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Bruno v. Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 13, 2013

JUDGE MARK A. BRUNO, Plaintiff,
v.
THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ANITA B. BRODY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Judge Mark A. Bruno brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, Justice Thomas G. Saylor, Justice J. Michael Eakin, Justice Deborah McCloskey Todd, Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, and Justice Max Baer (collectively, "PA Supreme Court Defendants"). On February 1, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sua sponte suspended Bruno without pay. Bruno claims that the PA Supreme Court Defendants violated his procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Bruno has filed a motion for preliminary injunction, requesting that I enjoin "the Defendants from suspending Judge Mark A. Bruno without pay and benefits pending the resolution of his criminal trial." Pl.'s Mot. 2. The PA Supreme Court Defendants request that the motion for a preliminary injunction be denied. For the reasons set forth below, I will deny Bruno's motion.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Judge Mark A. Bruno is a Pennsylvania Magisterial District Judge in the Borough of West Chester. At the request of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Bruno has presided over cases in the Philadelphia Traffic Court once a year for four or five days while Traffic Court judges are away on training.

On January 29, 2013, Bruno was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; and one count of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. The indictment charges that Bruno and his co-conspirators "used the Philadelphia Traffic Court... to give preferential treatment to certain ticketholders, most commonly by fixing' tickets for those with whom they were politically and socially connected." Compl. Ex. A § 1.

On February 1, 2013, without any prior notice to Bruno, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order ("Suspension Order") suspending Bruno without pay. The Suspension Order states:

PER CURIAM

AND NOW, this 1st day of February 2013, it is hereby ordered that Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno for Magisterial District 15-1-01, of the Fifteenth Judicial District, Chester County, Pennsylvania, is hereby relieved of any and all judicial and administrative responsibilities as a judge of the Magisterial District Court.
It is further ordered that Judge Mark A. Bruno is suspended without pay pending further Order of this Court.
This Order is without prejudice to the rights of Judge Mark A. Bruno to seek relief in this Court for the purpose of vacating or modifying this Order. In Re: Avellino, 609 A.2d 1138 (Pa. 1997); and see In Re: McFalls , 795 A.2d 367 (Pa. 2002).

Compl. Ex. B. Since the February 1, 2013 Order, Bruno has not received any pay. He still receives medical benefits, but has to pay $72.00 per month to receive them.

II. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

The PA Supreme Court Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The doctrine is named after the only two Supreme Court cases to have applied the doctrine to defeat federal subject matter jurisdiction: Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Company, 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). Rooker-Feldman is a narrow doctrine "confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005); Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 464 (2006). " Rooker and Feldman exhibit the limited circumstances in which this Court's appellate jurisdiction over state-court judgments, 28 U.S.C. § 1257, precludes a United States district court from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction...." Exxon, 544 U.S. at 291. Under 28 U.S.C § 1257, only the Supreme Court is vested with jurisdiction over appeals from final state-court judgments. "Accordingly, under what has come to be known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, lower federal courts are precluded from exercising appellate jurisdiction over final state-court judgments." Lance, 546 U.S. at 463 (emphasis added). Thus, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine only applies in the "limited circumstances" where "the losing party in state court filed suit in federal ...


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