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Federal Challenges to State Lawyer Discipline Proceedings Tossed

Sept. 30, 2019, 7:05 PM

A Pennsylvania attorney’s federal challenges to state disciplinary proceedings against him were dismissed by a federal district court Sept. 30.

Faced with two ethical complaints stemming from his accusations of administrative misconduct against two state workers’ compensation judges, Robert Murphy filed a bevy of claims against the state disciplinary office, the attorneys investigating and prosecuting him, the state disciplinary board, and members of that board. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief, and monetary damages.

Abstaining from the claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, the opinion by Judge Edward G. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said Murphy’s state proceedings are pending, they implicate the disciplinary board’s authority, and they will give him ample opportunity to raise his federal claims.

Murphy’s claims against the office of the disciplinary counsel, the disciplinary board, and the individual defendants in their official capacities were dismissed under 11th Amendment immunity, which prevents federal courts from hearing suits against states and their agencies.

The doctrines of absolute prosecutorial immunity and quasi-judicial immunity also barred some of the claims against the individual defendants, the court said.

Murphy’s allegations of due process, equal protection, speedy trial, and freedom of speech rights violations were dismissed for failure to state a claim.

Murphy represented himself. The Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts represented the defendants.

The case is Murphy v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, E.D. Pa., No. 2:17-cv-1239-EGS, 9/30/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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