Suit against police, judge, towing company dismissed
WILLIAMSPORT - A civil suit filed more than two years ago by Shamokin towing operator Alfons Keefer against local police, a magisterial district judge and several other parties has been dismissed.
Meanwhile, his attorney's license has been suspended for five years by the state Supreme Court.
Keefer, owner of A&G Towing and A&N Auto Salvage, filed a 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 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 claims of substantive due process, free speech and equal protection rights. He also dismissed without prejudice claims of First Amendment and equal protection clause violations. "Without prejudice" means Keefer can file an amended complaint within 20 days of the judge's order to cure the defects the court has 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 states, "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."
If Keefer fails to amend the complaint, Attorney Edward J. Kopko of Ithaca, N.Y., who represents Gembic, said he plans to file a motion 21 days after the judge's ruling to dismiss with prejudice the First Amendment and equal protection clause violations.
Keefer was seeking a jury trial and judgments that the defendants "jointly and severally deprived him of his rights under the First and 14th Amendments and the Commerce Clause, together with damages for pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, lost business in the amount of $150,000, emotional distress, punitive damages, fees, costs, attorney's fees and such other relief as may be appropriate."
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.
Bailey, 68, of Susquehanna Township, told the Patriot News, "The system is corrupt. The Supreme Court in Pennsylvania is corrupt and everybody knows it. Lawyers do not have the courage to speak up."
According to the Patriot News, Bailey plans to fight to preserve his legal career by appealing to federal court, claiming the disciplinary process was "tainted" and his civil rights were "trampled."
Bailey served as auditor general from 1985 to 1989. He also was a U.S. congressman from 1979 until 1983 when his Westmoreland County seat was eliminated through redistricting. He also launched unsuccessful campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate.
When asked Monday about the claims in his suit being dismissed and Bailey's law license being suspended, Keefer reserved comment.