United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DIANE R. GOCHIN
THOMAS JEFFERSON UNIVERSITY, et al.
R. Sánchez, J.
Plaintiff Diane R. Gochin alleges Defendants Thomas Jefferson
University (TJU), Carianne Torrissi, Esquire, the United
States District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit, and various federal judges within this Court
and the Third Circuit conspired to violate federal and state
racketeering statutes and Gochin's constitutional rights
in connection with a separate, underlying employment
discrimination case Gochin brought against TJU. Gochin
generally alleges Defendants committed abuse of process and
engaged in a conspiracy during the course of the underlying
litigation. The Government, in a Statement of Interest, urges
the Court to sua sponte dismiss Gochin's claims against
the federal Defendants for failure to state a claim,
asserting Gochin's claims against them are barred by
judicial immunity. TJU and Torrissi-TJU's attorney in the
underlying action-move to dismiss the Complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.
Because the majority of Gochin's Complaint collaterally
attacks prior judgments of the District Court and Third
Circuit in the underlying case, the Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction to consider those claims. Further, any
new claims brought by Gochin are barred by judicial immunity
or do not state a viable claim for relief. The Court will
therefore grant Defendants' Motions.
2014, Gochin, a former employee at TJU, filed an employment
discrimination action against TJU, which came before the
Honorable District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond. Gochin
claimed she was given inadequate raises and unsuccessfully
applied for 53 other jobs at TJU during the course of her
employment there. On August 20, 2014, TJU moved for summary
judgment, and in March 2015, Judge Diamond denied the motion
without prejudice, directing TJU to provide additional
discovery. The following month, TJU renewed its motion for
summary judgment. In response, Gochin filed a motion for
default judgment and for sanctions based on TJU and
Torrissi's alleged misconduct during the litigation
to Gochin, in September 2015, she filed a disciplinary
complaint against Judge Diamond for his delay in issuing an
order deciding TJU's motion, and Judge McKee dismissed
the complaint for lack of merit. In November 2015, Judge
Diamond granted TJU's renewed motion for summary
judgment, finding Gochin's claims either time-barred or
having “no evidentiary basis.” See Gochin v.
Thomas Jefferson Univ., No. 13-7559, Order at 9-11 (E.D.
Pa. Nov. 3, 2015). Judge Diamond also denied Gochin's
motion for default judgment and sanctions as
“frivolous, ” noting Gochin alone acted
improperly. Id. at 6.
sought relief from the grant of summary judgment under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), arguing Judge Diamond
violated her constitutional rights, conspired with the
underlying Defendants and was complicit in their misconduct,
and retaliated against her for filing a disciplinary
complaint. The District Court denied the motion. Gochin
appealed the grant of TJU's motion for summary judgment,
which the Third Circuit dismissed as untimely. She also
appealed the denial of her 60(b) motion, and the Third
Circuit affirmed the District Court's
now brings the instant action against Defendants, asserting
violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. §
1964, Pennsylvania's racketeering statute, 18 Pa. C.S.
§ 911, and various federal civil rights statutes, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985, as well as a claim
for common law abuse of process. In a Statement of Interest,
the Government argues the Court should dismiss all claims
against the federal Defendants under the doctrine of judicial
immunity. TJU and Torrissi move the Court to dismiss the
Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim.
considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court may treat the
motion “as either a facial or factual challenge to the
court's subject matter jurisdiction.” Gould
Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir.
2000) holding modified by Simon v. United States,
341 F.3d 193 (3d Cir. 2003). Where the motion is a facial
attack, “the court must only consider the allegations
of the complaint and documents referenced therein and
attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Id. “Thus, a facial attack
calls for a district court to apply the same standard of
review it would use in considering a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6)[.]” Const. Party of Pa. v.
Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 358 (3d Cir. 2014). In reviewing
a factual attack, the court may consider evidence outside the
pleadings, as the movant argues “there is no subject
matter jurisdiction because the facts of the case . . . do
not support the asserted jurisdiction.” Id. In
other words, “a facial attack contests the sufficiency
of the pleadings, whereas a factual attack concerns the
actual failure of a [plaintiff's] claims to comport
[factually] with the jurisdictional prerequisites.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)
(alterations in original).
order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for a
failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks removed). A
claim is facially plausible when the facts pleaded
“allow the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. The “plausibility”
standard is not a “probability requirement” but
rather a requirement of more than a “sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A
complaint which “pleads facts that are ‘merely
consistent with' a defendant's liability . . .
‘stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”
Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
In evaluating a complaint's sufficiency under these
standards, the court must first “tak[e] note of the
elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.”
Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d
Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Next,
the court should “identify allegations that,
‘because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.'” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Finally, where
there are well pleaded allegations, the court “should
assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
Defendants TJU and Torrissi
alleges TJU and Torrissi's law firm engaged in corruption
through their political contributions. She also alleges TJU
and Torrissi committed various discovery abuses throughout
the underlying case, such as altering documents, sending
Gochin excessive discovery documents, and concealing evidence
and witnesses. TJU moves to dismiss Gochin's Complaint
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing this case
impermissibly collaterally attacks a prior judgment. TJU also
argues Gochin's claims are barred by collateral estoppel.
lacks subject matter jurisdiction where a plaintiff seeks to
“relitigate a previously decided (and appealed)
action” because it constitutes a “collateral
challenge over [a] final judgment.” Pondexter v.
Pa. Human Relations Comm'n, 556 F. App'x 129,
131 (3d Cir. 2014); see Gagliardi v. Standish, 431
F. App'x 117, 117-18 (3d Cir. 2011) (affirming dismissal
of complaint that alleged bias of judges in underlying
actions, as district court “lacked jurisdiction to
adjudicate collateral challenges in the nature of appeals and
alleged violations of the codes of judicial conduct”).
The Third Circuit-not this Court-has subject matter
jurisdiction over challenges to a final decision of a
district court. See Pondexter v. Pa. Human Relations
Comm'n, No. 13-732, 2013 WL 3305232, at *1 (W.D. Pa.
June 28, 2013) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291, 1292). To
the extent Gochin seeks further review of the underlying
case, her Complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject
Gochin's claims, having been raised in the underlying
case, are barred by collateral estoppel. Collateral estoppel,
or issue preclusion, “prevents parties from litigating
again the same issues when a court of competent jurisdiction
has already adjudicated the issue on its merits, and a final
judgment has been entered as to those parties and their
privies.” Witkowski v. Welch, 173 F.3d 192,
198 (3d Cir. 1999). The Court must find four requirements are
met before barring Gochin's claims as collaterally
estopped: “(1) the issue decided in the prior
adjudication must be identical with the one presented in the
later action; (2) there must have been a final judgment on
the merits; (3) the party against whom collateral estoppel is
asserted must have been a party or in privity with the party
to the prior adjudication; and (4) the party against whom
collateral estoppel is asserted must have had a full and fair
opportunity to litigate the issue in question in the prior
adjudication.” Id. at 199.
majority of Gochin's Complaint repeats allegations
against TJU, Torrissi, and the federal judges that have been
litigated in the underlying action, although Gochin couches
some of those allegations in new theories of relief under
federal and state racketeering and conspiracy statutes.
Throughout the underlying litigation, Gochin filed numerous
motions and letters accusing defense counsel of bad faith and
misconduct, and Judge Diamond of bias, conspiring with the
defendants, and denying her due process. See Gochin v.
Thomas Jefferson Univ., No. 13-7559, Order (E.D. Pa.
Nov. 3, 2015). Judge Diamond denied each of Gochin's
motions seeking relief from the alleged
misconduct. In his November 3, 2015, Order granting
TJU's renewed motion for summary judgment and denying
Gochin's motion for ...