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Schnader Lawyers Win Before the Third Circuit in Case Involving Judicial Pay Raises in Pennsylvania

06/29/2010

On June 29, the Third Circuit issued a cursory opinion affirming the trial court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania against the late Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, Ralph J. Cappy. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Ralph J. Cappy, No. 09-3523, 3d Cir., June 29, 2010. The decision is a decisive victory for a team of Schnader lawyers that included Hon. Arlin M. Adams, Paul Titus, and Bruce Merenstein.  The Firm was retained by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) to represent the Chief Justice in two cases that have dragged on for almost five years.  This is the second lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters against Chief Justice Cappy in which the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit on Article III grounds.  

 

In 2005, the League, along with Common Cause of Pennsylvania and a group of individual citizens and a legislator, filed suit against Chief Justice Cappy and legislative and executive branch officials, claiming that the officials from the three branches of state government conspired to enact pay raise legislation in violation of the plaintiffs’ state and federal constitutional rights.  The district court dismissed the first case on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing; the complaint failed to state a cognizable claim against Chief Justice Cappy; and the district court did not have the authority to grant the relief sought by plaintiffs.  The Third Circuit affirmed in a published opinion issued in February 2009, on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to bring their claims.

 

While the appeal in the first case was pending, the League filed its second lawsuit in May 2008 against Chief Justice Cappy, seeking only declaratory relief, despite the fact that Chief Justice Cappy had retired from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court five months earlier.  In this lawsuit, the League contended that its rights had been violated when the Chief Justice allegedly promised state legislators that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would uphold the state gambling law against a challenge mounted by the League in exchange for a judicial pay raise.  The district court eventually dismissed the second lawsuit (and denied a motion to recuse) in June 2009, on the grounds that the claims against Chief Justice Cappy were moot and the plaintiff lacked standing to raise those claims.  In its opinion, the court noted that the second lawsuit represented yet another “vexatious” effort by plaintiff and its counsel to use the federal courts as a forum for their “incendiary” and “scurrilous” allegations and “far-fetched” and “laughable” legal theories.  Undaunted, the League appealed to the Third Circuit, which affirmed the trial court decision dismissing the second lawsuit.