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Fake v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 21, 2016



          PAPPERT, J.

         Currently before the Court is plaintiff Brandon L. Fake's second amended complaint based on an alleged conspiracy in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas associated with contentious divorce, support and custody proceedings between plaintiff and his ex-wife that began in 2004. For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss the second amended complaint.


         Plaintiff's initial complaint named forty-four defendants and primarily alleged that those defendants conspired to manipulate domestic relations proceedings in Philadelphia in favor of plaintiff's ex-wife, Dianne Fake née Clark, based on Ms. Fake's ties to Under Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy and his family. Plaintiff also alleged that due to Dianne Fake's relationship with the Murphy family, she and her daughter Corinna Fake were treated leniently by the criminal justice system after having been charged with certain crimes. The complaint also indicated that certain municipal defendants failed to protect plaintiff's minor children. The Court construed the complaint as raising constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various criminal statutes.

         After granting plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court dismissed the complaint in part as frivolous and in part for failure to state a claim. Among other things, the Court concluded that: (1) most of plaintiff's claims related to the domestic relations proceedings were time-barred; (2) plaintiff's claims based on events that occurred in the course of the domestic relations proceedings were premised on conclusory allegations; and (3) absolute immunity precluded plaintiff's claims against state judges who presided over his case. Plaintiff was given leave to file an amended complaint.

         Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against twenty-eight defendants, many of whom are judges or special masters who presided over the domestic relations proceedings in Philadelphia. As with the initial complaint, the amended complaint primarily alleged that Dianne Fake used her close relationship with Under Secretary Murphy and his family to rig the court against plaintiff. In support of his conspiracy claims, plaintiff noted that the Murphy family was close with the Clark family, that members of the Murphy family held influential positions in local and state government, and that Under Secretary Murphy was friendly with judges who at times presided over plaintiff's case. The amended complaint added that the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services were similarly biased against plaintiff because those entities failed to adequately address his concern that his daughters were being abused by their mother. Plaintiff indicated that he sought to bring claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and 18 U.S.C. § 242.

         The Court dismissed the amended complaint with an October 17, 2016 Order and accompanying Memorandum. With regard to plaintiff's § 1983 claims, the Court concluded, among other things, that plaintiff failed to plead a sufficient factual basis for a plausible conspiracy claim, and that his timely claims against the judges and special masters who presided over his case were barred by judicial immunity. The Court gave plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint as to those timely claims that were not dismissed with prejudice.

         In his second amended complaint, plaintiff sued the City of Philadelphia, Dianne Fake, Under Secretary Murphy, and four judges who served on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas-Judge Kevin M. Dougherty, Judge Margaret T. Murphy, Judge Joel S. Johnson, and Judge Holly J. Ford- during the time period relevant to his claims. The second amended complaint raises claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on an alleged “criminal conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendment rights” in connection with the ongoing proceedings in state court. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 2.)

         The second amended complaint supports plaintiff's conspiracy claim with the following allegations:

The motive for the [Philadelphia] Court to engage in such corrupt and criminal action is based on the close personal and professional relationships of Dianne J. Fake, Patrick J. Murphy, Margaret T. Murphy, Kevin M. Dougherty, Jack Murphy, Marge Murphy, Mary Clark and John Clark who have conspired to perpetrate this unconscionable scheme to railroad the Plaintiff, as detailed in this complaint. The factual evidence to support this claim is provided in the docket history of support case 04-07331, custody case OC0601812 and felony case CP51CR00128162013 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Phone and email records between these parties will provide evidence that these parties have conspired to violate the United States Constitution and have financially benefitted from the establishment of fraudulent child support orders whereby defrauding the United States Government by collecting Title IV D funds in a case where Fraud upon the Court has taken place.[1] The ability to enact these atrocities has been done by and through the influence that the Murphy family has within the highest levels of the Court administration with the positions held by their closest friends and relatives.

(Sec. Am. Compl. at 2.)

         In their current form, plaintiff's claims as they relate to the support and custody cases appear to be premised on the issuance of child support orders that he believes are erroneous because they overinflate his income, as well as his dissatisfaction with how the support proceeding has been handled by the judges and special masters who presided over it. Plaintiff alleges that the judges who he sued (“judicial defendants”) violated his constitutional rights by issuing a recent support order, enforcing that order by freezing his assets and seizing funds from him, and refusing to act promptly on motions or other filings that plaintiff submitted to the court.[2] Plaintiff was also held in contempt and incarcerated in connection with the support proceeding.

         The second amended complaint implies that by collecting on a support order that exaggerated plaintiff's child support obligations, the judicial defendants defrauded the federal government to the extent their court received social security funds related to those collection efforts. Plaintiff adds that Judge Dougherty-who served as Administrative Judge from 2004 through 2015-and Judge Murphy-who served as Supervising Judge between 2004 and 2015, before she became Administrative Judge-violated his rights because they failed to take action despite having been notified “that civil rights violations were taking place.” (Sec. Am. Compl. at 3, ¶ 2 & 5, ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff also attempts to garner support for his conspiracy claim from his ex-wife's criminal prosecution, which was ultimately nolle prossed. See Commonwealth v. Fake, Docket No. CP-51-CR-0012816-2013 (Phila. Ct. Common Pleas). Judge Dougherty presided over the case when it was in Municipal Court and held the charges for trial after a preliminary hearing. See Commonwealth v. Fake, Docket No. MC-51-CR-0037201-2013 (Phila. Municipal Ct.). As part of the alleged conspiracy, plaintiff contends that Judge Dougherty “illegally” listed Ms. Fake's name on her criminal docket as Dianne N. Fake, rather than Dianne J. Fake, and listed her incorrect birth date on the docket.[3] (Sec. Am. Compl. at 3, ΒΆ 2.a.) ...

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