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Irene D. Rodriguez, et al v. Douglas Shulman

February 21, 2012

IRENE D. RODRIGUEZ, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DOUGLAS SHULMAN, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Boasberg United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Isidoro and Irene Rodriguez claim that they have been the victims of a vast multi-year conspiracy perpetrated by judges from the D.C. and Federal Circuit Courts, the D.C. and Eastern District of Virginia District Courts, the D.C. Court of Appeals, the U.S. Tax Court, and the Virginia Supreme Court, as well as by the Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, officials in the Office of White House Counsel, attorneys from the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, members of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board, members of the U.S. Judicial Conference, members of the D.C. Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions, employees of the Internal Revenue Service, and various private individuals and organizations.

As far as the Court can tell from Plaintiffs' turgid and rambling pleadings, two incidents appear to form the linchpins of the conspiracy alleged in this case, which is merely the latest in a long series of suits brought by Isidoro in this court and others. First, the Disciplinary Board of the Virginia State Bar in 2006 revoked Isidoro's license to practice law in Virginia. Second, the IRS disallowed certain deductions relating to the Rodriguezes' 2006 federal tax return. Those responsible for these two incidents and those judges and officials who subsequently denied him relief, Plaintiffs maintain, conspired to violate his rights under various constitutional provisions, statutes (both civil and criminal, and both state and federal), and doctrines.

Four groups of Defendants have now filed Motions to Dismiss on myriad grounds, and one group has filed a Motion for Sanctions requesting that the Court impose a pre-filing injunction to prevent further litigation of these issues. Because Plaintiffs have already unsuccessfully litigated their claims relating to Isidoro's disbarrment and because those claims, as well as their causes of action relating to the tax dispute, are defective in numerous other respects, the Court will grant Defendants' Motions to Dismiss with respect to the entire case. Although it is a close question, the Court will deny the Motion for Sanctions.

I.Background

Plaintiffs Isidoro and Irene Rodriguez believe government officials and private individuals have for several years been embarked on a conspiracy to deprive Isidoro of his license to practice law and force him to pay more taxes than he believes he owes. Irene has no stake in the disbarrment fight, but she may, although the Amended Complaint does not elucidate this, have some part in the tax claim. Many of the details of this purported conspiracy, which according to Plaintiffs constitutes an "attempt to use status and position to deceive the public" in the manner depicted by Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's New Suit (1837), see Opp. to Commonwealth Dfts. Motion at 7 n.13, are laid out in several similar cases brought by Isidoro in recent years. See, e.g., In re Isidoro Rodriguez, No. 10691-09, ECF No. 47-1 (Tax Ct., Oct. 16, 2009). To summarize, Plaintiffs' contentions are as follows.

According to the First Amended Complaint, which must be assumed true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motions, Isidoro, who had theretofore been a member of the Virginia Bar, was disbarred in 2006. See First Am. Compl., ¶ 44. The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board's decision to revoke his law license, it seems, was based on actions he took in two series of cases, one involving attorney fees he believed he was owed in relation to the salvage of sunken treasure off the Colombia coast, the other relating to a custody dispute over his son. See id., ¶¶ 38-41. Plaintiffs suggest that the Board's Order was void because it was based on unconstitutional rules that operated to punish him for exercising his right to litigate to enforce his statutory and treaty rights. See id., ¶¶ 41-44. The Supreme Court of Virginia and other courts, however, have subsequently upheld his disbarrment. See id., ¶¶ 45-47, 57. In addition, several courts have relied on the Board's order in reciprocally disbarring Isidoro from practice within their jurisdictions. See id., ¶¶ 45-47, 51, 62-64. Various officials and attorneys, moreover, have responded to Plaintiffs' lawsuits and acted to enforce these courts' decisions. See id., ¶¶ 49, 52, 56-57.

In 2009, Plaintiffs contend that the conspiracy against them was compounded when the IRS disallowed various exemptions claimed by the Rodriguezes on their 2006 federal tax return. See id., ¶¶ 50, 53, 94. Specifically, they allege that IRS employees unlawfully declined to allow them deductions for self-employment income and operating expenses they had attempted to claim on their return. See id., ¶ 94.

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint initiating the instant suit on June 28, 2011. They filed a First Amended Complaint on October 19, 2011. In it, they maintain that various judges, federal and state officials, and private individuals conspired to deprive Isidoro of his right to work as an attorney and several thousand dollars in tax deductions. See generally First Am. Compl. Their pleading contains numerous counts citing a bevy of constitutional and statutory provisions and other legal doctrines. See id. Since filing their Complaint, Plaintiffs have moved, inter alia, for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint an "impartial senior retired judge" not from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 11th, or D.C. Circuits to hear this case and for a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent various courts from enforcing orders issued against him. The Court has denied these largely indecipherable Motions. Four groups of Defendants have now filed Motions to Dismiss, and the Commonwealth Defendants have filed a Motion for Sanctions. It is to these Motions the Court now turns.

II.Legal Standard

In evaluating Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, the Court must "treat the complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must grant plaintiff 'the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)) (internal citation omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). This standard governs the Court's considerations of Defendants' Motions under both Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) ("in passing on a motion to dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action, the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader"); Walker v. Jones, 733 F.2d 923, 925-26 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (same). The Court need not accept as true, however, "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the Complaint. Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails to "state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Although the notice pleading rules are "not meant to impose a great burden on a plaintiff," Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). Plaintiffs must put forth "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Though Plaintiffs may survive a 12(b)(6) motion even if "recovery is very remote and unlikely," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)), the facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555.

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), Plaintiffs bear the burden of proving that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear their claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); U.S. Ecology, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24 (D.C. Cir. 2000). A court has an "affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority." Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp. 2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). For this reason, "'the Plaintiff[s'] factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987) (alteration in original)). Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction." Jerome Stevens, 402 F.3d at 1253; see also Venetian Casino Resort, L.L.C. v. E.E.O.C., 409 F.3d 359, 366 (D.C. Cir. 2005) ("given the present posture of this case - a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) on ripeness grounds - the court may consider materials outside the pleadings"); Herbert v. Nat'l Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

III.Analysis

Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint contains either ten or twelve counts (depending on whether "A" and "C" were intended as counts), helpfully numbered I, A, C, II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, IX. See First Am. Compl. at 26-41. For clarity's sake, the Court will refer to the counts as they are numbered in the Complaint, with the exception of the final count, which, to avoid further complicating matters with two counts numbered "IX," it will refer to as "XI."

Most of these counts - all except II and III - concern Isidoro's disbarrment in the state of Virginia and subsequent, reciprocal disbarrment from practice before individual courts. When Isidoro was disbarred, various courts upheld his disbarrment, and various courts relied on his disbarrment to prohibit him from practicing law in their jurisdictions. Such actions, Plaintiffs claim, violated the civil RICO statute, the Constitution, various statutes, and Virginia law. The Court will address these claims in Section III.A, infra. In Section III.B, the Court will consider the two counts related to Plaintiffs' 2006 tax return, which purport to state claims under 26 U.S.C. §§ 7214 and 7433. Ultimately, the Court will dismiss on various grounds all of Plaintiffs' federal claims against all Defendants. As a result, it declines in Section III.C to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims. As it will elaborate in Section III.D, however, the Court determines at this juncture not to grant the Motion for Sanctions.

A. Federal Claims Relating to Isidoro's Disbarrment

In their four Motions to Dismiss, Defendants raise multiple arguments concerning purported defects in Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint with respect to the disbarrment-based claims. Because the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion appear to bar all of these causes of action, the Court will begin its analysis there. Although preclusion seems to dispose of these counts in their entirety, the Court will also briefly discuss a few other grounds for their dismissal, focusing in the interest of efficiency on those arguments applicable to groups of defendants or multiple counts.

1. Preclusion

Isidoro has sought on numerous occasions to challenge his disbarrment, the rules pursuant to which it took place, the Virginia Supreme Court's decision upholding it, and various courts' reliance on it to reciprocally disbar him within their jurisdictions. While the named Defendants change somewhat from case to case (notably, most judges who decide issues against him are added to the roster in subsequent suits) and the causes of action are not always identical, his central argument - that his license to practice law in Virginia was unlawfully revoked - remains the same.

In May 2007, Isidoro filed a complaint in this district alleging that a slew of Defendants, many of whom are also named in the instant case, violated RICO, various constitutional amendments, and statutory provisions including 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3) by, inter alia, revoking his license to practice law in Virginia. See Compl., Rodriguez v. Editor in Chief, Legal Times, et al., No. 07-975, ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 181-82, 195, 217, 219, 221, 230. Judge Paul L. Friedman dismissed the case on judicial immunity grounds and for lack of venue, see Mem. Op. & Order, Rodriguez, No. 07-975, ECF No. 28 at 6 (June 18, 2007), and the D.C. Circuit affirmed on several grounds not relied upon by the district court. See Rodriguez v. Editor in Chief, 285 Fed. Appx. 756, 758-60 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Most relevant here, the D.C. Circuit held that those claims that "challenge[d] decisions by the Virginia state bar and the Virginia courts," along with those that were "inextricably intertwined with such decisions," were barred by the Rooker- Feldman doctrine and principles of ...


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