Posts Tagged ‘binding precedent’

Eleventh Circuit Disregards Well Established Law, Own Binding Precedent, And The U.S. Supreme Court: Achieving Desired Outcome By Ignoring Timely Filed Notices of Appeal

September 9, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

Judge Donald L. GrahamJudge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”, A Bad Mother&&#!@, Shut Your Mouth!!

Table of Contents

Introduction

Point of This Post

Judicial Independence

Form of Notice Of Appeal

Disregarded Notices Of Appeal

Supreme Court On Time For Filing Notice of Appeal

Eleventh Circuit On Time For Filing Notice of Appeal

Other U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals On The Time For Filing Notice of Appeal

Order Closing the Case

Introduction

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?“. This post will reference Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, Case No. 01-13664-A,  (11th Cir. 2002), an unpublished decision.  Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative involves a level of judicial dishonesty that is odious and virtually impossible to overstate as this appeal has been aptly called “the appeal from hell”.  See Eleventh Circuit Case No. 01-13664: The Appeal From Hell The Eleventh Circuit is clearly unconstrained either by the law or the facts in its inexorable march to the land of desired outcomes. However, this post will limit itself to the narrow discussion of how the Eleventh Circuit simply took away the right to appeal a pre-filing injunction by asserting that notices of appeals were untimely. On September 20, 2001, Judge Graham rendered a pre-fling injunction sua sponte, or on his motion and without notice to the litigant Marcellus M.Mason.  See Docket Entry Number 878, (D.E. # 878) .  Page 3, of this document boldly asserts: THIS CAUSE came before the Court sua sponte. While not the subject of this post, but the sua sponte issued pre-fling injunction is remarkable  and incredible for the following reasons:

Point of This Post

This post will only address the narrow legal point that the time to file a notice of appeal does not begin to run until a separate judgment is entered pursuant to Rule 58, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Specifically, this post will document how the Eleventh Circuit disregarded well established law, its own binding precedent, and the United States Supreme Court in order to keep from reviewing a sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction rendered by U.S. Dist. Judge Donald L. Graham on September 20, 2001.  The Eleventh Circuit simply ignored several timely filed notices of appeal that attacked the sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction.  Stated alternatively, the Eleventh Circuit just took away the legal right to appeal the sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction rendered on September 20, 2001.  The final judgment as required under Rule 58 was rendered on September 13, 2002. Prior to this date, September 13, 2002, the Eleventh Circuit disregarded several notices of appeal.

Judicial Independence

The American Bar Association, “ABA”, has created “talking points” on Judicial Independence. The ABA believes that Federal Judges should be left alone and be allowed to discipline themselves without “interference” from the Congress.

Benefits of Judicial Independence

It assures all Americans that cases will be decided on their merits. All litigants know that their case will be decided according to the law and the facts, not the vagaries of shifting political currents or the clamor of partisan politicians. Decisions are based on what is right and just, not what is popular at the moment.

ABA Talking Points: Independence of the Judiciary: Judicial Independence

Contrary to the ABA’s talking points, as this post documents, judges or appeals courts can simply deny an appeal without even bothering to address the merits of the appeal.  A court like the Eleventh Circuit can simply say a notice of appeal was untimely and disregard the right to appeal.   When this happens, a litigant is virtually without a remedy because the Supreme Court only hears about 1 per cent of the cases that are filed seeking review.

Form of Notice Of Appeal

Firstly, it is necessary to point out that according to the United States Supreme Court, a timely filed brief, formal or informal, or in this case a petition for mandamus may satisfy the notice of appeal requirement. There is no requirement that the brief or filing specifically state “notice of appeal”. “Rule 3(c) governs the content of notices of appeal: notices ‘shall specify the party or parties taking the appeal; shall designate the judgment, order or part thereof appealed from; and shall name the court to which the appeal is taken.Smith v. Barry, 502 U. S. 244 (1992). Courts will liberally construe the requirements of Rule 3. Thus, when papers are ‘technically at variance with the letter of [Rule 3], a court may nonetheless find that the litigant has complied with the rule if the litigant’s action is the functional equivalent of what the rule requires.Id at ¶11. [T]he notice afforded by a document, not the litigant’s motivation in filing it, determines the document’s sufficiency as a notice of appeal. If a document filed within the time specified by Rule 4 gives the notice required by Rule 3, it is effective as a notice of appeal.” Id at ¶13. Consequently, a petition for mandamus that meets that meets the requirements stated above is sufficient to satisfy the notice of appeal requirement.

The Eleventh Circuit has stated: “[P]recedent permits us to treat the petition for the writ of mandamus as a direct appeal”. In Re Bethesda Memorial Hospital Inc., 123 F.3d 1407, 1408 (11thCir. 1997).

Rule 4. Appeal as of Right—When Taken

In a civil case, a litigant normally has 30 days to tile an appeal from an order or judgment.

(a) Appeal in a Civil Case.

(1) Time for Filing a Notice of Appeal.

(A) In a civil case, except as provided in Rules 4 (a)(1)(B), 4 (a)(4), and 4 (c), the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 must be filed with the district clerk within 30 days after the judgment or order appealed from is entered.

See Rule 4, Fed.R.App.P.

Pertinent Facts

This post will only list the facts that are necessary to determine when the time for filing a notice of appeal begins to run.  More detailed background information can be found at mmason.freeshell.org, generally, and at http://mmason.freeshell.org/CaseSummary.htm.  This case was an employment discrimination case and was docketed under Case No. 99-14027-CV-Graham.  The Case was dismissed on June 20, 2001, Docket Entry No. 791, by Judge Graham for constitutionally protected out of court communications between the Plaintiff, Marcellus Mason, and the Defendant, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners.   A Notice of Appeal was filed on June 25, 2001.  ( Docket Entry #795).  District Case No. 99-14027-CV-Graham was subsequently assigned Eleventh Circuit Case No.  01-13664.

Post Closing Order(s)

On September 20, 2001, Judge Graham rendered a pre-fling injunction sua sponte, or on his motion and without notice to the litigant Marcellus M. Mason.  See Docket Entry Number 878, (D.E. # 878) .  Page 3, of this document boldly asserts: THIS CAUSE came before the Court sua sponte. Consequently, when Judge Graham rendered this sua sponte issued pre-filing on September 20, 2001, the matter was on appeal already.

Final Judgment

Final Judgment was rendered almost one year after the sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction of September 20, 2001.   The Defendants specifically requested a “final judgment” on February 25, 2002.  See Docket Entry No. 897Final Judgment was rendered on September 13, 2002. See Docket Entry No.  911.  The order expressly stated:

THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendant’s

Motion for Entry of Final Judgment (D.E. 897)…FINAL JUDGMENT ORDER AND ADJUDGED that Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED. Final Judgment is entered in favor of Defendant and costs, in the amount of $200,00 are awarded to Defendant in accordance with this Court’s January 25, 2002.

Disregarded Notices Of Appeal

Prior to Final Judgment being rendered on September 13, 2002, the Eleventh Circuit disregarded several notices of appeal that included the following:

  • Firstly, an appeal was pending, Case No. 01-13664 [a direct appeal], when Judge Graham rendered the sua sponte issue pre-filing injunction on September 20, 2001.  A Notice of Appeal was filed on June 25, 2001.  ( Docket Entry 795).  On or about October 2, 2001, Mason filed a petition for mandamus challenging the validity of the sua sponte issued pre-filing injunction. See Receipt.  This petition for mandamus was subsequently assigned Case No. 01-15754.  The briefs in the direct appeal, Case No. 01-13664, had not been filed yet and the first brief was not filed until February 4, 2002.  See Eleventh Circuit’s Docket.  Consequently, the Eleventh Circuit could have and indeed should have construed the petition for mandamus as a notice of appeal and simply allowed the parties to argue this issue in the pending appeal.  However, on December 5, 2001, the Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for mandamus without requiring the appellees to respond.   The ” petition for writ of mandamus and petition for writ of prohibition” is DENIED.” See Opinion.
  • Case No. 02-11476.  On May 01,2002, or four months before Final Judgment was rendered on September 13, 2002, the Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for mandamus that should have been treated as a notice of appeal and stated in pertinent part:  “Mason also requests that this Court vacate the district court’s order enjoining Mason from to Mason’s former employment without first receiving permission from the district court. Although Mason has not filed a notice of appeal from the district court’s order requiring him to receive the permission of the district court from filing any additional pleadings or from filing any new lawsuits related to his former employment or subsequent interactions with the defendants, Mason may raise this issue on appeal…Accordingly, Mason’s IFP motion is DENIED because his mandamus petition is frivolous.”  See Order dated May 1, 2002.
  • Case No. 02-14646.  On October 07,2002, or 24 days after final   Final Judgment was rendered on September 13, 2002, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed a notice of appeal that had been filed on June 24, 2002, or almost three months before Final Judgment was rendered on September 13, 2002. The Eleventh Circuit stated: This appeal is DISMISSED, sua sponte, for lack of jurisdiction. Appellant Marcellus Mason’s notice of appeal, filed on June 24,2002, is untimely from the district court’s order enjoining him from filing additional pleadings, entered on September 21,2001. See Fed.R.App.P, 4(a)(l)(A) & 26(a)(3).

Supreme Court On Time For Filing Notice of Appeal

“Every judgment shall be set forth on a separate document. A judgment is effective only when so set forth and when entered as provided in Rule 79(a).” Bankers Trust Company v. Mallis, 435 U.S. 381, 98 S.Ct. 1117, 55 L.Ed.2d 357 (1978). The sole purpose of the separate-document requirement, which was added to Rule 58 in 1963, was to clarify when the time for appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 2107 begins to run. According to the Advisory Committee that drafted the 1963 amendment:”Hitherto some difficulty has arisen, chiefly where the court has written an opinion or memorandum containing some apparently directive or dispositive words, e. g., ‘the plaintiff’s motion [for summary judgment] is granted,’ see United States v. F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Co., 356 U.S. 227, 229, 78 S.Ct. 674, 2 L.Ed.2d 721 (1958). Clerks on occasion have viewed these opinions or memoranda as being in themselves a sufficient basis for entering judgment in the civil docket as provided by Rule 79(a). However, where the opinion or memorandum has not contained all the elements of a judgment, or where the judge has later signed a formal judgment, it has become a matter of doubt whether the purported entry of a judgment was effective, starting the time running for post-verdict motions and for the purpose of appeal. . . .

“The amended rule eliminates these uncertainties by requiring that there be a judgment set out on a separate document—distinct from any opinion or memorandum—which provides the basis for the entry of judgment.” 28 U.S.C.App., p. 7824. The separate-document requirement was thus intended to avoid the inequities that were inherent when a party appealed from a document or docket entry that appeared to be a final judgment of the district court only to have the appellate court announce later that an earlier document or entry had been the judgment and dismiss the appeal as untimely. The 1963 amendment to Rule 58 made clear that a party need not file a notice of appeal until a separate judgment has been filed and entered. Id at ¶7.

See also United States v. Indrelunas, 411 U.S. 216 (1973).

Eleventh Circuit On Time For Filing Notice of Appeal

“'[C]ases from both the Supreme Court and the circuit courts of appeal make it clear that the time to file a notice of appeal does not begin to run until a separate judgment is entered pursuant to Rule 58.’”  Big Top Koolers, Inc. v. Circus-Man Snacks, Inc.,528 F.3d 839; 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 11087; (11th Cir. 2008)(quoting Reynolds v. Golden Corral Corp., 213 F.3d 1344,1346 (11th Cir. 2000)). “But, Rule 58 provides an alternative means of determining when the final judgment is deemed entered: “[J]udgment is entered at the following times: . . . (2) if a separate document is required, when the judgment is entered in the civil docket under Rule 79(a) and the earlier of these events occurs: (A) it is set out in a separate document; or (B) 150 days have run from the entry in the civil docket.” Fed. R. Civ.P. 58(c) (emphasis added).” Id.

Other U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals On The Time For Filing Notice of Appeal

Tenth Circuit

“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58 sets forth how a judgment or order is to be entered. Under Rule 58(a)(1) ordinarily a “judgment [or] amended judgment must be set forth on a separate document.” (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(a) defines judgment as “any order from which an appeal lies.”) But there are exceptions to the separate-document requirement; a separate document is not required for orders disposing of motions under Rules 50(b), 52(b), 54, 59, and 60. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(a)(1)(A), (B), (C), (D), (E). Entry is straightforward when a separate document is not required; in that circumstance, the order is “entered” when it is “entered in the civil docket under Rule 79(a).” Id. Rule 58(b)(1). But if a separate document is required, the judgment is entered only “when it is entered in the civil docket under Rule 79(a) and when the earlier of these events occurs: (A) when it is set forth on a separate document, or (B)”when 150 days have run from entry in the civil docket under Rule 79(a).” Id. Rule 58(b)(2). Medical Supply Chain, Inc. v. Neoforma, Inc., 508 F.3d 572 (10th Cir. 2007).

Fifth Circuit

What is significant about this case, Baker, infra, is that the district court entered an order and expressly wrote on the order that “‘This is a final judgment.‘” However, the court, Fifth Circuit, opined that this description did not meet Rule 58’s requirement for a separate document.  Baker, infra, at ¶12.

“‘[T]he 1963 amendment to Rule 58 made clear that a party need not file a notice of appeal until a separate judgment has been filed and entered.’ Rule 58 is thus a safety valve preserving a litigant’s right to appeal in the absence of a separate document judgment.” Baker v.Mercedes Benz Of North America, 114 F.3d 57 (5th Cir. 1997). “If a separate document judgment is not entered, however, the time for filing an appeal does not begin to accrue until a judgment complying with the Rule 58 dictates has been entered. The rule is to be ‘ ‘interpreted to prevent the loss of the right of appeal, not to facilitate loss.”” Id. at ¶10. “If a separate document judgment is not entered, however, the time for filing an appeal does not begin to accrue until a judgment complying with the Rule 58 dictates has been entered. The rule is to be ‘ ‘interpreted to prevent the loss of the right of appeal, not to facilitate loss.””  Id. at ¶11.

Order Closing the Case

On June 20, 2001, Judge Graham rendered an order closing the case which stated:

THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendants’ Motion and Second Motion for Sanctions in the Form of Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Action (D.E. #511 and D.E. #646). THE MATTER was referred to the Honorable United States Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch. A report recommending that the Court grant Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions in the Form of Dismissal of Plaintiffs Actions (D.E. #511 and D.E. #646), dated May 31, 2001, has been submitted. Plaintiff filed his objections on June 12, 2001. The Court has conducted a de novo review of the file and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. Accordingly, it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that United States Magistrate Judge Lynch’s Report of May 31, 2001, is hereby RATIFIED, AFFIRMED and APPROVED in its entirety. Therefore it is, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendants’ Motion and Second Motion for Sanctions in the Form of Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Action is GRANTED. It is further, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiff’s remaining claims are DISMISSED with prejudice. It is further, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that this case is CLOSED and all pending motions are DENIED as MOOT. DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Miami, Florida, this 20th day of June, 2001.

See Docket Entry No. 791.

Eleventh Circuit, US Court of Appeal Uses Unpublished Opinion of Three Judge Panel To Overrule Binding Published Opinion of An En Banc Court

August 9, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

Judge Donald L. GrahamJudge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”, A Bad Mother&&#!@, Shut Your Mouth!!

Table of Contents

Introduction

Point of This Post

Judicial Independence

Judicial Misconduct and Pending Complaints

Appointments

Brief History of The Eleventh Circuit

Definition of En Banc

Prior Panels Decisions Are Legally Binding

Background

Definition of An Injunction

Semantic Tap Dancing and Characterization

Definition of A Prior Restraint

Judge Graham and the Eleventh Circuit’s Apparent Nebulous Legal Reasoning And Utter Disregard For Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co. And The First Amendment

Discovery Orders


Introduction

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.


Point of This Post

The Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal, wanted to achieve the desired outcome so badly that it deployed an unpublished decision rendered by a three judge panel to overrule a legally binding opinion of an en banc court.  Specifically, Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 476 (5th Cir. 1980) affirmed Gulf Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S. 89 (1981) was overruled by a mere three judge panel consisting of Circuit Judges, Stanley F. Birch, Jr., Hon. Stanley Marcus,  and Hon. Susan H. Black.  This post will compare Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, Case No. 01-13664-A,  (11th Cir. 2002), an unpublished decision, to Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 476 (5th Cir. 1980), a published opinion Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative involves a level of judicial dishonesty that is odious and virtually impossible to overstate as this appeal has been aptly called “the appeal from hell”.  See Eleventh Circuit Case No. 01-13664: The Appeal From Hell The Eleventh Circuit is unconstrained either by the law or the facts in its inexorable march to the land of desired outcomes. However, this post will limit itself to the narrow discussion of how the Eleventh Circuit used a three judge panel and an unpublished opinion to achieve this pre-determined outcome even at the expense of overruling an en banc court.  Specifically, the following two “orders” were at issue on appeal:

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.

“Orders regulating communications between litigants…pose a grave threat to first amendment freedom of speech. Accordingly, a district court’s discretion to issue such orders must be exercised within the bounds of the first amendment and the Federal Rules.” In re Sch. Asbestos Litig., 842 F.2d 671,680 (3d Cir. 1988). These orders are prior restraints and injunctions.  Among other things, there are two huge problems with these orders.  Firstly, these orders were issued by a Magistrate who can not issue an injunction.  Secondly, since these orders are prior restraints and as such, they are presumptively unconstitutional. “[T]he principal purpose of the First Amendment’s guaranty is to prevent prior restraints.”  In re Providence Journal Company at ¶17, infra. In order to achieve the desired outcome the Eleventh Circuit uses the following tactics that are deceitful and intentionally misleading:

  • It refuses to discuss whether these orders are really injunctions. There is no definition of an injunction and why these orders don’t fit within the definition of an injunction.
  • The term prior restraint is not used.  Mason’s right’s under the first amendment is not discussed.
  • The validity of these orders are not discussed in any manner. In a word, the Eleventh Circuit simply refuses to discuss the validity of these orders while it was quite willing to discuss Mason’s alleged violations of these patently illegal orders.

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. What happens if the appeals courts disregards the rule of law? 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 Circuit 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.


Judicial Misconduct and Pending Complaints

Complaint Status
Judicial Conference pending

Reconsideration
pending

June 25, 2008
pending

July 9, 2008
pending

July 15, 2008
pending

It has been said that the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, has become quite serious in investigating federal judges for misconduct. According to law.com, Binding National Rules Adopted for Handling Judicial Misconduct Complaints, in March of this year, the Judicial Conference adopted the
first-ever binding nationwide procedures for handling complaints of judicial misconduct. U.S. Dist. Judge Donald L. Graham has escaped discipline for his abusive and possible criminal behavior.  As a result of this, Mason submitted complaints to both the Judicial Conference and Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, Eleventh Circuit, US Court of Appeal, again.  These complaints are governed by 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-364,

The Judicial Improvements Act of 2002” formerly “The Judicial Misconduct and Disability Act“.

Previously, Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, had been misconstruing the statute and summarily dismissing complaints of misconduct by simply regurgitating the statutory language at 28 U.S.C. § 352 which allows him to dismiss complaints that are “directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling“.
Judge Edmondson is alone in his view that legal error and judicial misconduct are mutually exclusive.  For more discussion on “legal error” and judicial misconduct, see article Chief Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson Uses Perfect Scam of Negative Definition To Defeat Complaints of Misconduct Under the Judicial
Misconduct and Disability Act
.

On Tuesday, June 25, 2008, a new complaint of judicial misconduct was filed against Judge Graham.  Additionally, complaints of misconduct were initiated against Judge Graham on July 9, 2008 and
July 15, 2008
.



Appointments

Judge Donald L. Graham (1992), Judge Stanley F. Birch, Jr. (1990),  and Hon. Susan H. Black(1992)  are appointments of President George H.W. Bush.  Judge Stanley Marcus is a 1997 appointment of President William J. Clinton.


Brief History of The Eleventh Circuit

Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 476 (5th Cir. 1980) was decided on June 19, 1980 and therefore binding precedent within the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal.  In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1207 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the Court held:

This is the first case to be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, established October 1, 1981 pursuant to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Reorganization Act of 1980, P.L. 96-452, 94 Stat. 1995, and this opinion is the first to be published by the Eleventh Circuit. Under P.L. 96-452 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was divided into two circuits, the Eleventh and the “new Fifth.” This court, by informal agreement of its judges prior to October 1, 1981, confirmed by formal vote on October 2, 1981, has taken this case en banc to consider what case law will serve as the established precedent of the Eleventh Circuit at the time it comes into existence. We hold that the decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “former Fifth” or the “old Fifth”), as that court existed on September 30, 1981, handed down by that court prior to the close of business on that date, shall be binding as precedent in the Eleventh Circuit, for this court, the district courts, and the bankruptcy courts in the circuit…The old Fifth followed the absolute rule that a prior decision of the circuit (panel or en banc) could not be overruled by a panel but only by the court sitting en banc. The Eleventh Circuit decides in this case that it chooses, and will follow, this rule.


Definition of En Banc

En banc, in banc, in banco or in bank is a French term used to refer to the hearing of a legal case where all judges of a court will hear the case, rather than a panel of them. It is often used for unusually complex cases, or cases considered of unusual significance. Appellate courts in the United States sometimes grant rehearing en banc to reconsider a decision of a panel of the court (a panel generally consisting of only three judges) where the case concerns a matter of exceptional public importance or the panel’s decision appears to conflict with a prior decision of the court...Cases in United States Courts of Appeals are heard by a three-judge panel. A majority of the active circuit judges may decide to hear or rehear a case en banc. Parties may suggest an en banc hearing to the judges, but have no right to it. Federal law states en banc proceedings are disfavored but may be ordered in order to maintain uniformity of decisions within the circuit or if the issue is exceptionally important. Each court of appeals also has particular rules regarding en banc proceedings. Only an en banc court or a Supreme Court decision can overrule a prior decision in that circuit; in other words, one panel cannot overrule another panel.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En_banc.


Prior Panels Decisions Are Legally Binding

A three judge panel decision or opinion binds all other subsequent appellate panels except an en banc court or the United States Supreme Court.  The Eleventh Circuit has stated: “Under our prior precedent rule, a panel cannot overrule a prior one’s holding even though convinced it is wrong. See, e.g., Cargill v. Turpin, 120 F.3d 1366, 1386 (11th Cir.1997) (‘The law of this circuit is ’emphatic’ that only the Supreme Court or this court sitting en banc can judicially overrule a prior panel decision.’  ‘[I]t is the firmly established rule of this Circuit that each succeeding panel is bound by the holding of the first panel to address an issue of law, unless and until that holding is overruled en banc, or by the Supreme Court.'”  United States v. Steele, 147 F.3d 1316, 1317-18 (11th Cir.1998) (en banc).


Background

Marcellus M. Mason, Jr. of Sebring, Fl. filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners and the Heartland Library Cooperative and other governmental entities and their individual government employees in February 1999.  See Docket Sheet. This case was ultimately assigned to Judge Donald L. Graham, “Teflon Don”, 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 and constitutionally protected and legal communications between Highlands County and Mason. See “R&R” (D.E. 766), Order adopting R&R (D.E 791).  See Banned Communications.

On June 13, 2000 , the Government Defendants through their attorneys,  Maria Sorolis and Brian Koji, filed a “DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, (D.E. 199)” which specifically requested:  “Defendants move the Court for an injunction prohibiting Plaintiff from contacting any of the Defendants and/or their supervisory employees“.  Defendant’s counsel, Maria Sorolis and Brian Koji, cited no legal authority for the requested relief.

On July 6, 2000, the Government Defendants through their attorneys,  Maria Sorolis and Brian Koji, filed a “DEFENDANTS’ RENEWED MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, (D.E. #231)“, and requested the following relief:

Defendants respectfully renew their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting the Plaintiff from contacting the supervisory employees of the Defendants or the individual Defendants directly, and directing Plaintiff to make all public records requests through the undersigned counsel.

This motion, as the first motion cited no legal authority for the requested relief. These requests or motions for preliminary injunctions were granted on June 19, 2000 and July 25, 2000, respectively.  These orders required Mason, a nonlawyer, living in Sebring, FL to contact private attorneys some 90 miles away in Tampa, FL  to ask for permission to speak with his local government in Sebring, Florida.  These orders in pertinent 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 these 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).   Judge Graham has NEVER at any time cited legal authorities for these patently illegal orders even though there have been relentless requests.  See for example, and note that this list is not collectively exhausted, Case No. 99-14027 see Plaintiff’s  motions and responses, (Doc.#200);(Doc. #239); (Doc. #262);(Doc.  #264);(Doc. #284);(Doc.#334);(Doc. #509);(Doc. #515);(Doc. #526);(Doc. 554);(Doc. 632, pg.5);(Doc.#633);(Doc. 652);(Doc. 663); (Doc. 735); (Doc. 736); (Doc.738); (Doc. 783); (Doc. 787, pgs 2-3); (Doc. 810); (Doc. 812); (Doc.813); (Doc. 817); (Doc. 829), (Doc. 845);and the court’s orders: (DE #201), (DE #246);(Doc. #279);(Doc. 281);(Doc. #407);(Doc.  #524);(Doc. #528);(Doc. #634);(Doc. 673);(Doc. 744);(Doc. 745);(Doc.  766);(Doc. 791);(Doc. 874, pg. 2);(Doc. 882, pgs. 1-2); (DE-890); (DE-928);(DE-931).

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”, (D.E. #766), recommended 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.  See (D.E. #791).

Additionally, in his Report and Recommendation that recommends that the lawsuit be dismissed because of alleged violations of the orders of June 19, 2000, (D.E. #201) and July 25, 2000, (D.E. #246), the Magistrate admits that the validity of these orders were being challenged, but he declines to assert legal authority for these orders by stating only:

The Plaintiff alludes to this Court’s rulings, issued June 19 and July 25, 2000, directing that he should not contact any of the Defendants or individual Defendants, including their supervisory employees, regarding any matter related to this case except through their counsel of record. If the Plaintiff was represented, his attorney would know that this is proper procedure. The Plaintiff questions this Court’s authority to enter an “injunction” as he calls it preventing him from contacting the parties directly. This Court has entered numerous orders on this issue in ruling on Plaintiff’s many requests for clarification ito vacate, etc., of this issue and has attempted to clearly point out to the Plaintiff that it is a discovery issue and not one appropriate for injunctive relief. The Plaintiff has appealed those orders to the District Court and they have been affirmed by Judge Graham.

See Report and Recommendation, (D.E. #766, pg. 3, ¶5).  This case was closed on June 20, 2001.

Case Closure

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).


Definition of An Injunction

28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) states:

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…,”

The Eleventh Circuit scrupulously and meticulously avoids using the word injunction or prior restraint in their opinion.  The Eleventh Circuit admits the validity of the orders, (D.E. #201) and (D.E. #246), in question were being challenged on appeal.

On appeal, Mason argues that the magistrate’s discovery orders enjoined him without legal authority and violated his First Amendment and Florida state law rights to petition Florida government officials and to request public records.

See Opinion, Pg. 9.   Courts have defined injunctions in the following manner:

In this matter, Magistrate Lynch prohibits direct communication with the government as he expressly states:

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.

In a separate action, Mason v. Kahn, Case No. 08-1143 (D.C. Dist. 2008), the Court refers to the orders in question as injunctions.  See (D.E. #3)(“In this action, plaintiff alleges that the issuance of the June and July 2000 injunction orders…plaintiff demands that the injunction orders issued in his employment discrimination case be declared unconstitutional. “).  In the entirety of the Eleventh Circuit’s 14 page Opinion there is no discussion as to whether the orders in question are injunctions.  Similarly, in an old Fifth Circuit decision,  Lewis v. S. S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir. 1976), that the Eleventh Circuit is bound by, see Bonner v. City of Prichard, supra; the Court held that an order which restricted communications between litigants without benefit of the attorneys involved amounted to an unconstitutional injunction:

It 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”. What the District Court in effect enjoined was a settlement between the parties, however amicably reached, if the claimants’ attorneys were not consulted. This was too sweeping a restraint by the lower court.


Semantic Tap Dancing and Characterization

The Eleventh Circuit opts to use the phrase “discovery order” as opposed to injunction or prior restraint.  For example:

  • On 19 June 2000, the magistrate judge issued discovery order prohibiting Mason from contacting the defendants… See Opinion, pg. 3.
  • On appeal, Mason argues that the magistrate’s discovery orders enjoined him without legal authority and violated his First Amendment and Florida state law rights to petition Florida government officials and to request public records.  See Opinion, pg. 3.

Judge Graham’s Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr. , who issued the orders never called them “discovery orders”.  The Magistrate in granting the Defendant’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction characterizes his order thusly:  “this Court is considering this Motion as a pretrial discovery issue and not an injunction issue per se”  See (DE #201). Similarly, on July 25 in granting the Defendants’ Renewed Motion For Preliminary Injunction, (D.E. #231) The Magistrate use the same characterization:  “this Court is considering this issue as a pretrial discovery issue and not an injunction issue per se…” See (DE #246).

On appeal these orders these orders are attacked by Mason the Appellant as illegal injunctions that violate his “free speech” rights.

  • These orders, (Doc. 201) and (Doc. 246), “preliminary injunctions” are invalid because this issue was not referred to the Magistrate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).  See Initial Brief, pg. 6.
  • A Magistrate does not have the legal authority to issue an injunction.  See Initial Brief, pg. 6.
  • The district court punished the Plaintiff for exercising his right of “free speech” by dismissing this meritorious lawsuit. Plaintiff has a clear right to communicate with his government about the matters in this controversy, litigation notwithstanding.

In their opinion, The Eleventh Circuit scrupulously and meticulously avoids using the word injunction or prior restraint.  The word injunction is used one time in the very verbose 14 page opinion.  See Opinion, pg. 12 (“Moreover, the magistrate judge and district court attempted to clarify with Mason that the Orders were not injunctions, but rather necessary for the orderly litigation of the case.”).  As stated above, the Defendants filed Motions For Preliminary Injunction; however, rather than use the term Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the Eleventh Circuit uses generic terms to refer to these motions:

  • “Heartland moved to enjoin Mason from contacting them… ”  See Opinion, pg. 3.
  • “Heartland renewed their motion based on Mason’s continued contact with them…”  See Opinion, pg. 3.
  • “On 25 July 2000, the magistrate judge granted Heartland’s motion…”  See Opinion, pg. 3.

Judge Graham’s Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr., Injunction or “Pretrial Discovery Issue and Not An Injunction Per Se”  were rendered on June 19, 2000 and July 25, 2000, 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. 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.


Definition of A Prior Restraint

The orders in question prohibit direct communication with the government by a mere pro se litigant, Marcellus M. Mason, are properly characterized as prior restraints.  The order of June 19, 2000 states:

[T]he 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.  Plaintiff shall correspond only with Defendants’ counsel.

See (DE #201).

“The term “prior restraint” describes orders forbidding certain communications that are issued before the communications occur. “ . Temporary restraining orders and permanent injunctions — i. e., court orders that actually forbid speech activities — are classic examples of prior restraints.” Alexander v. United States 509 U.S. 544,550 (1993). “Prior restraint has traditionally been defined as a “predetermined judicial prohibition restraining specified expression…” Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 476 (5th Cir. 1980).  “A prior restraint is generally judicial rather than legislative in origin, although an enabling statute may authorize the judicial suppression of publication. The essence of prior restraint is that it places specific communications under the personal censorship of the judge.” id at ¶22.  “Prior restraints are “administrative and judicial orders forbidding certain communications when issued in advance of the time that such communications are to occur. Test Masters at ¶45, infra. According to the United States Supreme Court, a prior restraint comes to the Court with a heavy presumption against its validity. New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713, 714 (1971). This presumption is so strong it has been described a virtually insurmountable. In re Providence Journal Company, 820 F.2d 1342 (1st Cir. 1986)(“pure speech–speech not connected with any conduct–the presumption of unconstitutionality is virtually insurmountable.”). This presumption is so strong that the Supreme Court has refused to uphold prior restraints even where national security, id. at ¶21, and the defendant’s sixth amendment right to a fair trial have been involved, id. at ¶22.   In over two hundred years, the U.S. Supreme Court composed of nine Article III Judges, has never upheld a prior restraint on pure speech, In re Providence Journal Company, supra,, however, a mere Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr, issues these injunctions with ease.

In Test Masters Educational Services, Inc. v. Singh, 428 F.3d 559 (Fed. 5th Cir., 2005), the Fifth Circuit termed an order issued by Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore an injunction order:

[T]he district court’s injunction order enjoined Singh 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. The district court’s injunction was prompted by allegations from TES that Singh and his employees had called TES dozens of times a day, including seventy-one times on one day in May 2003. TES alleged that the calls included the screaming of obscenities.

This order prohibited communications between the parties, like the “discovery order” in this matter, was declared by the Testmasters Court to be a prior restraint. Id. at ¶45. Moreover, the  Testmasters Court held that even an acrimonious and hostile relationship between the parties would not justify a prior restraint.

The district court prohibited Singh from “communicating directly with . . . TES employees, staff or TES’s counsel, counsel’s employees, or counsel’s staff.” To quote selectively from the district court, the court found that the parties had demonstrated an “immaturity” and “mean-spirited[ness],” and that Singh was pursuing “vexatious litigation.” However, despite the perhaps need of these parties to never speak again, the court did not detail, and the record does not reflect, any “exceptional circumstances” to justify permanently enjoining Singh from generally communicating with TES, TES’s counsel and their staff and employees. The district court’s order enjoining Singh from communicating with TES employees, TES’s counsel, and its counsel’s employees was a prior restraint limiting Singh’s first amendment rights, and because the injunction order is not supported by exceptional circumstances, it is an unconstitutional restraint on Singh’s free speech rights. (emphasis added)


Judge Graham and the Eleventh Circuit’s Apparent Nebulous Legal Reasoning And Utter Disregard For Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co. And The First Amendment

Amendment I, U.S. Const. states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

“Case law is not always necessary to clearly establish a right. A right may be so clear from the text of the Constitution or federal statute that no prior decision is necessary to give clear notice of it to an official.”  Rowe v. City Of Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271 (11th Cir. 2002).  Notwithstanding case law and Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., it should be clear to all that communications with the government is constitutionally protected speech of the highest order.  The Eleventh Circuit and Judge Graham have shown a complete and utter disregard for Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., and its holdings. Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, Case No. 01-13664-A,  (11th Cir. 2002), is a fourteen page opinion.  This opinion is little more than propaganda as it does not discuss the validity of the orders or injunctions in question.  The first ten pages of this opinion ostensibly states the “facts of the case”.  The last four pages are dedicated to discussion of the legal issues or how the law is applied to the facts.  At page nine, the Eleventh Circuit admits:

On appeal, Mason argues that the magistrate’s discovery orders enjoined him without legal authority and violated his First Amendment and Florida state-law rights to petition Florida government officials and to request public records.

This represents the sum total of the legal discussion of this issue.  However, at page 12, the Eleventh Circuit asserts the following:

Moreover, the magistrate judge and district court attempted to clarify with Mason that the Orders were not injunctions, but rather necessary for the orderly litigation of the case.

See Opinion. However, the en banc decision of the Eleventh Circuit, Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 476 (5th Cir. 1980), expressly rejected this line of reasoning for issuing a prior restraint. “[T]he general presumption against prior restraints is not mitigated by a claim that the fair and orderly administration of justice is at stake.” In addition to the above, the Eleventh Circuit also disregarded Bernard v. Gulf-Oil other holdings.

  • The expression that is restrained is protected.  id at 39. “Material unequivocally not protected by the Constitution may be the subject of a prior restraint if sufficient procedural safeguards are provided. This possibility does not exist in the present case because the communications proscribed by the order are constitutionally protected. id at 40. In this matter, the Eleventh Circuit refuses to recognize Mason’s right to communicate with the government about any subject without restriction.
  • A prior restraint comes with a heavy presumption against its constitutionality and   imposes on the issuing court rigid requirements to justify prior restraints. The prior restraint must prevent direct, immediate and irreparable damage, and it must be the least restrictive means of doing so.  id at 47. Neither Judge Graham nor the Eleventh Circuit attempt to make such a showing.

Discovery Orders

The Eleventh Circuit characterizes the orders in question as “discovery orders”.  However, neither the Eleventh Circuit in their opinion, or the Magistrate in his orders, (DE #201) and (DE #246), identify which discovery rule forms the legal basis of these orders.  Discovery is governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26-37. See pg. 13, “INFORMATION ON REPRESENTING YOURSELF IN A CIVIL ACTION (NON-PRISONER), United District Court, South Carolina”.  “‘Discovery’ refers to the process of obtaining facts and information about the case from the other party in order to prepare for trial.”  id.  Neither the Eleventh Circuit nor the Magistrate identify any of the known discovery methods that were prohibited or abused.  Assuming arguendo, that these orders were actually “discovery orders”, they would be still be invalid because the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not create jurisdiction to restrict requests for public records.  In re Infant Formula Antitrust Litigation, MDL 878 v. Abbott Laboratories, 72 F. 3d 842, 843 (11th Cir. 1995). Florida Courts have repeatedly held that the Federal Rules of Civil procedure or any court rules have do not affect a person’s right under Florida Public Records law. See B.B. v. Dep., Children & Family Serv., 731 So.2d 30, 34 n.4 (Fla.App. 4 Dist. 1999)(“Section 119.01 is not intended to expand or contracts rights under court procedural rules.”); Wait v. Florida Power & Light Co., 372 So.2d 420, 425 (Fla. 1979)(“[W]e do not equate the acquisition of public documents under chapter 119 with the rights of discovery afforded a litigant by judicially created rules of procedure.”) If the Florida Supreme Court declines to place restrictions on the right of access to Florida’s Public Records, then who in the hell Teflon Don to do so? Secondly, and more importantly, mere labels like “discovery orders” can not be used to undermine rights created by the the Constitution. The United States Supreme Court and the Congress has expressly prohibited federal judges from imposing its will on litigants by making rules or orders that abolish or nullify a right recognized by the substantive law of the state. In Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., 312 U.S. 1, 10 (1941), the Supreme Court held:

Congress has undoubted power to regulate the practice and procedure of federal courts, and may exercise that power by delegating to this or other federal courts authority to make rules not inconsistent with the statutes or constitution of the United States; but it has never essayed to declare the substantive state law, or to abolish or nullify a right recognized by the substantive law of the state where the cause of action arose, save where a right or duty is imposed in a field committed to Congress by the Constitution. On the contrary it has enacted that the state law shall be the rule of decision in the federal courts.

In Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 472 (1965), the Supreme Court stated:

We are reminded by the Erie opinion that neither Congress nor the federal courts can, under the guise of formulating rules of decision for federal courts, fashion rules which are not supported by a grant of federal authority contained in Article I or some other section of the Constitution; in such areas state law must govern because there can be no other law.

U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham Disagrees with The Florida Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court, And Every Other Jurisdiction

June 19, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

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

Purpose of This Post

The purpose of this post is to prove that U.S. Dist. Judge Donald L. Graham is not a “strict constructionist” judge, but a “judicial activist” and a rogue judge. Judge Graham is of the apparent belief that he can assert some heretofore undisclosed Federal Rule of Civil Procedure “discovery rule” and take away rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Florida Law. Judge Graham believes, by apparent fiat, that he has the power to command that a non-lawyer litigant seek the permission of a private for profit attorney in order to request public records under Florida Law. Judge Graham is alone in this view. Secondarily, this post seeks to land a glancing blow to the American Bar Association’s notion of “judicial independence”.

Strict Constructionist Irony

U. S. District Judge Donald L. Graham is a 1992 President George Herbert Walker Bush appointee. Judge Graham is presumably a ‘strict constructionist’ . It is unremarkable and widely known that President George Herbert Walker Bush believed in the doctrine of strict contructionism and attempted to make judicial appointments accordingly. “A strict constructionist is one who sticks to the meaning of the words in the Constitution as they were used at the time of its drafting without reading too much into them.Law.com, Originalist? Constructionist? A Confirmation-Hearing Glossary. “Strict constructionism” is also used in American political discourse as an umbrella term for conservative legal philosophies such as originalism and textualism, which emphasize judicial restraint and fidelity to the original meaning (or originally intended meaning) of constitutions and laws. It is frequently used even more loosely to describe any conservative judge or legal analyst.The term is often contrasted with the pejorative phrase “judicial activism“, used to describe judges who seek to enact legislation through court rulings, although the two terms are not actually opposites.Wikipedia. As this webpage will prove, Judge Graham is not a ‘strict constructionist’ , but an activist judge making up laws and disdaining binding precedent as he sees fit with apparent impunity.

Judicial Activism

Judicial activism is when courts do not confine themselves to reasonable interpretations of laws, but instead create law. Alternatively, judicial activism is when courts do not limit their ruling to the dispute before them, but instead establish a new rule to apply broadly to issues not presented in the specific action. “Judicial activism” is when judges substitute their own political opinions for the applicable law, or when judges act like a legislature (legislating from the bench) rather than like a traditional court. In so doing, the court takes for itself the powers of Congress rather than limiting itself to the powers traditionally given to the judiciary.” http://www.conservapedia.com/Judicial_Activism.

“Judicial activism is the term used to describe the actions of judges who go beyond their constitutionally prescribed duties of applying law to the facts of individual cases, and “legislate” from the bench. These judges create new constitutional rights, amend existing ones, or create or amend existing legislation to fit their own notions of societal needs.” What is Judicial Activism?, Answered by Bruce Hausknecht, Judicial Analyst, http://www.family.org/socialissues/A000000653.cfm.

Rogue is “an individual varying markedly from the standard.” http://www.yourdictionary.com/rogue. Given the definition of rogue, then Judge’s Graham’s actions can easily be characterized as those of rogue judge.

History of Thumbing His Nose At Supreme Court Precedent

Judge Graham has a history of simply ignoring the edicts of the United States Supreme Court anytime he disagrees with them. Judge Graham has freely admitted that he is bound by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal. See Skylark v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10554 (S.D. FLA 2002)(“In the case of the Southern District of Florida, the only courts it must be obedient to are [the Eleventh Circuit] and the Supreme Court of the United States.“). However, Judge Graham’s actions have demonstrated that he clearly believes he is not bound any rule or law. Articles and posts listing Supreme Court binding precedent that Judge Graham has eschewed are:

An Egregious Incident of Judicial Activism And Usurpation

On July 6, 2000, the Government Defendants, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, through their attorneys, Maria Sorolis and Brian Koji, filed a “DEFENDANTS’ RENEWED MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, (D.E. #231)“, and requested the following relief:

Defendants respectfully renew their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting the Plaintiff from contacting the supervisory employees of the Defendants or the individual Defendants directly, and directing Plaintiff to make all public records requests through the undersigned counsel.

This motion cited no legal authority for the requested relief. On July 25, 2000, Judge Graham’s Magistrate, Frank Lynch Jr., granted the motion and commanded:

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendants’ Renewed Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED… Plaintiff shall correspond only with Defendants’ counsel including any requests for public records.

See Docket Entry No. 246. Without belaboring the point, a Magistrate may not issue an injunction of any type. “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).

Judge Graham has expressly stated that the issuance of this order by Magistrate Judge Frank Lynch, Jr. was not “clearly erroneous nor is it contrary to law. See Docket Entry No. 407. For more information on this case, see Background.

Judge Graham Refuses to Cite Legal Authority

Judge Graham is under the apparent belief that he need not cite legal authority for actions he takes as he has been repeatedly challenged to cite legal authority for the order in question, but he has adamnatly refused to do so. See Judge Graham’s and Magistrate Lynch’s orders: (DE #201), (DE #246);(Doc. #279);(Doc. 281);(Doc. #407);(Doc. #524);(Doc. #528);(Doc. #634);(Doc. 673);(Doc. 744);(Doc. 745);(Doc. 766);(Doc. 791);(Doc. 874, pg. 2);(Doc. 882, pgs. 1-2); (DE-890); (DE-928);(DE-931). On January 25, 2002, Judge Graham was asked the following:

By what legal authority does the Magistrate act in issuing the orders in question, (DE #201, 246), directing that a nonlawyer must seek the permission of a private for profit lawfirm in order to communicate with his government directly and request public records ?

See Exhibit 1, (DE 890).

Judge Graham’s Answer and Controlling Legal Authority was:

The Court shall accept this Motion as a filing. However, this motion will not be denied. Plaintiff has, on numerous occasions, filed motions for clarification in this case, all of which have been denied. The Court finds the present motion, like the motions before it, is without merit.

See Page 1, (DE 890).
Additionally, in his Report and Recommendation that recommends that the lawsuit be dismissed because of alleged violations of the orders of June 19, 2000, (D.E. #201) and July 25, 2000, (D.E. #246), the Magistrate admits that the validity of these orders were being challenged, but he declines to assert legal authority for these orders by stating only:

The Plaintiff alludes to this Court’s rulings, issued June 19 and July 25, 2000, directing that he should not contact any of the Defendants or individual Defendants, including their supervisory employees, regarding any matter related to this case except through their counsel of record. If the Plaintiff was represented, his attorney would know that this is proper procedure. The Plaintiff questions this Court’s authority to enter an “injunction” as he calls it preventing him from contacting the parties directly. This Court has entered numerous orders on this issue in ruling on Plaintiff’s many requests for clarification ito vacate, etc., of this issue and has attempted to clearly point out to the Plaintiff that it is a discovery issue and not one appropriate for injunctive relief. The Plaintiff has appealed those orders to the District Court and they have been affirmed by Judge Graham.

See Report and Recommendation, (D.E. #766, pg. 3, ¶5). Judge Graham is alone in his view as all other jurisdictions have rejected Judge Graham’s view of the law. See Litigant’s Right to Communicate With Government During Litigation, section below.

The Florida Supreme Court On Florida’s Public Records Law

The Florida Supreme Court has held that the mere fact that a public agency is being sued does not relieve that public agency of its obligations under the Florida Public Records Act. “Courts cannot judicially create any exceptions, or exclusions to Florida’s Public Records Act.” Board of County Commissioners of Palm Beach County v. D.B.,784 So. 2d 585, 591 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). In Tober v. Sanchez, 417 So 2d 1053, 1055 (App. Dist. 3 1982), the court held:

We would be less than candid if we did not acknowledge that, as the present case demonstrates public agencies are placed at a disadvantage, compared to private person’s, when faced with potential litigation claims. It is also pertinent to observe that the wisdom of such a policy resides exclusively within the province of the legislature.

In several cases, the Supreme Court of Florida has held that the filing of a lawsuit under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not alter a public agency’s responsibility for disclosure under the Florida Public Records Act. In Henderson vs. State Of Florida, 745 So. 2d 319, 325-6; (Fla. 1999)

[W]e do not equate the acquisition of public documents under chapter 119 with the rights of discovery afforded a litigant by judicially-created rules of procedure.

See also Wait v. Florida Power and Light Company, 372 So. 2d 420, 425 (Fla. 1979)(“We find no authority to support the argument that Florida Power & Light, by engaging in litigation before a federal forum, has somehow given up its independent statutory rights to review public records under chapter 119. The fact that Florida Power & Light simultaneously engaged in litigation before a federal agency does not in any way prevent its use of chapter 119 to gain access to public documents.”).

The United States Supreme Court On State Court Law

The United States Supreme Court has expressly stated that is was bound by a state’s construction of its own law. “There is no doubt that we are bound by a state court’s construction of a state statute.” WISCONSIN v. MITCHELL, 508 U.S. 476, 483 (1993). The Eleventh Circuit has held that “[a] federal court applying state law is bound to adhere to decisions of the state’s intermediate appellate courts absent some persuasive indication that the state’s highest court would decide the issue otherwise.” Hunter v. Michigan Mutual Insurance Corporation,476 F.3d 1191 (11th Cir. 2007). The Florida Supreme Court has stated that: “”[t]he decisions of the district courts of appeal represent the law of Florida unless and until they are overruled by this Court.”[I]n the absence of interdistrict conflict, district court decisions bind all Florida trial courts.” Pardo v. State, 596 So. 2d 665, 666 (Fla. 1992). Assuming for the moment the absurd notion that a non-lawyer litigant does not have the right to communicate directly with the government under U.S. Constitution, a state could grant such a right and the federal courts would be bound by that state created right. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly stated:

Within our federal system the substantive rights provided by the Federal Constitution define only a minimum. State law may recognize liberty interests more extensive than those independently protected by the Federal Constitution. If so, the broader state protections would define the actual substantive rights possessed by a person living within that State.

Mills v. Rogers, 457 U.S. 291, 300 (1982). The Florida Supreme Court has defined the right of access to public records as a substantive right. See MEMORIAL HOSPITAL-WEST VOLUSIA, INC. v. NEWS-JOURNAL CORPORATION,No. SC00-82, 784 So. 2d 438 (Fla. 2001)(“We have recently stated that the right of access to public records is a substantive right. See Henderson v. State, 745 So. 2d 319, 326 (Fla. 1999).”)

JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT DEFINED

Judicial Misconduct has been defined by Jeffrey M. Shaman, DePaul University Law, Steven Lubet, Professor, Northwestern University Law, James J. Alfini, President and Dean, South Texas College of Law, U.S. Judge Alex Kozinski, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in part as:

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.

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Judicial Conference, Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability 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

Legal Error As Misconduct

“Legal error and judicial misconduct are not mutually exclusive.” In Re Feinberg, 5 NY3d 206,New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. “[T]he Florida Supreme Court has expressly held that a judge’s legal rulings can be the subject of judicial disciplinary proceedings.” State of Florida, JUDICIAL QUALIFICATIONS COMMISSION,INQUIRY CONCERNING A JUDGE, NO. 06-52, CHERYL ALEMAN CASE NO. SC07-198. “A single instance of serious, egregious legal error, particularly one involving the denial to individuals of their basic or fundamental rights, may amount to judicial misconduct.” In re Quirk, 705 So.2d 172 (La., 1997). “[J]udicial misconduct (including improper ex parte communications) varies in degree from plainly criminal or corrupt misconduct, through injudicious (but not corrupt) misconduct, to misconduct committed for proper motives though pursued by prohibited means.” Larsen, Matter of, 616 A.2d 529, 532 Pa. 326 (Pa., 1992). An emerging pattern of legal errors even though not an egregious legal error nor bad faith should be labeled misconduct because the continuing pattern of legal error constitutes neglect and ignorance of governing statutes. Miss. Com’n On Jud. Performance v. Britton, 936 So.2d 898 (Miss., 2006). See also In Re James Barr, 13 S.W.3d 525 (Tex.Rev.Trib., 1998)(“legal error by a judge may constitute grounds for a finding of judicial misconduct if the commission of legal error is founded on bad faith.”);Goldman v. Nevada Com’n on Judicial Discipline, 830 P.2d 107, 108 Nev. 251 (Nev., 1992)(“An experienced trial judge’s ignorance of proper contempt procedures, without more, has been held to constitute the bad faith necessary to a finding of willful misconduct.” )

Chief Judge J.L Edmondson’s Endorsement of Judge Graham’s Conduct

Chief Judge J.L Edmondson is of the misguided notion that legal error may not constitute “judicial misconduct”. Judge Edmondson appears to be alone in this view. Even more remarkable is Judge Edmondson’s apparent believe that a pattern and practice of ignoring prevailing legal standards is not judicial misconduct. This view is perfectly illustrated in Eleventh Circuit’s Miscellaneous Docket No. 05-0008, Complaint of Judicial Misconduct. When told of this clear usurpation of authority and other abuses or misconduct, Judge Edmondson stated:

In this complaint, the single (unsupported) allegation that has not already been determined in previous complaints filed by Mr. Mason against Judge Graham is that Judge Graham intentionally falsified his March 31, 2001, Civil Justice Reform Act Report in an attempt to conceal the fact that he had not ruled on one of Mr. Mason’s motions for over 15 months. Not withstanding the fact that the motion in question was pending for more than six months, and the fact that the March 31, 2001 report is incorrect, Mr. Mason has not presented any information, evidence or documentation to support his claim to suggest that the omission of this motion on this CJRA report was an intentional attempt by Judge Graham to conceal his failure to rule on the motion.

Does Judge Edmondson’s view represent “judicial independence” or non-accountability? “We report, you decideFox News. There is a whole pattern of conduct of that Judge Edmondson singularly disagrees is misconduct. See Egregious Documented Acts of Judicial Misconduct by Judge Donald L. Graham.

Litigant’s Right to Communicate With Government During Litigation.

Every jurisdiction in the United States has affirmed a citizen’s right to petition the government even in the midst of bitter litigation. “[T]here is nothing that prohibits one party to a litigation from making direct contact with another party to the same litigation. E.E.O.C. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 948 F. Supp. 54 (E.D.Mo. 1996);. See IN RE HURLEY, No. 97-6058 SI (8th Cir. 1997) In Hurley, Discover Card, a creditor litigant in a bankruptcy case, communicated directly with the debtor litigant directly and as result the trial court bankruptcy judge concluded that Discover Card had acted unethically by violating DR 7-104(A)(1) of the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility. O n appeal, the court rejected this reasoning and held that rules of professional conduct does not apply to nonlawyers and parties are free to communicate with other. Rule 4-4.2, R. Regulating Fla. Bar states:

Also, parties to a matter may communicate directly with each other and a lawyer having independent justification for communicating with the other party to a controversy with a government agency with a government officials abut the matter. Communications authorized by law include, for example, the right of a party to a controversy with a government agency to speak with government officials about the matter.

Government remains the servant of the people, even when citizens are litigating against it. American Canoe Ass’n Inc. v. City of St. Albans, 18 F.Supp. 2d 620 (S.D.W.Va. 1998); Camden v. State Of Md., 910 F. Supp. 1115, 1118 n.8 (D. Md. 1996); Frey v. Dept. of Health & Human Services, 106 F.R.D. 32, 37 (E.D.N.Y. 1985). Holdren v. General Motors Corp., 13 F. Supp. 2d 1192 (D.Kan. 1998)(“there is nothing in the disciplinary rules which restrict a client’s right to act independently in initiating communications with the other side, or which requires that lawyers prevent or attempt to discourage such conduct.“); In Re Discipline Of Schaefer, 117 Nev. 496, 25 P.3d 191 ;117 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 44, 36173 (Nev. 2001) (“parties to a matter may communicate directly with each other.”); In Re Hurley, Case No. No. 97-6058 SI, (8th Cir. 1997); Jones v. Scientific Colors, Inc., 201 F.Supp.2d 820 (N.D. Ill., 2001) (citing “EEOC v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 948 F. Supp. 54, 55 (E.D. Mo. 1996(“there is nothing that prohibits one party to a litigation from making direct contact with another party to the same litigation.“)); Loatman v. Summit Bank, 174 F.R.D. 592 (D.N.J. 1997); Miano v. AC & R Advertising, Inc, 148 F.R.D. 68, 75 (S.D.N.Y.1993); Pinsky v. Statewide Grievance Committee, 578 A.2d 1075,1079 (Conn. 1990)(“Contact between litigants, however, is specifically authorized by the comments under Rule 4.2: … Also, parties to a matter may communicate directly with each other and a lawyer having independent justification for communicating with the other party is permitted to do so.“); Restatement of the Law (Third) The Law Governing Lawyers, §99. Cmt. K., pg. 76.(“No general rule prevents a lawyer’s client, either personally or through a nonlawyer agent, from communicating directly with a represented nonclient. Thus, while neither a lawyer nor a lawyer’s investigator or other agent may contact the represented nonclient, the same bar does not extend to the client of the lawyer or the client’s investigator or other agent.“); Reynoso v. Greynolds Park Manor, Inc, 659 So.2d 1156, 1160 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1995)(“[p]arties to a matter may communicate directly with each other and a lawyer having independent justification for communicating with the other party is permitted to do so. Communications authorized by law include, for example, the right of a party to a controversy with a government agency to speak with government officials about the matter.“). State v. Miller, 600 N.W.2d 457; 1999 Minn. LEXIS 592 (Minnesota Supreme Court 1999); Stone v. City Of Kiowa, 263 Kan. 502; 950 P.2d 1305; 1997 Kan. LEXIS 177, *34 (Kansas Supreme Ct. 1997); Terra Intern. v. Miss. Chemical Corp., 913 F. Supp. 1306 (N.D.Iowa 1996); Tucker v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co., 849 F.Supp.1096, 1097-1098 (E.D.Pa.1994); U.S. v. Heinz, 983 F.2d 609, 613 (5th Cir. 1993); U.S. v. Ward, 895 F.Supp. 1000, (N.D. Ill. 1995); Vega v. Bloomsburgh, 427 F. Supp. 593, 595 (D. Mass. 1977).

In Bernard v. Gulf Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459 (5th Cir. 1980) (en banc),[1] affirmed Gulf Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S. 89 (1981), this Court declared an injunction that is similar to injunctions issues in this case, (Doc. 201);(Doc. 246), to be unconstitutional.

[1] Decisions by the former Fifth Circuit issued before October 1, 1981 are binding precedent in the Eleventh Circuit. See Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1207 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc).

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.

Eleventh Circuit Uses Unpublished Opinion and Omission(Deception) To Invoke Res Judicata

April 23, 2008

Justice Turned On Its Head

Justice Turned On Its Head

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

Introduction and Point of this Posting

The Eleventh Circuit uses truisms ,”an undoubted or self-evident truth;” to mislead the reader and the general public. Unpublished decisions play to ignorance owing to the judges total control of the facts and unfettered ability to report and manipulate those facts. This posting will take an unpublished opinion, Eleventh Circuit Case No. 02-13418, and compare it to published opinions of the Eleventh Circuit. This posting will also analyze a case of Judge Donald L. Graham and Magistrate Frank Lynch, Jr., CASE NO. 01-14310-CIV-GRAHAM. See Report and Recommendation,”R&R”, and Order Adopting R&R. This posting will demonstrate how the Eleventh Circuit can take two different cases with the same material facts and reach different outcomes by intentionally omitting material facts in the unpublished opinion. In Pleming v. Universal-Rundle Corp., 142 F.3d 1354 (11th Cir. 1998), U.S. Dist. Judge Marvin H. Shoob, Northern District of Georgia, a part of the Eleventh Circuit, was reversed on appeal for the same set of facts that Judge Graham was affirmed. Judge Shoob was victimized by a published decision while Judge Graham’s actions were saluted with an unpublished opinion. Others Judges in the Eleventh Circuit and particular judges at the Southern District of Florida have suffered reversals in published opinons for the same set of facts that Judge Graham has been affirmed for. Judges Daniel T.K. Hurley ,Ursula Ungaro-Benages, and William P. Dimitrouleas have suffered similar fates. See posts 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“, “U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas Reversed While Colleague Judge Donald L. Graham Affirmed by Killing The Appeal“.

This posting documents a type of dishonesty that is breathtaking and antithetical to American values. Additionally, this posting is yet but another example of why Judge Graham is truly the “Teflon Don”. Nothing sticks Judge Graham!

A US Circuit Judge On the Potential Dangers of Unpublished Opinions

“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 judges are 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

Judicial Misconduct

A new feature of this blog will be describing conduct that is not considered judicial misconduct in the hopes that the law will change. This posting will demonstrate that federal judges can intentionally misstate or omit material facts with the sole purpose of deceiving and still not be considered guilty of judicial misconduct because it is ““directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling”. Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, Eleventh Circuit, has specifically held that intentionally misstating material facts is not misconduct. Judicial Misconduct Complaint #05-0020.

Prior Lawsuit

The cases discussed here rely upon a previous case heard by Judge Graham, Case No. 99-14027-CIV-Graham/Lynch. This case was filed on February 4, 1999. See Docket. The February 4, 1999 date is critical for res judicata purposes. This was an employment discrimination lawsuit based upon Marcellus Mason’s termination by Highlands County Board of County Commissioners and Heartland Library Cooperative in November 1998. The case was dismissed, not on the merits of the case, but based upon banned and irrelevant out of court communications between Highlands County and Mason. See Report and Recommendation,”R&R” (D.E. 766), Order adopting R&R (D.E 791). This case was an involuntary dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. due to Mason’s alleged violations of the following orders in this case on June 19, 2000, (DE #201), and July 25, 2000, (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 #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.

Incidentally, Mason has maintained that these orders are invalid because they violate the First Amendment, Tenth Amendment, and Magistrate’s Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(a)(Magistrate may not issue an injunction); however, the Eleventh Circuit has declined to review these orders for validity on multiple occasions. See posting, Eleventh Circuit Repeatedly Refuses To Review Orders For Validity. In a later filed lawsuit, Judge Graham’s Magistrate admitted: the court “dismissed the remaining claims on their merits as sanction for the continued communication of antagonistic emails directly to the defendants in contempt of this Court’s orders“, Case No. 01-14310, (DE #79).

Judge Graham could have decided the case on the facts but he didn’t. On June 20, 2001, when Judge Graham dismissed this case, both the Plaintiff and the Defendants had summary judgment motions pending that the district court failed to act on. (DE # 507); (DE # 667); (DE# 668); (DE # 706);(DE # 797);(DE # 769);(DE # 770);(DE #785). See Complete Docket Listing.

Unpublished Opinion

This post will present yet another example how an unpublished decision is used to undermine or overrule binding precedent in a published decision. Unpublished opinions are typified by the following:

  • Enough facts to support the opinion.
  • Pertinent and material facts are omitted
  • Relies heavily upon law and scant facts.
  • General statement of facts that support the decision that are not specific to the case.
  • Uses true statements that are misleading.

In order to graphically illustrate the point before reading the rest of this posting’s material facts, the reader is challenged to read the opinions where Judge Graham and the Eleventh Circuit applied res judicata and then read the rest of this posting. See Case No. 01-14310, (DE #79) and Case No. 02-13418

Definition of Res Judicata

“Res judicata is a doctrine of claim preclusion which operates to prevent litigation of matters that were raised or should have been raised in an earlier suit.” McKINNON v. BLUE CROSS & BLUE SHIELD OF ALA., 935 F.2d 1187 (11th Cir. 1991).

The doctrine of collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, bars relitigation of an issue of fact or law that has been litigated and decided in a prior suit. See McKINNON, above. ” Issue preclusion (Collateral estoppel): Once an issue of fact has been determined in a proceeding between two parties, the parties may not relitigate that issue even in a proceeding on a different cause of action. (Scenario: P sues D on C. P sues D on C1. Element E, which was determined in the first trial, is common to C and C1. At the second trial, P and D cannot attempt to get a different disposition of E.)” Legal Information Institute.

Law On Res Judicata

“Res judicata bars the filing of claims which were raised or could have been raised in an earlier proceeding. ” RAGSDALE v. RUBBERMAID, INC., RUBBERMAID COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS, INC., 193 F.3d 1235 (11th Cir. 1999). “[R]es judicata does not bar claims that did not exist at the time of the prior litigation.United Transportation Union 946 F.2d 1054 (4th Cir. 1991). “It is well settled that res judicata bars subsequent actions on all grounds for recovery that could have been asserted, whether they were or not.” PALOMAR MOBILEHOME PARK ASSOCIATION v. CITY OF SAN MARCOS, 989 F.2d 362 (9th cir. 1993). Because “res judicata bars the filing of claims which were raised or could have been raised in an earlier proceeding,” relevant in this analysis is when the facts arose. TRUSTMARK INSURANCE COMPANY, v. ESLU, INC., 299 F.3d 1265;2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 15500;15 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 861 (11th Cir. 2002). In Pleming v. Universal-Rundle Corp., 142 F.3d 1354 (11th Cir. 1998), (quoting Manning v. City of Auburn, 953 F.2d 1355, 1358 (11th Cir.1992)) the Eleventh Circuit held:

[W]e do not believe that the res judicata preclusion of claims that “could have been brought” in earlier litigation includes claims which arise after the original pleading is filed in the earlier litigation. Instead, we believe that, for res judicata purposes, claims that “could have been brought” are claims in existence at the time the original complaint is filed or claims actually asserted by supplemental pleadings or otherwise in the earlier action.

True Statements That Are Dishonest

Eleventh Circuit Case No. 02-13418, Dist. Ct. Case No. 02-14049.
The Eleventh Circuit used true statements that are misleading. For example, each of the following assertions in the “opinion” are true:

  • Res judicata bars Mason’s employment discrimination claims against the county. Under res judicata, “a final judgment on the merits bars the parties from re-litigating a cause of action that was or could have been raised in that action.
  • Penalty dismissals under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 (b) are considered to be a final judgment on the merits.
  • In several previous lawsuits, including 99-CV-14027, Mason claimed Highlands County engaged in race discrimination. The district court dismissed 99-CV-14027 under Rule 41(b) because of Mason’s continual disregard for the court’s orders and rules.
  • This court affirmed the Rule 41(b) penalty dismissal of 99-CV-14027 in Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative, 01-13664 (11th Cir. October 16, 2002).
  • Therefore, because a final judgment on the merits has been previously rendered on his race discrimination claims against Highlands County, res judicata bars Mason’s re-assertion of those claims.

See Opinion, Case No. 02-13418
The above statements are designed to lead the reader and the American public to the same conclusion as the Eleventh Circuit. The statements are dishonest and misleading because the reader has no idea when the claims or cause of actions arose or accrued. The material facts that are omitted is that the former lawsuit, Case No. 99-14027, a wrongful termination case, was filed in February 1999 due to a termination in November 1998. See above. This lawsuit was a failure to hire case after the termination in November 1998. Mason applied for a job as a Budget Technician in November 1999. The EEOC issued the Notice of Right To Sue on March 30, 2000, # 150 A0 1181. See Complaint, (DE #1). Consequently, it is absurd and impossible to have filed this claim on February 1, 1999, when it did not exist. The Eleventh Circuit in two similar cases, Pleming v. Universal-Rundle Corp., 142 F.3d 1354 (11th Cir. 1998) and Manning v. City of Auburn, 953 F.2d 1355, 1360 (11th Cir. 1992), have rejected this nonsense. In Pleming, the court rejected res judicata based upon the following facts:

Pleming’s first lawsuit claimed that Universal-Rundle discriminated against her when the company hired a less qualified white employee for a specific clerical position in July 1993. Pleming did not learn that the company had engaged in alleged further discrimination against her by filling two subsequent administrative openings in October 1994 without considering her, until May 1995, during the conduct of discovery in the first lawsuit. Pleming’s first complaint, therefore, contained no mention of these subsequent hiring decisions and Pleming did not amend her complaint to include them.

In Manning, the Court stated: “Manning’s August 1988 dismissal from Hammock can not bar her claims for discriminatory acts occurring after that date.”

Judge Graham Uses Truisms To Deceive In Case No. 01-14310-CV-Graham

Marcellus Mason applied for a job with Highlands County as a Sign Technician in early 2001. Since Highlands County did not interview Mason or hire him, Mason filed a failure to hire and retaliation claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “EEOC”. On March 28, 2001, EEOC the Notice of Right To Sue, NRTS, issued 9-6-01, #150A13119. This action was filed in state court on or about October 4, 2001 under Case No. GC-00-269, removed October 19, 2001. In order to apply res judicata, Teflon Don and his Magistrate Frank Lynch, Jr. resorted to truisms and general statements that omit material facts. Given the material facts, there is no way res judicata could apply. However, to get around the specific facts, Judge Graham asserts the following statements and truisms to justify res judicata:

  • the court “dismissed the remaining claims on their merits as sanction for the continued communication of antagonistic emails directly to the defendants in contempt of this Court’s orders (DE 766)
  • This Court notes that the factual allegations on which the Plaintiff bases his federal law claims stem from his initial termination of employment. For example, the Plaintiff alleges that Highlands County’s refusal to re-hire him was an act of retaliation and/or an act of discrimination.
  • In support of these allegations, the Plaintiff makes reference to Highlands County’s alleged discriminatory behavior around the time of his prior employment and termination. Indeed, the underlying termination is fundamental to the Plaintiff’s civil rights claims.
  • This is especially so in light of the fact that the Defendants raise his discharge for wrongful conduct and the disciplinary action of permanent removal as a non-discriminatory, legitimate ground for the refusal to re-hire.
  • The issue of whether the termination was lawful has already been litigated in this court, and such claims were dismissed with prejudice with the right to appeal.
  • Therefore, the federal claims raised in the instant case are barred by the doctrine of res judicata for arising from the same nucleus of operative facts and relying on the same factual predicate of the prior litigation.
  • The principle of res judicata also leads to a sensible result in light of the Plaintiff’s legal arguments. After one’s prior termination has been decided in the employer’s favor, it is convoluted logic to argue that the employer’s refusal to re-hire the former worker was the result of unlawful discrimination. To rule otherwise would render meaningless any judicial finding of lawful discharge. Certainly, the protections afforded under Title VII are not meant to enable unappeased litigants to bring recurrent litigation against former employers.

See Report and Recommendation, (DE #79).
If you read this opinion not knowing the omitted and material facts, res judicata is definitely properly applied. This is the danger of allowing judges to write opinions without public scrutiny. Additionally, Judge Graham’s Magistrate, Frank Lynch, Jr. goes beyond truisms and actually lies or does he? A “judicial finding of lawful discharge” was not made in the former case, 99-14027. Judge Graham’s decision necessarily leads to an absurd result in that Mason could apply for a job today and Highlands County could discriminate against Mason and Mason would be without a remedy due to “res judicata”. Thanks to Judge Graham, Highlands County is not subject to the Discrimination laws of the United States. Here again Judge Graham has substituted his wisdom for Congress.