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Klayman v. Lim

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 5, 2019

LARRY KLAYMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ESTHER LIM, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Larry Klayman, proceeding pro se, brings this action against the District of Columbia Bar and its president, Esther Lim; the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (“ODC”), which serves as the chief prosecutor for attorney disciplinary matters; and four of its members: Hamilton Fox, Elizabeth Herman, H. Clay Smith, III, and Julia Porter. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated the common law and the U.S. Constitution by pursuing charges against him for attorney misconduct arising from his efforts to appear pro hac vice as counsel for Cliven Bundy, a criminal defendant, before the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. This is not Plaintiff's first lawsuit challenging the lawfulness of pending disciplinary proceedings against him. In Klayman v. Fox, No. 18-cv-1579 (D.D.C. Jul. 3, 2018), Plaintiff accused many of the same defendants of conspiring to disbar him (or to force him to resign from the Bar) because of his political affiliation, conservative advocacy, and gender. After the ODC brought disciplinary charges against him relating to the Bundy case on August 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, seeking to enjoin the pending disciplinary proceedings against him and seeking damages in excess of $75, 000. Dkt. 1 at 21 (Compl. Prayer). This time, in addition to suing the ODC and its staff, he also sues the D.C. Bar and its president.

         The matter is now before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. Dkt. 7. The Court will, for the same reasons set forth in Klayman v. Fox, No. 18-cv-1579, slip op. (D.D.C. June 5, 2019) (“Klayman I”), grant the motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against the ODC and its staff based on Younger abstention, the non sui juris status of the ODC, and absolute judicial immunity, and will dismiss Plaintiff's claims against the D.C. Bar and Lim for failure to state a claim. The Court will also grant Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply. Dkt. 16.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Much of the relevant background is detailed in Klayman I, No. 18-cv-1579, slip op. at 1- 13, so the Court will only briefly summarize the relevant facts here. In short, Plaintiff, a self-described conservative activist, has been a member of the D.C. Bar since 1980. Id. at 4. He is currently the subject of three disciplinary proceedings under the auspices of the D.C. Court of Appeals. The first, based on his representation of three Judicial Watch employees (“Judicial Watch charges”), is awaiting a final decision from the D.C. Court of Appeals. Id. at 4-5. The second, based on his representation of Elham Sataki (“Sataki charges”), is pending before the Board of Professional Responsibility (“the Board”). Id. at 7. The third, based on his attempt to gain admission pro hac vice to appear before the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada on behalf of Cliven Bundy (“Bundy charges”), has been referred to a Hearing Committee. See Dkt. 7-2 at 55-71 (Ex. 1) (Specification of Charges); see also D.C. Bar R. XI § 5(c)(1) (formal charges are first referred to a Hearing Committee).

         On July 3, 2018, Plaintiff filed his first lawsuit, Klayman I, No. 18-cv-1579, alleging that Defendants were “pil[ing] on” baseless misconduct charges against him because of “[his] political beliefs, public activism, and gender, ” Dkt. 10 at 2, 10-11 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 47), Klayman I, No. 18-cv-1579 (D.D.C.). At the time, the ODC had yet to charge him in connection with his pro hac vice application before the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Nevertheless, Plaintiff's amended complaint alleged that the Judicial Watch charges, the Sataki charges, and the then-impending Bundy charges were all part of Defendants' “conspiracy” to bankrupt and to disbar him. See Id. at 2, 10-11 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 47). After the ODC formally instituted the Bundy charges on August 21, 2018, see Dkt. 7-2 (Ex. 1) (Specification of Charges), Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, see Dkt. 1 (Compl.).

         Although Plaintiff could have sought leave to file a second amended complaint in Klayman I, No. 18-cv-1579, based on the Bundy charges, he instead filed this separate case, alleging:

This instant action is based upon the conduct of Defendants concerning the Bundy Complaint, wherein the Individual Bar Counsel Defendants and ODC initiated a proceeding before the Board of Professional Responsibility-by fraudulently inducing a member of the Board to sign off-when they were on notice that there are pending appellate proceedings before the Supreme Court and even the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Dkt. 1 at 6 (Compl. ¶ 21). The complaint also references both the Judicial Watch and Sataki charges. See, e.g., id. at 10 (Compl. ¶ 46) (“These three complaints are without merit, . . . and have been initiated against Mr. Klayman by the Individual Bar Counsel Defendants and ODC for the purpose of removing Mr. Klayman from the practice of law in order to, in effect, silence his public interest advocacy and work.”); id. (Compl. ¶ 48) (“Defendants believe that they can ‘pile on' by filing a new case or cases before [the Board], . . . effectively disbarring [Plaintiff].”).

         Plaintiff's complaint in this case copies, verbatim, much of his amended complaint in Klayman I, No. 18-cv-1579, and he alleges the same causes of action against the same defendants with only three differences. First, the complaint in this case addresses the Bundy matter in far greater detail. For instance, the complaint alleges that Defendants “rushed to file the Bundy Complaint” before Plaintiff's petitions for writs of mandamus before the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit had “reached any type of final resolution.” Id. at 9 (Compl. ¶¶ 37- 39). He also alleges that “Defendants engaged in further illegalities by causing and furthering the publication of the filing of the Specification of Charges in the Bundy Complaint through the website Law360, ” id. (Compl. ¶ 41), in an attempt “to unethically communicate with the appellate courts to attempt to bias and prejudice them while they are deliberating on [his] pending appeals, ” id. (Compl. ¶ 42). Second, Plaintiff adds a fraud claim against Defendants, alleging that they “induced a member of the Board to sign off on the [Bundy] Specification of Charges” by “with[holding] . . . material information”-namely, that “there were pending appeals to the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit” challenging the denials of his petitions for writs of mandamus. Id. at 20 (Compl. ¶¶ 102-03). Third, Plaintiff has added the D.C. Bar and Lim as defendants in this case. Id. at 2 (Compl. ¶ 1). The relief Plaintiff seeks, however, remains the same: “actual, compensatory, and punitive damages . . . in an amount no less than $75, 000 . . . as well as preliminary and permanent injunctive relief” enjoining the disciplinary proceedings against him. Id. at 21 (Compl. Prayer).

         On November 1, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims. Dkt. 7. That motion, and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply, Dkt. 16, are now fully briefed.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint on five grounds: (1) Plaintiff's complaint violates the prudential rule against claim-splitting, Dkt. 7 at 12-13; (2) Younger abstention bars Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief, id. at 13; (3) absolute immunity shields the individual ODC members from suit, id. at 13-14; (4) the ODC is not subject to suit, id. at 14; and (5) Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for relief, id. at 15. Because the allegations and legal claims in this case mirror those in Klayman I, No. 18-cv-1579, the Court will dismiss the claims against the ODC and its staff on the same grounds is relied on in Klayman I: Younger abstention, the fact that the ODC is non sui juris, and absolute immunity. The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claims against the D.C. Bar and Lim for failure to state a claim.

         A. ...


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