Posts Tagged ‘Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’

Do Staff Attorneys Decide Appeals At The Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals?

June 12, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

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

Questions For Consideration

If a mere pro se litigant filed an appeal which excoriated a supposed excellent jurist like U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”, and accused him of judicial misconduct that could be proven, what do you think the staff attorneys at the Eleventh Circuit would do? The answer is the allegations will be simply be ignored by deploying an unpublished opinion that omits material facts. The author would prefer the reader to read the rest of this post to see how this is possible, but for those who can’t wait, please see:

Are Staff Attorneys at the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals Deciding Cases and Appeals?

It is widely rumored, especially among mere pro se litigants, that staff attorneys, not United States Senate confirmed United States Circuit Court Of Appeals Judges, decide appeals in many cases. While this post will take a look at a couple of cases that the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal handled, there is no reason to believe that similar practices are not being deployed elsewhere. The overwhelming majority of opinions coming out of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are unpublished opinions which until recently could not be cited as binding authority. The evidence presented here will prove beyond a resonable doubt that staff attorneys, using unpublished opinions, do in fact decide cases, especially mere pro se cases or appeals.

According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts:

“The number of federal appeals court judgeships has not changed since 1990. In that same period, those courts’ caseloads increased by 41 percent. Of great aid to judges in the 12 regional appellate courts over those years have been the 12 court staff attorney offices…Judge Joel Dubina of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said, “We could not handle our caseload without the assistance of staff attorneys. The staff attorney office is an integral part of our court…”Core responsibilities vary among staff attorney offices, but in each appeals court they include review of all appeals filed by prison inmates without a lawyer’s help. Screening such “pro se” prisoner cases was the initial focus of staff attorney offices when they were formally authorized and established by Congress in 1982… Over time, the scope of the office’s substantive legal work expanded, involving staff attorneys in a larger percentage of the 60,000 federal appeals filed each year…Duties handled by staff attorney offices today range from screening all appeals, to drafting proposed opinions on preliminary matters, to preparing proposed orders, to reviewing pro se appeals for issues warranting oral arguments. Chief Judge William Wilkins said the productivity and reliability of the Fourth Circuit court’s staff attorney office allows judges and their law clerks to “minimize the time spent on the large number of pro se and counseled cases that do not present factual or legal issues that require oral argument for appropriate resolution.” “This enables us to allocate additional time to those more complex cases that are set for oral argument,” he said…In the Eleventh Circuit, staff attorneys, among other things, screen every appeal for possible jurisdictional defects. “We save the judges a lot of time by carefully going through volumes of handwritten and often imprecise legal arguments, and putting these in a form, along with citations to the record, briefs and applicable case law, that saves the judges time,” said Naomi Godfrey, the court’s senior staff attorney.”

See Staff Attorney Offices Help Manage Rising Caseloads.

A United States Circuit Judge on the Potential Dangers of Unpublished Opinions

It was U.S. Circuit Judge Richard S. Arnold, 8th Cir. U.S. Court of Appeal who said:

“If, for example, a precedent is cited, and the other side then offers a distinction, and the judges on the panel cannot think of a good answer to the distinction, but nevertheless, for some extraneous reason, wish to reject it, they can easily do so through the device of an abbreviated, unpublished opinion, and no one will ever be the wiser. (I don’t say that judges are actually doing this–only that the temptation exists.) Or if, after hearing argument, a judge in conference thinks that a certain decision should be reached, but also believes that the decision is hard to justify under the law, he or she can achieve the result, assuming agreement by the other members of the panel, by deciding the case in an unpublished opinion and sweeping the difficulties under the rug. Again, I’m not saying that this has ever occurred in any particular case, but a system that encourages this sort of behavior, or is at least open to it, has to be subject to question in any world in which judgesare human beings.”

1 J. App. Prac. & Process 219 (1999). UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS: A COMMENT, Richard S. Arnold, Copyright © 1999 University of Arkansas – Little Rock School of Law ; Richard S. Arnold.Judge Arnold, now deceased, cannot be resting comfortably. In Anastasoff. v. United States, 223 F.3d 898 (8th Cir. 2000), Judge Arnold and his panel declared unpublished opinions to be unconstitutional. This opinion was subsequently vacated on other grounds, 235 F.3d 1054 (8th Cir. 2000) by an en banc court.

Cases Decided by Staff Attorneys

This post will refer the reader to three appeals that were decided by staff attorneys at the Eleventh Circuit, United States Court of Appeals: Case No. 01-13664, 01-15754, and 02-13418. Each of these appeals excoriates U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham, however, you won’t see a word of the accusations leveled at Judge Graham in the opinions. U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham was accused of the following documented acts in the above appeals:

  • Lying and Intentionally misrepresenting the law.
  • Refusing to rule on a motion for a preliminary injunction during the entire pendency of the lawsuit from November 1999 to June 20, 2001 or about 19 months.
  • Judge Graham falsely completed a Civil Justice Reform Act Report, “CJRA” to conceal the fact that he had a motion for a preliminary injunction pending for more than 17 months.
  • Usurping authority by allowing a Magistrate, Frank Lynch Jr., to issue preliminary injunctions two times.
  • Usurping authority by allowing a Magistrate to dictate to a non-lawyer that he must seek the permission of private attorneys in order to speak with a local government.
  • Usurping authority by allowing a Magistrate to set restrictions on how Florida Public Records are to be accessed.
  • Allowing scores of motions to go undecided for months.
  • Intentionally misstating material facts in order to render a pre-filing injunction.
  • Disrespecting several well-established Supreme Court decisions proscribing certain acts of Judges.
  • Judge Graham has repeatedly and improperly denied access to the courts by arbitrarily denying in forma pauperis, “IFP”, petitions 18 separate times.
  • Judge Graham has been involved in possible criminal behavior by issuing a void sua sponte pre-filing injunction which ultimately formed the basis of a criminal contempt complaint and conviction.
  • Judge Graham used the criminal contempt process to force the withdrawal of a lawsuit.
  • Judge Graham awarded a massive $200,000 in attorney’s fees to Highlands County against an indigent plaintiff, Marcellus Mason, not on the quality of the underlying lawsuit, but based upon Judge Graham’s speculation about Mason’s motive.
  • Judge Graham attempted to circumvent the appellate process by using intimidation.

For support of these allegations and others, see Core Allegations.

The three appeals mentioned above are fully set forth and explored in detail in the following posts: