The opinion of the court was delivered by: PETER K. LEISURE
This consolidated action is plaintiff pro se George Sassower's ("Sassower") latest attempt to relitigate the dissolution of Puccini Clothes, Ltd. ("Puccini"), which emanated in New York State Supreme Court in the early 1980s and spawned a plethora of related actions by Sassower in both federal and state courts, resulting in numerous decisions disposing of his actions, as well as various injunctions and orders issued by the courts in an effort to prevent the filing by him of further frivolous and vexatious lawsuits.
Sassower's litigation tactics and flagrant disregard of court orders has resulted in his disbarment from practice in state and federal courts, civil and criminal contempt adjudications, prison sentences, and numerous injunctions and orders across the nation. These injunctions attempt to prevent Sassower from filing any additional frivolous and vexatious lawsuits relating to the Puccini dissolution and other previously adjudicated matters.
More specifically, the Southern District of New York has evolved as Sassower's favorite federal forum for filing these vexatious lawsuits. His abuses have resulted in the issuance of two orders in this District aimed at preventing the filing of any additional lawsuits. In 1985, after Sassower brought four separate actions attempting to relitigate the Puccini dissolution, the Honorable William C. Conner, United States District Judge of this Court, dismissed the actions under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, awarded fees to the defendants, and issued an order permanently enjoining him from bringing any further actions in any federal court relating to the Puccini dissolution or receivership. See Raffe v. John Doe, 619 F. Supp. 891 (S.D.N.Y. 1985).
In direct violation of the injunction, Sassower filed another lawsuit in this District naming the same defendants and adding Judge Conner to the complaint. The Honorable Charles Brieant, then Chief Judge of this Court, dismissed the action as frivolous and entered another injunction prohibiting Sassower from filing "any actions" in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York without prior leave of Court. See United States for the Benefit of George Sassower v. Sapir, 87 Civ. 7135 (CSH) (S.D.N.Y. December 10, 1987) (Exhibit 23).
In addition, in July 1989, after Sassower continued to submit voluminous papers to the Clerk's Office in White Plains for filing, Judge Brieant orally directed the United States Marshal in the White Plains Courthouse to refuse Sassower access to the Courthouse unless he had a legitimate purpose for entering.
In an attempt to evade these injunctions, Sassower instituted the instant action by filing five separate lawsuits, relating to the Puccini dissolution and subsequent litigation arising therefrom, in New York State Supreme Court naming, inter alia, numerous federal and state judges and officials. The federal judges and officials (the "federal defendants") removed these actions to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) and (b), and § 1442(a)(3). On February 4, 1993, this Court consolidated the above referenced actions pursuant to Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The details of Sassower's long history of vexatious litigation and abuse of the litigation process are a matter of public record and will not be repeated by this Court. See, e.g., Sassower v. Sheriff of Westchester County, 824 F.2d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 1987); Raffe v. John Doe, 619 F. Supp. 891 (S.D.N.Y. 1985). Instead, the Court will summarize Sassower's abuse of the judicial system which has persisted for over a decade and then discuss the five actions currently before this Court.
In the early 1980s, Sassower and Raffe filed numerous motions in New York state courts attempting to relitigate the dissolution and receivership of Puccini. The state courts repeatedly denied these motions and, on at least two occasions, imposed extraordinary costs and attorney's fees. Nevertheless, Raffe and Sassower continued to commence more lawsuits adding, as defendants, the judges and officials who ruled against them. The New York courts found that their various claims were precluded under principles of res judicata, as well as doctrines of qualified and absolute immunity protecting public officials and judicial officers and such orders were affirmed by the Appellate Division, First Department. See, e.g., Raffe v. Feltman, Karesh & Major, 113 A.D.2d 1038, 493 N.Y.S.2d 70 (1st Dep't), appeal dismissed, 66 N.Y.2d 914, 498 N.Y.S.2d 1026, 489 N.E.2d 772 (1985).
On January 20, 1984, Sassower and Raffe brought an action in the Eastern District of New York naming the same list of Puccini defendants and adding, as defendants, several state court judges and New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams. See Raffe v. Citibank, N.A., No. 84 Civ. 305 (E.D.N.Y.). On August 1, 1984, the Honorable Eugene H. Nickerson, United States District Judge, Eastern District of New York, dismissed the complaint on the grounds that (1) the claims against the private party defendants were barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, and (2) the claims against the state court judges and Robert Abrams were barred by the Eleventh Amendment and the doctrine of absolute immunity. In addition, Judge Nickerson found that Sassower had conducted the litigation in a vexatious manner and granted defendants' motion for sanctions. On January 23, 1985, the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Nickerson's decision without opinion. See Raffe v. Citibank, N.A., No. 84 Civ. 305 (E.D.N.Y. August 1, 1984), aff'd mem., 779 F.2d 37 (2d Cir. 1985).
Less than one month after the dismissal of the Eastern District action, Sassower and Raffe filed an action in the Southern District of New York which named, as defendants, many of the individuals who were the subject of the lawsuit in the Eastern District. The case was assigned to Judge Conner. See Raffe v. John Doe, 619 F. Supp. 891 (S.D.N.Y. 1985). Shortly after filing this action, Raffe and Sassower filed new actions in the New York state courts and the defendants in those actions moved the Supreme Court Special Term for a permanent injunction enjoining Raffe and Sassower from filing new lawsuits in the state courts. The New York Supreme Court subsequently granted the motion and entered an order permanently enjoining Sassower from filing any complaint or proceeding relating to Puccini dissolution in state court. See In re Barr, Index No. 01816/80 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co. January 23, 1985) (Exhibit 24); see also In re Barr, Index No. 01816/80 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co. March 11, 1986) (Exhibit 25); In re Barr, Index. No. 01816/80 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co. March 1987) (Exhibit 26); In re Barr, Index. No. 01816/80 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co. September 2, 1988) (Exhibit 27).
Sassower and a new actor in the litigation, Sam Polur, Esq., disregarded that order and filed at least ten actions in New York Supreme Court related to the Puccini dissolution and, thus, Sassower was the subject of several criminal contempt convictions. See Raffe v. Riccobono, No. 9522/85, slip op. at 6-7 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. July 1, 1985) (criminal contempt conviction), aff'd, 113 A.D.2d 1038, 493 N.Y.S.2d 70 (1st Dep't), appeal dismissed, 66 N.Y.2d 915, 498 N.Y.S.2d 1027 (1985), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 932 (1987); Raffe v. Feltman, Karesh & Major, 113 A.D.2d 1038, 493 N.Y.S.2d 70 (1st Dep't), appeal dismissed, 66 N.Y.2d 914, 498 N.Y.S.2d 1026, 489 N.E.2d 772 (1985). In In re Barr, supra, Sassower was convicted of criminal contempt and sentenced to 30-days imprisonment. See In re Barr, 121 A.D.2d 324, 324, 503 N.Y.S.2d 392, 392 (1st Dep't), appeal dismissed, 68 N.Y.2d 807, 506 N.Y.S.2d 1037 (1986).
During this same time frame, Sassower, Raffe, and Polur filed three additional actions in this Court which asserted the same claims contained in Raffe v. John Doe and named most of the same defendants. The cases were assigned to Judge Conner as related actions. See Puccini Clothes, Ltd. v. Murphy, No. 85 Civ. 3712 (WCC) (S.D.N.Y. filed May 16, 1985); Raffe v. Riccobono, No. 85 Civ. 3927 (WCC) (S.D.N.Y. filed May 23, 1985); Raffe v. Relkin, No. 85 Civ. 4158 (WCC) (S.D.N.Y. filed June 3, 1985).
On October 11, 1985, Judge Conner dismissed all four actions as being barred by the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Court stated:
I have reviewed the complaint in this case and have compared it to the complaint filed in Raffe v. Citibank, N.A. On the basis of that review, I think it plain that the instant action is barred by the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel set out above. The complaint in this action does no more than rehash the allegations put before Judge Nickerson. It is clear that Raffe and Sassower have merely attempted to revive issues that Judge Nickerson expressly held were without merit or barred by prior decisions in the state courts.
Raffe v. Doe, 619 F. Supp. at 896. The Court also awarded attorney's fees on the following grounds:
It is overwhelmingly clear that this suit is entirely without merit and that it has no basis in law or fact. Moreover, in view of Judge Nickerson's recent decision, to say nothing of the five-year history of duplicative state court proceedings, it is inconceivable that Raffe and Sassower had any legitimate purpose in instituting this action. Their only apparent aim was to harass the defendants in some desperate hope that they will eventually tire of defending lawsuits and surrender Puccini and its assets. This is nothing more than blackmail by litigation, and the Court will not tolerate it.
Id. at 897. Finally, Judge Conner issued an order permanently enjoining Sassower from bringing any further actions in federal court in connection with the Puccini dissolution or receivership. Id. at 898. The Second Circuit dismissed Sassower's subsequent appeal. See Nos. 85-7963, 7965, 7967, 7969 (2d Cir. March 18, 1986).
In 1987, in flagrant violation of the Court's injunction, Sassower filed another lawsuit in this District naming the same defendants, as well as adding Judge Conner and the judge who presided over Sassower's bankruptcy proceeding, the Honorable Howard Schwartzberg, as defendants. See United States for the Benefit of George Sassower v. Sapir, No. 87 Civ. 7135 (S.D.N.Y. 1987). The case was originally assigned to the Honorable Charles S. Haight, United States District Judge, Southern District of New York, but after Judge Haight also was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, Judge Brieant took the case on reassignment.
On December 10, 1987, Judge Brieant dismissed the action on the grounds that Sassower's claims were frivolous and that Sassower had intentionally violated the 1985 injunction issued by Judge Conner. Judge Brieant also noted as follows:
[The] inclusion of the assigned judge as an additional defendant has the effect, and probably the purpose of disrupting the orderly judicial decisional process of this district court insofar as concerns the motion to dismiss. Plaintiff, who used to be a lawyer, must be deemed to recognize that the Amended Complaint violates the 1985 injunction, and also that Judge Haight, and for that matter Judge Conner also, are immune from this sort of litigation.
United States for the Benefit of George Sassower v. Sapir, 87 Civ. 7135 (CSH), slip op. at 2 (S.D.N.Y. December 10, 1987) (Exhibit 23). Thus, Judge Brieant prohibited Sassower from filing any actions in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York without prior leave of court. Id. at 3 ("Sapir order"). This order applies to "any actions" and, thus, expanded the injunction issued by Judge Conner in Raffe v. Doe which applied to the "Puccini related" submissions.
This pattern of frivolous and vexatious litigation resulted in Sassower's disbarment from practice in New York courts. See In re Sassower, 700 F. Supp. 100, 104 (E.D.N.Y. 1988), aff'd, 875 F.2d 856 (2d Cir. 1989); Matter of Sassower, 125 A.D.2d 52, 53-54, 512 N.Y.S.2d 203 (2d Dep't), appeal dismissed, 70 N.Y.2d 691, 518 N.Y.S.2d 964, 512 N.E.2d 547 (1987); see also In re Disbarment of Sassower, 481 U.S. 1045, 95 L. Ed. 2d 831, 107 S. Ct. 2174 (1987). Moreover, in 1989, the Second Circuit dismissed the sixth appeal filed by Sassower in a one-year period and warned Sassower that, if Sassower's abuse of the judicial process continued, he would be barred from the Second Circuit. See Sassower v. Sansverie, 885 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1989).
After abusing the federal and state court systems in New York for almost a decade, Sassower began to institute these lawsuits outside the State of New York adding the names of the New York federal judges to the list of defendants. These lawsuits, which sought to revive the Puccini lawsuit as well as challenge the subsequent litigation defeats and sanctions, were brought in district courts in California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington, D.C.
Each district court imposed sanctions and/or injunctive relief which sought to prevent Sassower from continuing his vexatious lawsuits. Sassower also brought appeals in the courts of appeal for the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits.
The lawsuit filed in New Jersey, before the Honorable Nicholas H. Politan, resulted in a conviction of criminal contempt against Sassower for failure to obey court orders. See Sassower v. Feltman, 88 Civ. 1562 (NHP) (D.N.J. October 6, 1989). Sassower, in response to the contempt conviction, instituted a second action in the New Jersey district court which named Judge Politan as a defendant. The Third Circuit determined that Sassower had filed, inter alia, "numerous repetitive pleadings, motions, briefs and other submissions containing frivolous legal arguments, flagrant misstatements of fact, and scurrilous allegations in these appeals and petitions for writs of mandamus/prohibition." See Sassower v. Abrams, No. 91-8063, 1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 38245 at *2 (3d Cir. February 12, 1992) (Exhibit 15). Thus, the Third Circuit enjoined Sassower from filing any appeal, petition, motion, or pleading in the Third Circuit relating to the Puccini defendants, as well as numerous federal judges, in connection with the previously adjudicated matters. Id. at [slip op.] 4-5.
Sassower then filed two complaints in the federal district court in Minnesota. See Sassower v. Carlson, Civ. 4-90-511 (D. Minn. August 20, 1990); Sassower v. Dosal, 744 F. Supp. 908 (D. Minn. 1990). In these two actions, Sassower, inter alia, identified a group of "racketeering defendants" including members of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, members of the Second and Third Circuits, a Magistrate Judge, a Bankruptcy Judge, a Chief Clerk, a United States Attorney, several Assistant United States Attorneys, the New York Attorney General, the District Attorney of Nassau County, several state judicial personnel, and counsel. The district court in Dosal determined that the claims were "wholly frivolous and malicious" and, thus, the complaint was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 909. Both Minnesota actions were dismissed with prejudice. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissals and issued an injunction enjoining Sassower from filing any civil action in the United States District Court for Minnesota without first obtaining leave of that court. See Sassower v. Carlson, 930 F.2d 583 (8th Cir. 1991).
Sassower then refiled his complaint in November 1991 in the Southern District of Ohio. See Sassower v. Mead Data Central, Civ. 3-91-436 (S.D. Ohio) (Complaint) (Exhibit 17). In that case, Sassower alleged "criminal racketeering activity" by Judge Oakes, Judge Pratt, Judge Brieant, Judge Conner, Judge Nickerson, Judge Goettel, and others. See Complaint, at P 9(e)(3). In addition to alleging corruption on the part of past judges who issued injunctions and other sanctions due to his vexatious litigation, Sassower sought to have the Puccini-related orders declared invalid. Complaint, at P 37a. Sassower also sought to enjoin Mead Data Central, Inc. (i.e., LEXIS), a computer data base company which publishes judicial opinions, from publishing or distributing certain decisions rendered against him. In February 1992, the Ohio case was dismissed. See Sassower v. Mead Data Central, Inc., Civ. 3-91-436 (S.D. Ohio February 18, 1992). However, shortly thereafter, Sassower refiled the complaint naming the Magistrate Judge who had been assigned to the first Ohio complaint as a defendant. On May 13, 1992, the district court dismissed the second complaint and issued an injunction which was similar in scope to the Eighth Circuit's injunction and, thus, barred him from filing any further actions in the Southern District of Ohio. See Sassower v. Thompson, Hine and Flory, 92 Civ. 27 (S.D. Ohio May 13, 1992) (Exhibit 19). Sassower appealed the dismissal of both complaints and the injunction issued by the district court. The Sixth Circuit denied the appeal and enjoined him from filing or prosecuting any civil actions in the Eighth Circuit or any court in that Circuit. See Sassower v. Mead Data Central, 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 5467, No. 92-3537 (6th Cir. March 4, 1993) (Exhibit 21); Sassower v. Thompson, Hine and Flory, 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 5466, No. 92-3553 (6th Cir. March 4, 1993) (Exhibit 22).
The Court notes the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, as well as the District Court for the District of Columbia, also have issued injunctions barring suits by Sassower. See Sassower v. Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, No. 90-1142, 1991 U.S. App. LEXIS 13933 (4th Cir. July 2, 1991) (Exhibit 16); Sassower v. General Ins. Co., 962 F.2d 15 (9th Cir. 1992); Sassower v. Barr, Nos. 91-3233, 91-3302, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21723 (D.D.C. January 9, 1992) (Exhibit 14).
The instant actions before this Court were instituted by Sassower in New York Supreme Court, Westchester County, and removed to this Court by the federal defendants. The Court will briefly describe the allegations contained in the lawsuits which are currently before this Court.
In Sassower v. Abrams, 92 Civ. 8515 (PKL), Sassower names several federal and state judges and officials as defendants and asserts, inter alia, allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct in connection with the Puccini dissolution and subsequent litigation.
Sassower alleges as follows:
Amended Complaint, dated November 12, 1992, at P 7(a). In addition, Sassower alleges that "the official and judicial defendants employ their status to 'fix' other judges, directly and/or indirectly." Id. at P 13(a). Sassower claims that Judge Brieant's order in Sapir is part of the "conspiracy" to deprive him of his constitutional rights. See Plaintiff's Notice to Admit [Charles L. Brieant] First Set, at PP 12-35 (Exhibit 6). Sassower also challenges various decisions of the Eastern District of New York and the Second Circuit. See Plaintiff's Notice To Admit [James L. Oakes] First Set, at PP 3-20 (Exhibit 5).
In Sassower v. Mead Data Central, Inc., 92 Civ. 9220 (PKL), Sassower adds more defendants, but again focuses on the Puccini dissolution, the "plundering" of the Eugene Paul Kelly, and the incarceration of Dennis F. Vilella.
See Complaint, dated November 16, 1992, at P 8(e). Sassower also alleges that "in addition to the facilities of West, Westlaw, LEXIS, (Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co.], and [the New York Law Journal] [sic] for the operation of such racketeering enterprises, the cooperation of N.Y. State Attorney General Abrams, U.S. Attorney General Barr, Chief U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merritt, [former] Chief U.S. Circuit Court Judge Lay, and Chief U.S. Circuit Court Judge Arnold, were or are needed." Id. at P 9(a). Sassower names federal district and circuit judges from the Second, Sixth and Eighth Circuits as defendants in connection with their past adjudications of various lawsuits filed by Sassower.
In Sassower v. Feltman, 92 Civ. 9221 (PKL), Sassower again makes various allegations against federal and state judges and officials, as well as certain private defendants which arise out of prior adjudications and orders issued by New York state and federal ...