United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ALLEN L. FEINGOLD, Appellant,
OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, and THE DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellees.
ORDER AFFIRMING BANKRUPTCY COURT ORDER
G. COOKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before me upon Appellant Allen L. Feingold's
(“Mr. Feingold”) appeal of the bankruptcy
court's Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Complaint (“Bankruptcy Order”), which dismissed
Mr. Feingold's Complaint with prejudice. See
Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 1. For the reasons stated below, I
affirm the ruling of the bankruptcy court.
Feingold is an attorney formerly admitted to practice law in
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Compl., ECF No. 5-2, 8-9.
Appellee Office of Disciplinary Counsel (“ODC”)
is an administrative agency of the Commonwealth charged with
investigating and prosecuting claims of misconduct by present
and formerly admitted attorneys. Id. at 8. Appellee
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
(“Board”) is also an administrative agency of the
Commonwealth; it is charged with adjudicating claims of
misconduct by present and formerly admitted attorneys.
about August 1, 2009, the ODC filed a petition against Mr.
Feingold seeking the entry of a preliminary injunction
preventing Mr. Feingold from performing any activities
constituting the practice of law. Id. at 9-10. The
case was assigned to President Judge Dembe who held a hearing
on the request for injunction, after which she entered a
final injunction against Mr. Feingold. Id. at 10.
The injunction enjoined Mr. Feingold from any activity
constituting the practice of law, allowed the ODC to seize
the contents of Mr. Feingold's office, and enjoined Mr.
Feingold from filing any document with the Philadelphia
County Court of Common Pleas without prior permission from
the President Judge. Id. At the instructions of
Judge Dembe, the DOC and Board filed a motion for the
appointment of a conservator, which was granted. Id.
Mr. Feingold alleges he attempted to appeal the order
appointing a conservator, but the Prothonotary of
Philadelphia County refused to accept his filing, and Judge
Dembe would not allow him to file his appeal. Id. at
12. During this time, Defendants retained possession of Mr.
Feingold's files, office equipment, books, and other
various items. Id.
February 18, 2011, Mr. Feingold filed a voluntary petition
for bankruptcy. Appellant's Br., ECF No. 18, 10. During
the pendency of the bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court
allegedly directed Appellees to provide Mr. Feingold with a
list of the files in their control so Mr. Feingold could take
possession of them. Compl., 12-14. According to Mr. Feingold,
Appellees never gave him the list and destroyed all of his
files in their possession. Id. at 14. However, at
some point during the bankruptcy proceeding, the Board moved
for, and was granted, relief from the automatic bankruptcy
stay to allow for the winding up of the disciplinary
proceedings, including returning files to Mr. Feingold's
former clients. See Ord. Granting Motion for Relief
from the Automatic Stay, ECF No. 5-3, 57-58.
instant adversary proceeding was filed on December 19, 2016,
approximately six years after the filing of Mr.
Feingold's bankruptcy petition and over two years after
the entry of the order granting the Board relief from the
bankruptcy stay. In his Complaint, Mr. Feingold alleges
Appellees' seizure of his office and its contents, as
well as the destruction of his files, constituted an
unreasonable seizure, and the appointment of a conservator
constituted an unreasonable search, all in violation of his
Fourth Amendment rights. Compl., 13-14. Mr. Feingold also
alleges Appellees acted under color of state law and in
conspiracy with others to violate his civil rights “as
guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985.” Id. at 14.
this is not the first time Mr. Feingold has sought identical
relief on identical claims. According to Appellees, Mr.
Feingold filed three previous cases in the Eastern District
of Pennsylvania: Case No. 09-04421, Feingold v. Office of
Disciplinary Counsel, et al.; Case No. 10-03357,
Feingold v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, et al.;
Case No. 12-03516, Feingold v. Office of Disciplinary
Counsel, et al. Appellees' Br., 9. Each case was
dismissed, and each dismissal was affirmed by the Third
Circuit Court of Appeals. Id. Appellees have
attached copies of the orders of dismissals and affirmances.
See ECF No. 5-2, 29-54. They have also attached a
copy of Mr. Feingold's complaint in the most recently
dismissed case. ECF No. 5-2, 55-89. A review of the Complaint
in the instant case and the complaint in the third
Pennsylvania case reveals that Mr. Feingold's claims are
identical; the only differences between the two cases are
that the instant case has fewer overall Defendants but one
new Defendant (the Board), as well as fewer specific factual
allegations. Appellees filed a Motion to Dismiss in the
underlying bankruptcy case, which the bankruptcy court
granted. The bankruptcy court found it lacked subject matter
jurisdiction based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
and that Mr. Feingold was collaterally estopped from bringing
his claims again.
entertaining an appeal from a bankruptcy court, district
courts are entitled to ‘affirm, modify, or reverse a
bankruptcy court's . . . order' and will accept its
findings of fact unless those findings are clearly
erroneous.” In re Boykin, 313 B.R. 516, 519
(M.D. Ga. 2004) (Fed. Bankr. R. 8013). “A bankruptcy
court's legal conclusions and application of the law to
the facts of a given case are reviewed de novo . . .
.” HDR Architecture, P.C. v. Maguire Grp.
Holdings, 523 B.R. 879, 885 (S.D. Fla. 2014) (citing
Carrier Corp. v. Buckley (In re Globe Mfg. Corp.),
567 F.3d 1291, 1296 (11th Cir. 2009)). “The court may
affirm the bankruptcy court's judgment ‘on any
ground that appears in the record, whether or not that ground
was relied upon or even considered by the court
below.'” Perry v. United States, 500 B.R.
796, 798 (M.D. Ala. 2013) (quoting Thomas v. Cooper
Lighting, Inc., 506 F.3d 1361, 1364 (11th Cir. 2007));
see also In re Alam, 359 B.R. 142, 151 (6th Cir. BAP
2006) (“We may affirm the decision of the bankruptcy
court if it is correct for any reason, including one not
considered by the bankruptcy court.”); In re
Maximus Computers, Inc., 278 B.R. 189, 194 (9th Cir. BAP
Feingold challenges the Bankruptcy Order, arguing that
neither the Rooker-Feldman doctrine nor the doctrine
of collateral estoppel apply to his claims in the instant
case. Appellees contend that the bankruptcy court correctly
applied both standards. I will address only the issue of
collateral estoppel, as it is clear Mr. Feingold is
collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of subject
matter jurisdiction under Rooker-Feldman.
estoppel, or issue preclusion, bars the re-litigation of
issues of fact or law that were actually litigated and
decided in a prior suit.” McCulley v. Bank of Am.,
N.A., 605 F. App'x 875, 877 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
CSX Transp., Inc. v. Bhd. of Maint. of Way Emps.,
327 F.3d 1309, 1317 (11th Cir.2003)). “Unlike res
judicata, collateral estoppel is not limited to actions
between the same parties and their privies.”
Id. at 878 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Hart v.
Yamaha-Parts Distribs., Inc., 787 F.2d 1468, 1473 (11th
Cir.1986) (“A defendant who was not a party to the
original action may invoke collateral estoppel against the
A party asking the court to apply estoppel must establish
that “(1) the issue at stake is identical to the one
involved” in the earlier proceeding; “(2) the
issue was actually litigated” in the earlier
proceeding; “(3) the determination of the issue . . .
must have been a critical and necessary part” of the
earlier judgment; and “(4) the party against whom