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Hall v. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 1, 2016

STEVEN H. HALL, Plaintiff,


          JAMES E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.

         In the American judicial system, lawyers must act both as zealous advocates for their clients and as officers of the court. When an attorney loses sight of both duties in pursuit of his own ill-conceived personal objectives, however, the court must act in defense of the system's integrity. This Court, unfortunately, now finds itself in such a position with regard to attorney Glenn Stephens. Stephens briefly intervened in this case after its termination and, in so doing, filed numerous frivolous pleadings, many in direct violation of court orders. These actions, as well as the content of his filings, clearly and convincingly show that his true aim in pursuing this matter was the advancement of his own personal vendetta against pro se Defendant Rosemary Dettling, his former employer. As she has now reasonably responded by moving for sanctions against him, the Court will grant her Motion.

         I. Background

         The proof of this Motion's success lies in its factual pudding. For ease of digestion, in the first two sections, the Court lays out the pre-litigation relationship between Stephens and Dettling that spurred his decision to intervene here. The next two sections explain the procedural history of this action before and then after his ill-fated appearance.

         A. Employment

         Dettling is an attorney who specializes in plaintiff-side employment cases, and her firm is called the Federal Employee Legal Services Center (FELSC). Stephens is a lawyer who also represents that he has a Ph.D. The origins of their feud are hardly sensational. For fewer than three weeks in June 2015, Dettling paid Stephens to return phone calls and assist prospective clients in retaining her as counsel. See ECF No. 26, Exh. A (Affidavit of Rosemary Dettling), ¶ 8; ECF No. 26-1 (Motion to Disqualify) at 2. She quickly decided to part ways with Stephens, however, when he began complaining about his pay. See Mot, to Disq. at 2.

         At the same time, Dettling was also representing Plaintiff Steven Hall with several claims he was pursuing against the Department of Homeland Security - his former employer - over his own removal from service in November 2013. See ECF No. 30 (Motion for Sanctions); ECF No. 36, Exh. 4 at 9, Exh. 5 at 3 (MSPB Billing Records); ECF No. 1 (Complaint) at 4.

         B. Post-Employment

         This tale might reasonably have ended there, but, alas, reason has not been the driving force behind the events that gave rise to this Opinion. The Court must reconstruct what happened next, though, almost exclusively from Dettling's proffered record evidence, as Stephens does not bother to contest most of the facts that she has provided. Instead, in his Response, he spends his time attacking her character, rather than defending his conduct that is the subject of Dettling's Motion.

         After his termination, Stephens immediately began cyberstalking Dettling, seeking to entice her clients to dump her as counsel, and posting negative reviews about her and her firm on the internet. See Mot. to Disq. at 2-3. For example, he posted the following review of FELSC on Google:

Worked for FELSC as a consultant for two plus weeks. When Rosemary Dettling started trying to nickel and dime me, in violation of our contract, I protested, Rather than honoring the terms of our contract, she said my services were no longer needed. I made somewhere in the neighborhood of $24-$36k for her in those weeks ($6 a retainer). And yet she was trying to cheat me out of a dozen dollars by claiming she would not pay for administrative tasks that were expressly part of our contract. So many federal employees are under siege but Rosemary only wants to help those who can afford her steep $6 retainer and $350 an hour. She loses clients left and right because of this, [sic]

Id. at 2. On other websites, Stephens made little effort to be professional, instead electing to denigrate Dettling as "dishonest, " "greedy, " "creepy, " and a"slimeball." LI at 2-3 (citing attached exhibits). He also claimed to have taken over representation of at least one of her clients. Id. at 3.

         Stephens, moreover, did not restrict himself to such public critiques. When he found information about Dettling's representation of other clients through internet searches, he sometimes reached out to her personally to pan her handling of the case. LI In one instance, Stephens discovered that Dettling had withdrawn from a case transferred by this Court to a federal district court in Florida. See ECF No. 17 at 2-3 & Exh. F. The Florida court had notified Dettling that she needed to apply for pro hac vice admission before the case could proceed. LI Stephens, having discovered this notification, emailed it to Dettling and her former clients, as well as to a District of Columbia Bar representative, with a narrative indicating that Dettling may have violated the professional code of conduct prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law. LI He also copied Dettling and the D.C. Bar on a later single-line email to the same former clients he was now representing, stating only: "You should file your ethics complaint against Rosemary if you haven't already." ECF No. 26, Exh. E.

         Stephens continued this conduct in 2016, and on May 11, Dettling filed a complaint against him with the D.C. Bar's Office of ...

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