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Meros v. Dimon

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 20, 2017

THOMAS L. MEROS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTA A. DIMON, et al. Defendants.

          Deavers Magistrate Judge

          OPINION & ORDER

          ALGENON L. MARBLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motions to Dismiss of Defendants Daniel Ranke (ECF. No. 22); Nasser Youseff (ECF No. 23); Ralph McAllister and James Sweeney (ECF No. 28); Miguel Chiappero and Sharon Chiappero (ECF No. 29); and W. Martin Midian and Monica Redman (ECF No. 59), as well as a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings by Defendant Dean Rooney (ECF No. 32), a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant James Tekavec (ECF No. 61), and Motions to Declare Plaintiff a Vexatious Litigator by Defendants Ranke and Youseff (ECF Nos. 22, 24). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are GRANTED. Plaintiff Thomas Meros' claims against Defendants are DISMISSED and Plaintiff is declared a vexatious litigator.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Meros, a disbarred attorney, filed a complaint against numerous defendants. The complaint, though long and difficult to follow, appears to arise from seven sets of facts. First, Meros alleges that the “RICO scheme commenced on September 29, 1993” when Defendant Judge James J. Sweeney granted judgment on two cognovit notes against Plaintiff Meros in favor of Mero's former client, Layla Shaheen. (ECF No. 4 at ¶ 102). Judge Sweeney ordered Meros to post $5, 000 for payment to Shaheen and then issued a contempt order against Meros on August 29, 1994 when he failed to make the payment. (Id. at ¶¶ 48, 137). Meros appealed the cognovit notes judgment to the Eighth District Court of Appeals but the case was dismissed on October 24, 1994 because Meros failed to file the required praecipe. (Id. at ¶ 117). Meros alleges that he did, in fact, file the required praecipe, but Judge Sweeney and Defendant Ranke, who was a law clerk for the Eighth District Court of Appeals, “tamper[ed] with the computers” and “conspired to steal and retain the praecipe and conceal from the justice system that the praecipe had been properly filed.” (Id. at ¶¶ 41, 43, 107).

         Second, Meros alleges that Defendants Judge McCallister and Judge Sweeney conspired to issue monetary sanctions against Meros. (Id. at ¶¶ 186, 286). In 1995, McCallister issued sanctions against Meros and his client. (Id. at ¶¶ 177, 178, 186, 191, 288). Meros appealed and the appellate court reversed the sanctions. (Id. at ¶ 191).

         Third, Meros alleges that Defendants Miguel and Sharon Chiappero, along with their attorney Defendant Rooney, conspired to defraud him in connection with the sale of Meros' home to the Chiapperos. (Id. at ¶¶ 198, 208, 211, 249). Meros filed for bankruptcy and sold his home to the Chiapperos in 1998 during the bankruptcy proceedings. (Id. at ¶¶ 198, 199, 235). In 2007, Meros sued the Chiapperos over the real estate transaction. Meros alleges that the Chiapperos committed perjury in connection with the 2007 lawsuit. (Id. at ¶¶ 206, 211, 213). The court found in favor of the Chiapperos. (Id. at ¶ 247). In April of 2013, the bankruptcy court issued a judgment against Meros in connection with the home sale issue. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 213, 227, 247).

         Fourth, Meros alleges that Defendants Youseff, Tekavec, and Rorapaugh conspired to deprive him of attorney's fees in a lawsuit. Meros represented Youseff's company, Physicians Diagnostic Imaging (“PDI”) in an insurance coverage action against Grange Mutual Casualty Company. (Id. at ¶¶ 308, 309). In July of 1997, judgment was entered in Youseff and Meros' favor. (Id. at ¶ 316). After the judgment, Meros sued Youseff, PDI, Grange, and an attorney for Grange to recover his legal fees. See Thomas L. Meros Co., LPA, et al. v. Grange Mut. Cas. Co., et al., Franklin County Common Please Court Case No. 97CVH98346. After the dispute was settled, Meros then filed another action regarding the PDI attorney fees issue, asserting claims against numerous defendants, including Defendant Rorapaugh, who was in-house counsel for Grange at the time, alleging that attorneys working for Grange falsified the claims file in the previous PDI litigation and when Meros uncovered that fact Rorapaugh retaliated by leaving Meros' name off of the judgment check. See Meros v. Rorapaugh, et al., Franklin County Common Please Court Case No. 99CVH01-201; (ECF No. 4 at ¶¶ 314, 319, 321, 322, 331). The case was ultimately dismissed. Meros alleges that Youseff and Tekavec-who became Youseff's attorney after Meros-filed a fraudulent malpractice claim against him in the bankruptcy proceeding related to the PDI case. (Id. at ¶¶ 317, 327, 330, 331). He alleges that Youseff, Tekavec, and Rorapaugh conspired with Trustee Ginley, who passed away in 1999, during the proceedings. (Id. at ¶¶ 176, 342, 348, 351).

         Fifth, Meros alleges that the defendants conspired to destroy his law practice by taking away his law license. (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 8, 20, 30, 31, 374). Meros was first suspended from the practice of law in 1998. Disciplinary Counsel v. Meros, 699 N.E.2d 458 (Ohio 1998). Following his filing suit against his former client Shaheen, an attorney, and several judges including Judge Sweeney, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court found that Meros had engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice, engaged in conduct that adversely reflected upon his fitness to practice law, failed to preserve the confidence of a client, and asserted a position merely to harass or maliciously injure another, and suspended Meros from practice for 18 months. Id. at 459. Meros was permanently disbarred for additional ethical infractions, including his failure to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation, in July 2000. See Cuyahoga Cty. Bar Ass'n. v. Meros, 731 N.E.2d 629 (Ohio 2000). Meros alleges that Defendant Coughlin, a member of the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel, “totally abdicated his duties and responsibilities” in relation to these disciplinary hearings. (ECF No. 4 at ¶ 31).

         Sixth, Meros alleges that Defendants E. Sweeney (an Assistant U.S. Attorney), Stone (an attorney at the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel's Office), Hilbert (an Investigative Coordinator), and Dimon (an Assistant Attorney General at the Ohio Attorney General's Office) conspired to prevent Meros from receiving redress for his alleged harms by failing to investigate his complaints against other defendants. (ECF No. 4 at ¶¶ 22, 23, 31, 348, 344, 352-54, 360, 378, 381, 382). Meros met FBI agent William T'Kindt in 1996 to ask him to investigate Judge Sweeney, but Mr. T'Kindt stated that E. Sweeney would not allow the investigation. (Id. at ¶ 277). Meros then met with Special Agent Michael Massie of the FBI in 2004 to discuss the RICO conspiracy at issue here, and sent Massie a flow chart detailing the RICO enterprise. (Id. at ¶¶ 276, 278). Meros petitioned various individuals to investigate the conspiracy in 2010, and then met with Massie again in 2013. (Id. at 279). On March 16, 2016, Meros submitted disciplinary complaints about Defendants J. Sweeney, McCallister, and Ranke to Defendant Stone in the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel, who did not pursue disciplinary proceedings. (Id. at ¶¶ 23, 252, 388). Meros also sent Defendant Hilbert emails explaining the RICO conspiracy but he did not investigate Meros' claims. (Id. at 366, 371-373). Defendant Dimon read Meros' blog exposing the conspiracy, but she too declined to investigate. (Id. at ¶¶ 361, 363, 365).

         Finally, Meros alleges that Defendants E. Sweeney, Dimon, Midian, and Redman conspired to prevent Meros from receiving redress from collections of his tax debt. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-23, 44, 272-75, 353 on p. 157). On August 30, 2016, Defendants Redman and Midian, who are collection attorneys, told Meros that Defendant Dimon contacted them to pursue Meros for a tax deficiency. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 356 on p. 158-59). These collection efforts arise from a debt that has been owed for over 18 years. (Id. at ¶¶ 274, 356, 362 on p. 161).

         B. Procedural History

         In January 2017, Meros filed a complaint in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas which was removed to this Court by Defendant Emily Sweeney on February 2, 2017. (See ECF Nos. 1, 4). The complaint alleges violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and the Ohio Corrupt Practice Act (“OCPA”), as well as violations of Meros' civil rights under 42 U.S.C § 1983. This rambling, 182-page complaint contains allegations about a purported “complex but perpetual criminal enterprise” with “many actors committing many predicate and overt acts” dating back to 1993. (ECF No 4 at ¶ 1). Meros alleges that this “RICO enterprise” exists to destroy his ability to earn a living through the practice of law and divest Meros of all of his property. (Id. at ¶ 2). Meros claims damages to his business and law practice, loss of wages and goodwill, and harm to his reputation resulting from Defendants' enterprise. (See id. at ¶¶ 143, 158). In the remainder of the 400-paragraph RICO complaint, Meros accuses various defendants of tampering with evidence (see Id. at ¶ 3), “depriving the citizens of Ohio of an honest court and justice system” (id. at ¶ 6), extortion and bribery (see, e.g., id.at ¶ 48), and fraud. (See, e.g., id. at ¶ 55). In paragraphs that regularly span half of a page, Meros addresses nonsensical topics and discusses the conduct of individuals not even named as parties to the lawsuit.

         In reality, it appears that Meros' RICO claims are tied to those associated with the loss of his law license-a result reached after multiple disciplinary and judicial proceedings. This is not the first lawsuit Meros has brought against those he perceives as responsible for the loss of his law license. Indeed, Meros has filed litigation in state court, and three previous federal cases arising out of the loss of his law license: Meros v. Kilbane, et al., Northern District of Ohio, No. 1:95-cv-1660; Meros v. O'Donnell, et al., Northern District of Ohio, No. 1:07-cv-436; and Meros v. Sweeney, et al., Southern District of Ohio, No. 2:00-cv-396. All of these cases were dismissed. (See id.).

         On September 27, 2017, this Court granted the motions to dismiss of Defendants E. Sweeney, Rorapaugh, Coughlan, Dimon, and Hilbert because Meros failed to respond to the motions as required by the local rules. (ECF No. 60). The remaining defendants now move to dismiss Meros' complaint on a variety of grounds, including lack of jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, and statute of limitations. Defendants Youseff, McAllister, Miguel and Sharon Chiappero, Rooney, Midian, Redman, and Tekavec's motions are currently unanswered.[1]During the pendency of these dispositive motions, Meros has filed frequent requests for extensions and other nondispositive motions. (See, e.g., ECF Nos. 35, 39, 55, 56). Meros did file timely objections to Defendants Ranke and Sweeney's motions to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 30, 33).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendants bring their motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[2] “A motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be considered before a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” HSBC Mortg. Servs., Inc. v. Horn, No. 1:07CV699, 2008 WL 4449497, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 30, 2008). This order is necessary because “the Rule 12(b)(6) challenge becomes moot if this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” Whitestone Grp., Inc. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA., No. 2:15-CV-962, 2016 WL 1117595, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 21, 2016).

         In considering motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, “[t]he Sixth Circuit has distinguished between facial and factual attacks.” Id. Facial challenges merely question the sufficiency of the pleading, whereas factual attacks challenge the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction. United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir.1994). In reviewing a facial challenge, the trial court takes the allegations as true and employs standards similar to 12(b)(6) safeguards. Ohio Nat. Life Ins. Co. v. U.S., 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir.1990). In reviewing a factual challenge, no presumptive truthfulness applies and the trial court “is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.” Ritchie, 15 F.3d at 598. In considering motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, courts may look to evidence outside the pleadings. Nichols v. Muskingum College, 318 F.3d 674, 677 (6th Cir. 2003).

         The Court may dismiss a cause of action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Such a motion “is a test of the plaintiff's cause of action as stated in the complaint, not a challenge to the plaintiff's factual allegations.” Golden v. City of Columbus, 404 F.3d 950, 958-59 (6th Cir. 2005). The Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court is not required, however, to accept as true mere legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although liberal, Rule 12(b)(6) requires more than bare assertions of legal conclusions. Allard v. Weitzman, 991 F.2d 1236, 1240 (6th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Generally, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In short, a complaint's factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). It must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         A pro se litigant's allegations are held to a less stringent standard than those in pleadings drafted by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Even so, courts are unwilling to “abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.” See Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989) (collecting cases). Indeed, courts are not required to entertain a pro se plaintiff's claim that “defies comprehension” or allegations that amount to nothing more than “incoherent ramblings.” Roper v. Ford Motor Co., No. 1:09-cv-427, 2010 WL 2670827, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 6, 2010), report and recommendation adopted, 2010 WL 2670697 (S.D. Ohio July 1, 2010) (internal citations omitted).

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court may consider matters outside the pleadings without converting the motion into one for summary judgment if those matters “simply fill[] in the contours and details of the plaintiff's complaint, and add[] nothing new.” Yeary v. Goodwill Indus.-Knoxville, Inc., 107 F.3d 443, 445 (6th Cir. 1997). Such matters include documents attached to or incorporated into the Complaint, and public documents of which the Court can take judicial notice. See Jackson v. City of Columbus, 194 F.3d 737, 745 (6th Cir. 1999), abrogated on other grounds by Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506 (2002).

         III. ...


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