Doe v. Hesketh, 070516 FED3, 15-1381

Docket Nº:15-1381
Opinion Judge:GREENAWAY, JR., Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JANE DOE, THE VICTIM IN THE
Attorney:Sidney L. Moore, III, Esq. The Moore Law Firm Peachtree, Counsel for Appellant Stanley W. Greenfield, Esq. Greenfield & Kraut Counsel for Appellee
Judge Panel:Before: GREENAWAY, JR., SCIRICA and ROTH, CircuitJudges.
Case Date:July 05, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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JANE DOE, THE VICTIM IN THE "DISNEY WORLD GIRL" OR "INTERNET GIRL"CHILD PORNOGRAPHY SERIES formerly known as MASHA ALLEN

v.

ALAN HESKETH; RICHARD CARINO; GEORGE ELIOT KABACY; MATTHEW ALAN MANCUSO; DAN W. JOACHIM; RANIER GEROW; DOUGLAS MICHAEL STUM; RICHARD SCHEIRING; CHARLES LINDAUER; JOSEPH MARCUS; WILLIAM GEORGE GAMMON; STEPHEN JABBOUR; ALBERT NOAH ABRAMS; MAYER FINKELSTEIN, SUED IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES AND AS REPRESENTATIVES OF A CLASS OF PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED Jane Doe, Appellant

No. 15-1381

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

July 5, 2016

Argued: October 28, 2015

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (E.D. Pa. No. 2-13-cv-04935) District Judge: Honorable Stewart Dalzell

Sidney L. Moore, III, Esq. The Moore Law Firm Peachtree, Counsel for Appellant

Stanley W. Greenfield, Esq. Greenfield & Kraut Counsel for Appellee

Before: GREENAWAY, JR., SCIRICA and ROTH, CircuitJudges.

OPINION

GREENAWAY, JR., Circuit Judge.

Section 2255 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code (also known as Masha's Law) provides a civil right of action in federal district court to victims of several federal crimes, including sexual exploitation of a child and various child pornography offenses. This case requires us to decide whether a restitution award for a criminal offense bars a later-filed civil claim by a victim under § 2255 based on that same offense. Because we find that § 2255 permits such a claim, and collateral estoppel is not appropriate in this case, we will reverse the District Court's judgment dismissing the plaintiff's complaint. We will also vacate the District Court's judgment setting aside a default entered against the defendant and remand for further proceedings.

I.

BACKGROUND

A.

Factual Background

Plaintiff–Appellant Jane Doe (formerly known as Masha Allen) was adopted from Russia by Defendant– Appellee Matthew Alan Mancuso when she was five years old. Over the course of the following five years, Mancuso sexually abused Doe and documented the abuse in a series of photographs and videos. Mancuso copied these media and distributed them through chat rooms on the internet in exchange for media documenting the sexual abuse of other children. Mancuso's photographs and videos became popular among viewers of child pornography and he was subsequently arrested after a law enforcement investigation identified him as Doe's abuser. Following his arrest, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania returned a two-count indictment against Mancuso: count one charged Mancuso with sexual exploitation of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a); and count two charged Mancuso with possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B).

Mancuso entered into a plea agreement. He agreed to plead guilty to count one of the indictment (sexual exploitation) and the government agreed to dismiss count two (possession of child pornography). In the plea agreement, Mancuso made several affirmations that would affect his sentence. He "acknowledge[d] his responsibility for the conduct charged in Count Two of the Indictment" and "stipulate[d] that the conduct charged in that count may be considered by . . . the District Court in imposing sentence." J.A. 216a. He also agreed to pay "mandatory restitution" to Doe "under the Victim-Witness Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §§3663, 3663A and 3664" in the amount of $200, 000. J.A. 216a–217a.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, the sentencing court ordered Mancuso to fully fund a trust for the benefit of Doe in the amount of $200, 000 "pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2259(a) through 3663, 3663[A] and 3664."1 Sentencing Tr. at 19, United States v. Mancuso, No. 2:03-cr-00161-TFM (W.D. Pa. Feb. 5, 2004).

B.

Procedural History

Ten years after Mancuso's criminal conviction, on August 23, 2013, Doe filed the present civil suit under 18 U.S.C. § 2255 against a purported class of defendants in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Doe named fourteen purported class representative defendants in her complaint, including Mancuso, and alleged that each defendant had violated a predicate statute under § 2255.2 Doe sought damages against Mancuso for his possession and distribution of child pornography depicting her.3

On December 5, 2013, Mancuso was served with process, but over the following nine months no counsel entered an appearance on his behalf and he did not file a responsive pleading. On September 22, 2014, the District Court clerk docketed Doe's application for an entry of default against Mancuso. The next day, the clerk entered a default against Mancuso for failure to plead or otherwise defend.

Following the entry of default, Mancuso's attorney was admitted pro hac vice to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and promptly filed a motion for relief from default judgment[4] and a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Mancuso argued that Doe's civil claim against him was barred by her prior receipt of restitution in his criminal case because the sentencing judge intended to fully compensate Doe for both the convicted and dismissed charges in his indictment. The District Court agreed and, finding that Mancuso had a meritorious defense to Doe's suit, set aside the default entered against Mancuso and granted his motion to dismiss. This appeal followed.

II.

JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

The District Court had jurisdiction over Doe's civil suit under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. We have jurisdiction over this appeal from the District Court's judgment dismissing Doe's complaint against Mancuso under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Given the unusual procedural posture in this multi-party action, we take this opportunity to explain our appellate jurisdiction under § 1291.

Doe named fourteen defendants in her complaint, including Mancuso. The District Court dismissed one defendant with prejudice pursuant to a settlement, and dismissed all the remaining defendants except Mancuso for lack of personal jurisdiction without a designation that the dismissals were with or without prejudice. In order to examine our appellate jurisdiction, we assume without deciding that the dismissals for lack of personal jurisdiction were without prejudice.

Ordinarily, we do not have jurisdiction under § 1291 of an appeal in which any defendant was dismissed below by the district court without prejudice. Erie Cty. Retirees Ass'n v. Cty. of Erie, 220 F.3d 193, 201 (3d Cir. 2000). In such a case, the district court's disposition of the case is not deemed sufficiently "final" within the meaning of § 1291 because the plaintiff can re-file her claim against the dismissed defendant. However, we have observed an exception to this general rule in a situation where a claim dismissed without prejudice cannot be re-filed, such as a claim for which the statute of limitations has run. Brennan v. Kulick, 407 F.3d 603, 606 (3d Cir. 2005). We have also observed an exception in a situation where a plaintiff renounces any intention to reinstate litigation on a claim dismissed without prejudice. Tiernan v. Devoe, 923 F.2d 1024, 1031 (3d Cir. 1991). In these cases, the district court's disposition of the case is final because we are satisfied that the dismissed claims will not be re-filed.

These exceptions fit well within the policies of § 1291, which we have observed to be "minimizing the possibility of piecemeal appeals, according due deference to trial court judges, and promoting the conservation of judicial resources." Aluminum Co. of Am. v. Beazer E., Inc., 124 F.3d 551, 561 (3d Cir. 1997). If a dismissed claim will not be re-filed, there will be no further proceedings in front of the district court judge with respect to that claim and thus there is no possibility of a future piecemeal appeal and the attendant waste of appellate judicial resources.

In this case, the District Court concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction with respect to the dismissed defendants and Doe indicated in supplemental briefing her belief that the District Court's dismissal operates to bar her from reasserting the dismissed claims in the District Court. Accordingly, Doe has renounced any intention to amend her complaint in the District Court with respect to her allegations of jurisdiction in Pennsylvania against the dismissed defendants. See Allegheny Gen. Hosp. v. Philip Morris, Inc., 228 F.3d 429, 434 (3d Cir. 2000) (finding that a stipulation by parties filed after a notice of appeal rendered an earlier district court order "final and appealable"). Doe also indicated at oral argument an intention to re-file against the dismissed defendants in other courts in their home states in new actions. Although Doe did not renounce any intention to re-file against the...

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