Posts Tagged ‘“functional equivalent”’

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Library Cooperative, Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, Case No. 01-13664-A,  (11th Cir. 2002), an unpublished decision.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.

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