United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ROBERT E. CARUSO and SANDRA L. FERGUSON, Plaintiffs,
WASHINGTON STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PRE-FILING
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for a
Pre-Filing Order against Plaintiff Robert E. Caruso's
counsel, Stephen K. Eugster. Dkt. #61. For the reasons stated
below, the Court GRANTS this Motion.
Eugster's legal battles against the Washington State Bar
Association apparently began in 2009 after he was sanctioned
for professional misconduct. See In re Disciplinary
Proceeding Against Eugster, 166 Wn.2d 293, 298 (2009)
December of that year, Mr. Eugster filed suit in U.S.
District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
(“Eastern District”), alleging Washington's
lawyer discipline system violates due process. Dkt. #62-1,
Appendix at 1-31 (“Eugster
II”). The court dismissed the case because Mr.
Eugster lacked standing and because his claims were unripe.
Id. at 68-75. He appealed and the Ninth Circuit
affirmed. Id. at 78-79.
early 2015, Mr. Eugster filed suit here in the Western
District, challenging bar membership, license fees, and the
use of such fees. Id. at 80-97 (“Eugster
III”). This Court found that Mr. Eugster altered
and “grossly misstate[d]” language from a U.S.
Supreme Court opinion to support his theory of the case.
Id. at 130. This Court explained that the Supreme
Court and Ninth Circuit have upheld mandatory bar membership
and fees several times, “and in no uncertain
terms.” Id. at 130-34. The Court dismissed Mr.
Eugster's claims with prejudice; the Ninth Circuit
affirmed. Id. at 139-42.
2015, soon after Eugster III was dismissed, Mr.
Eugster filed complaints in Spokane County Superior Court and
in federal court in the Eastern District, again claiming that
Washington's lawyer discipline system violates due
process requirements. See id. at 143-77
(“Eugster IV”), 289-325
(“Eugster V”). These cases were also
dismissed with prejudice, on res judicata grounds, in part
because Mr. Eugster could have raised such objections in his
prior disciplinary proceedings. Id. at 225-28;
367-81. Division III of the Court of Appeals affirmed, and
the Washington Supreme Court denied Mr. Eugster's
petition for review in Eugster IV. Id. at
230-276. Eugster V remains pending before the Ninth
Circuit, id. at 382-383; Dkt. #62 (“Flevaris
Decl.”) at ¶21.
2016, Mr. Eugster filed suit again in this Court, again
challenging bar membership, fees, and discipline procedures.
Id. at 400-24 (“Eugster VI”).
Mr. Eugster tried to distinguish the suit by arguing the
WSBA's most recent bylaw amendments designating limited
license practitioners as bar members transformed the WSBA
into a new entity that lacked authority. Id. at
407-416, 421-23. Mr. Eugster voluntarily dismissed that suit,
id. at 425-26, then immediately re-filed the same
claims in the instant matter, on behalf of two other
previously disciplined lawyers, initially as a class action
but eventually abandoning the class claims. Id. at
427-76; 477-516. This Court rejected Mr. Eugster's
arguments and dismissed his claims with prejudice.
Id. at 517-25.
early 2017, around the same time he filed this case, Mr.
Eugster also filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court,
again challenging WSBA license fees. Id. at 668-692
(“Eugster VII”). Mr. Eugster argued that
license fees constitute an improper “tax.”
Id. at 704. Eugster asked that the WSBA be placed
into a receivership and for an accounting of any WSBA
expenditures. Id. at 706-07. After Defendants moved
to dismiss, Mr. Eugster voluntarily dismissed the case.
Flevaris Decl. ¶39; Appendix at 723-24.
point the WSBA asked this Court to impose monetary sanctions
against Mr. Eugster, to deter him from his escalating pattern
of meritless litigation. This Court agreed, finding Mr.
Eugster had filed a “legally and factually
baseless” suit after being “on notice of the
flaws” in his claims, especially given his prior suits.
Appendix at 532. This Court ordered Mr. Eugster to pay $28,
385 to the WSBA for legal expenses incurred defending against
the suit. Id. at 540. On appeal, Mr. Eugster argued
the WSBA had defrauded this Court and that this Court was
unduly biased. Id. at 570-88. The Ninth Circuit
affirmed, rejecting those arguments as meritless and
“unsupported by the record.” Id. at
615-18, 620. Mr. Eugster moved for rehearing en banc, and
that request is pending. Id. at 626-40, 645-665;
Flevaris Decl. ¶¶ 33-34.
Eugster did not heed the sanction this Court imposed on him.
In late 2017, Mr. Eugster filed another lawsuit in the
Eastern District. Appendix at 737-47 (“Eugster
VIII”). As before, Mr. Eugster's complaint
asserted constitutional claims against bar membership,
license fees, and discipline procedures, and argued that the
WSBA lacks regulatory authority. Id. at 744-47. In
response, the WSBA notified Mr. Eugster that his complaint
was duplicative and frivolous, as before. Id. at
727. The WSBA also notified Mr. Eugster that it would seek a
vexatious litigant order against him if he refused to
withdraw the case. See id.
Eugster did not withdraw. Instead, he requested that the
assigned judge recuse himself based on the fact he had
already dismissed one of Mr. Eugster's prior suits.
See id. at 823-29. The court denied that request and
the WSBA moved to dismiss. Id. at 830-34; 748-70. In
response, Mr. Eugster filed an amended complaint with the
same claims; also reasserting his challenge against the use
of fees; and arguing as a new theory in support of those
claims that the Washington Supreme Court and WSBA constitute
a monopoly over the practice of law. Id. at 771-95.
The WSBA again moved to dismiss, explaining that Mr.
Eugster's claims were precluded by his past suits and
meritless as a matter of law in any event. See id.
at 796-822. That motion remains pending. Flevaris Decl. at
February 12, 2018, Mr. Eugster filed another lawsuit in
Spokane County, asserting defamation, invasion of privacy,
and abuse of process claims against both the WSBA and its
attorneys as named defendants, based on the WSBA's
briefing in this case. Id. at 835-48