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Collura v. Disciplinary Board of The Supreme Court

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 22, 2013

JASON COLLURA, Plaintiff,
v.
DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GENE E.K. PRATTER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jason Collura brings this lawsuit against Defendants Mark Maguire, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ("Board"), Donna Snyder, and Paul Burgoyne alleging, primarily, violations of his constitutional rights. Mr. Maguire has moved to dismiss Mr. Collura's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.[1] The Board, Ms. Snyder, and Mr. Burgoyne have also moved to dismiss[2] Mr. Collura's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the following reasons, the Court grants both defense motions.[3]

I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Collura's claims arise from proceedings in two related lawsuits (hereinafter the "First Lawsuit" and the "Second Lawsuit") that he filed against the City of Philadelphia. Mr. Collura alleges that Mark Maguire, who is the Assistant City Solicitor who represented the City in each of these lawsuits, violated Mr. Collura's constitutional rights by making false statements regarding Mr. Collura's criminal record during proceedings in those lawsuits.

In the First Lawsuit, which Mr. Collura initiated on February 15, 2008, Mr. Collura challenged a policy of the Independence Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library to "group[] people by race in regards to seating in the public library." Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Mr. Collura alleges that during a hearing on May 1, 2008, Mr. Maguire stated that Mr. Collura had been "arrested and convicted of... harassment" even though Mr. Maguire "saw and knew" that Mr. Collura had no such conviction. Id. ¶ 15. Mr. Collura claims that immediately after Mr. Maguire made this statement, Mr. Collura "stated right after that, that it was incorrect." Id. Later, during the same hearing, Mr. Maguire stated that Mr. Collura had pled guilty to "all" criminal charges levied against him, to which Mr. Collura responded "that was a lie." Id. Mr. Collura claims that these statements of Mr. Maguire caused him to feel "physical effects of distress, " severe "mental and emotional distress, " and "impairment of reputation." Id.

Following the May 1, 2008 hearing, on May 10, 2008, Mr. Collura wrote a letter to Mr. Maguire accusing him of making a "multitude of false statements of fact at the hearing" and announcing his intention to "take action" based on this "retaliation" and violation of "federal rights." Id. ¶ 16 and Ex. A. Later, on February 11, 2009, while the Second Lawsuit was pending, Mr. Collura wrote to Shelley Smith, the Philadelphia City Solicitor, and threatened to sue the City based on Mr. Maguire's alleged "false statement of fact" made at the May 1, 2008 hearing. Id. ¶ 16 & Ex. B. In this letter, Mr. Collura wrote that he perceived a "practice" by the City Solicitor of allowing solicitors to make false statements based on Mr. Maguire doing it "twice in one hearing with one person in one case." Id. Ex. B. The First Lawsuit ultimately was resolved by agreement and dismissed on October 10, 2008, following entry of a consent order. Collura v. City of Phila., Docket No. 21, 2:08-cv-746 (E.D. Pa. 2008).

In the Second Lawsuit, which Mr. Collura initiated on August 19, 2008, Mr. Collura alleged that the City retaliated against him for filing the First Lawsuit by "trying to imprison him and banning him" for six months from the Independence Branch of the Philadelphia Library. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 17. A bench trial was held on September 10, 2009. Id. ¶ 17. Mr. Collura alleges that during the trial, Mr. Maguire asked him, "[S]o you don't believe that it was a threat when you were convicted of unlawful use of the computer, terroristic threats and harassment?" Id. ¶ 17. In response, Mr. Collura testified that Mr. Maguire made that assertion knowing "that factually it's incorrect" with respect to Mr. Collura's criminal record. Id. ¶ 17. Mr. Collura alleges that Mr. Maguire's conduct at the bench trial caused him to suffer "physical effects of distress." Id. ¶ 17. On August 9, 2010, the Court entered judgment in the City's favor in the Second Lawsuit. Collura v. City of Phila., No. 08-3880, 2010 WL 3122863 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 9, 2010). Mr. Collura appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The verdict was affirmed. Collura v. City of Phila., 421 Fed.Appx. 256, 258 (3d Cir. 2011).

In April 2010, Mr. Collura filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania about the allegedly false statements made by Mr. Maguire during the bench trial in the Second Lawsuit. Id. ¶ 26. Defendant Donna M. Snyder, an attorney with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC"), investigated the complaint. Id. ¶ 26. Mr. Collura claims that Ms. Snyder explained to him that "Maguire never said Plaintiff was convicted of the above crime he was not convicted of." Id. ¶ 26. Mr. Collura claims that he received a letter from Ms. Snyder informing him that no further action would be taken on his complaint, id. ¶ 26, and "mandat[ing]" him not to discuss the fact that he filed a complaint with the Board. Id. ¶ 34. Mr. Collura asserts that after receiving Ms. Snyder's letter, he then wrote to Defendant Paul Burgoyne, the Board's Deputy Chief Disciplinary Counsel, but received no response from Mr. Burgoyne. Id. ¶ 27.

Mr. Collura's Amended Complaint here raises the following claims against Mr. Maguire: (1) a § 1983 claim for "unlawful retaliation" in violation of the First Amendment; (2) a Due Process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for violation of his "federal constitutionally protected liberty interest" in his reputation; (3) an Equal Protection claim for "affecting federal proceedings that are suppose[sic] to be fair"; and (4) a Due Process claim for "affecting federal proceedings that are suppose[sic] to be fair." Id. ¶¶ 15, 17.

For Mr. Maguire's alleged violations, Mr. Collura seeks the following relief against Mr. Mr. Maguire in his individual capacity: $35, 000 in compensatory damages, $100, 000 in punitive damages, and $1 in nominal damages. Id. Prayer for Relief §§ (e)-(g). In Mr. Maguire's official capacity, Mr. Collura seeks $1 compensatory damages, $1 nominal damages, and prospective relief. Id. ¶ 39; Prayer for Relief. Mr. Collura also seeks a declaration that Mr. Maguire violated Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d) and Mr. Collura's federal Constitutional rights, along with a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the City's "custom and practice of having their lawyers falsely claim plaintiffs have been convicted of a crime." Id. Prayer for Relief § (b)(2)-(4). Further, Mr. Collura seeks an order disbarring Mr. Maguire from practicing law before all federal courts in Pennsylvania, and a permanent injunction "barring the City's illegal practice of lawyers declaring convictions on plaintiffs who sue them that don't exist." Id. Prayer for Relief § (c)(1)-(2).

Mr. Collura also raises the following claims against the Board, Donna M. Snyder, and Paul Burgoyne: (1) violation of procedural due process pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment; (2) violation of substantive due process pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment; (3) violation of Art. I, § 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; (4) challenge to the validity and the Board's application of Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct ("RPC") 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d)[4] on vagueness and overbreadth grounds; (5) challenge to the validity of Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement ("RDE") 209 and 402[5] under the First Amendment and Art. I § 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Id. ¶¶ 32-34.

With respect to Mr. Collura's allegations against the Board, Mr. Collura seeks a declaration that the Board violated the Federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions and his federal and state constitutional rights, misapplied RPC 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d), and that RDE 209 and 402 violate the Federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions. Id. Prayer for Relief § (b)(5)-(7). Further, Mr. Collura seeks a "[s]trong verbal reprimand scolding" of the Board for "doing nothing" about his complaint. Id. Prayer for Relief § (d). Mr. Collura also seeks a permanent injunction requiring the Board to review all complaints, set up an appeal system, cease the use or mention of RDE 209 and 402, cease requesting that complainants not disclose the fact that they have filed a grievance, and apply RPC 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d) whenever an attorney in court proceedings falsely asserts that a person has been convicted of a crime. Id. Prayer for Relief § (c)(3)-(5).

Mr. Collura seeks a declaration that Ms. Snyder and Mr. Burgoyne violated his "federal and state constitutional rights, " id. Prayer for Relief § (b)(5), and a "strong verbal reprimand" against them for "doing nothing" about his complaint. Id. Prayer for Relief § (d). Mr. Collura seeks monetary damages against these Defendants in their individual capacities, id. Prayer for Relief § (e)-(g), as well as unspecified "prospective" relief from these Defendants in their official capacities, id. ¶ 40.

Mr. Collura is proceeding pro se, and the Court will construe his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011). The Court will in turn ...


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