United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
above-captioned case, filed December 19, 2016, has been
assigned to the undersigned. (D.I. 3-1). The case was stayed
on January 9, 2017, so that the "vexatious
litigant" procedure established by an order of Judge
Bissoon in Coulter v. Ramsden, Civ. Act. No.
12-1050, D.I. 33 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2012), and Coulter v.
Mahood, Civ. Act. No. 12-1241, D.I. 20 (W.D. Pa. Dec.
18, 2012), could be followed. In relevant part, the order
prohibits Plaintiff "from filing any additional civil
actions related to or arising from the state court
proceedings involving her criminal conviction for assaulting
her minor child, and/or the subsequent termination of her
parental rights." (Id. at p.6). The order was
affirmed by the Third Circuit on August 1, 2013. (Case No.
February 8, 2017, 1 directed Plaintiff to show cause why this
case should not be dismissed. (D.I. 4). On February 28, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a Response to the order to show cause (D.I.
5) and an amended complaint. (D.I. 6). In the Response,
Plaintiff alleges that I have "join[ed] into the Civil
and Criminal Conspiracies of [my] 'brethren.'"
In the amended complaint, Plaintiff added me as a
general background was previously summarized by the Court of
Coulter pleaded nolo contendere to one count of aggravated
assault on May 11, 2007 in the Butler County Court of Common
Pleas.... The victim of the assault was Coulter's minor
daughter. Coulter was sentenced by Judge William Shaffer to a
term of imprisonment of 15-30 months. As a special condition
of her probation, Coulter was precluded by Judge Shaffer from
having any contact with her daughter. Coulter's parental
rights were terminated on January 11, 2011 following a
hearing in Orphans Court presided over by Judge Thomas Doerr
.... Coulter was released from prison on January 25, 2010,
after serving her maximum sentence, and began serving her
term of probation.. .. [H]er probation [was set to] expire
on or about January 25, 2013.
Coulter v. Studeny, 522 F.App'x 147, 148 n.l (3d
order to show cause, I wrote, "This case appears to fall
within the ambit of the prior order, as it appears to be
completely based on allegations about how Plaintiffs previous
litigation was handled." Plaintiff responds that the
case is not within the scope of the prior order, because the
instant case "is in no way 'related to' any
State Court Case, either past or present." (D.I. 5 at
p.3). Plaintiff cites "the Western District's own
paper-work" as defining what is a related civil case.
(Id.). She says the instant case is not related
because it involves different parties, different time frames,
and different locations.
reviewing the eight cases that led to the vexatious litigant
order, I note that they were filed between September 19,
2011, and October 10, 2012. The Defendants in those cases
were judges, law firms, lawyers, bar associations,
prosecutors, probation and parole officers, and youth
services workers. Judge Bissoon summarized these cases as
"appear[ing] connected with state court proceedings
involving Plaintiffs criminal conviction for assaulting her
minor child, and/or the subsequent termination of her
parental rights." Coulter v. Ramsden, Civil
Action No. 12-1050, D.I. 33, at 4 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2012). I
note that attorney Marie Milie Jones was counsel for some
defendants in at least four of the eight cases. (W.D. Pa.
Nos. 12-60, 12-338, 12-1050, 12-1241).
in this case are three district judges, six Third Circuit
judges, attorney Jones, and an unknown Clerk's Office
employee. Notwithstanding the eleven Defendants, the
allegations center on attorney Jones and Judge Bissoon. The
amended complaint makes a number of factual allegations: (1)
Judge Bissoon's vexatious litigant order is forbidden
because it means that Plaintiffs cases are not randomly
assigned (D.I. 6 at pp. 5-7); (2) Judge Bissoon's order
was complied with by some individual in the Clerk's
Office (id. at pp. 7-8); (3) at some time before
December 2012, in an unnamed case, attorney Jones filed a
"Sealed Adoption Record from the State Courts, without
providing notification to the Federal Court's Clerk that
the document must remain sealed by State Law"
(id. at p. 8); (4) all of the judicial officers
violated the Canons of the Judicial Code of Conduct 3.B.
by not reporting Judge Bissoon's and attorney Jones'
misconduct (id. at pp. 10, 11-12, 14-17); and (5)
Judge Bissoon released some information from the "Sealed
Adoption Record" in her December 18, 2012 order
(id. at pp. 10-11).
clearly, Plaintiff is the prototype of a vexatious litigant,
and this lawsuit fits the pattern. Most of the Defendants are
the federal judges who ruled against her in her earlier
vexatious litigation, who are now sued on the theory that
what they learned while judging her cases created disclosure
obligations on them. She made a complaint to Judge McKee, he
denied it, and she sues him. The Third Circuit affirmed the
"vexatious litigant order, " and Plaintiff now
attacks the order on a different ground. The Sealed Adoption
Order is not only clearly "related to" the earlier
proceedings, the claim that it was improperly placed in the
record has been repeatedly alleged.
complaint is "related to" the earlier state court
proceedings, as it challenges the actions of the participants
in the federal litigation about the earlier state court
proceedings. In particular, in regard to attorney Jones, the
allegations against her are that she publicly filed a
document, which should have been filed under seal. Although
Plaintiff does not identify which document exactly this is
supposed to be, it appears to be a memorandum opinion
terminating Plaintiffs parental rights. It was at the heart
of the state proceedings. Its use in the federal proceedings
challenging the handling of the state proceedings is
"related to" the state court proceedings. Thus, the
allegations against attorney Jones and the unnamed
Clerk's Office employee, per the vexatious litigant
order, will be struck from the record. In my opinion, since
all of the complaints against the judges are complaints that
directly flow from the litigation about the earlier state
court proceedings, I believe that they are properly struck
Court has the inherent authority to manage the cases on its
docket "with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants. How this can best be done calls
for the exercise of judgment, which must weigh competing
interests and maintain an even balance." Landis v.
N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936).
"[D]istrict courts have the inherent authority to manage
their dockets and courtrooms with a view toward the efficient
and expedient resolution of cases". Dietz v.
Bouldin, 579 U.S.___, 136 S.Ct. 1885, 1892 (2016).
Finally, the Court has broad discretion in deciding whether
to dismiss an action with prejudice pursuant to its inherent
authority to manage its docket. See Lee v. Krieg,
227 F.App'x 146, 148 (3d Cir. 2007) ("We reiterate
that the court has broad discretion in deciding whether to
dismiss an action with prejudice under Rule 41(b) or pursuant
to its inherent authority to manage its docket.");
see Sharkey v. Verizon New Jersey, Inc., 2014 WL
7336768, at *1 (D.N.J. Dec. 22, 2014) (due to the Court's
inherent authority to manage its docket, the Court sua
sponte dismisses Count Two of Plaintiffs Complaint).
Plaintiff proceeds pro se, her pleading is liberally
construed and her complaint, "however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted).
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a complaint must contain: "(1)
a short and plain statement of the grounds for the
court's jurisdiction ... (2) a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief;
and (3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include
relief in the alternative or different types of
relief.". Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). A well-pleaded complaint
must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Ail.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). In addition, a
plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim
has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City of
Shelby, U.S., 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014).
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court should
follow a three-step process: (1) consider the elements
necessary to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that are
merely conclusions and therefore are not well-pleaded factual
allegations; and (3) accept any well-pleaded factual
allegations as true and determine whether they plausibly
state a claim. See Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp.,
809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016); Williams v. BASF
Catalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014).
Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a
"context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
for the sake of argument that the amended complaint were not
struck, it would still fail. It is frivolous and, indeed,
malicious. Nine of the ten named defendants are judges, and
the acts complained of are judicial acts. Since "[a]
judicial officer in the performance of his duties has
absolute immunity from suit and will not be liable for his
judicial acts, " Azubuko v. Royal, 443 F.3d
302, 303 (3d Cir. 2006), the judicial Defendants are immune
from suit and are not properly named as Defendants. Plaintiff
argues that she is suing over administrative decisions, not
judicial rulings, and that judges' administrative
decisions are not judicial acts. The law is not so fine.
Issuing opinions, assigning cases, reviewing (and denying)
misconduct complaints, see 28 U.S.C. § 352, and
reporting (or not reporting) lawyers and/or ...