must the § 1986 claim. Second, as to Plaintiff's claim pursuant to § 14141, Defendant asserts that there is no private remedy for damages, since the statute acts as a remedy for systemic police misconduct, and only the Attorney General can bring an action pursuant to it for equitable and declaratory relief.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's Motion must be dismissed based on several arguments. First, Plaintiff claims that he is acting as a Private Attorney General pursuant to § 14141. Second, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's counsel, Geri Romanello St. Joseph, does not have the proper Oath to the Pennsylvania Bar in violation of Bar Admission Rules and Pennsylvania law and therefore is practicing law without a license. Third, Plaintiff argues that the "last link" exception, where there is possible criminal conduct involved, subjects Defendant to liability under §§ 1985 and 1986. In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendant failed to do her due diligence to discover the constitutional violations committed against Plaintiff in the state court action in which Onembo was the Court Administrator. Plaintiff attaches a "Commission of Declaration" of himself as a Private Attorney General, Qualified Criminal Investigator, and Federal Witness. (Pl.'s Mot. Strike Ex. A.)

In response, Defendant asserts that her counsel's status as an attorney is not in doubt, and that this has nothing to do with the merits of the Motion to Dismiss. In addition, Defendant asserts that the last link exception does not apply to the facts of this case.

III. Legal Standard

When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir.1994). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir.1985). Moreover, when the plaintiff is a pro se ...

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