United States District Court, D. Delaware
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge United States District
Court Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Sandra Rumanek (“Rumanek”), proceeding pro
se, advances various claims against attorneys, court
staff, judicial officers, and others involved in two prior
civil lawsuits: Rumanek v. Coons, No. N11C-04-108
(Del. Super. Ct. 2011), and Rumanek v. Independent School
Management, Inc., No. 1:12-CV-759 (D. Del. 2012). She
alleges that defendants conspired amongst themselves to
violate her constitutional and civil rights by deliberately
withholding information concerning United States Magistrate
Judge Sherry R. Fallon's involvement in those lawsuits.
Rumanek's operative and proposed amended pleadings lack
any factual basis to support her speculative conspiracy
theory. We will grant defendants' motions to dismiss,
deny Rumanek's requests for leave to amend, and dismiss
the above-captioned action with prejudice.
Factual Background & Procedural History
is an aggrieved litigant disappointed with the results of two
prior lawsuits. Rumanek avers that nearly everyone involved
in those lawsuits-from her own counsel, to defense counsel,
to judges, court staff, and public officials-actively worked
to achieve and conceal a fraud on the court and to effect a
violation of her constitutional and civil rights. (See Doc.
93 at 1-4). The factual summation that follows derives from
Rumanek's sixth amended complaint filed in this action,
as well as the public record available in the state court
litigation (“Rumanek I”), the federal litigation
(“Rumanek II”), and judicial decisions entered in
State Personal Injury Case: Rumanek I
April 2011, Rumanek commenced a civil personal injury action
in the Superior Court of Delaware arising out of two separate
motor vehicle accidents. (See Doc. 93 ¶¶ 7, 11);
Rumanek v. Coons, No. N11C-04-108 (Del. Super. Ct.
2011). Rumanek brought that lawsuit against two parties:
Margaret Coons (“Coons”), who was the other
driver in the first accident, and Theresa Theodore
(“Theodore”), who was the other driver in the
second accident. (See Doc. 93 ¶ 6); see also Rumanek
v. Coons, No. N11C-04-108, 2013 WL 5288796, at *1 (Del.
Super. Ct. Sept. 13, 2013). Rumanek claimed that she suffered
head trauma and a cognitive disability as a result of the
initial accident. See Rumanek, 2013 WL 5288796, at *1.
Joseph J. Rhoades (“Attorney Rhoades”)
represented Rumanek in the state court litigation. (Doc. 93
¶ 6). Defendant Sandra F. Clark (“Attorney
Clark”) represented Coons during the bulk of pretrial
proceedings, and defendant Louis J. Rizzo, Jr.
(“Attorney Rizzo”) took over the representation a
few weeks prior to trial. (Id.) Judge Fallon, then
an attorney, represented Theodore in the early phases of the
state court litigation; Judge Fallon withdrew her appearance
upon appointment to the bench in March 2012. (Id.
¶¶ 6-7, 27-28). Defendant David Culley
(“Attorney Culley”) succeeded Judge Fallon as
Theodore's counsel. (Id.) Rumanek had not yet
been deposed at the time of the substitution; hence,
then-attorney Fallon never had contact with Rumanek. (See
Id. ¶¶ 7, 22, 27, 29). The case was
assigned to Delaware Superior Court Judge Richard R. Cooch
(“Judge Cooch”). (Id. ¶ 6).
discovery and a pretrial conference, Theodore (presumably
through Attorney Culley) presented an offer of judgment of
$8, 000 to settle Rumanek's claim against her.
(Id. ¶ 119). Rumanek avers that Attorney
Rhoades “pressure[d]” her to accept the
settlement, advising that Rumanek “could not win
against Theodore's counsel Culley.” (Id.)
Rumanek accepted the offer of judgment in late May 2013.
(Id.) At approximately the same time, Rumanek
learned that Judge Cooch “was being replaced” by
defendant Superior Court Judge Charles E. Butler
(“Judge Butler”). (Id. ¶ 105).
case against Coons proceeded to jury selection on June 10,
2013, with trial commencing the following day. (Id.
¶¶ 131-32). Rumanek's injuries-the extent
thereof and whether they were caused by the first accident
with Coons, the second accident with Theodore, or
neither-were a central issue at trial. Rumanek, 2013 WL
5288796, at *1. The jury found in Rumanek's favor on
liability and awarded her nominal damages of $1. (Doc. 93
¶ 134). According to Rumanek, Attorney Rhoades stated
after the verdict “that the decision and the award made
a successful appeal of the verdict very unlikely.”
Rhoades filed a motion for new trial. (Id. ¶
135). Before the motion was filed, Rumanek asked Attorney
Rhoades to challenge a statement by Attorney Rizzo during
closing arguments that Rumanek was
“double-dipping” by pursuing a federal disability
discrimination claim against her employer. (See Id.
¶¶ 136-38). Attorney Rhoades declined to raise the
issue, indicating that the alleged statements did not appear
in the trial transcript. (Id. ¶ 139). Rumanek
hypothesizes that one of the state court
stenographers-“perhaps” defendants Lisa Amatucci
(“Amatucci”), Annette Furman
(“Furman”), or Patrick O'Hare
(“O'Hare”), purportedly at the behest of
Judge Butler-altered the trial transcripts to remove these
statements.(Id. ¶ 140). Rumanek suspects
that defendant Matthew Denn (“Attorney General
Denn”), the Attorney General for the state of Delaware,
is aware of and allows the secret alteration of transcripts
and has thus clothed Delaware state court judges with power
to “annul or evade” litigants' constitutional
rights. (Id. ¶¶ 230, 232).
Rhoades' post-trial motion filed on June 27, 2013 raised
the following arguments: that the jury verdict was against
the weight of the evidence; that Attorney Rizzo's
statements during closing arguments obscurely referencing
insurance improperly influenced the jury; and that Judge
Butler's instruction to the jury clarifying the meaning
of the term “right to sue letter” likewise
improperly influenced the jury. (See Id.
¶¶ 135-36); Rumanek, 2013 WL 5288796, at *1. Judge
Butler denied the motion. (See Doc. 93 ¶ 144); Rumanek,
2013 WL 5288796, at *4. Attorney Rhoades appealed Judge
Butler's post-trial ruling. The Supreme Court of Delaware
affirmed Judge Butler's decision in an order without
published opinion on February 25, 2014. Rumanek v. Coons, 86
A.3d 1119 (Del. 2014) (unpublished table decision).
Federal Disability Discrimination Case: Rumanek II
15, 2012-more than a year after she commenced the state court
litigation and nearly a year prior to the jury's
verdict-Rumanek filed a lawsuit in this court against her
employer, Independent School Management, Inc.
(“ISM”). (Doc. 93 ¶ 33); Rumanek, No.
1:12-CV-759, Doc. 1 (D. Del. June 15, 2012). Rumanek alleged
that ISM failed to accommodate injures resulting from the
automobile accidents involved in Rumanek I. See generally
Rumanek v. Indep. Sch. Mgmt. Inc., 619 Fed.Appx. 71
(3d Cir. 2015). She asserted claims under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq.; the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101
et seq.; the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.;
and two Delaware state laws concerning discrimination in
employment. Rumanek, 619 Fed.Appx. at 73-74 & n.2.
Attorneys in the case acknowledged at the outset that some of
the issues forming the basis of the state action were
“inextricably intertwined” with the federal
action, including Rumanek's lost income, performance as
an employee, and the reasons for her departure from
employment. (Doc. 93 ¶ 53).
alleges that Judge Fallon either “solicited” or
“was assigned” to Rumanek II shortly after the
case was filed. (Id. ¶ 34). Defendants Bernard
Conaway (“Attorney Conaway”), Nicholas W.
Woodfield (“Attorney Woodfield”), and R. Scott
Oswald (“Attorney Oswald”) represented Rumanek in
that litigation.(Id. ¶¶ 6, 33).
Defendants Matthew Boyer (“Attorney Boyer”),
Timothy M. Holly (“Attorney Holly”), and Mary I.
Akhimien (“Attorney Akhimien”) were counsel for
ISM. (Id.) Rumanek avers that, by virtue of prior
involvement in the state court litigation, Judge Fallon had
knowledge of the material fact that “Rumanek was
cognitively disabled by her injuries.” (Id.
23, 2012, Judge Fallon convened a telephonic conference with
the parties to discuss the court's referral process and
provide the parties information concerning the procedures for
consenting to magistrate judge jurisdiction. (Id.
¶ 36) During that conference, Judge Fallon advised the
One thing I want to point out to counsel, and particularly, I
guess for the plaintiff as well, I'm fairly new to the
bench. As you both may be aware, I took my position back at
the end of April, and I come from a litigation firm, Tybout,
Redfearn, and Pell, and I practiced there for over 25 years.
I say and give you my background only because of the many,
many cases that I handled, primarily through insurance
companies who referred cases to me and members of my firm to
defend in personal injury litigation. I represented a number
of individuals, and I no longer have access to the firm's
database to check for any potential conflicts.
And the name of the plaintiff is kind of an unusual name.
It's not like Smith or Jones or anything like that. And
for whatever reason, it seems to have familiarity to me, and
I can't say why. And without access to my firm's
database anymore, I can't personally myself check for
conflicts. All that I can say is the name has a ring of
familiarity. That's it. If it's a matter that I
handled or a member of my firm handled, I can't speak to
that. But what I would ask - just because I don't want to
get too deep into this and the[n] have the plaintiff appear
at a court conference or something and possibly recognize me
as someone who may have represented her or one of my
associates represented her at the firm. I just can't
I would ask that the plaintiffs meet with Ms. Rumanek and
mention to her, if you haven't already, my name. In
private practice, it was Sherry Ruggiero Fallon. The court
has shortened it to Sherry R. Fallon. But just [give] her the
full name, and see if that rings a bell with her. Otherwise,
we'll go forward.
And if it does, we'll have another teleconference to the
extent it poses a conflict for anyone. I don't feel
it's a conflict because, honestly, I don't remember
anything about Ms. Rumanek other than that's a
familiar-sounding name to me, and I can only assume
that's from somewhere along my 25 years of private
(Id.) Attorney Woodfield advised Judge Fallon that
he had mentioned her name to Rumanek but would do so again
and report back if there was an issue. (Id.) Judge
I apologize. I wish I could give you more detail, but I
figured to err on the safe side and mention it because it
does have a ring of familiarity to me. Beyond that, I
can't recall a specific detail about a specific case I
If it rings a bell with her, I think counsel . . . needs to
confer and see if that poses a real conflict. Because if you
come back and can provide me with more information, perhaps
it will jog a further memory of what the case may be about.
In all likelihood, it may not be anything beyond defense of
an auto accident case. And depending on whether or not it
went to a jury trial, in all likelihood, it may have been
sent to me, but I probably would have referred it to an
associate in my office to handle short of a jury trial.
Anyway, so I appreciate counsel making an inquiry on that
(Id.) Rumanek reported to her counsel that she did
not recognize Judge Fallon's name, and the case continued
before Judge Fallon. (See id.)
April 3, 2013, Judge Fallon held a telephonic conference with
the parties to hear oral argument concerning a defense
request for a psychiatric examination of Rumanek.
(Id. ¶ 84). The following exchange took place
during that conference:
Mr. Conaway: Your Honor?
The Court: Yes[.]
Mr. Conaway: Bernard Conaway. I apologize for interjecting.
During the course of the hearing, there was reference made to
a state action and I took it upon myself to go to the docket
and see what's going on.
The Court: I appreciate that. What's happening in that[?]
Mr. Conaway: Unfortunately, what I had noticed is that Your
Honor had entered an appearance in that case on behalf of one
of the defendants.
The Court: And I did bring this to the attention of everyone
with regard - I did no activity in this case and that case
was assigned to my partner David [Culley] . . . and I think
it was in it's [sic] fairly early stages when that case
came into our office and was assigned to my partner.
Mr. Conaway: I apologize if it's already been addressed
but I was in panic mode.
The Court: When this case was referred to me by Judge
Robinson, I mentioned that and the fact that it was referred
to my partner, that I did not actively do anything with
regard to the defense in that case and if the docket shows
otherwise, you will have to refresh my recollection, Mr.
Conaway, but I don't recall taking an active role in the
Mr. Conaway: All I noticed, Your Honor, is that there was an
Answer filed on behalf of one of the co-defendants and they
got Notice of Records Request. There's an entry of
appearance on behalf of Sherry Fallon for defendant Teresa
(sic) Theodore and thereafter, Answers to the Complaint and
some request for records. Here is where I'm coming from,
Your Honor, and I'm sorry to interject if this is old
ground but I was unaware of it but I felt compelled to raise
it if it hadn't been because I didn't think I should
sit and do nothing.
The Court: No. You did the right thing. I addressed it with
all counsel on the original teleconference when we were doing
the Rule 16 and indicated that I would recuse ...