Posts Tagged ‘abuse of discretion’

Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson: Contempt Abuse Is Not Judicial Misconduct

July 11, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

Judge Donald L. GrahamHe’s a bad motherf^%##, Shut your mouth!
Judge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”

This entire blog or website, mcneilmason.wordpress.com, is dedicated to illustrating the extreme measures that judges at the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal have deployed to keep from disciplining U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”, for abusive behavior and misconduct. Judge Graham has a history of insolence with respect the United States Supreme Court and binding precedent. See this site, “Is U.S. Dist. Judge Donald L. Graham Willfully Defying The United States Supreme Court?“. Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson uses the perfect scam to defeat claims of judicial misconduct under the Judicial Misconduct and Disability Act, 28 U.S.C. § 351, et.seq. The perfect scam is a “negative definition” of judicial misconduct. A negative definition is a “definition which states what a thing is NOT rather than what it is.” http://academic.csuohio.edu/polen/LC9_Help/2/25negative.htm. This post will advance the argument that Judge Edmondson is not troubled by the fact that a clearly void sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction is to terrorize a man and his family by making it the subject of criminal contempt complaint and conviction.

Judicial Independence

This post is a part of the overall scheme to land a knockout blow to the American Bar Association’s koolaid of “Judicial Independence”. The ABA’s emphasis is on “Judicial Independence” and it resists “interference” from outsiders-Congress of the United States, Layman review boards. The ABA has said: “There are checks on the judiciary and channels to correct improper decisions. The appeal process affords litigants the opportunity to challenge a judicial ruling. About Us – ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence. This is the idealistic and theoretical basis for “Judicial Independence”; however, the reality or actual practice does not equal the ideals. Suppose for a moment that such a system does not work. Federal Judges will take extreme measures to avoid disciplining a colleague federal judge. See Eleventh Circuit Case No. 01-13664: The Appeal From Hell for even more dishonest jurisprudence. Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit will do anything to achieve the desired outcome. Two posts at this site, mcneilmason.wordpress.com, document how the Eleventh Circuit will do anything to achieve the desired outcome as the Eleventh took two different and inconsistent positions with respect to the jurisdiction of the lower court or Judge Graham during the appeal of this very appeal. See Eleventh Circuit: Notice of Appeal Does Not Divest District Judge of Jurisdiction of Matters Involved In the Appeal! and Putrid Dishonesty:Beyond the Scope of Appeal.

The Clearly Void Sua Sponte Issued Pre-filing Injunction

On September 20, 2001, District Court Case No. 99-14027-CV-Graham/Lynch, Judge Graham rendered a pre-filing injunction against the Plaintiff Marcellus M. Mason sua sponte or own his motion. See Docket Entry NO. 878, (D.E. #878, pg. 3). Page 3, of this document boldly asserts: THIS CAUSE came before the Court sua sponte. Additionally, this sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction is invalid because it also makes a “finding of bad faith“. At pages 5,6, this sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction asserts:

It has become clear to the Court that Mason is proceeding in bad faith. Indeed, he has admitted as much in his own pleadings and correspondence…Such activity is in bad faith and will not be permitted by the Court.

This pre-filing injunction, being expressly issued sua sponte, was rendered without notice and an opportunity to be heard. It is well established that a pre-filing injunction may not issue absent due process or notice and opportunity to respond. See Case Law On Pre-Filing Injunctions, below. In this sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction, Judge Graham recognizes that the right of access to the courts is constitutionally protected: “This screening requirement best balances the interest in constitutionally mandated access to the federal courts…” See pg. 7.

Void Order Forms the Basis of Criminal Contempt Complaint and Conviction

Judge Graham took his clearly void sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction and submitted it to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Marcos Daniel Jimenez, for prosecution. AUSA Robert Waters, with the full consent of his boss, US Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez, who signed the information, went ahead with a criminal contempt conviction and prosecution that they knew or should have known was based upon a clearly void order.

Beginning on or about September 20, 2001, and continuing to on or about November 1, 2002, in Highlands County, Dade county, and elsewhere, in the Southern District of Florida, the defendant, MARCELLUS M. MASON, Jr., did willfully and knowingly disobey and resist a lawful order of a Court of the United States, that is, the order issued by the Honorable Donald L. Graham, United States District Judge, on September 20, 2001, in the Southern District of Florida, in the case of Marcellus M . Mason v. Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, et al., Case Numbers:…by repeatedly filing pleadings, motions, memoranda, and directly contacting other litigants in the above cited cases, after specifically being enjoined from and ordered not to file any such pleadings or contact other litigants by Court Order dated September 20, 2001, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 401(3).

See Information, Case No. 02-14020, Docket No. 6. 18 U.S.C. § 401(3) states: (3) Disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command. 18 U.S.C. § 401(3) expressly calls for a “valid order”, which does not and cannot include a void order.

Judge Edmondson Disagrees With Everybody!

Judge Edmondson appears to be alone in his belief that “legal error” and contempt abuse does not constitute judicial misconduct. Judge Edmondson’s apparent view is that a judge’s “legal rulings” are sacrosanct. Judge Edmondson disagrees with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct who has stated: “Legal error and judicial misconduct are not mutually exclusive.” In Matter of Feinberg, 5 NY3d 206 (2005). In California contempt abuse is considered “Willful Misconduct”. Wenger v. Commission on Judicial Performance , 29 Cal.3d 615 (Cal. 1981). Contempt based upon an invalid underlying order is willful misconduct. University of New Mexico, Institute of Public Law, Judicial Education Center. Judge Edmondson disagrees with his colleague, U.S. Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, (quoting Jeffrey M. Shaman, DePaul University Law, Steven Lubet, Professor, Northwestern University Law, and James J. Alfini President and Dean, South Texas College of Law), has stated:

Judicial action taken without any arguable legal basis —and without giving notice and an opportunity to be heard to the party adversely affected—is far worse than simple error or abuse of discretion; it’s an abuse of judicial power that is “prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts.” See 28 U.S.C. § 351(a); Shaman, Lubet & Alfini, supra, § 2.02, at 37 (“Serious legal error is more likely to amount to misconduct than a minor mistake.

See Opinion online at: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/coa/newopinions.nsf/ F822E1DE5540855A8825708B0081F154/$file/0389037o.pdf?openelement . Judge Edmondson disagrees with the Supreme Court Of Louisiana who found a judge guilty of judicial misconduct due to contempt abuse and who also stated that judicial misconduct could be found where “legal error was egregious, made in bad faith, or made as part of a pattern or practice of legal error.” In Re: Judge Martha Sassone, No. 07-O-0651, Supreme Court Of Louisiana. The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has sanctioned judges for “Misuse of Judicial Authority” due to Improper consideration of contempt proceedings and for the  “Failure to Follow the Law”. Judge Edmondson disagrees with the Florida Supreme Court who opined:

[C]onduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary may be shown by evidence of an accumulation of small and ostensibly innocuous incidents which, when considered together, emerge as a pattern of hostile conduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary.

Inquiry Concerning A Judge, NO. 97-376, Re: Steven P. Shea, Florida Supreme Court, March 23, 2003. Judge Edmondson disagrees with his own Judicial Conference, Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability who has stated:

[A] judge’s pattern and practice of arbitrarily and deliberately disregarding prevailing legal standards and thereby causing expense and delay to litigants may be misconduct. However, the characterization of such behavior as misconduct is fraught with dangers to judicial independence. Therefore, a cognizable misconduct complaint based on allegations of a judge not following prevailing law or the directions of a court of appeals in particular cases must identify clear and convincing evidence of willfulness, that is, clear and convincing evidence of a judge’s arbitrary and intentional departure from prevailing law based on his or her disagreement with, or willful indifference to, that law.

http://www.uscourts.gov/library/judicialmisconduct/jcdopinions108.pdf

Judicial Misconduct Complaints of Contempt Abuse

Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, Circuit Judge, does not consider knowingly convicting a man of crime that does not exist or a concocted crime, to be  misconduct under the Judicial Misconduct and Disability Act. Stated alternatively, Judge Edmondson does not consider framing an innocent person to be covered under the Act. This post will not characterize Judge Edmondson’s words, this author deplores the reader to read them and make your own judgment. In Case No. 05-0011, Judge Edmondson was specifically told of Judge Graham’s insolence

See Complaint of Judicial Misconduct, Case No. 05-0011, Complaint No. 02-0059, and Order Dismissing Complaint No. 02-0059.

Mr. Marcellus M. Mason, Jr. filed this complaint against U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 372(c) and Addendum III to the Rules of the Judicial Council of the Eleventh Circuit.

In this complaint, Mr. Mason makes the unsubstantiated claim that Judge Graham is attempting to intimidate him by directing the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida to proceed with previously instituted contempt proceedings regarding his having violated Judge Graham’s order barring him from filing anything without the permission of the court.

Mr. Mason then makes numerous allegations concerning actions by Judge Graham which have previously been determined by the chief judge.

The allegations of this complaint are “directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling”and ” successive”. Therefore, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 372(c)(3)(A) and Addendum III Rule(s) 4(a)(2) and 18 (c), this complaint is DISMISSED.

See Complaint of Judicial Misconduct, Case No. 02-0059.

The U.S. Supreme Court,”SCOTUS”, On the Importance of Due Process

“Courts as well as citizens are not free ‘to ignore all the procedures of the law….’. The ‘constitutional freedom’ of which the Court speaks can be won only if judges honor the Constitution.” Walker v. City Of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307, 338 (1967)(Mr. Justice Douglas, dissenting). “Due process is perhaps the most majestic concept in our whole, constitutional system.” Joint Anti-Fascist Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 174 (1951) (Justice Frankfurter, concurring). It is ingrained in our national traditions, and is designed to maintain them. In a variety of situations, the Court has enforced this requirement by checking attempts of executives, legislatures, and lower courts to disregard the deep-rooted demands of fair play enshrined in the Constitution.” id. 161. “Fairness of procedure is “due process in the primary sense.” Brinkerhoff-Faris Co. v. Hill, 281 U. S. 673, 281 U. S. 681.

In a long line of cases, the United States Supreme Court has held that impingements of constitutional rights are, without variation, subject to the strictures of “due process” or notice and opportunity to be heard prior to their enactments. Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 313 (1950); Anti-Fascist Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123 (1951); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972); Owen v. City Of Independence, 445 U.S. 622 (1980); Carey v.Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 259 (1978); Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976).

Right of Access To Courts is Constitutionally Protected

The right of access to the Courts is clear according to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977);M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102 (1996). The Supreme court has stated the right of access to the courts also protected by the First Amendment. BE&K Construction CO. v. National Labor Relations Board et al. 536 U.S. 516 (2001)(“the right to petition extends to all departments of the Government,” and that “[t]he right of access to the courts is … but one aspect of the right of petition.“). California Motor Transp. Co. v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U. S. 508, 510 (1972)(“The right of access to the courts is indeed but one aspect of the right of petition.“). See Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004)(recognizing “the fundamental right of access to the courts”); Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974)(“The constitutional guarantee of due process of law has as a corollary the requirement that prisoners be afforded access to the courts in order to hallenge unlawful convictions and to seek redress for violations of their constitutional rights.“).

Orders Issued Inconsistent With Due Process Are Void

A judgment is void if the rendering court acted in a manner inconsistent with due process of law. Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2862. “A judgment rendered in violation of due process is void in the rendering State and is not entitled to full faith and credit elsewhere.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. V. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). “[T]he constitution, by prohibiting an act, renders it void, if done; otherwise, the prohibition were nugatory. Thus, the warrant is a nullity.” Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. 204, 217 (1821). “’No judgment of a court is due process of law, if rendered without jurisdiction in the court, or without notice to the party.” Old Wayne Mut. Life Ass’n v. McDonough, 204 U.S. 8, 15 (1907). Generally, a judgment is void under Rule 60 (b) (4) if the court that rendered it lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter, or of the parties, or if acted in a manner inconsistent with due process of law. E.g., s Burke v. Smith, 252 F.3d 1260 (11th Cir. 2001); U.S. v. Boch Oldsmobile, Inc., 909 F.2d 657, 662 (1st Cir. 1990);Beller & Keller v. Tyler, 120 F.3d 21, 23 (2nd Cir. 1997); Union Switch & Signal v. Local 610, 900 F.2d 608, 612 n.1 (3rd Cir. 1990); Eberhardt v. Integrated Design & Const., Inc. 167 F.3d 861, 867 (4th Cir. 1999); New York Life Ins. Co. v. Brown 84 F.3d 137, 143 (5th Cir. 1996)

Effect of Void Order

“A void judgment is from its inception a legal nullity.” Boch Oldsmobile, at 909 F.2d 657, 661 (1st Cir. 1990). Lops v. Lops, 140 F.3d 927, 941 n. 19(11th Cir. 1998) (“something that is null has no legal or binding force.”); Carter v. Fenner, at 136 F.3d 1000 (5th Cir. 1998)(“[a] void judgement is one which, from its inception, was a complete nullity and without legal effect.”). Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. 204, 217 (1821)(“the constitution, by prohibiting an act, renders it void, if done; otherwise, the prohibition were nugatory. Thus, the warrant is a nullity.”);

“The principle stated in this terse language lies at the foundation of all well-ordered systems of jurisprudence. Wherever one is assailed in his person or his property, there he may defend, for the liability and the right are inseparable. This is a principle of natural justice, recognized as such by the common intelligence and conscience of all nations. A sentence of a court pronounced against a party without hearing him, or giving him an opportunity to be heard, is not a judicial determination of his rights, and is not entitled to respect in any other tribunal.” Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U.S. 274;23 L.Ed. 914 (1876).

U.S. SUPREME COURT ON FINDING OF BAD FAITH

A court must, of course, exercise caution in invoking its inherent power, and it must comply with the mandates of due process, both in determining that the requisite bad faith exists and in assessing fees,..” Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 50 (1991).

Case Law On Pre-Filing Injunctions

US CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS HAVE ROUTINELY REJECTED “SUA SPONTE” PRE-FILING INJUNCTIONS.

A long line of United States appellate courts, including the Eleventh Circuit, have rejected sua sponte issuances of pre-filing injunctions because they are violations of due process. In Weaver v. Leon County Sch. Bd., 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 8128 (11th Cir. 2006), the Eleventh Circuit held that a litigant was entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard before a restriction was imposed on his ability to challenge an injunction. U.S. v. Powerstein, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 14928,*;185 Fed. Appx. 811 (11th Cir. 2006)(litigant entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard before the court imposed the injunctive order ). See Sires v. Fair, 107 F.3d 1;1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 2173 (1st Cir. 1997); Cok v. Family Court of Rhode Island , 985 F.2d 32 (C.A.1 (R.I.), 1993) (vacating a pre-fling injunction issued without notice); MLE Realty Assocs. v. Handler, 192 F.3d 259, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 23362 (2nd Cir. 1999) ; Lau v. Meddaugh, 229 F.3d 121 (2nd Cir. 2000) ; Holton v. Oral Surg. Sing Sing Corr., 24 Fed. Appx. 37; 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 25151 (2nd Cir. 2001); Moates v. Barkley, 147 F.3d 207, 208 (C.A.2 (N.Y.), 1998) (district court may not impose a filing injunction on a litigant without providing the litigant with notice and an opportunity to be heard.); Gonzales v. Feiner, 131 Fed. Appx. 373, * 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 8370, ** (3rd Cir. 2005) ; Wiliams v. Cambridge Integrated Servs. Group , 148 Fed Appx. 87, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 18624 (3rd Cir. 2005) ; Brow v. Farrelly, 994 F.2d 1027 (C.A.3 (Virgin Islands), 1992)(vacating a sua sponte issued injunction); It is imperative that the court afford the litigant notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to issuing such an injunction. In Re Head, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 8265,*;174 Fed. Appx. 167 (4th Cir. 2006)(vacated a 10 yr. old sua sponte injunction); Cromer v. Kraft Foods N. Am., Inc., 390 F.3d 812, 819 (4th Cir. 2004)(vacating a pre-filing injunction issued without notice); Tucker v. Drew, 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 11784 (4 th Cir. 1994) ;DOUGLAS BAUM v. BLUE MOON VENTURES, LLC , 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 91,*;513 F.3d 181;49 Bankr. Ct. Dec. 68 (5th Cir. 2008)(“Notice and a hearing are required if the district court sua sponte imposes a pre-filing injunction or sua sponte modifies an existing injunction to deter vexatious filings.”) ;De Long v. Hennessey, 912 F.2d 1144 (9th Cir.) ; Roscoe v. Hansen, 107 F.3d 880;1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 4996 (10th Cir. 1997); Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 20966,*;500 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2007)(litigant must be given notice and a chance to be heard before the [injunctive] order is entered.); Tripati v. Beaman, 878 F.2d 351,354 (C.A.10 (Wyo.), 1989)(vacated and holding that the litigant is entitled to notice and an opportunity to oppose the court’s order before it is instituted.); Procup v. Strickland, 567 F.Supp. 146 (M.D. Fla., 1983)(court issued a show cause order) Procup v. Strickland, 760 F.2d 1107, 1110 (C.A.11 (Fla.), 1985) (held that district court did give adequate notice and opportunity to be heard before issuance of the injunction); Cofield v. Alabama Pub. Serv. Comm., 936 F.2d 512, 514 (11th Cir.1991)(noting that court issued show cause order prior to rendering pre-fling injunction); In re Powell, 851 F.2d 427, 431 (D.C.Cir.1988)(reversing and holding If a pro se litigant is to be deprived of such a vital constitutional right as access to the courts, he should, at least, be provided with an opportunity to oppose the entry of an order restricting him before it is entered.); Martin v. Circuit Court, 627 So.2d 1298 (Fla.App. 4 Dist., 1993)(reversing a pre-filing order and holding that limiting the constitutional right of access to the courts, essential due process safeguards must first be provided); Lawsuits of Carter, In re, 510 S.E.2d 91, 95; 235 Ga.App. 551 (Ga. App., 1998)(reversing a pre-filing injunction because notice or an opportunity not given); Riccard v. Prudential Ins. Co., 307 F.3d 1277, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002) (holding that injunctions “may not be expanded beyond the meaning of its terms absent notice and an opportunity to be heard.”).

Courts have felt that the notice and opportunity to respond was so important that they have reversed district courts even where they thought the pre-filing injunction was otherwise valid. See Oliver, In re, 682 F.2d 443, 446 (C.A.3 (Pa.), 1982); Scott v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage , 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 15709,*;143 Fed. Appx. 525(4th Cir. 2005);Gagliardi v. McWilliams, 834 F.2d 81, 83 (3d Cir. 1987).

Judge Graham Disdains Law, Denies Prevailing Indigent $92.60 In Costs Yet Awards $200,000 In Attorneys’ Fees Against Same Indigent!

April 30, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

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

Point of This Post

This post will demonstrate yet another instance of where U.S. Dist. Judge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don” has demonstrated a reckless and blatant disregard for well established law and binding precedent with apparent impunity. Specifically, Judge Graham was required by law to either award costs of $94.62 to Mason , the prevailing defendant in a lawsuit, Case No. 00-14240, or state a legally sufficient reason for not awarding costs. Judge Graham defiantly chose neither and simply denied the costs without stating a reason. Even more egregious and mean-spirited, Judge Graham later awarded 200,000 in attorneys’ fees against the same indigent, Marcellus Mason, in complete disregard for the law. Teflon Don has an amazing pattern and practice of disregarding the edicts of appellate courts. See this site posts, “Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Poor People’s Right to Access The Courts” and “Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Due Process And Attorneys’ Fees“. Judge Graham, without a doubt, is in fact the “Teflon Don“. Lastly, such conduct as described here and elsewhere has been deemed not to be judicial misconduct by Chief Judge J. L. Edmondson, United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Pertinent Case Background

On Aug 7, 2000, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners and Heartland Library Cooperative filed a lawsuit against Marcellus Mason seeking injunctive relief or “equitable action to permanently enjoin the Defendant from filing or maintaining any civil action against any of the named Plaintiffs without the representation of any attorney authorized to practice before this Court.” See Report and Recommendation, “R&R”, (D.E. 27). On January 16, 2001, the Magistrate, Frank Lynch Jr., issued his R&R which recommended that the Plaintiff’s lawsuit be dismissed and stated:

While there are other pending cases between these parties, there is nothing near the extent of the litigation which this Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals usually look to for justifying injunctive relief.

See R&R, pg. 3. Judge Graham accepted this R&R in its entirety and dismissed the case on February 13, 2001. See Docket Entry No. 33. The Plaintiffs, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, in this matter took nothing from this lawsuit for it failed in its only claim for injunctive relief.

The Law On Awarding Costs

According to the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, whom Teflon Don is legally bound to follow:

“Rule 54(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “costs other than attorneys’ fees shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). This Court has held that “where the trial court denies the prevailing party its costs, the court must give a reason for its denial of costs so that the appellate court may have some basis upon which to determine if the trial court acted within its discretionary power.” Gilchrist v. Bolger, 733 F.2d 1551, 1557 (11th Cir.1984) (citation omitted) (emphasis added). Thus, although the district court has discretion to deny a prevailing party costs, such discretion is not unfettered.” Head v. Medford, 62 F.3d 351 (11th Cir. 1995). In Head (citing Gilchrist v. Bolger, 733 F.2d 1551,1557) the court expressly stated that “the district court did not determine whether defendants were prevailing parties and gave no reason for denying defendants’ bill of costs. This was an abuse of the court’s discretion.” Similarly in GILCHRIST v. BOLGER, 733 F.2d 1551(11th Cir. 1984), the Eleventh Circuit has held:

“The rule in this circuit is that where the trial court denies the prevailing party its costs, the court must give a reason for its denial of costs so that the appellate court may have some basis upon which to determine if the trial court acted within its discretionary power(internal citations omitted)” “Baez v. United States Dept. of Justice, 684 F.2d 999, 1004 (D.C.Cir.1982) (en banc) (“Every circuit that has considered the question (ten out of twelve) has not only recognized the presumption [that prevailing parties will obtain costs], but has held that a court may neither deny nor reduce a prevailing party’s request for costs without first articulating some good reason for doing so.”).

The US Supreme Court on Costs

“Under Rule 54(d), the “prevailing party” automatically is entitled to costs “unless the court otherwise directs.” Indeed, the Rule contemplates that applications for costs will be presented in the first instance not to the court but to the clerk; a district judge need not take up the issue at all unless the losing party makes a timely motion for judicial review.”  BUCHANAN v. STANSHIPS, INC., 485 U.S. 265 (1988).

Goddamn It Because I Said So

Teflon Don shows that he doesn’t give a damn about legally binding precedent. On January 23, 2001, Mason filed a Defendant’s Motion For Taxation of Costs seeking to recover the costs of defending a lawsuit in Case No. 00-14240.

On February 13, 2001, Judge Graham denied the motion while stating only the following:

THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant’s Motion for Taxation of Costs (D.E. #30). THE COURT having considered the Motion, the perinent portions of the record and being otherwise fully advised, it is ORDERED AN ADJUDGED that Defendant’s Motion for Taxation of Costs is DENIED.

There is no question that Judge Graham knew the law with respect to the award of costs because in awarding $200,000 in attorney’s fees to Highlands County Judge Graham and his Magistrate cited Chapman v. Al Transport, 229 F.3d 1012 (11th Cir. 2000). See Docket No. 882, pg. 6(“This Court believes that it is a factor which the District Court may, but need not, consider in its award. Chapman v. Al Transport, 229 F.3d 1012 (11th Cir. 2000)”). In Chapman, the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Graham’s supervisors stated:

However, the district court’s discretion not to award the full amount of costs incurred by the prevailing party is not unfettered,(internal marks and citation omitted)”since denial of costs is in the nature of a penalty for some defection on [the prevailing party’s] part in the course of the litigation.” To defeat the presumption and deny full costs, a district court must have and state a sound basis for doing so.

See Docket Entry No. 35.

Appellate Review Was Not An Option

Mason did not file an appeal of this denial for two reasons:

  • Judge Graham denied a motion to proceed on appeal without paying the appeal docketing fee, or in forma pauperis, “IFP”. See Docket No. 43.
  • An appeal would have been futile. The Eleventh Circuit had already indicated its unwillingness to reverse Judge Graham on a previous appeal even where the law clearly favored Mason. Consequently, any appeal would have been futile as the Eleventh Circuit would have followed its usual pattern and deployed an “unpublished opinion” and affirmed Judge Graham. For proof of this very serious allegation, see this site, post entitled “Eleventh Circuit Uses Same Set of Facts To Reverse One Florida Judge While Affirming Another Florida Judge“.

Judge Graham Says No To An Appeal of $94.62 Costs Denial

Judge Graham denied Mason the opportunity for appellate review by denying Mason’s in forma pauperis motion for a reason not supported by the United States Supreme Court in “Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 27 (1992);” and “Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)” which states that …1915(d) authorizes federal courts to dismiss a claim filed in forma pauperisif the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious.“ See See Docket No. 43.

Meanspirited And Vindictive

In addition to Judge Graham’s pattern and practice of disrespecting the rule of law and binding precedent, Teflon Don can be mean-spirited and vindictive as well. Judge Graham was quite adamant about not awarding Mason chicken change in court costs ($94.62) against these same heavily insured Defendants, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, but had absolutely no problem awarding these people $200,000 in legal feels against Mason in Case No. 99-14027. The Defendants did not prevail on any issue as that lawsuit was dismissed because of alleged out of communications between Mason and Highlands County. For an incredible story, see Attorneys’ Fees Webpage for more information. 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.

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).

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.

Judicial Misconduct

A feature of this blog is describing conduct that Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, Eleventh Circuit, and others, do not consider to be judicial misconduct under the Judicial Misconduct and Disability Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-364. This posting will demonstrate that federal judges can intentionally disregard well established law and binding precedent with near absolute impunity. Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, and others, asserts that such acts, even if true, do not constitute judicial misconduct. Moreover, according Judge J.L. Edmondson interpretation of the law, even if Judge Graham were involved in a pattern and practice of total disregard for clearly establish law and binding precedent such behavior would still not rise to the level of judicial misconduct. See Complaint of Judicial Misconduct No. 05-0021. For More Support, Complaint Nos. 05-0008, 05-0012, 05-0013, 05-0020, 05-0021. Switching vernacular for the moment, according to Judge Edmondson there aint no judicial misconduct.

Judge Edmondson seems to disagree with his own Judicial Conference who has clearly stated that a pattern and practice intentionally disregarding clearly establish law could be misconduct.

[A] judge’s pattern and practice of arbitrarily and deliberately disregarding prevailing legal standards and thereby causing expense and delay to litigants may be misconduct. However, the characterization of such behavior as misconduct is fraught with dangers to judicial independence. Therefore, a cognizable misconduct complaint based on allegations of a judge not following prevailing law or the directions of a court of appeals in particular cases must identify clear and convincing evidence of willfulness, that is, clear and convincing evidence of a judge’s arbitrary and intentional departure from prevailing law based on his or her disagreement with, or willful indifference to, that law.

http://www.uscourts.gov/library/judicialmisconduct/jcdopinions108.pdf :Pg. 8.