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Lai v. District V-C Ethics Committee

December 11, 2006

RE: LAI
v.
DISTRICT V-C ETHICS COMMITTEE, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. FEDERAL BLDG. & U.S. COURTHOUSE 50 WALNUT STREET, P.O. BOX 419 NEWARK, NJ 07101-0419 (973) 645-6340

LETTER OPINION

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court upon the following four motions: (1) Defendants Robert B. Wasserman and Wasserman, Jurista & Stolz, P.C.'s ("WJS") July 12, 2006 motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; (2) Defendants Ravin Greenberg, P.C. ("Ravin"), Bruce Wisotsky, Franzblau Dratch, P.C. ("Franzblau"), and Julian Wilsey's September 8, 2006 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss; (3) Defendant V-C Ethics Committee's November 17, 2006 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss; and (4) Defendants Ravin, Wisotsky, Franzblau, and Wilsey's September 8, 2006 motion for imposition of monetary sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pro-se Plaintiff opposes all but the November 17, 2006 motion. For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT the three motions to dismiss, GRANT the Rule 11 motion as to sanctions and DENY it as to fees, DISMISS the Complaint in itsentirety, and direct Plaintiff that she may not file any further lawsuit, administrative proceeding or any other action, for any reason, against any of the Defendants or their counsel or any other persons who have acted on their behalf in this matter related to any of the events discussed in her Complaint, or the related bankruptcy and other proceedings involving either herself or Fantastic Realty, without prior permission of this Court.

I. Background

Plaintiff filed for pro-se bankruptcy in February 2001 and the case was assigned to Judge Winfield with Wasserman (a partner in the WJS law firm), as her trustee (replacing Michael Kaplan as trustee). The Ravin law firm was appointed Trustee's counsel with Raven partner Wisotsky working on the file. Ravin filed an adversarial complaint against a company, Fantastic Realty, owned and operated by Plaintiff and her family, to void a fraudulent conveyance and preferential transfer. Following contentious motion practice and court action related to the Fantastic proceeding, Plaintiff filed an action in March 2002 in the Superior Court of New Jersey against Ravin and Wisotsky for actions related to the bankruptcy case. Ravin and Wisotsky retained law firm Franzblau where Franzblau partner Wilsey worked on the file. The state case was removed to the bankruptcy court in May 2002.

On February 5, 2004, Judge Winfield dismissed the state court complaint citing, in part, to Barton v. Barbour, 104 U.S. 126, 127 (1881) for the proposition that "[u]nder the Barton doctrine a party is precluded from bringing suit against a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee and his or her counsel, in a non-appointing forum, for acts done in an administrative capacity, without first obtaining leave from the appointing court." (See Winfield Feb. 5, 2006 Opinion at 16.) On December 16, 2004, Judge Winfield entered an order permanently enjoining Plaintiff or Fantastic from commencing any "lawsuit, administrative proceeding or any other action, for any reason, against Robert Wasserman, Trustee, Michael Kaplan, Former Trustee, their attorneys, accountants or any other persons who have acted on their behalf during the pendency of this case." (Winfield Dec. 16, 2004 letter at 3.) On January 14, 2005, Judge Winfield denied Plaintiff's request for reconsideration; Plaintiff appealed to the D.N.J. and, on March 30, 2006, Judge Cavanaugh affirmed.

On June 13, 2006, Plaintiff filed her original federal action pro-se before this Court. Her Complaint relates entirely to actions taken by Defendants in relation to her bankruptcy and by the Ethics Committee that failed to sanction Defendant Wasserman. Without any specificity or citation to law, Plaintiff contends that she "realized that defendants are all Jewish as well as many of members of District V-C Ethics Committee. That's why they all discriminated me as a Chinese, Disabled, Woman." (Compl. at ¶8.) Her First Count generically seeks "Civil Rights Damages" because Defendants refused to settle with her. The Second Count seeks "Civil Rights Damages as a Chinese, NOT A JEWISH or WHITE RACE." The Third Count seeks "CIVIL RIGHT damages as a disabled person who was born with Cerebral Palsy and Extremely High Intelligence." Plaintiff fails to offer any valid support for these contentions in either her Complaint or briefings, nor does it appear she sought Judge Winfield's permission before filing the Complaint.

Defendants Wasserman and WJS filed their joint 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on July 12, 2006. They contend that Plaintiff's claim was improperly brought in violation of Judge Winfield's December 16, 2004 Order barring Plaintiff from bringing suit against Wasserman or his firm, among others. Plaintiff responded on July 17 and 31, 2006 making unspecified references to her Complaint as arising under both the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Civil Rights Act; however she failed to address Judge Winfield's Order.

Defendants Wilsey, Franzblau, Wisotsky and Ravin filed their joint 12(b)(6) motion on August 15, 2006 arguing that Judge Winfield's December 16, 2004 Order, and res judicata related to the state court case, bar Plaintiff's Complaint and that she has no cognizable claim under either the ADA or the Civil Rights Act. They also seek an Order enjoining Plaintiff from filing future lawsuits against the named Defendants without prior court approval.

Defendant District V-C Ethics Committee moved to dismiss under 12(b)(6) on November 17, 2006 on the grounds that, among others, that the Ethics Committee is protected by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity and that the Complaint is untenable on its merits.

Finally, Defendants Wilsey, Franzblau,Wisotsky, and Ravin moved jointly on September 8, 2006 for Rule 11 monetary sanctions and attorney's fees in addition to their earlier request that the Court enjoin Plaintiff from filing future lawsuits against any of the named Defendants without prior court approval.

II. Standard for Dismissal Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) all allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court may consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the ...


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