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In re Packer Avenue Associates

filed: September 8, 1989.

IN THE MATTER OF PACKER AVENUE ASSOCIATES (A PENNSYLVANIA LIMITED PARTNERSHIP). ARMAND CERITANO, APPELLANT


Appeal from the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Bankruptcy No. 77-1201.

Becker, Greenberg and Van Dusen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Van Dusen

Opinion OF THE COURT

VAN DUSEN, Senior Circuit Judge

This case requires us to consider whether the district court abused its discretion by issuing, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), an order enjoining appellant from filing any further petitions, pleadings or documents whatsoever. The order does not clearly state whether it enjoins appellant from filing any further documents solely in matters related to this case, in matters in federal court, or, for that matter, in any matter in any court anywhere. Accordingly, while not unmindful of the tremendous frustration appellant's frivolous litigation activities must have caused the district court, we conclude that the injunction is overbroad and will modify it as described herein.

I.

Appellant, Armand Ceritano, was an officer of the corporate general partner of Packer Avenue Associates, a Pennsylvania limited partnership which owned a Hilton Inn near the Philadelphia airport and filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy on July 25, 1977. Packer Avenue Associates was discharged and the bankruptcy case closed on November 18, 1982. Subsequently, appellant filed a number of frivolous pro se petitions attempting to collaterally attack issues decided in the bankruptcy case. As a result, on May 31, 1984, the district court ordered the clerk of the court to decline to accept any further petitions for filing from appellant without the authorization of the court. Appellant then repeatedly sought the authorization of the court to file various petitions. It appears that in each case authorization was denied. On September 14, 1988, the district court, noting that appellant had filed or attempted to file twenty-seven petitions relitigating issues that had already been decided by the court, and finding appellant's litigation activities to be an "unwarranted expenditure of administrative and judicial time and resources," sua sponte enjoined appellant from "filing any further petitions, pleadings or any document whatsoever" except for a notice of appeal in the present case.

This appeal followed.

II.

The All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, gives district courts power, inter alia, to issue injunctions restricting the filing of meritless pleadings by litigants where the pleadings raise issues identical or similar to those that have already been adjudicated. In re Oliver, 682 F.2d 443, 445 (3d Cir. 1982). However, such injunctions are extreme remedies and should be narrowly tailored and sparingly used. Id. The courts of appeals review their issuance for abuse of the district court's discretion. See Cook v. Peter Kiewit Sons Co., 775 F.2d 1030, 1034 (9th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1183, 91 L. Ed. 2d 547, 106 S. Ct. 2919 (1986).

This circuit has concluded that district courts may issue an injunction requiring a litigant who has repeatedly filed complaints alleging claims that have already been fully litigated to receive court approval before filing further complaints. Chipps v. United States Dist. Court for the Middle Dist. of Pa., 882 F.2d 72, slip op. (3d Cir. 1989); In re Oliver, 682 F.2d 443 (3d Cir. 1982). Other circuits have reached the same conclusion. See Filipas v. Lemons, 835 F.2d 1145 (6th Cir. 1987); In re Martin-Trigona, 763 F.2d 140 (2d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 88 L. Ed. 2d 782, 106 S. Ct. 807 (1986); Pavilonis v. King, 626 F.2d 1075 (1st Cir. 1980). Thus, we note initially that the district court's May 31, 1984, order requiring appellant to receive its permission before filing additional pleadings was not an abuse of discretion.

The September 14, 1988, order now appealed from, however, is much more broad and appears not to be narrowly tailored at all. It provides:

Order

AND NOW, this 14th day of September, 1988, for the reasons stated in the Court's accompanying memorandum, the Court, sua sponte, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1651(a) hereby enjoins petitioner Armand Ceritano from filing any further petitions, pleadings or any document ...


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