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Williams v. Foley

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 25, 2016



          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         I. Introduction

         This case is the latest chapter in the plaintiff Stephen J. Williams's decades-long effort to litigate the suspension of his law license after a dispute over a speeding ticket. The defendants are two Connecticut state court judges, Francis J. Foley, III and Michael E. Riley, as well as a deputy chief clerk, Gina Mancini-Pickett. The plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his rights under the First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as under the Connecticut Practice Book. The defendants have moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The plaintiff has filed a series of motions, including a motion to amend the complaint, a motion to disqualify the Connecticut Attorney General from representing the defendants, a motion for an order that the Clerk of Court determine whether the plaintiff may file electronically, and a motion that the case not be assigned to a particular judge. The Court grants the motion to dismiss and denies the plaintiff's motions. As explained in more detail below, the defendants are entitled to judicial and quasi-judicial immunity, the statute of limitations has run, the proposed amendment to the complaint would be futile, and the plaintiff's remaining motions either lack merit or are moot.

         II. Legal Standard

         A pro se attorney, even a suspended pro se attorney, is not entitled to the “special solicitude” afforded to pro se laypersons. Parent v. New York, 485 F.App'x. 500, 502-03 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101 (2d Cir. 2010)). “The plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. After construing all ambiguities and drawing all inferences in a plaintiff's favor, a district court may properly dismiss a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) if it lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court will not accept conclusory allegations and may only allow the case to proceed if the complaint pleads “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554-55). A claim will have “facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678.

         III. Allegations

         The plaintiff alleges the following facts in the First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”). The plaintiff, Stephen J. Williams, is a suspended lawyer who was licensed to practice law in Connecticut, New York, and the District of Columbia. (Complaint, ECF No. 36 at ¶ 8.) Defendant Francis J. Foley, III was an administrative judge of the Connecticut Superior Court and now serves as a judge trial referee. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Defendant Michael E. Riley is a Connecticut Superior Court judge and was also an administrative judge. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Defendant Gina Mancini-Pickett is an attorney who worked for the Connecticut Superior Court as a deputy chief clerk. (Id. at ¶ 11.) All of the defendants served in the Windham Geographical Area of the Connecticut Superior Court. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-11.)

         A. The Plaintiff Receives a Speeding Ticket

         On March 30, 2004, law enforcement served the plaintiff with an infraction complaint alleging that the plaintiff was speeding in his car. (See Id. at ¶ 12.) On April 22, 2004, the plaintiff submitted a written plea of not guilty to the Connecticut Central Infractions Bureau. (Id. at ¶ 13.) On August 25, 2004, the plaintiff wrote to the Bureau to inquire about the status of his case and to see whether the Bureau had his correct address. (Id. at ¶ 14.) The Bureau did not reply but the letter was forwarded to the court clerk at the courthouse in Danielson, Connecticut. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 19.) All notices regarding hearings in the matter were sent to the wrong address. (Id. at ¶ 20.) On November 5, 2004, Ms. Mancini-Pickett “closed out” the case. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Then, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles suspended the plaintiff's driver's license on November 27, 2004 because he did not respond to the infraction complaint. (Id. at ¶ 17.) However, most of the notices about the suspended license were sent to a “fictitious” foreign address. (Id. at ¶ 21.) On February 23, 2005, the plaintiff learned that his license had been suspended when he was stopped and charged with driving under suspension. (Id. at ¶ 18.)

         B. The Plaintiff Files a “Motion for Mandamus”

         Staff at the DMV told the plaintiff that the DMV's “restoration fee would be waived if he were to demonstrate that the notice of suspension had been incorrectly addressed.” (Id. at ¶ 23.) On March 8, 2005, the plaintiff filed a motion to reopen the speeding case and to have the reopening fee waived, as well as a “motion for mandamus” directing the court clerk to “provide a letter setting out the fact that the Commissioner had been provided with an incorrect postal address by the clerk.” (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.)

         C. The Plaintiff Advises the Deputy Chief Clerk to Obtain Counsel and Tells Opposing Counsel Not to Attend Court Proceedings

         On March 16, 2005, Judge Riley granted the plaintiff's motion to reopen the case and his motion to waive the reopening fee. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Judge Riley scheduled an evidentiary hearing about the clerk's procedures as they related to the “motion for mandamus.” (Id. at ¶¶ 25-26). On April 7, 2005, the plaintiff served a request for disclosure on the State and the court clerk. (Id. at ¶ 27.) That same day, the plaintiff wrote a letter to Ms. Mancini-Pickett to tell her about the topics that would be covered during the hearing and to explain the reason for the “motion for mandamus.” (Id. at ¶ 28.) He also wrote a letter to the Assistant State's Attorney about the hearing. (Id. at ¶ 29.) In the letters, he gave Ms. Mancini-Pickett “unsolicited legal advice, ” advised her to obtain counsel, suggested that the State's Attorney's Office was acting unethically, and told the Assistant State's Attorney not to appear in court about the matter. (Id. at ¶ 40.)

         D. The Plaintiff Is Ordered to Show Cause Why He Should Not Be Disciplined or Suspended

         Ms. Mancini-Pickett met with Judge Foley to seek his “intervention in the case.” (Id. at ¶ 30.) The defendants agreed that Judge Foley would initiate disciplinary charges against the plaintiff “to derail” the mandamus hearing. (Id. at ¶ 31.) Accordingly, on April 22, 2005, Judge Foley issued an order to show cause why the plaintiff should not be disciplined or suspended for violating the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to act competently, by engaging in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal, by failing to respect the rights of third persons, and by engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Id. at ¶ 32.) The order to show cause hearing was scheduled for May 13, 2005 at the same time as the mandamus hearing. (Id. at ¶¶ 33, 37.)

         On May 12, 2005, the day before the hearing, the plaintiff responded by filing a motion to quash and a motion seeking to postpone the hearing. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-37.) Judge Foley denied the motion for a postponement and Ms. Mancini-Pickett gave a copy of Judge Foley's order to the plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 36.) At the hearing on May 13, 2005, the plaintiff appeared pro se. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Judge Foley suggested that he get a lawyer. (Id.) Throughout the hearing Judge Foley glared at the plaintiff, was terse, and “displayed none of the normal pleasantries expected from a Superior Court judge.” (Id.) Judge Foley did not decide the plaintiff's motion to quash at the hearing. (Id.)

         On June 9, 2005, the plaintiff filed a “Motion for Bill of Particulars.” (Id. at ¶ 39.) A second hearing was held on June 10, 2005, and Judge Foley denied the motion to quash and the motion for mandamus. (Id. at ¶ 40.) Then, Judge Foley placed the plaintiff under oath, asked irrelevant questions, and insulted the plaintiff. (Id.) Judge Foley adjourned the hearing until July 18, 2005 so that the plaintiff could obtain counsel. (Id. at ¶¶ 40, 44.)

         E. The Plaintiff Attempts to Subpoena Judge Foley, Deputy Chief Clerk Mancini-Pickett, and Opposing Counsel; His Law License Is Suspended

         On July 14, 2005, the plaintiff filed an application to the clerk to issue subpoenas for Judge Foley, Ms. Mancini-Pickett, and the Assistant State's Attorney. (Id. at ¶ 41.) On July 18, 2005, he filed a motion to suppress the letters that he had sent to Ms. Mancini-Pickett and the Assistant State's Attorney. (Id. at ¶ 42.) At the hearing held on July 18, 2005, the plaintiff appeared without a lawyer because he was unable to find an attorney who was willing to represent him. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Judge Foley denied the plaintiff's motion to suppress. (Id.) Judge Foley would not testify at the hearing or allow Ms. Mancini-Pickett or the Assistant State's Attorney to testify. (Id.) That day, Judge Foley suspended the plaintiff's license to practice law. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Judge Foley found by clear and convincing evidence that the plaintiff's license should be suspended to protect the public and to safeguard the administration of justice. (Id.) Judge Foley noted that the plaintiff's “motion for mandamus” was meritless, that he was not following elementary procedure, and that he had intimidated the court's deputy clerk with unsolicited legal advice. (Id.) The plaintiff alleges that Judge Foley failed to follow applicable law or to address the plaintiff's arguments. (Id.) The plaintiff's suspension took effect on August 7, 2005 and notice was published in the Connecticut Law Journal. (Id. at ¶ 47.) The plaintiff filed more motions attacking his suspension, which were denied by a different judge. (Id. at ¶¶ 49-51.)

         F. The Plaintiff Is Convicted

         In the reopened criminal case arising from the original speeding ticket, Judge Riley eventually convicted the plaintiff of speeding after a bench trial held on October 28, 2005. (Id. at ¶¶ 53-54.) The day of the trial, the plaintiff moved to dismiss the charges against him. (Id. at ¶ 53.) Judge Riley allegedly improperly denied the motion to dismiss, “supplemented the prosecution, ” denied the plaintiff his rights, and imposed an illegal sentence. (Id. at ¶ 53-55.)

         G. The Plaintiff Seeks to Obtain the Record for Appeal

         On November 17, 2005, the plaintiff appealed his conviction and suspension of his law license. (Id. at ¶ 56.) “Ms. Mancini Picket ordered her staff to withhold portions of the docket file and to deny to Plaintiff that those portions existed and that they were being withheld.” (Id. at ¶ 57.) In May 2006, the plaintiff filed a motion to compel the clerk to allow access to certain docket files and separately filed “an appeal” with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission seeking access to the clerk's docket file. (Id. at ¶¶ 58-59.) The plaintiff eventually received the documents that had been withheld from the clerk's file. (Id. at ¶ 64.) Judge Foley and Judge Riley waited over one and a half years to issue written opinions for the appellate record. (Id. at ¶¶ 65, 67.) The plaintiff sought clarification of an ambiguity in Judge Riley's opinion, which Judge Riley denied more than a year after the request was made and not until the Appellate Court ordered Judge Riley to do so. (Id. at ¶ 68-71.)

         At Judge Foley's reconfirmation hearing, he stated that the plaintiff had threatened court staff. (Id. at ¶ 74.) The plaintiff then filed a motion to disqualify Judge Foley and Judge Riley on August 20, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 75.) That motion is still pending. (See Id. at ¶ 88-89.)

         H. The Plaintiff ...

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