On December 23, 2020, Joel Wertman and Doug Fogle of Winget, Spadafora & Schwartzberg LLP’s Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office secured a pre-appellate briefing dismissal of an appeal pending before the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Joel and Doug were previously successful in securing dismissal of the matter, Bujdos v. Whalen et al., before the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas, which asserted a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”).
At the trial court level, Plaintiff, representing herself pro se, argued that WSS’s clients, along with over twenty other persons and entities, engaged in a far ranging conspiracy against her. In particular, the Plaintiff argued that her ex-husband collaborated with several financial institutions and financial professionals to hide assets in a high net worth divorce to prevent the Plaintiff from receiving an equitable distribution. As part of this alleged conspiracy, the Plaintiff alleged that her ex-husband and his attorneys also collaborated with several court officials to include two judges and the local sheriff to perpetuate this fraud.
At the trial court level, WSS successfully argued that the Plaintiff was improperly attempting to re-litigate the previously adjudicated distribution of assets from her divorce proceeding. Ordinarily, only parties, or those similarly situated, to a prior case would be entitled to the preclusive effect of a judgment. However, WSS cited to an arcane provision of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure that would allow dismissal of an action even without the strict, technical requirements of res judicata. This rule, adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court only a few years prior, would also allow a trial court to exercise its discretion to bar future pro se litigation. The trial court agreed with the argument advanced by WSS and dismissed the action on those grounds. Most critically, however, was that the trial court agreed with WSS’s argument that its clients were entitled to a litigation bar against the Plaintiff which precludes her from asserting any further pro se litigation against any of the litigants in this matter, their attorneys, and anyone tangentially involved in the matter, without leave of court.
The Plaintiff initiated an appeal of the trial court’s order to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Prior to any appellate briefing, WSS moved to dismiss the appeal on grounds of mootness and waiver. The Superior Court agreed with WSS and dismissed the appeal in its entirety which operates as a disposition without reaching the merits of the appeal, an adjudication rarely granted. Ultimately, this adjudication operated to save a tremendous amount of time and effort in briefing and arguing the merits of the case on appeal.
Joel Wertman, a partner with WSS’s Philadelphia office, handled oral argument of these matters. Doug Fogle, an associate with the Philadelphia office, collaborated with Mr. Wertman on briefing these matters.