Posts Tagged ‘Binding authority’

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 The answer is the allegations will be simply be ignored by deploying an unpublished opinion that omits material facts.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 The overwhelming majority of opinions coming out of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are unpublished opinions which until recently could not be cited as binding authority. The evidence presented here will prove beyond a resonable doubt that staff attorneys, using unpublished opinions, do in fact decide cases, especially mere pro se cases or appeals.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:

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) .