RICO: Neither Patent Infringement Nor Unfavorable Judicial Rulings Are Predicate Acts — Infringing Products ≠ Stolen Property
Arunachalam v. IBM Corp., 2019 WL 350760 (3d Cir. Jan. 28, 2019) (unpublished):
*1 Dr. Lakshmi Arunachalam, proceeding pro se, appeals multiple decisions from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, including its dismissal of a patent infringement claim, dismissal of civil claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), denial of leave to file a second amended complaint, denials of motions for recusal, and various other rulings. For the reasons explained below, we affirm.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Dr. Arunachalam filed an initial complaint on April 20, 2016, which she amended as of right on May 13, 2016. The First Amended Complaint was filed against four named defendants, including International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), SAP America, Inc. (SAP), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMorgan), Judge Richard G. Andrews (the assigned judge) of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, as well as unnamed Does 1–100. The First Amended Complaint listed four counts. Count I alleged that IBM infringed claims 20 and 21 of Dr. Arunachalam’s U.S. Patent No. 7,340,506 (’506 Patent). Counts II through IV alleged that all defendants violated various provisions under §§ 1961 and 1962 of the RICO Act based on a “pattern of racketeering activity” and “conspiracy” to engage in such. These counts revolve around alleged involvement of IBM, SAP, JPMorgan, and Does 1–100 in the distribution of allegedly infringing software code by the IBM Eclipse Foundation, and Judge Andrews’s alleged actions depriving Dr. Arunachalam of relief in the district court.
B. Motions for Recusal
Throughout the litigation, Dr. Arunachalam filed numerous motions to recuse Judge Andrews for unfavorable rulings issued in prior cases, but all were denied as having “no valid basis for requesting recusal.”
On July 7, 2016, the Government filed a Statement of Interest urging the district court to dismiss all claims against Judge Andrews, to whom the case had been initially assigned. Upon Judge Andrews’s request, the case was reassigned to Chief Judge Stark for the limited purpose of deciding the Government’s motion to dismiss claims against Judge Andrews. Judge Andrews retained jurisdiction over the claims against the other defendants. Following reassignment, Dr. Arunachalam moved to recuse Chief Judge Stark, alleging various acts that purportedly warranted disqualification, such as Chief Judge Stark’s previous mediation involving Dr. Arunachalam, his prior work at one of the law firms representing one of the defendants, and his alleged financial holdings in one or more of the Defendants and members of The IBM Eclipse Foundation. This motion for recusal was also denied.
Subsequently, Chief Judge Stark granted the Government’s motion to dismiss claims against Judge Andrews on the basis of judicial immunity, explaining that Dr. Arunachalam’s allegations against Judge Andrews “sp[oke] to actions taken by him in the performance of his judicial duties.” Appx13.1 Chief Judge Stark also found that Judge Andrews had not been stripped of judicial immunity, given that the First Amended Complaint did not show that his actions were taken in “clear absence of his jurisdiction.” Appx14.
C. RICO Claims (Counts II–IV)
*2 On March 21, 2017, the district court dismissed, without prejudice, Counts II through IV (corresponding to all RICO allegations) against the remaining defendants under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). The district court found that there were “no allegations of any racketeering activity.” Appx25. Further, the district court found that Dr. Arunachalam’s factual allegations were directed to patent infringement, which could not legally serve as a predicate act for RICO claims. Recognizing that Dr. Arunachalam was a pro se litigant, however, the court offered Dr. Arunachalam an opportunity to cure the pleading deficiencies by allowing her to move for leave to file further amendments to the complaint, specifically directing her to comply with D. Del. LR 15.1.
D. Proposed Second Amended Complaint
On April 17, 2017, Dr. Arunachalam timely filed a proposed Second Amended Complaint. However, the district court denied leave to amend. It based its denial on two independent reasons, finding that Dr. Arunachalam: 1) failed to comply with D. Del. LR 15.1, which the court had explicitly directed her to follow in any proposed second amended complaint; and 2) failed to cure the pleading deficiencies in the previous amended complaint. Given the course of the proceedings, the court additionally noted that “any further attempt to amend would be futile.” Appx29. As a result, the case proceeded with only the patent infringement claim against IBM.
Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of the patent infringement claim against IBM, dismissal of all RICO claims against all defendants, denial of the motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, denials of motions to recuse, and all other district court rulings challenged by Dr. Arunachalam in this appeal.
“Appx” refers to the “Plaintiff-Appellants’ Appendix of Exhibits for Appeal Filed as Informal Opening Appeal Brief” filed on June 24, 2018.
“SAppx” refers to the “Supplemental Appendix for Defendant-Appellee International Business Machines Corporation.”
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