Pro Se Litigants

For a long time, Jonathan Lee Riches reigned as Craziest Pro Se Litigant in America. But at a certain point, JLR jumped the proverbial shark. His handwritten complaints, making bizarre allegations against everyone from Michael Vick to Martha Stewart to the late Benazir Bhutto, were just too clever by half. And once he passed the 1,500 mark in lawsuits, his shtick got… old.

Fortunately we have a new favorite pro se party for you. Meet Deborah Frisch (or Deborah E. Frisch, Ph.D., as she identifies herself in court filings). Frisch appears to be something of a loon, despite her doctorate and past teaching positions at such schools as the University of Oregon and the University of Arizona. Ironically enough, or maybe not so ironically, the nutty professor teaches… psychology.

Here’s the charming opening paragraph from a document that Frisch filed last week in federal district court in Oregon:

Plaintiff shall henceforth refer to self as litigant since she is defendant, appellant or plaintiff, depending on which shyster-vermin she is dealing with. Litigant files this response to the order filed by Docket Clerk Brinn and signed by USDC-OR Magistrate Coffin deeming all pending motions… moot since the frocked cowfucker in San Francisco denied the plaintiff’s appeal.

The “frocked cowfucker” appears to be the Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, who served on a panel that rejected a Frisch appeal. For the record, his chambers are in Pasadena, not San Francisco.

Let’s look at the rest of Frisch’s filing, shall we?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pro Se Litigant of the Day: Deborah Frisch, Ph.D.
Practice pointer: don’t refer to judges as ‘frocked cowf**kers.’

You don’t know how to ask a question. You don’t know how to offer things into evidence. You keep making stupid speeches. You keep saying you are good at this. You are not. I do not say this to insult you.

Justice Carol Berkman to Robert Camarano, a pro se litigant representing himself in a murder trial in New York State Supreme Court.

Shon Hopwood.jpg“I used to be a bank robber.”

That’s an attention-grabbing lede for a personal essay for a law school application. Or:

“The Supreme Court granted my very first petition for cert. And then ruled in my favor unanimously.”

Shon Hopwood, 34, could start his application with either one of those statements. Convicted of five robberies in Nebraska in the late ’90s, he was sentenced to prison for 13 years, writes Adam Liptak in the New York Times:

Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars — an accomplished Supreme Court practitioner.

Hopwood wrote a petition for cert for a fellow inmate, John Fellers, in 2002. Not only was it granted, veteran Supreme Court advocate Seth Waxman says, “It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read.”

High praise for a dude who doesn’t even have a law degree…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Jailhouse Lawyer of the Day: Shon Hopwood”

David Minkin publisher AbovetheLaw Dealbreaker Breaking Media.jpgYesterday’s Lawsuit of the Day — Jones v. Minkin, a $44 million lawsuit against yours truly, Above the Law publisher David Minkin, and Dead Horse Media (now known as Breaking Media) — has been voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff, University of Miami law professor Donald Jones.

There was NO SETTLEMENT in this case. Above the Law has made no changes to our prior posts, and we have paid no money to Professor Jones. The case was dismissed by the plaintiff without anything from our side, except a letter from our lawyer.

UPDATE (3:35 PM): We have offered Professor Jones a guest post on Above the Law in which to provide his side of the story, about either the lawsuit or the underlying facts. We have offered to keep the comments on that post closed or open, depending on his preference. (And we would have done this in the first place, had he made such a request.)

A huge thanks to our counsel, Marc Randazza.

Comment from Randazza, plus links to the notice of voluntary dismissal and other news outlets and blogs — we will UPDATE continually, so do check back for fresh links — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: Jones v. Minkin Dismissed!!!
(Plaintiff voluntarily dismisses lawsuit against ATL.)

David Minkin publisher AbovetheLaw Dealbreaker Breaking Media.jpgFor the first time in over three years of operation, Above the Law has been sued. We feel the lawsuit has no merit, but we will not comment further on this ongoing litigation. To access the pro se complaint, coverage by other news outlets and blogs, and ATL’s prior posts about Professor Donald Jones, click on the links collected after the jump.

Please note that we have closed comments on this post, out of respect for the judicial process. Thank you.

UPDATE: We will be continually updating this post with links to news and blogosphere coverage. We have already added new links from the ABA Journal, the WSJ Law Blog, and the Volokh Conspiracy, among other sources.

The fresh links will appear AFTER THE JUMP, so check them out there. Thanks.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: Jones v. Minkin
(Or: Above the Law gets sued!!!)

James Colliton Jim Colliton Cravath Swaine Moore Above the Law blog.jpgJames Colliton — the ex-Cravath tax lawyer who, in the words of the AP, “paid a woman so he could have sex with her two underage daughters” — has served his time, and is now living in a motel “on Route 9.” Apparently, he’s getting too many visits from town police officers who stop by frequently as part of a county program to monitor sex offenders.
Colliton plans to file a $100 million federal suit against the town of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County. From the Poughkeepsie Journal (via Tax Prof Blog):

Colliton claims the program violates state law and deprives him of his constitutional right to privacy and his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches.
Describing police visits as the “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Colliton recently served town and county officials with a notice of claim — often a precursor to filing suit.
In his eight-page claim filed last month, Colliton indicates he intends to seek $3 million in compensatory damages and $97 million in punitive damages in federal court.

Although he practiced as a tax lawyer, Colliton clearly likes litigation. He previously sued American Express for giving police the credit card information that led to his arrest, and he sued Cravath for stiffing him on his bonus.
Watch out, Jonathan Lee Riches. You’ve got competition for the title of most ridiculous pro se litigant of all time.
Sex Offender Fights Police Visits [Poughkeepsie Journal via Tax Prof Blog]

comedy tragedy.JPGWe’ll start with the funny stuff. It’s been a few months since federal prisoner Jonathan Lee Riches has graced these pages. We welcome the wacky pro se litigant back as he joins the war against World of Warcraft. He’s filed a motion to intervene in video game lawsuit MDY v. Blizzard (WoW’s creator). Virtually Blind has Riches’ motion to intervene, where Riches claims:

World of Warcraft caused Riches [sic] mind to live in a virtual universe, where Riches explored the landscape committing identity theft and fighting cybermonster rival hacker gangs. Riches was addicted to video games and lost touch with reality because of defendants. This caused Riches to commit fraud to buy defendants video games. Riches chose World of Warcraft over working a legit job. Riches mind became a living video game.

Riches has definitely lost touch with reality. He’s filed countless lawsuits, against everyone from Catherine Zeta-Jones to Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Judges are understandably fed up with frivolous and crazy pro se suits like those filed by Riches. Louisiana judge Edward Dufresne grew so sick of them that he stopped reading pro se appeals from convicts. According to the Times-Picayune, he directed court staffer Jerrold Peterson to automatically deny any appeal not filed by an attorney. Dude, due process much?

The sad news: After 13 years of this, Peterson committed suicide, blaming guilt over the 2,500 appeals he denied. In response to Peterson’s suicide note, the Louisiana Supreme Court has asked the Fifth Circuit to step up and review the many appeals.

Third-Party Motion in World of Warcraft Bot Case Accuses Blizzard of… Well… Beats Me [Virtually Blind]

In a suicide note, reflections on guilt [Times-Picayune]

commonal.jpgWe’re still in the great state of Georgia (which brought us today’s Judge of the Day). Now one of our favorite pro se litigants has been barred from further filing in the Northern District of Georgia.
From the Fulton County Daily Report:

The federal court filing spree launched by Jonathan Lee Riches, a pro se inmate who has barraged courts around the country with some 1,500 handwritten suits, is coming to a halt—at least in the Northern District of Georgia.

Calling Riches a “vexatious and abusive litigant,” U.S. District Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. last week permanently enjoined Riches—who has filed 351 suits in the Northern District alone over the past several months—from filing any more without first meeting a strict set of criteria.

Vexatious. That’s a great Scabulous word!
The order [pdf] dismisses all of Riches’ pending cases without prejudice. Skadden Arps and Pepper Hamilton must be breathing huge sighs of relief.

Among the defendants to Riches’ Atlanta suits were former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his wife, Silda; the law firms Pepper Hamilton and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Hooters of America; Norwegian Cruise Lines Inc.; and investment banker Bruce Wasserstein, whose private equity fund used to own the Daily Report’s parent company.

Riches’ celebrity targets included actors Anne Heche, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones; musicians Cyndi Lauper and Eddie Van Halen; and Braves pitcher Tom Glavine.

In one case, he alleged that actress Molly Ringwald “said she is going to turn me into a redhead and … burn me with 16 candles,” an apparent reference to Ringwald’s 1984 hit movie “Sixteen Candles.”

The candles line tempts us to withdraw our promise not to have Riches join ATL as a guest blogger.
Judge blocks inmate’s flood of cases to district court [Law.com]

Florida gator alligator Above the Law blog.jpgWhat is it about Florida that causes its lawyers and litigants to misbehave so egregiously? Just last week, the Florida Supreme Court sanctioned colorful attorney Jack Thompson. And now they’ve expressed their displeasure (PDF) with pro se litigant Julio Mora.
What did Mr. Mora do to upset the court? From its opinion:

Mora has filed pro se pleadings containing scandalous and obscene language. Specifically, in his “Petition to Inhibit Jurisdiction From this Very Supreme Court of Injustice,” Mora maintained that through its show cause proceedings with DOC, the Court has proven itself “to be a pack of incompetent cowards, without balls, testicles, courage or valor.” Further, Mora urged this Court to

“take this case and the ultimate decision, if ever, and please shovel it to the chief justice and every other justice’s a**hole, in order to have a common place to store the justices’ crap, together with the justice crap from their’s mind, properly disposed through the sewer system, in order to prevent the contaminants to reach the citizen of Florida, and also kiss Julio Mora’s the idiot seeking justice, kiss his a**hole every time the justice will retire going to their den. . . . Please kiss my a** one more time.”

The court declined to grant Mora the requested relief. Instead, it sanctioned him, directing the clerk of court to reject any future filings from Mora “unless signed by a member of The Florida Bar.”
In a court of law, it’s the parties who do the ass-kissing — not the judges.
Mora v. McNeil (PDF) [Supreme Court of Florida]

commonal.jpgAs many of you may recall, from our prior coverage of him, Jonathan Lee Riches is in a South Carolina prison until 2012 for wire fraud and conspiracy. He’s killing his time by filing a ridiculous number of ridiculous lawsuits in courts across the country, nicely summarized in this overview of his oeuvre, in the Fulton County Daily Report:

Thirty-nine percent of the 491 cases filed so far this month in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia have been filed by one man: Jonathan Lee Riches.

Among the defendants to his 192 suits are former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his wife, Silda; the firms Pepper Hamilton and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Hooters of America; Norwegian Cruise Lines Inc.; and investment banker Bruce Wasserstein. Riches’ celebrity targets include actors Anne Heche, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones; musicians Cyndi Lauper and Eddie Van Halen; and Braves pitcher Tom Glavine.

Riches has alleged that Eliot Spitzer “used the fines [from corporate convictions] to pay for prostitutes,” that the MacArthur Foundation froze Riches’ inmate account and funneled the money to Spitzer; and that Pepper Hamilton took a $1 million retainer from him and other inmates, but used the money to gamble on the New York Giants.

We wonder if the suit against Cyndi Lauper was about the mental anguish suffered when “Time After Time” gets stuck in your head.
Federal district courts across the country are annoyed at the waste of their man hours and money in processing the complaints. Is he crazy or crazy like a fox? He’s garnered a great amount of media attention, as detailed in his Wikipedia entry (and we’ve written about him extensively in these pages). We surmise that he may be setting himself up as a media commentator on frivolous lawsuits.

Some of Riches’ prior complaints have been dismissed, including a $662 trillion suit filed in the Northern District last summer against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. The suit alleged that Vick was attempting to “kidnap” Riches’ mind and to force him to lose weight, and demanded that the $662 trillion be delivered — in “British gold” shipped via truck — to the front gates of the prison where Riches is incarcerated.

Noting that a trio of other Riches’ suits — in federal courts in Michigan, South Carolina and Florida — had been dismissed as frivolous, Senior U.S. District Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. dismissed the suit against Vick in August. He cited 28 U.S.C. §1915(g), the “Three Strikes Rule,” which says a prisoner is prohibited from bringing federal civil actions in forma pauperis if, while incarcerated, he has had three other suits dismissed on the grounds of frivolity, malice or failure to state a claim.

There is, however, an exception. The prisoner may file, the statute says, if he’s in imminent danger of physical injury.

“[T]his Court finds that none of Plaintiff’s farcical assertions in the complaint, including his claim that Michael Vick threw snowballs at his car, qualify as a claim of imminent danger of serious physical injury,” Hunt writes in Riches v. Vick, No. 07-13940-J.

Don’t worry. We are amused, but we promise not to bring him on as a guest blogger at ATL.
Inmate’s Frequent Filings Take On Targets Ranging From Spitzer to Van Halen [Fulton County Daily Report via Law.com]

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