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John C. Ransmeier v. Ellen Mariani

May 15, 2013

JOHN C. RANSMEIER, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF LOUIS NEIL MARIANI, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, AND COLGAN AIR INC., A VIRGINIA CORPORATION, US AIRWAYS, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, L 3 COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION SECURITY AND DETECTION SYSTEMS, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, L 3 COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, L 3 COMMUNICATIONS HOLDINGS, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, INVISION TECHNOLOGIES, INC., STATE OF INCORPORATION UNKNOWN, QUANTUM MAGNETICS, INC., STATE OF INCORPORATION UNKNOWN, HEIMANN SYSTEMS CORP., STATE OF INCORPORATION UNKNOWN, AIR FRANCE, A FRENCH CORPORATION, DELTA AIRLINES, A CORPORATION, SWISS, A SWISS CORPORATION, AIR JAMAICA, A JAMAICAN CORPORATION, CAPE AIR, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION, A TRADE ORGANIZATION, DEFENDANTS, UAL CORPORATION, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, UNITED AIRLINES, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, HUNTLEIGH USA CORPORATION, A MISSOURI CORPORATION, ICTS INTERNATIONAL NV, A NETHERLANDS BUSINESS ENTITY OF UNKNOWN FORM, GLOBAL AVIATION SERVICES, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, BURNS INTERNATIONAL SECURITY SERVICES CORP., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, SECURITAS AB, A SWEDISH BUSINESS ENTITY OF UNKNOWN FORM, MASSACHUSETTS PORT AUTHORITY, A GOVERNMENT ENTITY, THE BOEING COMPANY, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, MIDWEST EXPRESS AIRLINES, INC., A WISCONSIN CORPORATION, CONTINENTAL AIRLINES, INC., A CORPORATION, DOES, 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE, MIDWEST AIRLINES, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES,
v.
ELLEN MARIANI, PROPOSED INTERVENOR, APPELLANT.



11-175-cv(L)

Ransmeier v. UAL Corporation, et al.

Argued: May 23, 2012

Before: HALL, CARNEY, Circuit Judges.*fn1

After an appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.), this court AFFIRMED the district court's judgment denying Appellant's motion to intervene, and ordered the Appellant and her attorney to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for their conduct on appeal. We conclude that Appellant and her attorney's conduct in prosecuting this appeal was frivolous and offensive, and therefore warrants the imposition of sanctions.

HALL AND CARNEY, Circuit Judges:

On June 26, 2012, this panel issued a summary order (1) affirming the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.) denying Appellant's renewed motion to intervene, and (2) ordering Appellant and her attorney to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for their conduct before this Court. See Ransmeier v. Mariani, 486 F. App'x 890, 893-94 (2d Cir. 2012) (summary order). We have now reviewed their submissions, as well as the totality of their behavior in this case, in particular with respect to their Motion to Supplement the Record (the "Motion"). For the reasons set forth below, we invoke the inherent power of this Court and impose sanctions in the form of double costs jointly and severally on Appellant Ellen Mariani and her counsel, Bruce Leichty.

I. Procedural History

This case's lengthy procedural history is set out in detail in two prior decisions of this Court. See generally Ransmeier v. Mariani, 486 F. App'x 890; N.S. Windows, LLC v. Minoru Yamasaki Assocs., Inc., 351 F. App'x 461 (2d Cir. 2009) (summary order) ("N.S. Windows").

Briefly, Ellen Mariani is the widow of Louis Mariani, who died in one of the planes involved in the tragic September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. See N.S. Windows, 351 F. App'x at 465. Mariani and her step-daughter, Lauren Peters, both filed related wrongful death suits against various airlines and other parties in the Southern District of New York. Id. In 2004, Mariani and Peters entered into an agreement in New Hampshire probate court, pursuant to which Mariani resigned as administrator of her late husband's estate, and a neutral administrator was appointed to replace Mariani. The administrator was "to act to dismiss with prejudice" Mariani's suit and pursue only the step-daughter's suit ("the Peters suit"). Id.

After entering into that agreement, Mariani apparently had second thoughts. Starting in 2005, she has repeatedly attempted to intervene in the Peters suit, arguing primarily that her probate court agreement did not divest her of what she calls her "independent loss of consortium claim." Mariani Br. at 4. In each of these proceedings, our Court and the district court concluded that "Mariani's probate court agreement with Peters demonstrated [Mariani's] clear intention and commitment to abandon all her claims, including her loss of consortium claims." Ransmeier, 486 F. App'x at 892 (emphasis added).

In deciding Mariani's second appeal, we became deeply concerned by two aspects of the case as framed by Mariani's counsel Bruce Leichty. First was its apparent frivolousness. In N.S.

Windows we had affirmed the district court's holding that, by virtue of her agreement with Peters, Mariani had no legal status in the federal action and that any arguments she cared to make regarding her individual loss of consortium claim were properly addressed only to the New Hampshire probate court. N.S. Windows, 351 F. Appx at 466-67. In appealing once again to this Court, Mariani persisted in making arguments that we had clearly rejected, and others that were irrelevant.

Our other concern with Mariani's second appeal was the disturbing manner in which she and her counsel prosecuted it. We noted, in particular, the "discreditable tone" of her filings. Ransmeier, 486 F. App'x at 893. We also wrote that her briefs featured "an escalating series of ad hominem attacks on opposing counsel and bombastic challenges to the integrity of the district court," id., which culminated with the particularly offensive Motion to Supplement the Record to introduce "newly-discovered evidence" of the district court's alleged partiality. Id. This purported "evidence" consisted of little more than a series of offensive insinuations, unmistakably anti-Semitic, about Judge Hellerstein, his family members, their professional work and some of their personal charitable activities.

We therefore ordered Mariani and her counsel to show cause why they should not be sanctioned in ...


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