Coal Township wants out of Keefer lawsuit for good
By Rob Wheary
WILLIAMSPORT - Coal Township and its police chief filed motions in federal court Monday to dismiss themselves from a 2011 lawsuit involving a Shamokin towing company owner.
Through attorney Gary H. Dadamo, of Harrisburg, the township and William Carpenter have made the motion citing lack of movement in the case.
Alfons Keefer, owner of A&G Towing and A&N Auto Salvage, filed suit March 18, 2011, in U.S. Middle District Court in Williamsport, claiming his civil rights to operate his business were violated. Named as defendants were Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III; Coal Township, Shamokin and the municipalities' respective police chiefs, Carpenter and Edward Griffiths; and the business Anthracite Towing and Recovery LLC and its owner, Michael Garcia.
On Sept. 30, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence F. Stengel dismissed with prejudice claims of substantive due process, free speech and equal protection rights, meaning they cannot be refiled. He also dismissed, but without prejudice, claims of First Amendment and equal protection clause violations. "Without prejudice" means Keefer could file an amended complaint within 20 days of the judge's order to "cure the defects" the court identified in dismissing the First Amendment and equal protection claims.
In his ruling, Stengel said Keefer made no allegations supporting a rational basis claim, relying instead on his assertions of violations of fundamental rights. The judge stated, "In other words, he does not specifically allege facts that would plausibly show that defendants lacked a legitimate state interest or that their actions were not rationally related to such an interest."
In Monday's filing, Dadamo presented a single exhibit, an Oct. 29 letter from Keefer that states, "I want to amend my complaint and should have a response soon. I can't tell how much time I have."
As of Monday, no amended complaint has been filed, prompting Coal Township's request for complete dismissal.
In a brief in support of the motion, Dadamo listed these causes for dismissal:
- That Keefer was responsible for filing the claim since it is currently unknown whether his attorney is capable of practicing law at the federal court level, alluding to the fact that Don Bailey, who is the former state auditor general, had his state law license suspended for five years in October by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
- That defendants can't prepare a proper case for trail because of Keefer's failure to prosecute.
- That Keefer did not ask for additional time to file the complaint, and that not doing so is willful and/or in bad faith.
- That the court has no alternative sanctions it can impose, and that the claims in the lawsuit lack merit.
The filing marks the first movement in the case since Sept. 30.
Bailey's suspension cane three years after he was hit with more than $50,000 in federal court sanctions for making unfounded claims of fraud and judicial misconduct in a case. Bailey has told the Patriot-News he planned to appeal the suspension in federal court.
A call to Keefer's cell phone Tuesday was not answered, and no message could be left on it.