Keefer lawsuit dismissed by judge
WILLIAMSPORT - A federal judge dismissed a Coal Township tow operator's lawsuit against Magisterial District Judge John Gembic, several police chiefs and their respective municipalities.
In a filing Thursday in U.S. Middle District Court, Judge Lawrence J. Stengel dismissed a 2011 suit from Alfons Keefer, owner of A&G Towing and A&N Auto Salvage, Coal Township, in its entirety with prejudice, due to failure to prosecute pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Stengel asked to the clerk of courts to mark the case closed for all purposes.
Keefer filed suit 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, William 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 Keefer's 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 have filed 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.
Despite the 20-day deadline, no action was filed on the case until December when the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute pursuant to Route 41(b). On Jan. 13 and 21, Keefer filed motions for extensions of time, until Jan. 27, but no response or refiling has been made up to this date.
On Oct. 2, Keefer's attorney and former state Auditor General Don Bailey had his state law license suspended for five years by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The court's decision to suspend Bailey's license followed a similar recommendation by the state Disciplinary Board in the spring.
According to reports by the Patriot News of Harrisburg, Bailey had come under fire for, among other things, falsely accusing federal judges of malfeasance.
The suspension comes three years after Bailey was hit with more than $50,000 in federal court sanctions for making unfounded claims of fraud and judicial misconduct in a case.
That factor was one of the several Stengel talked about in his memorandum ordering the dismissal.
"If his attorney was not able to continue to represent the plaintiff, then the plaintiff could have found replacement council, or petitioned the court to represent himself," Stengel wrote in a memorandum. "To date, the plaintiff has chosen neither option. The docket showed that Attorney Bailey continues to represent the plaintiff. Under these circumstances, I must conclude that (Keefer's) failure to prosecute is willful."
Stengel also wrote that the plaintiff is solely responsible for the prosecution of this action, and has done nothing; that the defendants have been prejudiced by the plaintiff's failure to file and amended complaint; that Keefer has failed to amend the complaint and that there are no pending claims against the defendants, so there are not reasonable alternative sanctions by dismissal of the case with prejudice.