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In re Discipline of McArdle

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 23, 2017



          Joy Flowers Conti Chief United States District Judge.

         Pending is the motion for reconsideration of this court's May 31, 2017 order and related motion for a hearing filed by Attorney Paul J. McArdle (“McArdle”). (ECF No. 7.) The May 31st order suspended McArdle from the practice of law before this court for one year and one day, retroactive to December 22, 2016, and was reciprocal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's November 22, 2016 order of suspension. In the motion for reconsideration McArdle asserts the same argument that he asserted in his response to this court's order to show cause why an identical order of suspension should not be entered in this court, i.e., that the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board proceedings and resultant Pennsylvania Supreme Court order of suspension violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law. (ECF Nos. 5, 7.) Specifically, McArdle claims that he was denied the opportunity to present evidence in his defense during the disciplinary proceedings, and that the disciplinary charges against him were unsupported by testimonial evidence. (ECF No. 5 ¶¶8-9; ECF No. 7 ¶¶3, 7-8.)

         The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected McArdle's multiple attempts to assert due process challenges to the propriety of the disciplinary proceedings and the ultimate order suspending him. Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. McArdle, No. 39 DB 2015, No. 2303 Disciplinary Docket No. 3 (Pa. Nov. 22, 2016), ECF No. 5-7; Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. McArdle, No. 39 DB 2015, No. 2222 Disciplinary Docket No. 3 (Pa. Jan. 14, 2017), ECF No. 5-8; (ECF No. 5 ¶¶60-61, 67; ECF No. 5-8.). The United States Supreme Court denied McArdle's petition for a writ of certiorari, which likewise sought to challenge his disciplinary suspension on Fourteenth Amendment due process grounds. McArdle v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, No. 16-7800 ( S.Ct. April 17, 2017); (ECF No. 5 ¶¶3-7; ECF No. 5-8.)

         McArdle's response to the order to show cause and motion for reconsideration provide no basis for this court to conclude that McArdle's Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended him for one year and one day for repeatedly filing frivolous lawsuits, violating court orders, and using civil litigation to unreasonably annoy, embarrass, and burden third parties. McArdle's motion for reconsideration is, therefore, denied.

         I. Factual Background

         Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against McArdle on June 29, 2015. (Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. McArdle, No. 39 DB 2015, Report and Recommendation (Sept. 21, 2016) (the “R&R”) at 20.) McArdle was accused of misconduct arising from his initiation of seven pro se civil actions, in both federal and state courts in Pennsylvania, in which he repeatedly accused a group of more than 30 defendants, many of whom were related to him, of being members of a criminal organization that defamed him and unlawfully entered his law office to destroy the evidence of their conspiracy. (Id. at 20-22; ECF No. 5 ¶¶11-12; ECF No. 5-5 ¶¶2-3.) All seven of these civil actions were dismissed as having no basis in law or fact and, if appealed, those dismissals were affirmed. (R&R at 4-18; ECF No. 5-4 ¶6.) McArdle continued to press these allegations in court even after being explicitly ordered to cease filing lawsuits that reiterated the same baseless claims. (R&R at 10.)

         McArdle asserts that these prior court rulings were inconsequential because they were not final judgments or jury verdicts. (ECF No. 5 ¶¶13, 24, 37; ECF No. 5-5 ¶¶6-7.) McArdle further claims that the courts' adverse rulings were substantively wrong. (R&R at 19; ECF No. 5-5 ¶6.) At his disciplinary hearing, McArdle endeavored to attack the underlying adverse court rulings by subpoenaing dozens of witnesses, many of whom were members of the alleged criminal organization, to demonstrate that the claimed criminal conspiracy against him actually existed. (ECF No. 5 ¶¶28-30, 51-52; ECF No. 5-4 ¶¶ 1-5; ECF No. 5-5 ¶¶4-5, 10.) The witnesses filed motions to quash, which were granted. The hearing committee of the disciplinary board ordered that McArdle could not offer any evidence at the disciplinary hearing “regarding the truth of the factual allegation [sic] raised in the civil actions filed by [McArdle] that underlie these proceedings.” (ECF No. 5 ¶¶28-32, 37-41, 44-49.) Based upon this ruling, both testimonial and documentary evidence proffered by McArdle in order to prove that the alleged criminal conspiracy existed was excluded from the disciplinary hearing. (ECF No. 5 ¶¶38-43, 52; ECF No. 5-6; ECF No. 7 ¶¶4-5.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Local Rules of Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

         Pursuant to this court's Local Rules of Court, upon receiving notice that an attorney admitted to practice before this court has been disciplined by another court, this court shall impose an identical order of discipline unless the attorney “demonstrates…that upon the face of the record upon which the discipline in another jurisdiction is predicated it clearly appears that (a) the procedure was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process; (b) there was such an infirmity of proof establishing the misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that this court could not, consistent with its duty, accept as final the conclusion on that subject.” LCvR 83.3D(1), (2), (4). If the disciplined attorney challenges the other court's order on these or other listed grounds, the matter is referred to the court's disciplinary committee, which “may order and conduct a further hearing, or take testimony or hear argument, and make a recommendation to the Board of Judges.” LCvR 83.3D(4) (emphasis added).

         The local rules state that “[i]n all other respects, a final adjudication in another Court that an attorney has been guilty of misconduct shall establish conclusively the misconduct for the purposes of a disciplinary proceeding in this court.” LCvR 83.3D(5).

         B. Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct

         In the Pennsylvania disciplinary proceedings, McArdle was found to have violated three rules of professional conduct: Rule 3.1, Rule 4.4(a), and Rule 8.4(d). (R&R at 19-26; ECF No. 5 ¶22.) Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 3.1 forbids an attorney from filing frivolous lawsuits. Rule 4.4(a) states that an attorney shall not employ means that have no purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third party. Rule 8.4(d) states that it is professional misconduct to engage in behavior that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

         C. District Court Review of State ...

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