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Spiegel v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 12, 2017




         For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, directs the plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed, and denies without prejudice the plaintiff's motion for the appointment of pro bono counsel.

         I. Background

         A. Complaint

         Pro se litigant Robert Spiegel brings this action in which he complains that state court judges and employees violated his federal rights in the course of his divorce proceedings in the Norfolk Probate and Family Court (“Norfolk Court”). He names as defendants the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“Commonwealth”); the Norfolk Court; four justices of the Commonwealth's Probate and Family Court--Chief Justice Angela Ordonez, Associate Justice George Phelan, Associate Justice Susan Jacobs, and Associate Justice James Menno; the Honorable Paula M. Carey, current Chief Justice of the Commonwealth's Trial Court and former Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court; Patrick McDermott, Register of the Norfolk Court; Clare Gamberoni, Assistant Judicial Case Manager for the Norfolk Court; and, and Kim Wright, Esq., Senior Assistant for Judicial Policy.

         Spiegel characterizes the defendants' conduct as “a clear and convincing conspiracy to delay my appeal in a colluded effort of Fraud Upon the Court.” Compl. at 4. He maintains that, as a “DIRECT RESULT OF Fraud Upon the Court, [he] suffered permanent injury and bodily harm [and] Diminished Physical and Emotional capacities as a result of the manufactured evidence, missing evidence, suppressed evidence, lack of respect for the Constitution and the Judicial Cannons of Ethics.” Id. Spiegel brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the defendants denied him his rights to due process, to “protect [him]self from emotional or Bodily Harm, ” and to a “fair and impartial disposition of [his] case.” Id. at 3.

         While Spiegel broadly alleges that the defendants are engaged in an ongoing fraudulent conspiracy, he describes only one particular occurrence of misconduct. According to Spiegel, on September 14, 2012, he suffered a violent seizure upon learning that Judge Ordonez was going to deny him access to certain transcripts, ignoring an order of the Supreme Judicial Court and her own previous order.[1] Because of this seizure, which was triggered by the stress caused by Judge Ordonez's ruling, Spiegel suffered a number of broken bones and had to undergo surgeries and physical treatment for years thereafter. He is now disabled and has been formally diagnosed with Posttramautic Stress Disorder “as a result of the Trauma his body suffered because it couldn't handle the stress being brought on by the Malicious and fraudulent acts of the Defendants being denied protection of the Court resulting in my inability to care for myself, make decisions in my best interest.” Compl. at 5. He further reports “the feeling of hopelessness as [he] watched the court steal asset after asset and ignore civil rules of evidence and procedure.” Id.

         In regards to relief, Spiegel asks for “disbarment of those individuals who are found guilty to have peptrated [sic] the fraud” and a “voided Judgement.” Compl. at 5. He will also seek monetary relief for past and future lost income, for the reinstatement of “policies that lapsed as a result of the Courts [sic] delays” and “[p]ayments of all fees, fines, penalties acrued [sic].” Id. Spiegal further states that he will “seek[] punitive damages based on the scope of the Fraud and the extent to which the court has disabled Plaintiff physically, financially and emotionally.” Id.

         B. Motion for the Appointment of Counsel

         Spiegel has also filed a motion for the appointment of pro bono counsel (Dkt. # 5). He represents therein that he is totally disabled because of the conduct of the defendants and that his health is rapidly declining. He asks for an opportunity to share with the Court “what the SJC shared with [him] and why assistance of Counsel could prevent Plaintiff any further bodily or emotional harm from being inflicted on him at this time.” Mot. at 1. He continues, “Time is of the essence physically as the added stress from the continued colluded efforts of Judge Ordonez have increased my seizure activity.” Id.

         Spiegel provides in the motion for counsel additional factual allegations of misconduct by the defendants. He represents that then-Chief Justice Carey and her assistant Kim Wright instructed the Chief Judicial Case Manager to require Spiegel to submit the same motions four times. He also states that other judges directly participated in this plot. Spiegel alleges that Judge Ordonez enlisted Judge Phelan, Judge Menno, and Judge Jacobs to assist in delaying Spiegel's access to transcripts and preventing his appeal from moving forward. Register McDermott and Assistant Judicial Case Manager Gamberoni allegedly ensured that his case file was lost, “with no accountability, ” four times. Mot. at 2. Spiegel further maintains that recordings were turned off more than 300 times during trial, exhibits were somehow lost, key testimony disappeared, he was prevented from entering key evidence, he was wrongfully found in contempt, and that the court “stole thousands” from him. Id. He purports to have “hundreds of pages of email communications with Court and other related Commonwealth agencies regarding the allegations.” Mot. at 2.

         Spiegel states that he has unsuccessfully sought recourse with the Board of Bar Overseers and the Commission on Judicial Misconduct. He does credit the Supreme Judicial Court with “uphold[ing] [his] rights to due process, free from corruption and obstruction of Justice and Discrimination, ” id. at 1, and for “referr[ing] [him] to the Federal Court, citing both Subject Matter and Personal Jurisdiction, ” id. at 2. He seeks appointment of counsel to “perfect [his] complaint, explain what relief [he is] entitled to and for how long, and to “ensur[e] that those parties named are all liable and do not have Judicial Immunity.” Id. at 2.

         C. Other Docket Activity

         Spiegel filed in person his complaint, motion for appointment of counsel, and motion to proceed in forma pauperis on December 30, 2016. At that time, the Clerk issued summonses as to all ...

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