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Patterson v. Shelton

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 11, 2017

BISHOP ANTHONEE J. PATTERSON, individually and on behalf of the General Assembly of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Petitioner,
v.
KENNETH SHELTON, Respondents.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The instant action, filed on August 29, 2016, is the latest attempt by Petitioner Bishop Anthonee J. Patterson to seek confirmation of an Arbitration Award entered in his favor in 2006. The Award was vacated, however, as ordered by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and, as of this date, is not effective. But not to be deterred, Petitioner Patterson has filed the instant case, which is only the most recent stage in a decades-long dispute between these parties. The initial case was brought in state court in 1995, and subsequently endured a complicated procedural history, in both federal and state court.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed on October 19, 2016 by Respondents Bishop Kenneth Shelton, Leon Bligen, John Carlton Shelton Thomas, John R. Brown, Esquire, Anthony Lamb, James Brown, and Trustees of the General Assembly of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc.[1] (collectively “Respondents”). (Doc. No. 13.) Respondents filed the Motion pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1) (lack of subject-matter jurisdiction) and 12(b)(6) (failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). (Id.) On October 20, 2016, Petitioner filed a Response in Opposition.[2] (Doc. No. 20.) The Motion to Dismiss is now ripe for a decision.[3] For reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The current matter stems from previous litigation between the parties, with Petitioner seeking both state and federal courts to confirm the same vacated arbitration award entered in his favor on October 3, 2006. The twenty-two-year long litigation arose from a singular set of facts.

         For over two decades, Petitioner Anthonee Patterson and Respondent Kenneth Shelton have been involved in litigation for control over the General Assembly of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Trustees of the General Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. (“the Trustees Corporation”). (Doc. No. 13-2 at 6.) Based on the organization of these two religious entities, whoever serves as a General Overseer/Bishop of the General Assembly of the Church, also serves as a President of the Board of Trustees. Patterson v. Shelton, No. 1967 CD. 2006, 2008 WL 9401359, at *1 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Jan. 31, 2008). The person considered the rightful Bishop controls the General Assembly of the Church, the Trustee Corporation, and notably, the assets of these entities. Id Since 1992, Kenneth Shelton has been in control of the General Assembly of the Church and of the Trustee Corporation. Id.

         A timeline of the litigation of this matter in both state and federal court follows:

• In 1995, Petitioner Patterson filed a Complaint in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas against Respondents Kenneth Shelton and Erik Shelton (the “1995 Action”). (Doc. No. 13-2 at 4.)
• On January 10, 2006, the claim remaining from the 1995 Action was referred to arbitration by an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. (Doc. No. 13-11 at ¶ 1.)
• On April 26, 2006, the Honorable Edwin E. Naythons, a former United States Magistrate Judge, acting as a private arbitrator, entered the Arbitration Adjudication in favor of Petitioner Patterson. (Doc. Nos. 13-11 at ¶ 6; 20 at 6-9.) (See also Doc. Nos. 20-2, 20-3.) At the time, Judge Naythons was not acting in the capacity of a judge in the federal court.
• On May 8, 2006, Judge Naythons issued a Supplemental Adjudication in which he clarified findings in the previous Adjudication. (Doc. No. 20-4.)
• On May 16, 2006, Judge Naythons issued an Amendment to the Adjudication. (Doc. No. 20-5.)
• On July 10, 2006, the Court of Common Pleas denied Defendants Kenneth and Erik Shelton's petition to vacate and confirmed the Arbitration award in favor of Patterson. (Doc. No. 20-6.)
• On July 26, 2006, Defendant Shelton filed an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Patterson v. Shelton, No. 2945, 2012 WL 595833 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Jan. 25, 2012).
• On September 22, 2006, the appeal was transferred to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Id.
• According to Petitioner Patterson, Judge Naythons issued another Adjudication on July 25, 2006. (Doc. No. 20 at 9.) (See also Doc. Nos. 20-8, 20-9.)
• On October 3, 2006, the Final Adjudication was issued which concluded the Arbitration in favor of Patterson. (Doc. No. 20 at 9.) (See also Doc. Nos. 20-8, 20-9.)
• On November 15, 2006, Anthonee J. Patterson filed an action in district court to confirm the same Arbitration award which was entered in his favor. (Doc. No. 1, Patterson v. Shelton, No. 06-5060 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 6, 2007).) The case was docketed under No. 2:06-cv-05060 and assigned to the Honorable Gene E.K. Pratter.
• On April 6, 2007, the then Chief Judge reassigned the case from Judge Pratter's calendar to the Honorable Anita B. Brody because a related case was in front of Judge Brody. (Doc. No. 43, Patterson, No. 06-5060.)
• On April 6, 2007, after a telephone conference with the parties, Judge Brody dismissed the case sua sponte for lack of “federal jurisdiction.” (Doc. No. 44, Patterson, No. 06-5060 (Brody, J.).)
• On June 5, 2007, the then Chief Judge ordered the case to be reassigned from the calendar of Judge Brody to the calendar of the Honorable Mary A. McLaughlin for all further proceedings. The reason for the reassignment is not stated in the Order. (Doc. No. 63, Patterson, No. 06-5060.)
• In the spring of 2007, the various parties separately appealed Judge Brody's dismissal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. (See Doc. Nos. 47, 49, 51, 53, Patterson, No. 06-5060.)
• On January 31, 2008, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the arbitrator exceeded his authority and therefore reversed and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to vacate the Arbitration Adjudications entered in favor of Patterson, and to proceed to trial. Patterson v. Shelton, No. 1967 CD. 2006, 2008 WL 9401359, at *8.
• In an order dated November 28, 2009, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the order of Judge Brody dismissing this case for “lack of diversity jurisdiction.” (Doc. No. 69, Patterson, No. 06-5060.)
• The arbitration award was presumptively vacated by the Court of Common Pleas[4] (see Doc. No. 13-2 at 4), because on July 15, 2014, pursuant to the remand instructions, the Court of Common Pleas began a non-jury trial and then granted a motion to dismiss based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Patterson v. Shelton, No. 2147 CD. 2014, 2015 WL 9260536, at *4-7 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. ...

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