United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
William I. Arbuckle U.S. Magistrate Judge
Acri's Motions for Sanctions (Docs. 538, 596) and Status
Report (Doc. 643)
1989, 20th Century Fox released “The War of the
Roses” a cautionary tale told by Hollywood divorce
lawyer Gavin D'Amato (Danny Divito) to a potential young
client considering divorce. The film, based upon the 1981
novel by Warren Adler, follows a wealthy couple with a
seemingly perfect marriage. When their marriage begins to
fall apart, material possessions become the center of an
outrageous and bitter divorce battle. In both the novel and
the film, the married couple's family name is Rose, and
the title is an allusion to the battles between the Houses of
York and Lancaster at the end of the Middle Ages. Finishing
his story, Gavin presents his new client with two options:
either proceed with the divorce and face a horrific bloodbath
in court or go home to his wife to settle their differences
properly. The client chooses the latter. In the case now
before the Court the parties chose the bloodbath.
fewer than seven different Courts and at least five judges
from this court have been called upon to decide some portion
of this war. From minor skirmishes to pitched battles this
marriage breakup and the conduct of the parties has been
examined by: the minor judiciary of Northumberland County;
the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County (criminal,
civil, and family divisions); the Middle District Bankruptcy
Court; this court; the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
(twice); and, now back to this court. Donna Deitrick, the
former wife in this saga, seeks a measure of justice here by
accusing all who have touched this case with various forms of
misconduct, cast in the legal language of violation of her
civil rights, infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy,
trespass to chattels, conversion, and negligence. A jury
found that the ex-husband and his family members conspired to
steal her property and keep it from her, awarding her $3,
200, 530.00 in damages (Doc. 602). A separate jury found the
two police officers that did not obtain summary judgment were
not liable on the merits (Doc. 636).
much earlier Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 175) the Court
was called upon to decide if Jane Acri, Esq., divorce lawyer
for the husband, was shown to be a willing participant in the
admitted misconduct of her client. Based on the evidence the
Court found that she was not. Nothing brought to the
Court's attention since then has changed that opinion.
Attorney Acri did nothing illegal, improper, or unethical.
She zealously represented a client. She has been exonerated from
any claim of misconduct in this case.
been exonerated, Attorney Acri seeks sanctions against the
Plaintiff and the lawyers that accused her in the pleadings.
The case against Attorney Acri was apparently based upon the
suspicion of the wife (Donna Deitrick) and a single police
report. In that report (Doc. 247, pp. 34-35) Trooper Foura
briefly recounted interviews with Jeff and Marianne Adams
(represented by other counsel) on February 5, 2005, pursuant
to a grant of immunity. They admitted their involvement in
the burglary and theft of the safe. He reports that they both
told him that “Acri knew that Robert took the safe and
where it was buried.” (Doc. 247, p. 35). The report
does not indicate how they came to know that. This report was
dated February 25, 2005, ten days after the Adams'
interviews. This report was uncontradicted when the complaint
in this case was filed by Attorney Wilson on August 10, 2006,
only two days before the running of any two-year statute of
limitations. However, during depositions in 2012 both Mr.
& Mrs. Adams stated they did not have direct knowledge of
what Attorney Acri knew at the time. Trooper Foura was never
deposed or called as a witness in this case. The Adams were
not questioned about Attorney Acri or their 2005 statements
during the trial.
Jane Acri (“Amicus Acri”) was originally named as a
Defendant in this case in seven separate counts:
1. Count Six (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress);
2. Count Seven (Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress);
3. Count Eight (Negligence);
4. Count Nine (Negligence Per Se);
5. Count Twelve (Civil Conspiracy);
6. Count Thirteen (Conversion); and,
7. Count Fourteen (Trespass to Chattels). (See Doc.
October 2, 2014, I issued a Report recommending that Summary
Judgment be granted in Amicus Acri's favor on all counts.
(Doc. 362). That Report was adopted by the District Judge on
April 9, 2015. (Doc. 414).
the life of this case, Amicus Acri filed a total of six
Motions for Sanction. (Docs. 132, 267, 331, 470, 538, 596).
Some of these Motions were dismissed without prejudice to
renewing them after the trial. (Docs. 465, 466, 467). Rather
than waiting until trial had concluded, Amicus Acri filed
three of those six Motions before trial-which
concluded on October 17, 2019.
Pending before the Court are Amicus Acri's Fifth Motion
for Sanctions (Doc. 538), Sixth Motion for Sanctions (Doc.
596), and Motion for Clarification (Doc. 643).
reasons that follow, the Motions for Sanctions will be
denied. The denial of the motions should not be interpreted
in any way as endorsing the idea that Attorney Acri committed
misconduct in her representation of Robert Yoncuski. I state
emphatically that she did not.
Complaint concerns two incidents that transpired in August
2004: (1) the alleged taking of a safe and jewelry contained
within the safe (Friday, August 11, 2004); and (2) an alleged
assault that took place between Plaintiff, Vanessa Yoncuski
and Robert Yoncuski at a local police station (Monday, August
Acri represented Plaintiff's now ex-husband, Robert
Yoncuski, in the divorce. Plaintiff alleged in the original
complaint (Doc. 1) that Amicus Acri had some involvement in
the taking of and concealment of the safe. Specifically, she
119. The Defendant, Jane Acri, knew of should have known that
the safe was going to be stolen before it was stolen, and the
Defendant, Jane Acri, should have known its location after it
was stolen. The Defendant, Jane Acri, represented the
Defendant, Robert Yoncuski, in divorce proceedings opposite
the Plaintiff. In that capacity, she was paid between $50,
000.00 and $70, 000.00 by the Defendant, Robert Yoncuski, and
it is believe [sic] that some of the said proceeds from the
stolen safe were used to pay the Defendant, Jane Acri, for
those divorce representation services. Under the Rules of
Professional Conduct governing lawyers in Pennsylvania, as
well as other law, the Defendant, Jane Acri, had a duty to
third persons such as the Plaintiff and was ethically
obligated not to assist her client, the Defendant, Robert
Yoncuski, in the perpetration of a fraud or crime;
nevertheless, during the Defendant, Jane Acri's
representation of the Defendant, Robert Yoncuski, the
Defendant Robert Yoncuski, lied under oath about his
knowledge of the whereabouts of the safe, failed to disclose
the contents, despite being legally obligated to do so.
Furthermore, the Defendant, Jane Acri, could have revealed
the safe's whereabouts, which would have resulted in a
greater recovery of the contents and less damages to be
suffered by the Plaintiff.
121. The Defendants, Costa, Miner, Nichols, Zelinski, Jeff
Adams, Marianne Adams, Thomas Yoncuski, Balascik, Robert
Yoncuski, Vanessa Long, Linda Long, Brown, Searls, Moore and
Acri, all of them, or in combination, conspired to steal the
safe and its contents, provide a distraction so that others
could do so, cover up the theft, and conceal the whereabouts
of the safe and its contents.
(Doc. 1, ¶¶ 119, 121). The Complaint was signed by
Attorney Richard A. Wilson (“Attorney Wilson”)
and filed on August 11, 2006, two (2) days before the running
of any two-year statute of limitations. Attorney Wilson
represented Plaintiff in this court from August 2006 through
November 2006. (See Docs. 1, 30, 46).
DETAILED PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 26, 2006, Amicus Acri-who was representing herself at
that time-filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 12). The Motion,
however, was deemed withdrawn by Judge Muir because no brief
in support was filed. (Doc. 33).
Peter Loftus (“Attorney Loftus”) entered his
appearance in on November 15, 2006. (Doc. 22). Attorney
Wilson and his association Richard Jennings moved to withdraw
as Plaintiff's Counsel on November 27, 2006 (Doc. 30).
February 22, 2007, Amicus Acri filed an Answer. (Doc. 62).
Six days later, Amicus filed an Amended Answer. (Doc. 65).
February 26, 2007, this case was stayed pending the
disposition of criminal charges brought against Defendant
Robert Yoncuski. (Doc. 64). After the resolution of the
criminal charges in August 2010, new case management
deadlines were set. (Docs. 76, 87).
5, 2011, Defendants Jeff and Marianne Adams filed a Notice
informing the Court that Plaintiff had filed for bankruptcy
in January 2011. (Doc. 103). In light of this information,
the case was stayed for a second time. (Doc. 108). On June 6,
2012, the stay was lifted. (Doc. 127).
September 27, 2012, Amicus Acri filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. 175). Along with her Motion, Amicus Acri
filed a Statement of Facts (Doc. 176), a series of exhibits
(Docs. 177-188), and a Brief in Support (Doc. 189).
December 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to
Amicus Acri's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 222), and
a response to Amicus Acri's Statement of Facts (Doc.
December 14, 2012, Amicus Acri filed a Reply (Doc. 242) and a
Supplemental Statement of Facts (Doc. 243).
October 2, 2014, I issued a Report recommending that Amicus
Acri's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted. (Doc.
362). On October 16, 2014, however, I issued an Order staying
the response deadline to this Report upon notification that
Plaintiff's counsel, Attorney Loftus, was listed by the
disciplinary board as “retired” and attempts to
contact him had been unsuccessful. (Doc. 368). On October 20,
2014, Attorney Loftus filed a letter advising the Court that
Plaintiff was seeking new counsel and that he had given her
all of her files. (Doc. 371). He reported that he was
physically unable to continue in his representation due to
significant health issues. Id. After a hearing,
during which Plaintiff proceeded pro se, the Court
set new deadlines for filing objections to the Report. (Doc.
January 9, 2015, Attorneys Timothy Bowers and Kymberley Best
entered their appearance on Plaintiff's behalf. (Doc.
388). After being granted additional time to do so,
Plaintiff's attorneys filed objections to the Report
recommending that Amicus Acri's Motion for Summary
Judgment be granted. (Docs. 402, 403). Amicus Acri did not
respond to Plaintiff's objections. On April 9, 2015, U.S.
District Judge Matthew W. Brann addressed Plaintiff's
objections, and issued an Order granting Amicus Acri's
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 413, 414). Judgment was
issued in Amicus Acri's favor. (Doc. 415).
6, 2015, Plaintiff, through Attorneys Bowers and Best, filed
a Notice appealing the Memorandum and Order granting Amicus
Acri's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 429).
25, 2015, Plaintiff, through Attorneys Bowers and Best, filed
a Motion requesting certification of final judgment pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) in order to appeal the Order granting
Amicus Acri's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 436).
Along with her Motion, Plaintiff filed a Brief in Support.
(Doc. 437). On July 16, 2015, Amicus Acri filed a Brief in
Opposition. (Doc. 438).
August 18, 2015, Judge Brann filed a Memorandum and Order
denying Plaintiff's Motion. (Docs. 441, 442).
Attorney Acri's First Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 132)
6, 2012, Amicus Acri filed her First Motion for Sanctions.
(Doc. 132). Along with her Motion, Amicus Acri filed a Brief
in Support. (Doc. 133). Five months later, on December 2,
2012, Plaintiff, represented by Attorney Loftus, filed a
Brief in Opposition. (Doc. 221). On December 12, 2012, Amicus
Acri filed a Reply. (Doc. 240). In the First Motion for
Sanctions, Amicus Acri argued that Attorneys Wilson and
Loftus should be sanctioned for violating Fed.R.Civ.P.
11(b)(2) and/or (3) for alleging and advocating the following
(1) Amicus Acri should have known that the safe was going to
(2) Amicus Acri should have known the location of the safe
after it ...