Phila. Common Pleas Court Judge Manfredi hit with $20 million punitive damages claim over alleged fraud

By Jon Campisi | May 18, 2012

A Philadelphia woman has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the former supervising judge of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court trial division, alleging the jurist abused his judicial authority when he denied the ability of the plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis in a prior civil matter against another trial court judge.

Rochelle Dukes filed her pro se motion at Common Pleas Court on May 14 against Judge William J. Manfredi.

The lawsuit claims that Manfredi engaged in fraud and conspiracy when he denied Dukes’ motion to proceed in forma pauperis, or without paying the requiring legal filing fees, in relation to a lawsuit Dukes was bringing against fellow Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Jacqueline Allen.

The docket sheet in Dukes v. Allen shows that Prothonotary Joseph Evers was also named as a defendant in the civil action.

The prothonotary, which is an elected position in Pennsylvania, is in charge of all civil filings at a state trial court.

Manfredi was named as a team leader in the Allen case.

In her pro se motion filed last week, Dukes alleges that Manfredi’s June 8, 2011 order denying the plaintiff’s ability to proceed in forma pauperis was an abuse of the judge’s authority because, as then-supervising judge of the Court of Common Pleas’ trial division, he should not have been making such a decision.

“To deny Plaintiff In Forma Pauperis was a misapplication and misappropriation of judicial authority thereby committing fraud and causing severe emotional distress,” Dukes’ pro se motion reads. “This decision to deny the Plaintiff In Forma Pauperis is part of a conspiracy and cover up in the Common Pleas Court Philadelphia County. This is a misuse of judicial authority by Judge Manfredi.”

Dukes would have been required to pay a filing fee of $597.42 in her case against Judge Allen, the suit states.

The lawsuit states that Dukes didn’t learn that Manfredi had denied her in forma pauperis motion until June 13, 2011, only after the woman personally went down to City Hall to pay a visit to Manfredi at his office.

The lawsuit against Judge Allen was filed on May 10, 2011.

The complaint says that Dukes didn’t receive Manfredi’s decision after it was first rendered, something Dukes claims was done intentionally.

“Judge Manfredi is fully aware and conscious of his decision,” the lawsuit states. “Judge Manfredi [sic] disregard for the law and judicial proceeding is blatant, flagrant, intentional, extreme, outrages [sic] and lawlessness.”

The lawsuit also contains other allegations of fraud and conspiracy relating to a March 2009 lawsuit Dukes filed against Walker Memorial Training Center.

Dukes claims in her complaint that Manfredi committed perjury without a trial and fraud when he unilaterally dismissed that complaint as frivolous.

The suit claims that someone at the Prothonotary’s Office tampered with the electronic filing, which later disappeared from the E-file system, and reappeared under a different case heading.

The lawsuit also cites other instances in which the court and its judges and staff appear to have tampered with or influenced other pro se civil actions Dukes had initiated against various defendants.

“The tricks and traps that have been designed by this court and Judge Manfredi are extreme and outrages [sic],” the suit states. “This is a criminal conspiracy which includes fraud, perjury without a trial, criminal attempt, criminal solicitation, criminal coercion, criminal intent and malicious prosecution.

“This is aiding and abiding in consummation of crimes and defamation of character,” the suit continues. “Judge Manfredi applied a blind eye to these documents classifying Dukes vs Allen … as frivolous.”

The lawsuit claims that Manfredi’s actions were undertaken for the purpose of depriving Dukes of services of the court as well as for the purpose of “intentional infliction of emotional distress with the intent to harm Plaintiff, mental anguish, deliberate, bad faith, bad motive, willful misconduct, wantonly, malicious, official oppression, fraud and conspiracy.”

The complaint alleges that the “process was corrupted and the Defendants profit from it.”

Dukes seeks $20 in punitive damages, as well as treble, consequential and general damages.

Dukes also seeks to have separate trials for the alleged civil and criminal acts.


The case ID number is 120501133.

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