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Eugster v. Littlewood

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

May 11, 2018

STEPHEN KERR EUGSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
PAULA LITTLEWOOD, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' JOINT MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT

          THOMAS O. RICE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint. ECF No. 34. This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (ECF No. 34) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 25, 2017, Plaintiff Stephen Kerr Eugster, proceeding pro se, filed this Complaint against Defendants Paula C. Littlewood and the Washington State Bar Association ("WSBA"). ECF No. 1. Mr. Eugster alleges violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and violation of procedural due process and his fundamental rights because of compelled membership in the WSBA. Id. at 8-10.

         On January 30, 2018, Ms. Littlewood and the WSBA filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 8. On February 7, 2018, Mr. Eugster filed an Amended Complaint, which removed the WSBA as a party and added each Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court as Defendants. ECF No. 9. The Amended Complaint also added and removed claims. See id.

         On February 16, 2018, the parties jointly moved to withdraw the pending Motion to Dismiss, as the relevance of the arguments were affected by the Amended Complaint. ECF No. 21 at 2. The parties further stipulated that Ms. Littlewood should be allowed additional time to respond to the Amended Complaint. Id. Lastly, the parties stipulated that former Defendant WSBA should be formally dismissed from this matter. Id. On February 22, 2018, the Court granted the withdrawal of Ms. Littlewood's Motion to Dismiss and ordered her to file a response to the Amended Complaint no later than April 11, 2018. ECF No. 23 at 3. The Court dismissed the WSBA from this case. Id.

         On March 1, 2018, Mr. Eugster filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 25. On March 7, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Strike Motion for Summary Judgment and to Stay Other Proceedings Pending Adjudication of Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 27. The Court stayed all proceedings other than Defendants' Motion to Dismiss until that motion is resolved. ECF No. 33. The Court denied Defendants request to strike Mr. Eugster's Motion for Summary Judgment. Id. On March 22, 2018, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 34.

         FACTS

         The following facts are principally drawn from Mr. Eugster's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 9) and are accepted as true for the purposes of the instant motion. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). Mr. Eugster is a licensed attorney and a member of the WSBA. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 19. There are a number of prior cases between Mr. Eugster and the WSBA and its officers.

         The first appears to have occurred in 2005 when the WSBA charged Mr. Eugster with numerous counts of attorney misconduct. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 43; In re Disciplinary Proceeding Against Eugster, 166 Wash, 2d293 (2009) (''Eugster 7"). The WSBA Disciplinary Board unanimously recommended Mr. Eugster be disbarred, but five justices of the Washington State Supreme Court decided to suspend Mr. Eugster from the practice of law for 18 months in June 2009. Eugster 7, 166 Wash, 2d at 311, 327-28.

         In 2010, Mr. Eugster filed suit against the WSBA, WSBA Board of Governors, and Washington State Supreme Court Justices, alleging that the WSBA's attorney discipline system violated Mr. Eugster's due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 44; Eugster v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, No. CVO9-357-SMM, 2010 WL 2926237, at *2 (E.D. Wash. July 23, 2010) ("Eugster IF). The district court dismissed the matter after finding Mr. Eugster lacked standing and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Eugster II, 2010 WL 2926237, at *11; Eugster v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, 474 Fed.Appx. 624 (9th Cir. 2012).

         In March 2015, Mr. Eugster filed another lawsuit against the WSBA, various officers, and the Washington State Supreme Court Justices, this time in the Western District of Washington. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 45; Eugster v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, No. C15-0375JLR, 2015 WL 5175722 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 3, 2015), affd, 684 F.App'x 618 (9th Cir. 2017) ("Eugster III"). Mr. Eugster alleged that the mandatory WSBA membership and required dues violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment freedoms by compelling speech and association. Eugster III, 2015 WL 5175722, at *2. Mr. Eugster asserts that he sought to have the district court overrule Lathrop v. Donohue, 367 U.S. 820 (1961), and to apply strict constitutional scrutiny to his forced membership in the WSBA. ECF No. 35 at 8. The Western District of Washington dismissed Mr. Eugster's complaint. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 45; Eugster III, 2015 WL 5175722, at *9. Mr. Eugster appealed to the Ninth Circuit. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 45. He asserts that the Ninth Circuit held that it could not overrule Lathrop because it was a decision of the United States Supreme Court. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 45; see Eugster, 684 Fed.Appx. 618 (9th Cir. 2017). Mr. Eugster then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, but the petition was denied. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 45; see Eugster v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, 137 S.Ct. 2315 (2017).

         In November 2015, Mr. Eugster filed another lawsuit against the WSBA and its officials in Spokane County Superior Court. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 46; Eugster v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, 198 Wash.App. 758, review denied, 189 Wash.2d 1018 (2017) ("Eugster IV"). Mr. Eugster alleged that the WSBA Washington Lawyer Discipline System violated his rights to procedural due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. ECF No. 35 at 10. The superior court dismissed the suit with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Eugster IV, 198 Wash.App. at 771. Mr. Eugster appealed to Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals. On appeal, Mr. Eugster also asserted that the WSBA ended and a new association was born when the board added limited practice officers and limited license legal technicians as members to the association. Id. at 772. The court held that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction, but his action was barred under res judicata. Id. at 796.

         In December 2015, Mr. Eugster filed a Complaint in this Court. ECF Nos. 9 at ¶47; 35 at 11; Stephen Kerr Eugster v. Littlewood, No. 2:15-CV-0352-TOR, 2016 WL 3632711 (E.D. Wash. June 29, 2016) (''Eugster V''). Mr. Eugster asserted claims against the officials of the WSBA, alleging that the WSBA Washington Lawyer System was unconstitutional because it did not pass strict scrutiny and violated due process. Eugster V, 2016 WL 3632711, at *1. This Court dismissed with prejudice, finding that Mr. Eugster's claims were barred by res judicata. Id. at *6. Mr. Eugster asserts that his appeal is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit. ECF Nos. 9 at ¶ 47; 35 at 11-12.

         In November 2016, Mr. Eugster filed suit against the WSBA and its officials in the Western District of Washington. Eugster v. State Bar Ass'n, No. 2:16-CV-1765 (W.D. Wash.) ("Eugster V''). Mr. Eugster states that he "tooka non-suit rightfully taken under court rules" and that this case is irrelevant. ECF No. 35 at 12. Defendants assert that Mr. Eugster again alleged that compulsory bar membership and fees were unconstitutional and that the lawyer discipline system violated due process. ECF No. 34 at 10. Defendants note that Mr. Eugster voluntarily dismissed the case on January 4, 2017. Id.

         In January 2017, Mr. Eugster was retained by WSBA attorneys Robert E. Caruso and Sandra L. Ferguson to represent them in a putative class action against the WSBA. ECF Nos. 9 at ¶ 48; 35 at 12-13; Caruso v. Wash. State Bar Ass'n, No. C17-003 RSM, 2017 WL 1957077, at *1 (W.D. Wash. May 11, 2017). Mr. Caruso and Ms. Ferguson alleged violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendment for compelled membership and dues in the WSBA. Caruso, 2017 WL 1957077, at *1. They also asserted that compulsory dues violated their right of freedom of speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. They contested that the WSBA discipline system violated their constitutional due process rights and deprived their rights under the doctrine of constitutional scrutiny. Id. The Western District of Washington dismissed their claims with prejudice. Id. at *5. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which recently affirmed the district court. Caruso v. Washington State Bar Ass'n 1933, 716 Fed.Appx. 650 (9th Cir. 2018).

         DISCUSSION

         I. ...


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