PHILADELPHIA – A federal appeals court says a woman who filed a lawsuit against a Malvern attorney and his law firm did not have the legal standing to bring her complaint, in effect agreeing with a lower court’s view of the matter as “legally frivolous.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit judges Michael A. Chagares, Thomas I. Vanaskie and Cheryl Ann Krause decided June 28 to deny the appeal of plaintiff Cynthia M. Yoder, which upheld an earlier denial of Yoder’s complaint from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In 2013, Yoder and several of her family members filed a lawsuit in the District Court versus the East Coventry Township Police Department and two of its officers, who had arrested her son. The police department and its officers were represented by David J. MacMain of the MacMain Law Group in Malvern. In that action, the District Court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss and we affirmed.

While an appeal was pending, Yoder wrote to attorney MacMain “in hopes we can come to a reasonable settlement.” In an emailed response, MacMain stated his “clients have no interest in paying you anything as we view the case and the current appeal as wholly frivolous,” indicated his clients intended to seek fees and legal costs from Yoder, and stated that “he did not agree that you have any legal basis to continue to represent the interest of any of the other plaintiffs.”

“Yoder filed a complaint in September 2016 against [both] attorney MacMain and his law firm, seeking to raise claims under Section 1983 as well as various federal and state criminal statutes. The District Court dismissed the complaint as legally frivolous, holding that ‘nothing in it provides a legal basis for Yoder’s lawsuit against [attorney] MacMain and his law firm.’ Finding that Yoder could not cure the defects in her complaint, the District Court stated that it would not provide her with leave to amend. Yoder appealed,” the Third Circuit stated.

“To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States committed by a person acting under color of state law. Attorney MacMain and his law firm are private actors – not state actors. Indeed, ‘attorneys performing their traditional functions will not be considered state actors solely on the basis of their position as officers of the court.’ Yoder also suggested that MacMain and his law firm were guilty of violating federal and state criminal statutes pertaining to harassment, terroristic threats, and witness intimidation. But the statutes that Yoder cited do not give rise to a private cause of action. Finally, we agree with the District Court that any amendment to the complaint would be futile, and thus see no error in the dismissal without leave to amend. For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that there is no substantial question presented by this appeal. Accordingly, we will summarily affirm the District Court’s dismissal of Yoder’s complaint,” the Third Circuit said.

The defendants are represented by David J. MacMain of The MacMain Law Group, in Malvern.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 16-4180

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-05221

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

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