Posts Tagged ‘discretion’

Eleventh Circuit, US Court of Appeal Uses Unpublished Opinion of Three Judge Panel To Overrule Binding Published Opinion of An En Banc Court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The Eleventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeal, wanted to achieve the desired outcome so badly that it deployed an unpublished decision rendered by a three judge panel to overrule a legally binding opinion of an en banc court.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Library Cooperative, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, Case No. 01-13664-A,  (11th Cir. 2002), an unpublished decision, to Bernard v. Gulf-Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459, 476 (5th Cir. 1980), a published opinion Mason v. Heartland Library Cooperative involves a level of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.

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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.