United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Richard Caputo United States District Judge
before me is Defendants' Joint Motion (Doc. 109)
requesting that Plaintiffs' counsel be found in contempt
of my January 20, 2017 Order enjoining Plaintiffs'
counsel “from publicly opining on or vouching for the
favorable value of the evidence to their clients'
case.” (Doc. 81). Plaintiffs have responded by filing a
Motion to Strike Joint Motion for Contempt. (Doc. 110).
Because Plaintiffs' counsel did not violate the January
20, 2017 Order, the motion for contempt will be denied and
the motion to strike will be denied as moot.
forth in detail in my opinion granting in part and denying in
part Defendants' motions to dismiss the Second Amended
Complaint, the instant action filed on July 22, 2016 involves
allegations of sexual abuse of female inmates by corrections
officers at the Lackawanna County Prison and the ensuing
cover-up and concealment of same by various officials of
Lackawanna County. (See Doc. 84,
December 14, 2016, Defendants Lackawanna County and
Commissioner Patrick O'Malley filed a motion for a
protective order to enjoin Plaintiffs and their counsel from
making extrajudicial statements regarding this litigation.
(See Doc. 53, generally). The County and
O'Malley premised their motion on the position that
Plaintiffs and their counsel were waging “a campaign to
try this case in the media, instead of a court of law.”
(Id. at ¶ 10). They also relied on a
“litany” of extrajudicial statements by
Plaintiffs' counsel to media outlets which they contended
impaired their right to a fair trial. (Id. at
¶¶ 12-16). Plaintiffs opposed the motion.
(See Doc. 66, generally).
motion to enjoin Plaintiffs' counsel from making
extrajudicial statements about this case was granted by Order
on January 20, 2017. (See Doc. 81,
generally). Therein, I noted that the motion raised
issues of the right to free speech, right to a fair trial,
and ethical considerations of the legal profession. (See
id.). Framing the question as whether there was “a
substantial likelihood that any of the statements will cause
material prejudice to the proceeding, ” I concluded
that “any statements in which counsel opines or vouches
for the favorable value of the evidence to his case, the
likelihood of material prejudice to this proceeding is
present.” (Id.). I therefore enjoined
Plaintiffs' counsel “from publically opining on or
vouching for the favorable value of the evidence to their
clients' case.” (Id.).
later, on February 14, 2018, seven (7) current or former
employees of the Lackawanna County Correctional Facility
(four (4) of which are Defendants in this case) were arrested
on various charges related to institutional sexual assault.
(See Doc. 107, 3). Two days later, the Scranton
Times-Tribune published an article entitled “State
AG: Not the final chapter in Lackawanna County Prison
arrests.” (Doc. 109, Ex. “2”).
Plaintiffs' counsel is quoted in that article:
“I can say at the heart of my civil case, I am most
concerned with the culture of silence that allowed this to
happen for decades.” . . . “The authority figures
at that jail that said nothing bear much of the
responsibility. As you can see, it's not as simple as one
March 1, 2018, Lackawanna County Correctional Defendants
submitted a brief in further support of a motion to stay this
action. (See Doc. 105, generally).
Correctional Defendants argued that the commencement of
criminal proceedings and the likelihood of additional arrests
and criminal charges supported a stay of this case.
(See id. at 5-8).
Scranton Times-Tribune ran an article the following
day regarding Plaintiffs' opposition to the request for a
stay. (See Doc. 109, Ex. “3”). The
Contacted Thursday, Comerford said the arrests do not change
his position regarding postponing the case. He said [defense
counsel] McDonough's claim that some of the defendants
will invoke the Fifth Amendment is speculative.
“What are they hiding?” Comerford asked.
“There needs to be an affirmative statement from all,
from O'Malley down to the lowest-ranking correctional