PHILADELPHIA – According to a panel of federal appellate judges, an Allentown woman’s motion for post-judgment relief in a libel case brought against The Morning Call newspaper, its parent company and several of its personnel did not present a substantial question.

Judges D. Michael Fisher, Patty Shwartz and Maryanne Trump Barry said Oct. 14 that plaintiff Jo Ann Fonzone’s motion for post-judgment relief was correctly denied by the trial court, and thus affirmed that decision.

“Fonzone filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania containing numerous claims arising from the publication of an allegedly libelous newspaper article about her. The District Court ultimately dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, because Fonzone failed to establish the complete diversity of citizenship necessary for diversity jurisdiction,” the Third Circuit said.

Since that time, Fonzone has unsuccessfully continued to pursue the case in the District Court. Most recently, Fonzone sought a new trial and for relief from a final order under federal law – a motion the trial court rejected, and which Fonzone appealed.

“In addition, on June 1, 2016, she filed a motion for a ‘settlement conference, discovery exchange, injunction to retract and remove inaccurate information from newspaper article and internet postings, and three month stay of proceedings for medical treatment,” the appellate court said.

According to the Third Circuit, the District Court “properly” denied Fonzone’s request for relief.

“There was no basis to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) because Fonzone did not identify a manifest error or present newly discovered evidence pertaining to the District Court’s conclusion that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction,” the Third Circuit stated. “In addition, as the District Court explained, Fonzone’s request for attorneys’ fees under Rule 54 was improper because she failed to demonstrate that she was an attorney licensed to practice before the District Court.”

“Consequently, this appeal does not present a substantial question. Accordingly, we will summarily affirm the District Court’s judgment,” the appellate court said.

“We deny Fonzone’s motion for a ‘settlement conference, discovery exchange, injunction to retract and remove inaccurate information from newspaper article and internet postings, and three month stay of proceedings for medical treatment,” the Third Circuit said. “With respect to the request for a stay, we note that the Clerk temporarily stayed the appeal, and later directed that the appeal would remain stayed until Sept. 23, 2016, effectively granting the three-month stay that Fonzone sought.”

The defendants are represented by Kaitlin M. Gurney of Pepper Hamilton, in Philadelphia.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 16-2488

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:11-cv-00108

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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