U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas Reversed While Colleague Judge Donald L. Graham Affirmed by Killing The Appeal

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

Judge Donald L. GrahamJudge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”

It is hard not to conclude that Judge Donald L. Graham is more valued than his colleagues at the Southern District of Florida when Judge Graham “teflon don” is affirmed on appeal while his colleagues at the S.D. Fla. are reversed. This is the third of three posting on this site where this has happened. Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley met a similar fate. See posting this site, “Eleventh Circuit Uses Same Set of Facts To Reverse One Florida Judge While Affirming Another Florida Judge“, ““Teflon Don” Avoids Reversal While Colleague Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages Suffers Reversal“, and “Judge Graham Disagrees With The Fifth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals”. In each case the Eleventh Circuit chose to deploy an unpublished opinion to affirm and protect Judge Graham while his colleagues suffered reversals in published opinions. It is difficult to see how such a system advances the notion of equal justice. It would seem that justice is a function not of the “rule of law”, but of whether or not the judge is favored by the appellate courts.

U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas was reversed on appeal by the Eleventh Circuit for Imposition of Sanctions beyond the litigant’s ability to pay. During the same time period, Judge Dimitrouleas’ colleague, U.S. Dist. Judge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”, awarded $200,000 in attorneys’ fees against an indigent who was proceeding in forma pauperis but was nevertheless affirmed on appeal by the Eleventh Circuit. Judge Graham was affirmed by what can only be described as a very pernicious act in that the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Judge Graham by denying the indigent litigant the right to an appeal the mammoth award of $200,000 in forma pauperis. Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit had to take the following extreme measures to keep from reversing “Teflon Don” in the underlying merits appeal, Case No. 01-13664:

  • The Eleventh Circuit, though admittedly briefed, failed to review for validity the very orders that were used by Judge Graham to justify dismissal of the case under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). See Documents Nos. 201 and 246. The Eleventh Circuit was quite willing to discuss violations of these orders, but not their validity. See Post, “Eleventh Circuit Repeatedly Refuses To Review Orders For Validity
  • The Eleventh Circuit, though admittedly briefed, failed to review the issue as to whether or not Judge Graham should have disqualified or not. See post,”Are Allegations of Misconduct Reviewable on Appeal?
  • The Eleventh Circuit struck Mason the Appellant/Plaintiff’s brief for arguing an order that it deemed beyond the scope of appeal and then turned around used the very same order to affirm Judge Graham. “Putrid Dishonesty:Beyond the Scope of Appeal”

    The On Law Imposing Sanctions Beyond Litigant’s Ability to Pay

    Attorneys fees awards may not bankrupt a party. “A court should refrain from imposing a monetary award so great that it will bankrupt the offending parties or force them from the future practice of law.Baker v. Alderman, 158 F.3d 516 (C.A.11 (Fla.), 1998).

    Sanction orders must not involve amounts that are so large that they seem to fly in the face of common sense, given the financial circumstances of the party being sanctioned. What cannot be done must not be ordered to be done. And, sanctions must never be hollow gestures; their bite must be real. For the bite to be real, it has to be a sum that the person might actually pay. A sanction which a party clearly cannot pay does not vindicate the court’s authority because it neither punishes nor deters. MARTIN v. AUTOMOBILI LAMBORGHINI EXCLUSIVE, INC., 307 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2002).

    Judge Dimitrouleas

    In Martin v. AUTOMOBILI LAMBORGHINI EXCLUSIVE, INC., Judge Dimitrouleas had his decision to award sanctions against litigants vacated because it was beyond the litigants ability to pay. The court advised that “when exercising its discretion to sanction under its inherent power, a court must take into consideration the financial circumstances of the party being sanctioned.

    Judge Graham Affirmed For An Even More Egregious Violation

    This post will only address the narrow legal point that attorney’s fees can not be awarded if they bankrupt the Plaintiff or the Plaintiff has no ability to pay. The underlying merits of the lawsuit is fully discussed at the Attorneys’ Fees Webpage. The only legal point being raised here is that the district court can not make such a grotesque award even if a Plaintiff’s lawsuit was totally frivolous, which this clearly was not the case, given the financial insolvency of Mason. Judge Graham knew that Mason was proceeding as an indigent having been awarded in forma pauperis status, “IFP” to initiate the lawsuit. See Docket Entry No. 3. Moreover, it was Judge Graham and his Magistrate, Frank Lynch Jr., who said: “it does not appear as though the Plaintiff has any financial ability to pay any attorney’s fees which may be assessed against him in this case.Docket Entry No. 882, pgs. 6-7.
    Even more egregious, this award based upon a “bad faith finding” in a sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction. It is well settled that a “bad find” finding and pre-fling injunctin both require due process or notice and opportunity to respond prior to its according to both the United States Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal. However, Judge Graham has defied both of these courts as it refused to give Mason any notice, see this site’s post “Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Due Process And Attorneys’ Fees” and “Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Poor People’s Right to Access The Courts“.

    Eleventh Circuit Sticks In The Knife

    Making this massive award even more pernicious, Judge Charles R. Wilson, Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal ruled that it was “frivolous”, without stating why, to appeal this massive award. See this site, post entitled “Judge Wilson Rules Appeal Of Award $200,000 Fees Frivolous“. On October 17, 2002, while denying a motion for clarification, the Eleventh Circuit, for the second time, asserted that it was frivolous to file an appeal of a $200,000 award in attorney’s fees. See Order dtd Oct. 17, 2002. The bottom line is that Mason never got a chance to fight of this judgment.

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4 Responses to “U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas Reversed While Colleague Judge Donald L. Graham Affirmed by Killing The Appeal”

  1. Same Facts,Judge Wilbur D. Owens Reversed, Judge Donald L. Graham Affirmed « Unpublished Junk Law of the Eleventh Circuit, US Court of Appeals Says:

    […] U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas Reversed While Colleague Judge Donald L. Graham Affirmed b… […]

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