Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
Detestable Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) Attorney Tom Linzey and partner have been court-ordered to pay $52,000 in legal sanctions.
Tom Linzey, the arrogant spoiled attorney who founded and runs the CELDF, has been getting away with conning communities and funders for many years now. Like the snake-oil salesman he is, he’s sold his bogus “Community Bill of Rights Ordinance” (CBR) concept to communities from Maine to New Mexico, losing every step of the way, but never paying a penalty for bad faith lawyering.
Tom Linzey is a Marxist, or worse, by any definition but has developed a nice gig offering free legal services to communities looking for any way possible to stop this or that. They provide the platform and useful idiots such as Leonard DiCaprio, Adelaide Park Gomer, Henry Wallace’s descendants fork over the money that has allowed Linzey to pursue his radical agenda. The gig may be up in one case, though. Federal Judge Susan Paradise Baxter has had it with the CELDF and the bully Tom Linzey. She’s just sanctioned him and fellow CELDF attorney Elizabeth Duane with $52,000 in legal sanctions for their “clearly unreasonable” lawyering.
There are no better words to explain happened than those from Judge Baxter’s opinion, who found the CELDF attorneys had acted in bad faith. She also found another attorney (Lindsey Schromen-Warrin) representing two radical local groups probably deserved sanctioning but the request for such had not been timely. Here are the relevant excerpts (emphasis added):
Having found that the motion for sanctions as to Attorney Schromen-Wawrin is untimely, the Court shall enter an Order granting the motion to strike filed on behalf of Little Mahoning Watershed and East End Hellbenders (ECF No. 258) on that basis only. The Court stresses, however, that the denial of relief should not be interpreted as condoning the commencement of proceedings to intervene where, as under the facts presented here, no reasonable interpretation of existing case law rendered such motion appropriate.
As readily discerned by the Third Circuit, the arguments advanced by Attorney Schromen-Wawrin represent a “misread[ing]” of applicable law, are “untenable” in light of the facts, “[fatal]ly” flawed, unpersuasive, “conclusory and nonspecific,” “purely speculative,” and unsupported by any evidence. Pennsylvania Gen. Energy Co., LLC v. Grant Twp., 658 F. App’x at 41-42, 43.
Such an approach is unreasonable under any circumstance, but especially in light of the expense and resources borne by PGE, this Court, and the Third Circuit to resolve what is otherwise a plainly frivolous attempt to intervene in pending litigation for purposes unrelated to the just litigation of a claim. Accordingly, the disposition of the motion for sanctions with regard to Attorney Schromen-Wawrin reflects only the untimeliness of the motion, and not the merits…
As reflected in the record, Attorneys Linzey, Dunne and Schromen-Wawrin provided free legal assistance to Grant Township and an affiliated community group to pursue a discredited and previously litigated “community rights” approach to prevent oil and gas operations within the Township. In particular, the CBR seeks to disavow constitutional rights afforded corporations so as to prevent PGE from the lawful exercise of its right to pursue gas extraction related activities within its borders. This is in keeping with CELDF’s strategy, described by the Third Circuit as advocating, “that communities pass laws that assert community rights against corporations and others engaged in activity disfavored by members of the community.”
…The record reflects that on June 3, 2014, prior to passage of the challenged CBR, counsel for PGE advised the Grant Township Board of Supervisors that the proposed Ordinance suffered numerous insurmountable legal deficiencies, as determined by this Court at least once before with regard to a similar ordinance also drafted by Attorney Linzey and CELDF. ECF No. 273, pp. 15-19, citing Penn Ridge Coal, LLC v. Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co., C.A. No. 08-1452P, ECF No. 30 (W.D. Pa. April 8, 2009) (concluding that the Township had no legal authority to annul constitutional rights afforded corporations by the United States Supreme Court).
Despite this information, the Ordinance passed and CELDF-affiliated counsel continued to press forward with a counterclaim and defenses remarkably unchanged from prior CELDF litigation seeking to overturn longstanding corporate rights and ignoring the established preemptive effect of valid federal and state permits and environmental regulation.
Upon detailed review of the briefs filed by the parties and governing law, this Court granted PGE’s motion for judgment on the pleadings as to those portions of the Ordinance challenged specifically, and granted PGE’s motion for summary judgment as to its remaining constitutional claims, save those for which specific evidence was required.
The Court rejected as unfounded and contrary to established law all arguments propounded by counsel for Grant Township seeking to deem PGE a state actor amenable to suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and otherwise seeking to strip PGE of certain constitutional rights recognized pursuant to over one hundred years of Supreme Court precedent. In reaching its conclusion, this Court observed that counsel for Defendant provided no legal precedent to the contrary, nor other legal basis for a different result, and merely reasserted the existence of historical documents and events previously rejected by this Court as justification for Grant Township’s claims. Pennsylvania General Energy Company, LLC v. Grant Twp., 139 F. Supp.3d 706, 714 (W.D. Pa. 2015).
In determining the propriety of sanctions for advancing plainly unreasonable arguments, the Court has examined CELDF’s federal environmental litigation occurring over the past fifteen years in Pennsylvania. CELDF, with Attorney Linzey as lead counsel, has championed the notion of “community self-governance” as justification for CELDF-drafted local ordinances to invalidate corporate property rights, and to strike at the preemptive effect of state and federal law where in conflict with a community-enacted ordinance…
In each cited action, the district court reviewed CELDF’s arguments and found them wanting, lacking argument predicated in law or facts, and failing to justify setting aside historically well-settled legal precepts. The most recent cases, including the instant action, find identical arguments reasserted, but not advanced in any material manner by distinguishing facts, analogy, or supporting case law from any court of coordinate or superior jurisdiction.
Attorneys Linzey and Dunne contend that because adverse precedent is acknowledged in supporting briefs, the duty of candor owed to the Court and other parties to the litigation has been met thereby precluding an award of sanctions. This position is equally untenable and unsupported by appropriate citation. Merely acknowledging historical fact does not cloak frivolous litigation with a mantle of seriousness. Instead, such litigation creates enormous expense to parties and taxes limited judicial resources. Rather, counsel’s repeated presentation of identical theories over the course of fifteen years eliminates any claims of novelty or plausibility, and cannot be excused as a good faith course of conduct.
Counsel would have been advised to take to heart the court’s decision over a decade ago in Friends and Relatives of Saint Thomas Twp., where the Court narrowly declined the imposition of sanctions, concluding that Attorney Linzey “endeavored against unfavorable precedent to convert his clients’ feeling and concerns into a constitutional framework,” but finding fault with counsel’s arguments:
The Court finds the question of whether sanctions should be imposed in this case to be very close. Many of Plaintiffs’ arguments are asserted without acknowledgment or sufficient apparent regard for established legal principles and holdings. Throughout much of their papers, Plaintiffs do not so much argue that the Court should establish a change in the law regarding the rights of corporations under the United States Constitution, but rather they argue that such rights simply do not exist, ignoring scores of decisions to the contrary. To be sure, Plaintiffs have pointed to numerous historical documents and secondary sources demonstrating a long-running argument among scholars on this legal issue. However, Plaintiffs pay insufficient attention to the fact that established constitutional law on this subject demonstrates conclusively that corporations do, in fact, enjoy such rights.
…The present litigation shows that no lessons in good faith legal argument have been learned. Rather, Attorneys Linzey and Dunne continue to pursue nearly identical and rejected theories unabated, without regard to their obligation to conduct reasonable inquiry into applicable law prior to filing. As a result, PGE and this Court were left to resolve claims and defenses that in all candor, should have been abandoned, given the absence of any attempt to distinguish or confront adverse authority. Such conduct evinces bad faith, and the invocation of the courts for purposes unrelated to the speedy and just resolution of legal causes.
Under the circumstances presented, the Court finds that an award of sanctions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 against Attorneys Linzey and Dunne is appropriate…
This Court has determined that Attorneys Linzey and Dunne have pursued certain claims and defenses in bad faith. Based upon prior CELDF litigation, each was on notice of the legal implausibility of arguments previously advanced as to: (1) the purported invalidity of corporate rights; (2) the identification of a regulated corporation as a “state actor”; (3) community self-governance as a justification for striking or limiting long-standing constitutional rights, federal and state laws, and regulations; and, (4) the purported invalidity of “Dillon’s Rule” to the extent it applies to limit a municipality’s ability to enact ordinances in conflict with state and federal law. Despite their own prior litigation, CELDF and Attorney Linzey, in particular, continue to advance discredited arguments as a basis for CELDF’s ill-conceived and sponsored CBR, and in so doing have vexatiously multiplied the litigation of this matter…
The Court has undertaken review of the billing records, and finds approximately $52,000 in costs and fees reasonably incurred by PGE to research and draft motions and memoranda in support and in opposition to dispositive motions for judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment.13 The litigation of CELDF’s previously discredited theories was central to each motion, and therefore is an appropriate measure of sanctions, directly resulting from the misconduct occasioned by Attorneys Linzey and Dunne…
The Court does not derive pleasure in the task before it today. However, as made clear by the pattern of CELDF-affiliated litigation (all of which has been led by Attorney Linzey) in the years leading to this action, foregoing sanctions in this instance would be inconsistent with the Court’s duty to ensure that lawyers who practice before it do so ethically and responsibly. An attorney’s zealous advocacy for the protection of a client’s interests is certainly appropriate; however, the legitimate pursuit of justice imposes important obligations on counsel to ensure that the Court is not a mechanism of harassment or unbridled obstruction. The continued pursuit of frivolous claims and defenses, despite Linzey’s first-hand knowledge of their insufficiency, and the refusal to retract each upon reasonable request, substantially and inappropriately prolonged this litigation, and required the Court and PGE to expend significant time and resources eliminating these baseless claims. Accordingly, sanctions are imposed and justified in this instance.
For the reasons set forth above, this 5th day of January, 2018, it is hereby ORDERED:
1. The Motion for Sanctions filed by PGE (ECF No. 249) is granted in part, and the Court sanctions Attorneys Linzey and Dunne ONLY in the total sum of $52,000, to be paid to PGE within 120 days of this Order. The motion is denied in all other regards.
2. The Clerk is directed to transmit this Opinion and Order to the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with a request to determine appropriate disciplinary measures, if any, to be imposed upon Attorney Linzey for the reasons set forth herein.
As Judge Baxter’s research notes, this wasn’t the first time Tom Linzey crossed the line. He got away with it before, but this time he’s being reported to the State Disciplinary Board, which ought to further sanction him by stripping his law license or some comparably serious matching penalty.
He’s also facing a financial penalty that ought not to be paid from the generous coffers of the CELDF and its funders. That’s because tax-exemption shouldn’t apply to the bad faith activities of this supposed “charity,” nor should its funders be enjoying tax-exemption for their donations to it, knowing, as they do, that Linzey has been doing bad faith lawyering for many, many years, as the court so nicely documents. No, Bully Boy Attorney Tom Linzey ought to be paying this one out of his own pocket.
Justice—at long last—justice!