Posts Tagged ‘attorney’s fees’

Judge Graham Thumbs Nose At US Supreme Court And Rejects the First Amendment’s Petition Clause

May 17, 2008

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

Preface

A district judge may not respectfully (or disrespectfully) disagree with his learned colleagues on his own court of appeals who have ruled on a controlling legal issue, or with Supreme Court Justices writing for a majority of the Court. Binding authority within this regime cannot be considered and cast aside; it is not merely evidence of what the law is. Rather, case law on point is the law. If a court must decide an issue governed by a prior opinion that constitutes binding authority, the later court is bound to reach the same result, even if it considers the rule unwise or incorrect. Binding authority must be followed unless and until overruled by a body competent to do so…A decision of the Supreme Court will control that corner of the law unless and until the Supreme Court itself overrules or modifies it. Judges of the inferior courts may voice their criticisms, but follow it they must.Hart v. Massanari, 266 F.3d 1155, 1170 (9th Cir. 2001).

Purpose of This Post

The goal of this post is to seek help getting the injunctions in this post subject to appellate review. As demonstrated below, Mason has been unable to obtain appellate review of these orders. Where are the Defenders of the First Amendment?

“Preliminary Injunctions” Implicating Free Speech

“The right of petition is one of the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights,… Certainly the right to petition extends to all departments of the Government.” California Motor Transp. Co. v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U. S. 508 (1972).

On June 19, 2000 and July 25, 2000, U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham’s Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr., issued the following preliminary injunctions which in part stated:
Plaintiff shall be prohibited from contacting any of the Defendants, including their supervisory employees and/or the individual Defendants, regarding any matter related to this case.” (DE #201). This order is dated June 19, 2000,

Plaintiff shall correspond only with Defendants’ counsel including any requests for public records.” (DE #246). “Plaintiff shall be prohibited from contacting any of the Defendants, including their supervisory employees and/or the individual Defendants, regarding any matter related to this case.” (DE #246). This order is dated July 25, 2000. The Defendant referenced in these orders is a government defendant, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners. See heading Background, below. Amazingly enough, Judge Graham has stated that these orders are not “clearly erroneous nor is it contrary to law“. See Document No. 407. Judge Graham also disagrees with the Congress who has stated: “Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary— a judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court, except a motion for injunctive relief…,” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)

Goddamn It, I Have the Power

Mason made numerous attempts at getting Teflon Don to state the legal basis for these massive exercises of power in rendering the above orders. However, Judge Graham has refused to share with the legal community and Mason the legal authority for these orders. Judge Graham and his Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr. ‘s replies have included, but are not limited to the following:

Docket No. 279 Docket No. 281
Docket No. 407

Docket No. 524

Docket No. 528
Docket No. 634
Docket No. 744 Docket No. 745 Docket No.874 Pg. 2
Docket No. 882
Docket No. 890

Docket No. 928

Docket No. 931

In fact, as documented below, the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal has avoided appellate review of these orders like they were a highly contagious plague.

Judge Graham’s Hubris

Judge Graham is of the apparent belief that he is not bound by the orders of the United States Supreme Court, “SCOTUS”. Judge Graham has a history of defying the Supreme Court’s holdings anytime he disagrees with them. See Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Thumbs His Nose And Attorneys’ Fees and Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Poor People’s Right to Access The Courts. Judge Graham disagrees with his colleagues at the DC Circuit who have stated: “The limits placed by the First Amendment on the Government extend to its judicial as well as legislative branch.” Equal Emp. Opp. Comm. v. The Catholic Univ., 83 F.3d 455 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Other courts, including the old Fifth Circuit Circuit whom Judge Graham is legally bound to follow, have found orders such as the orders as described here to be unconstitutional. see Lewis v. S. S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir. 1976)(reversing an order which prohibited appellant from “discussing, directly or indirectly, settlement . . . with the plaintiffs” and from “contacting, communicating, or in any way interfering with the attorney-client relationship” as “too sweeping a restraint”); Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 466 (5th Cir. 1980) (en banc), aff’d, 452 U.S. 89, 101 S.Ct. 2193, 68 L.Ed.2d 693 (1981),( explicitly held that requiring the litigant to meet the Court’s “post-communication filing requirements” of constitutionally protected communication was unconstitutional.). Additionally, in Test Masters Educational Services, Inc. v. Singh, 428 F.3d 559, 579 (Fed. 5th Cir., 2005) the court held that an order which enjoined a litigant “from communicating directly with, threatening, or harassing Test Masters Educational Services, Inc., its employees, its staff, or TES’s counsel, counsel’s employees, or counsel’s staff” constituted an invalid prior restraint and a unconstitutional limitation on free speech.

LACK OF APPELLATE REVIEW

The speech and orders described in this post have not been subjected to appellate review. It is, among other things, for this reason that Judge Graham can be accurately described as “Teflon Don”. In what can only be described as judicial treachery and dishonesty, the Eleventh Circuit, on a direct appeal spent an amazing 14 pages talking about the violations of the orders in this post, but none about their validity. This appeal has been described as the appeal from hell, see post entitled “Eleventh Circuit Case No. 01-13664: The Appeal From Hell“. The Eleventh Circuit appears to be hell bent on not reviewing these orders for validity as it has absolutely refused to conduct appellate review of these orders on multiple occasions while asserting a different reason each time for its refusal to review these orders. See post “Eleventh Circuit Repeatedly Refuses To Review Orders For Validity“. Can Judge Graham be called anything other than “Teflon Don”?

U.S. Supreme Court on the Petition Clause

The First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The right to petition is cut from the same cloth as the other guarantees of that Amendment, and is an assurance of a particular freedom of expression. In United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876), the Court declared that this right is implicit in “[t]he very idea of government, republican in form.” Id., at 552. And James Madison made clear in the congressional debate on the proposed amendment that people “may communicate their will” through direct petitions to the legislature and government officials.McDonald v. Smith, 472 U.S. 479, 482 (1985). The Supreme Court has consistently stated that any system of prior restraints of expression bears a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity. Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 70 (1963);Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, (1931);New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971). This burden is so heavy that in over two centuries, the Supreme Court has never sustained a prior restraint involving pure speech, such as the one at issue here. See Matter of Providence Journal Co., 820 F.2d 1342, 1348 (1st Cir. 1986). “[P]ure speech–speech not connected with any conduct”. id. The presumption of unconstitutionally of prior restraints has been described as “virtually insurmountable” by Supreme Court judges and others. id.(citing Near, 283 U.S. at 713). “Prior restraint has traditionally been defined as a “predetermined judicial prohibition restraining specified expression . . . .The essence of prior restraint is that it places specific communications under the personal censorship of the judge.Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 470 (5th Cir. 1980) (en banc) aff’d, 452 U.S. 89, 101 S.Ct. 2193, 68 L.Ed.2d 693 (1981).

Banned Communications

The right of the people to inform their representatives in government of their desires with respect to the passage or enforcement of laws cannot properly be made to depend upon their intent in doing so. It is neither unusual nor illegal for people to seek action on laws in the hope that they may bring about an advantage to themselves and a disadvantage to their competitors.Eastern R. Conference v. Noerr Motors, 365 U. S. 127 (1961). Judge Graham has banned the following lawful and protected communications with the Highlands County Government.

During the week of February 5, 2001, Plaintiff knowingly violated this Court’s Orders of June 19, 200 and July 25, 2000. Plaintiff appeared at the office of Fred Carino, Human Resource Director of Highlands County and a supervisory employee of a named defendant in this action, and demanded to view his personnel file. This request was made directly to Mr. Carino’s office and not through Defendant Highlands County ’s counsel.

(D.E. 511, ¶6, PG.3)

On February 13, 2001, Plaintiff appeared at Fred Carino’s office and demanded to view attorney billing records from Defendant Highlands County ’s counsel relevant to its defense of his litigation.

D.E. 511, ¶7, PG.3)

On February 14, 2001, Plaintiff returned to Fred Carino’s office and demanded to view attorney billing records from Defendant Highlands County ’s counsel relevant to its defense of his litigation. This request was made directly to Mr. Canno’s office and not through Defendant Highlands County ’s counsel.

D.E. 511, ¶8, PG.4)

After reviewing the, records, Mr. Mason penned a note to Mr. Carino stating that he wanted unredacted portions of billing records and if he did not get them he will file a lawsuit by February 16, 2001

D.E. 511, ¶9, PG.4)

Mr. Mason returned to Mr. Carino’s office a second time on February 14, 2001 and knowingly violated this Court’s Orders of June 19, 200 and July 25, 2000. He demanded to view Defendant Highlands County ’s Insurance Document of Coverage, a document that had previously been produced to him. This request was made directly to Mr. Carino’s office and not through Defendant Highlands County ’s counsel. Notwithstanding, the document was produced to him.

D.E. 511, ¶10, PG.4)

During this visit, Plaintiff became loud, aggressive, disruptive, and questioned the need for Mr. Carino’s presence during his review of the document.

D.E. 511, ¶11, PG.4)

Plaintiffs conduct in violation of this Court’s Orders of June 19, 2000 and July 25, 2000 require a dismissal with prejudice of all of plaintiff’s claims in the above-referenced matter.

D.E. 511, ¶15, PG.5)

Since April 3, 2001 – subsequent to the Court’s March 27th Order – Plaintiff has repeatedly personally contacted supervisory employees and/or the individual Defendants about matters related to this case. Specifically, Plaintiff sent e-mail communications directly to supervisory employees of the Defendants, which discussed the “no trespass warnings” that were issued against Plaintiff, Plaintiffs tortious interference claim, as well as Allen, Norton & Blue’s “track record” of litigating appeals (including Eleventh Circuit appeals). (Exhibit 1).

(D.E. 646, ¶10, PG.3)

Clearly, Plaintiffs “no trespass” and tortious interference claims were an integral part of Plaintiffs present litigation, and involve the same set of facts that Plaintiff continues to rely on in pursuing his present claims. Indeed, Plaintiff’s Fourth Amended Complaint alleged several causes of action based on the issuance of the “no trespass” warnings against Plaintiff. Although Plaintiff’s “no trespass” claims were ultimately dismissed by the Court (D.E.’s #435; 466), Plaintiff has recently indicated his intent to appeal the Court’s dismissal of all claims in his Fourth Amended Complaint. (Exhibit 2). Consequently, the issuance of the “no trespass” warnings against Plaintiff are still part of this present litigation.

(D.E. 646, ¶11, PG.4)

In addition, Plaintiff’s communications regarding Defendants’ counsel’s Eleventh Circuit “track record” clearly have no relevance to his state court claim(s), and pertain only to his federal litigation.

(D.E. 646, ¶12, PG.4)

All of Plaintiff’s claims arise from the same set of facts and are all related, and he should simply not be allowed to continuously disregard Orders of this Court and blatantly challenge the Court’s authority.

(D.E. 646, ¶13, PG.4)

Plaintiff has demonstrated a blatant disregard and disdain for this Court’s authority, as evidenced by Plaintiff’s statement that “ANYBODY, who supports your position. . . is a racist and is part of the problem. I fear no man!!! This includes white men wearing robes” and “I aint afraid of a white men wearing robes of any color.” (Exhibit 1, e-mails dated 4/03/01 at 10:57 a.m. and 4/06/01 at 8:33 a.m. respectively)

(D.E. 646, ¶14, PG.4)

BACKGROUND

Marcellus M. Mason, Jr. of Sebring, Fl. filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners and Heartland Library Cooperative and other governmental entities and individual government employees in February 1999 bearing Case No. 99-14027-CIV-Graham. The case was originally assigned to then Chief Judge Edward Davis who retired. On February 20, 1999, Judge Davis allowed Mason to proceed in forma pauperis, “IFP”, or to proceed without paying the required filing fee for a lawsuit. Docket Entry No. 3. This case was ultimately assigned to Judge Donald L. Graham and Magistrate Frank Lynch Jr., Case No. 99-14027-CV-Graham/Lynch. After protracted litigation, the case was dismissed, not on the merits of the case, but based upon banned and irrelevant out of court constitutionally protected and legal communications between Highlands County and Mason. “R&R” (D.E. 766), Order adopting R&R (D.E 791). See Banned Communications.
In June and July 2000, Maria Sorolis and Brian Koji, Allen, Norton & Blue asked the Magistrate to grant them preliminary injunctions that required Mason to contact them before he could talk to the government defendants. These orders required Mason, a nonlawyer, living in Sebring, FL to contact private attorneys some 90 miles away in Tampa, FL. These orders were granted on June 19, 2000 and July 25, 2000 in part stated:

Plaintiff shall be prohibited from contacting any of the Defendants, including their supervisory employees and/or the individual Defendants, regarding any matter related to this case.” (DE #201). This order is dated June 19, 2000,

Plaintiff shall correspond only with Defendants’ counsel including any requests for public records.” (DE #246). “Plaintiff shall be prohibited from contacting any of the Defendants, including their supervisory employees and/or the individual Defendants, regarding any matter related to this case.” (DE #246). This order is dated July 25, 2000.

Judge Graham has expressly stated that the issuance of the injunctions by Magistrate Judge Frank Lynch, Jr. was not “clearly erroneous nor is it contrary to law. See Docket Entry No. 407. However, Congress and the law disagree as the law expressly states that: “Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary— a judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court, except a motion for injunctive relief…,” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).

On March 2, 2001, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners attorneys, Allen, Norton & Blue, filed a “DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SANCTIONS IN THE FORM OF DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFF’S ACTION AND SUPPORTING MEMORANDUM OF LAW“. See Docket Entry No. 511. This motion sought dismissal of the lawsuit due to alleged out of court communications with the Highlands County Government in violation the injunctions mentioned above, (DE #201) and (DE #246). On April 9, 2001, the Defendants’ filed a second motion for sanctions in the form of dismissal of Plaintiff’s lawsuit for more alleged out of court communications between Mason and the Highlands County Government. See Docket Entry No. 646. On May 31, 2001, the Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr., prepared a Report and Recommendation, “R&R”, recommending that the lawsuit be dismissed because of these out of court communications between Mason and his local government, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners. Judge Graham accepted this R&R in whole with no changes or comments.

The Case was closed on June 20, 2001. Docket Entry No. 791. A Notice of Appeal was filed on June 25, 2001. (Docket Entry 795). District Case No. 99-14027-CV-Graham was assigned Eleventh Circuit Case No. 01-13664. Consequently, the court never reached the merits of the lawsuit as there were motions for summary judgments pending when the case was closed. See Docket Sheet, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 769);(Doc. 770), and the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as well, (Doc. 507); (Doc. 667); (Doc. 668); (Doc. 706); (Doc. 797).

On September 20, 2001, Judge Graham affirmed his authority to prohibit out of communication between Mason his government, Highlands County. (“including continual attempts to directly communicate with the Defendants rather their attorneys, the Court enjoined Mason from any further contact with the Defendants or Defendants” employees. Mason, however, ignored the Court’s order and continued to contact the Defendants.”). See pg. 4, (D.E. # 878) .

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

May 1, 2008

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.

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.

Florida Judge Thumbs His Nose at U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Due Process And Attorneys’ Fees

April 15, 2008

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

Preface

A district judge may not respectfully (or disrespectfully) disagree with his learned colleagues on his own court of appeals who have ruled on a controlling legal issue, or with Supreme Court Justices writing for a majority of the Court. Binding authority within this regime cannot be considered and cast aside; it is not merely evidence of what the law is. Rather, case law on point is the law. If a court must decide an issue governed by a prior opinion that constitutes binding authority, the later court is bound to reach the same result, even if it considers the rule unwise or incorrect. Binding authority must be followed unless and until overruled by a body competent to do so…A decision of the Supreme Court will control that corner of the law unless and until the Supreme Court itself overrules or modifies it. Judges of the inferior courts may voice their criticisms, but follow it they must.Hart v. Massanari, 266 F.3d 1155, 1170 (9th Cir. 2001).

Supreme Court’s Emphasis on Due Process

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).

Question

If Judge Graham has nothing to hide, why doesn’t he allow Mason Due Process as required by the U.S. Supreme Court?

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).

SHORT CASE SUMMARY

Marcellus M. Mason, Jr. of Sebring, Fl. filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners and Heartland Library Cooperative and other governmental entities and individual government employees in February 1999. The case was originally assigned to then Chief Judge Edward Davis who retired. On February 20, 1999, Judge Davis allowed Mason to proceed in forma pauperis, “IFP”, or to proceed without paying the required filing fee for a lawsuit. Docket Entry No. 3. This case was ultimately assigned to Judge Donald L. Graham and Magistrate Frank Lynch Jr., Case No. 99-14027-CV-Graham/Lynch. After protracted litigation, the case was dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b), not on the merits of the case, but based upon banned and irrelevant out of court constitutionally protected and legal communications between Highlands County and Mason. See Report and Recommendation, “R&R” (D.E.766), Order adopting R&R (D.E791). See Banned Communications. Judge Graham declined to reach the merits of the case as there were summary judgment motions pending on the day the case was closed. See Docket Sheet, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 769);(Doc. 770), and the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as well, (Doc. 507); (Doc. 667); (Doc. 668); (Doc. 706); (Doc. 797). More Background. When the case was dismissed on June 20, 2001 Judge Graham and his Magistrate Frank Lynch, Jr. expressly stated that the lawsuit was not frivolous. “However, there remain, as this Court recommended, various viable claims for trial.” See Report and Recommendation, (D.E #766, pg. 5), and Order Adopting R&R, (D.E. 791).

The United States Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has unequivocally stated: 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.”(emphasis added) Chambers v. Nasco, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 50 (1991). “The court must afford the sanctioned party due process, both in determining that the requisite bad faith exists and in assessing fees. Id. Due process requires that the attorney (or party) be given fair notice that his conduct may warrant sanctions and the reasons why… “ In Re Mroz, 65 F.3d 1567 (11th Cir. 1995); Thomas v. Tenneco Packaging Co., 293 F.3d 1306 (11th Cir. 2002); Byrne v.Nezhat, 261 F.3d 1075 (11th Cir. 2001)(“A court should be cautious in exerting its inherent power and ‘must comply with the mandates of due process”); First Bank Of Marietta v. Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 21117,*25;2002 FED App. 0356P (6th Cir. 2002); In Re Atlantic Pipe Corp., 304 F.3d 136, 143 (1st Cir. 2002)(“[A] district court’s inherent powers are not infinite… the use of inherent powers must comport with procedural fairness.”) Lockary v. Kayfetz, 974 F.2d 1166,1170 (C.A.9 (Cal.), 1992); In re: Rimsat, 212 F.3d 1039 (7th Cir., 2000);In re Kujawa, 256 B.R. 598, 611-12 (Bankr.8 th Cir., 2000).

The Supreme Court on Attorney’s Fees

[A] plaintiff should not be assessed his opponent’s attorney’s fees unless a court finds that his claim was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.Christiansburg Garment Company v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 434 U.S. 412, 422 (1978). As stated above, Judge declined to reach the merits of the lawsuit, but instead dismissed the case because Mason continually attempted to “to directly communicate with the Defendants rather their attorneys, the Court enjoined Mason from any further contact with the Defendants or Defendants” employees. Mason, however, ignored the Court’s order and continued to contact the Defendants…On June 20, 2001, in view of Mason’s repeated refusal to comply with the Court’s rules and orders, the Court dismissed case number 99-14027..” See pgs. 4,5Docket No. 878, Sua Sponte Injunction. Additionally, there were summary judgments pending on the day the case was dismissed.

Judge Graham Defies The U.S. Supreme Court

On September 20, 2001, Judge Graham rendered a pre-filing injunction or vexatious litigant injunction sua sponte or without notice and opportunity to be heard. See Docket Entry Number 878, (D.E. # 878) Page 3, of this document boldly asserts: “THIS CAUSE came before the Court sua sponte.” Judge Graham then asserts his authority “Federal courts have “both inherent power and constitutional obligation to protect their jurisdiction from conduct which impairs their ability to carry out Article III functions.”” Even Judge Graham recognizes that there is constitutional right of access to the courts. See Pg. 7 (“This screening requirement best balances the interest in constitutionally mandated access to the federal courts..”). In this same sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction Judge Graham makes a so-called “finding of bad faith“.

Bad “Faith Finding”

It has become clear to the Court that Mason is proceeding in bad faith.. Such activity is in bad faith and will not be permitted by the Court.D.E. #878, pg. 5, 6, (“Bad Faith” section). See Bad Faith Case Law.

Additionally, as further proof that Teflon Don is willfully flaunting the law is the fact that Judge Graham was presented with a motion specifically requesting a due process hearing with respect to the sua sponte issued prefiling injunction of September 20, 2001 on 23, 2002. See Document 914, pgs. 19-24. At page 1, this motion asserts: “The injunction violated Mason’s well-established due process rights. It is inexcusable that a federal judge would knowingly issue this type of injunction in violation of Mason’s due process rights.” On January 31, 2003, Judge Graham denied the motion and refused to comply with Mason’s due process requests even though Judge Graham was in possession of a motion citing the same cases that are cited on this post.

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, Plaintiff’s Motion to Disqualify, Plaintiff’s Demand to Rescind Inunction and Plaintiff’s Motion for Publication (D.E. #914) is DENIED.

Document No. 928. It can not be argued that Judge is not intentionally disrespecting the law.

Award of Attorney’s Fees Based On “Bad Faith Finding” And Sua Sponte Issued Pre-Filing Injunction

Judge Graham’s order, sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction, of September 20, 2001, also makes a specific finding of bad faith. Judge Graham stated, “It has become clear to the Court that Mason is proceeding in bad faith.” See Report And Recommendation, Docket Entry No. 882, and Order Adopting Report and Recommendation, Docket Entry No. 891 . As stated previously by the District Court and by this Court herein, Judge Graham has already made a finding of bad faith. This takes the case beyond the analysis of frivolity. See pg. 4.

Christiansburg Garment Company v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 434 U.S. 412 (1978). Here, it is clear that based upon Judge Graham’s previous findings of bad faith, that the Christiansburg standard is applicable. See pg. 3.  When the case was dismissed on June 20, 2001 Judge Graham and his Magistrate Frank Lynch, Jr. expressly stated that the lawsuit was not frivolous. “However, there remain, as this Court recommended, various viable claims for trial.” See Report and Recommendation, (D.E #766, pg. 5), and Order Adopting R&R, (D.E. 791).

PROOF JUDGE GRAHAM KNEW THE LAW AND SIMPLY IGNORED IT

After Judge Graham, rendered the sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction of September 20, 2001, Mason filed a motion demanding his due process rights on September 7, 2002. At pages 10, 11, this motion informs Judge Graham of due process rights with respect to pre-filing injunctions.

Prior to issuing this illegal injunction, this court failed to give Mason the required constitutional notice. See Tripati v. Beaman, 878 F.2d 351, 354(10th Cir. 1989)(litigant “is entitled to notice and an opportunity to oppose the court’s order before it is instituted”); In re Oliver, 682 F.2d 443, 445 (3d Cir. 1982); Matter Of Hartford Textile Corp., 681 F.2d 895,896 (2nd Cir. 1982); Werner v. State Of Utah, 32 F.3d 1446, 1448 (10th Cir. 1994); Brow v. Farrelly, 994 F.2d 1027, 1038 (3rd Cir. 1993); Cok v. Family Court Of Rhode Island, 985 F.2d 32, 35 (1st Cir. 1993).

However, on January 23, 2003, Judge Graham simply states:

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, Plaintiff’s Motion to Disqualify, Plaintiff’s Demand to Rescind Inunction and Plaintiff’s Motion for Publication (D.E. #914) is DENIED.

See Docket Entry No. 928.