Third Circuit dismisses 'frivolous' defamation claims

By Nicholas Malfitano | Oct 5, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- A federal appellate judge has turned away the appeal of a former congressional candidate who claims he was defamed by private citizens in the district where his campaign took place.

A per curiam decision issued Oct. 3 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said plaintiff Mel Marin’s claims against defendants Roberta and David Biros and local law enforcement officers lacked merit, and supported the need for dismissal of the case.

“Marin filed his Complaint on July 6, 2011, seeking redress under purported causes of action for defamation, false light, interference with business, intentional infliction of emotional distress, Section 1983 civil rights for violation of Article IV of the Constitution, and injunctive relief,” the Third Circuit said in the decision.

Marin filed the instant action while running for Congress in the Western District of Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District as a Democrat. Marin contended defendants Roberta and David Biros “published an article on the Internet that was critical of Marin’s qualifications for public office and suggested in a false light that he had committed a serious crime, and then failed to correct the misinformation after having an opportunity to do so.”

Marin said the other defendants allegedly either assisted the Biroses or “failed to take appropriate steps to correct the misinformation that was disseminated about Marin during his unsuccessful candidacy.”

Ultimately, a district court ruled Marin had failed to make timely service of his complaint and that no extension for additional time under Rule 4(m) had been requested -- besides, the court felt Marin had not submitted current address information and thus could not be directed to make proper service of his complaint. By this point, three years had passed since the suit was initiated.

“Accordingly, the District Court considered whether to dismiss this matter for failure to prosecute. The District Judge found that each of the factors it was required to consider weighed against Marin and dismissed the Complaint,” the Third Circuit wrote in its ruling.

“Marin filed a Motion to Vacate, in which he appeared to argue that the Postal Service simply refused to deliver some of his mail. The District Court issued an Order denying the Motion to Vacate. Marin now appeals.”

It was the consideration of the six Poulis factors (the extent of the party’s personal responsibility; the prejudice to the adversary, a history of dilatoriness; whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal; and the meritoriousness of the claim) that led the Third Circuit to determine that the district court was correct in dismissing Marin’s suit.

“Marin was, as the District Court correctly observed, personally responsible for supplying the court with an address that would foster direct and timely communication with the court. He obviously failed to do so,” the Third Circuit said.

Though no evidence was lost as the defendants were not aware of the litigation for a considerable amount of time, that factor weighed against dismissal, but it would prove to be the only one that did, according to the court.

Rather, the Third Circuit observed what they termed as Marin’s “multi-jurisdictional history of vexatious litigation, dilatoriness, and strategic address-correction techniques, often deliberately used for the purpose of manipulating court deadlines” and “frivolous” claims.

“After careful review of the record, we agree with the District Court’s reasoning and thus conclude that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Motion to Vacate because it had properly dismissed Marin’s Complaint for failure to prosecute,” the Third Circuit said.

“Dismissal of the complaint is a serious sanction, but the responsibility for prosecuting his allegations rests with Marin, and an unwillingness to prosecute the case leaves a reasonable court with no other choice but to dismiss it.

“In summary, the clear majority of the Poulis factors (five out of six) weigh in favor of dismissal here, and we therefore find no abuse of discretion in the denial of the Motion to Vacate.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 16-1998

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania 2:11-cv-00884

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

Want to get notified whenever we write about U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ?

Sign-up Next time we write about U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, we'll email you a link to the story. You may edit your settings or unsubscribe at any time.

Organizations in this Story

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

More News

The Record Network