Civil Procedure

Judge who warned lawyer about 'witless observations' fines him for failing to excise tossed counts

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A federal judge in Pennsylvania has fined a Mechanicsburg lawyer $5,000, saying he included tossed counts in an amended complaint “for reasons the court cannot comprehend.”

U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann ordered lawyer Devon Jacob to pay that amount to cover the opposing parties’ legal fees. Brann said Jacob could not charge the amount to his clients. covered the Dec. 16 decision.

Brann said he had previously warned Jacob about “witless observations” in “less-than-artful pleadings.”

Jacob had maintained he “simply and innocently included the dismissed claims in the third amended complaint on the apparent common mistaken belief that if they were removed, related issues would be waived on appeal,” according to Brann’s decision (PDF).

Brann said Jacob included the stricken material in the third amended complaint despite a warning, made after he filed the second amended complaint, “that he was crossing the line with his less-than-artful pleadings. I have already had to strike portions of his second amended complaint noting, ‘The entirety of the introduction section is argumentative, impertinent and wholly irrelevant,’ and, ‘The criticisms of the court’s prior decision detract from the dignity of the court and are impertinent. If plaintiffs’ counsel disagrees with the court’s prior decision, the appropriate avenue is to request reconsideration through motions practice, not to parade witless observations in an amended pleading.’ ”

Jacob represents three former fraternity members who claim a search by Bucknell University, conducted with county law enforcement personnel, violated their Fourth Amendment rights, according to The university has maintained it conducted a private administrative search allowed by school policy.

Jacob did not immediately respond to an email and phone message requesting comment by the ABA Journal.

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