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McKenna v. Curtin

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 25, 2017

KEVEN A. MCKENNA, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
DAVID CURTIN; LAURA A. PISATURO; JOHN SHEKARCHI; MARIA BUCCI; DAVID CAPRIO; RICHARD S. HUMPHREY; MATTHEW F. CALLAGHAN; FRANK CONNOR; ANTHONY F. AMALFETANO; JOHN MORAN; PAUL TAVARES; DANIEL EGAN; WILLIAM RAMPONE; PAUL A. SUTTELL; MAUREEN MCKENNA GOLDBERG; WILLIAM P. ROBINSON, III; FRANCIS X. FLAHERTY; GILBERT V. INDEGLIA; DEBRA SAUNDERS; WILLIAM SMITH; SCOTT R. JENSEN; MARC DESISTO, Defendants, Appellees, HELEN MCDONALD, Defendant.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND Hon. Landya B. McCafferty, [*] U.S. District Judge

          Keven A. McKenna on brief pro se.

          Michael W. Field, Assistant Attorney General of Rhode Island, and Peter F. Kilmartin, Attorney General of Rhode Island, on brief for appellees.

          Before Torruella, Lynch, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

          LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

         Keven A. McKenna was suspended from practicing law for one year by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. He subsequently filed this federal suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twenty-three judicial officers and administrators who had participated in his disciplinary proceedings, seeking, inter alia, reinstatement of his license and money damages. McKenna alleged that by revoking his license, the defendants violated the principle of separation of powers under the Rhode Island Constitution, and infringed upon his First, Seventh, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. The district court dismissed all of McKenna's claims, primarily on the grounds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars this suit. We affirm.

         I.

         In February 2015, the Rhode Island Supreme Court suspended Keven A. McKenna ("McKenna") from practicing law for one year, beginning on March 29, 2015. The suspension arose from McKenna's handling of a workers' compensation claim that one of his former employees brought against him in 2009.[1] At the time, McKenna was practicing law under the licensed entity, "Keven A. McKenna, P.C." ("PC"). In re McKenna, 110 A.3d 1126, 1131 (R.I. 2015). McKenna refused to make payments ordered by the Workers' Compensation Court. Instead, he attempted to -- in his own words -- "drag this on forever" by filing multiple motions to dismiss in Workers' Compensation Court. Id. at 1131-32.

         When this tactic failed, McKenna filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on behalf of the PC and a petition for personal bankruptcy. Id. at 1133. During the pendency of the bankruptcy litigation, McKenna committed numerous ethical violations including (1) continuing to practice law under an unlicensed entity, "The Law Offices of Keven A. McKenna, LLC"; (2) making false statements in his bankruptcy filings; and (3) refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Marc DeSisto ("DeSisto"). See id. at 1133-35.

         In July 2011, the Rhode Island Supreme Court had appointed DeSisto to investigate McKenna's professional conduct. Upon the conclusion of DeSisto's investigation in November 2012, the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, David Curtin ("Curtin"), filed disciplinary charges against McKenna, alleging four counts:

[1] [T]hat respondent violated Article V, Rules 3.3, 7.1, 7.5, and 8.4(c) of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law as a limited liability entity in violation of this Court's order of February 23, 2011; [2] that respondent violated Rules 3.3 and 8.4(c) by failing to disclose his income to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island (Bankruptcy Court), misrepresenting his interest in a receivable to that court, and by engaging in conduct that amounted to a lack of candor, dishonesty, and
misrepresentation to the bankruptcy trustee; [3] that respondent violated Article V, Rule 1.19 of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to provide records requested by Assistant Disciplinary Counsel through a subpoena and by failing to keep records as mandated by Rule 1.19; and [4] that respondent violated Rule 3.3 and Article V, Rule 3.5(d) of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct by engaging in conduct during proceedings in the Workers' Compensation Court and Bankruptcy Court that demonstrated a lack of candor, as well as an attempt to disrupt those tribunals.

         From February through October 2013, a three-member panel of the Disciplinary Board held eight hearings where McKenna presented witness testimony, his own testimony, and exhibits to contest these charges. Throughout the proceedings, McKenna sought to avoid the Board's review by alleging multiple constitutional violations. The panel dismissed all of McKenna's motions and ultimately found that there was clear and convincing evidence that McKenna had violated the Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct on all four counts. On May 13, 2014, the full Disciplinary Board adopted the panel's recommendation to suspend McKenna's license for one year and forwarded the matter to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, pursuant to Article III, Rule 6(d) of the Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules for Disciplinary Procedure.

         The Rhode Island Supreme Court ordered McKenna to appear on June 11, 2014 to show cause as to why his license should not be revoked. After listening to presentations by both McKenna and Curtin, as well as reviewing the entire record, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued a twenty-page order adopting the Disciplinary Board's recommendation and rejecting McKenna's constitutional challenges. See In re McKenna, 110 A.3d 1126. ...


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