Pennsylvania Record

Friday, October 18, 2019

Phila. judge justifies for Superior Court reason to transfer suit brought by federal judge and wife

By Jon Campisi | Feb 26, 2014

A Philadelphia judge last week submitted an opinion to the state Superior

Court outlining her reasoning for transferring a suit brought by a federal judge and his wife to Montgomery County.

In the Feb. 21 memorandum and opinion, Common Pleas Court Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson explained her justification for sending a case initiated by doctor Ruth Frances Ruth Batzer Baylson and her husband, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson, to Common Pleas Court in neighboring Montgomery County.

The couple filed suit this past summer alleging wrongful use of civil proceedings against lawyer Mark C. Clemm and his firm, Morris and Clemm P.C.

The plaintiffs claim that the defendants wrongfully used the civil process when it sued Frances Ruth Batzer Baylson on behalf of Genetics and IVF Institute Inc. over costs relating to the storing of reproductive material.

Batzer Baylson is an obstetrician and gynecologist specializing in fertility issues.

She had been named as a defendant in a September 2011 lawsuit along with Pennsylvania Reproductive Associates, Philadelphia Fertility Institute Inc. and Fertility Testing Laboratories Inc., the Pennsylvania Record previously reported.

Genetics and IVF Institute, who was a new defendant later added to an amended complaint, claimed that it entered into leases with the other three companies to store tanks containing donated sperm at a location in Philadelphia, and that Fairfax became saddled with storage costs and litigation exposure involving the genetic material after leases with the companies expired.

The wrongful use of civil process suit brought by the Baylsons claims that Clemm, the attorney, had no grounds to bring suit because Batzer Baylson was not a party to the contested lease agreements.

Late last year, Massiah-Jackson, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge, granted a request by the defense to transfer the matter to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas because it was “undisputed that the underlying action against Dr. Baylson was initiated in Montgomery County.”

“Even assuming arguendo that Dr. Baylson’s theory is correct that the underlying proceedings actually terminated in her favor, those proceedings terminated in Montgomery County and pursuant to Montgomery County Court rulings,” Massiah-Jackson wrote at the time.”

Baylson and his wife subsequently appealed Massiah-Jackson’s ruling to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

In her memorandum to the appellate body last week, Massiah-Jackson emphasized that case law says a Dragonetti action such as the one against Clemm and his law firm belongs in the county where the underlying litigation played out.

“Here … the alleged facts which satisfy all of the elements of this cause of action occurred in Montgomery County,” Massiah-Jackson wrote. “Accordingly, venue is proper only in Montgomery County.”

Massiah-Jackson said it would be proper for a judge in the neighboring county to handle the preliminary objections and any other matters to come before the court.

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