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Well, That's One Way of Trying to Influence a Court in Your Favor:

The plaintiff in a Third Circuit case decided yesterday filed the case as Awala, and the People of the Philadelphia Religious Community Center, et al. v. People Who Want to Restrict Our First Amendment Rights, Primarily to Intimidate Rather Than Religious Purposes Maintenance on Courthouse Grounds of Illuminated Granite Monolith On Which "Ten Commandments" Were Inscribed Together With Other Symbols, et al.

Despite this creative styling, "Gbeke Michael Awala, who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia," nonetheless lost. Among other things, the court pointed out, "Awala's pleading in the District Court, which he titled, 'Motion in opposition towards the defendants habitual offenses involving individual rights restriction against establishment of religion despite fact that religious symbol were admissible,' is difficult to comprehend, much less classify." If you want a sense of what Mr. Awala was after, here's the court's summary:

A recurring theme in Awala's pleading is his request that the District Court overturn the United States Supreme Court's decision in McCreary County, Ky. v. ACLU, which held that two courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Awala seeks, among other things, to have all of the religious monuments which have been removed from courthouses "nationwide" replaced. The District Court clearly does not have the authority to overturn any decision by the United States Supreme Court. . . .

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Ubertrout for a link to the opinion, which I've incorporated above.

Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
I wonder how you go about serving People Who Want to Restrict Our First Amendment Rights, Primarily to Intimidate Rather Than Religious Purpose Maintenance on Courthouse Grounds, etc.
12.9.2005 7:32pm
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
Mr Awala also filed a 1983 suit against Wachovia for owning slaves. It was a little less frivilous than his other suit. But not much. The 3d Circuit Docket Number is 05-3381.
12.9.2005 7:46pm
Hattio (mail):
I remember my first year Civ Pro class, the professor had us read the order which had been entered to Motion For The Judge To Kiss My Ass. It was pretty funny. She said she was doing it to show how formally the courts operate, even with ludicrous pleadings, but I think that she just did it for kicks
12.9.2005 7:50pm
Mike Z (mail) (www):
I don't suppose anybody's considered a "filter" (perhaps a first-year law student), whose job it would be to decide which suits are frivolous (from what I read, about 90%) and which have at least some small smattering of merit.
12.9.2005 7:51pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
The 9th Circuit effectively has such a filter. They're called 'staff attorneys.' Dunno about other circuits or district courts, though my impression was that a lot of the frivolous stuff that wasn't funny got shoved onto magistrates.
12.9.2005 8:04pm
Nicole Black (mail) (www):
I just spoke w/ a clerk for a federal court judge last night re: the issue of frivolous lawsuits and she advised that close to 80% of their docket consists of either pro-se prisoner claims or pro-se employment discrimination claims. And, they've got to follow procedural guidelines for each case regardless of merit. In other words, a judge can't just sua sponte dismiss a case as soon as it's filed simply because a law clerk or the judge deems that it has no merit based upon the allegations in the complaint. Each case has to work its way through the system, and is eventually dismissed on a motion of some sort--even cases as bizarre as the one discussed above.
12.9.2005 8:37pm
Ian (www):
My favorite case remains United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan &His Staff, which involved a claim that "Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall," and thus Satan has violated the plaintiff's "constitutional rights."

The case was dismissed for want of personal jurisdiction, and also on the alternative grounds that the U.S. Marshals had not been provided with instructions on how to serve process on the devil.
12.9.2005 9:03pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
12.9.2005 9:48pm
Phutatorius (www):
You can't blame the guy for the branding effort. The problem is he didn't come up with a good, simple, reductive acronym, a la the PROTECT ("Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today") Act, or the USA PATRIOT ("Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism") Act.

That's the sort of genius that separates the pro se prisoner types from the folks on Capitol Hill . . .
12.9.2005 10:13pm
David Berke:
Can someone send a cite for the Motion For The Judge To Kiss My Ass? I have a case I need to file something very similar in.
12.10.2005 12:13am
Humble Law Student:
Ahhh man, I really could have used that Motion For the Judge to Kiss My Ass for an answer of my Civ Pro final today. Just a few hours too late.
12.10.2005 1:11am
Andy (mail) (www):
As bizarre as this case may be, it doesn't seem that far off from Michael Newdow's original suit (which did go through the 9th Circuit) in which he attempted to sue the President, Vice President, various members of congress, et al. Yet the courts took up Newdow's case (albeit with the number of defendants drastically reduced). So perhaps "frivolous" is another one of those terms that wannabe Potter Stewarts will know when they see it...?
12.10.2005 1:56am
Tired of Blogs:
Let's see a link for the suit v. Satan and his staff, too. :)
12.10.2005 1:58am
Conrad (mail):
There's something I don't miss from my days as a federal judicial law clerk, the deluge of frivolous, unintelligible and often insane prioner pro-se pleadings.
12.10.2005 2:12am
Roger (mail):
There is some irony to all of this.

Most of the conspirators love to prattle on about "frivolous" lawsuits filed by trial lawyers.

But, really, frivolous lawsuits are usually filed by non-lawyers, who really don't know the difference.

Indeed, if lawyers represented these people, they wouldn't file such claims, and they could, at the very least articulate any legitimate grievances these people have in a form that could be cognizable by a court.

But most of the VC, and most of the readers think it is better if the world is run by pro se people.
12.10.2005 9:37am
Public_Defender:
In one appeal I was handling, the trial lawyer had filed a "Motion for Leave to Speak for More than 60 Seconds." Obviously, the trial was contentious.

The judge thought he had the last laugh when the guy was convicted. But the trial lawyer had the last laugh when the court of appeals vacated the conviction because the evidence didn't support the conviction (i.e., the guy was innocent).
12.10.2005 10:23am
boonelsj (mail):
The Satan case is in the FRD, strangely enough:

Mayo v. Satan &His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D.P.A. 1971)

also at: 1971 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10548
12.10.2005 10:51am
Law Student:
I had to look up the Satan case for my legal writing course. The best part is that the opinion mentions that there was an unofficial account of a New Hampshire case where Satan filed an action of mortgage foreclosure. Apparently, the defense in that case said that he was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American court. Surprisingly, that claim was rebutted by the weight of the evidence.
12.10.2005 11:37am
JB:
Roger: Why do you think the non-lawyers are filing these? Because lawyers refused on grounds of frivolity, I'd wager.
12.10.2005 11:48am
Tired of Blogs:
I may be misremembering the story, but could the "unofficial account" be the short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster?"
12.10.2005 12:19pm
Visitor Again:
Why do you think the non-lawyers are filing these? Because lawyers refused on grounds of frivolity, I'd wager.

And when the lawyers refuse to file the frivolous lawsuit for the plaintiff, they become part of the ever-growing conspiracy and get added to the list of defendants.

In the late 70s I was defending in a fairly high profile murder trial which went on for more than a year and had a lot of people in daily attendance. I arrived home from court one evening to find one of the most prominent of the trial groupies--a striking six-foot tall blonde, beautiful but mentally deranged--sitting at my living room desk reading my legal papers. She wanted to talk over a lawsuit she was bringing. I mentioned that she had entered without permission. She said she had knocked and gotten no answer and my back door was unlocked. I pointed out that even so she just couldn't walk in. She said she thought I was such a nice guy I would have wanted her to come in and wait for me. I gave up in the face of this unassailable logic and managed to convince her I was busy and sent her on her way.

A few months later I received by mail a fat envelope containing a California Superior Court complaint and summons listing her as plaintiff and naming as defendants me, many other lawyers, including my colleagues on the case, our clients in the case, several Hollywood film stars who supported our defense, many local officials and so on. I never did figure out what we were being sued for other than conspiracy to do something uncertain. The complaint had a lot of handwritten insertions that were not legible.

Perhaps unwisely, I ignored the thing, and never again heard anything about it. Presumably it was dismissed or, if not, there is an uncollected default judgment for several million dollars outstanding against me.
12.10.2005 12:38pm
Ga. JD:

Can someone send a cite for the Motion For The Judge To Kiss My Ass? I have a case I need to file something very similar in.

Ah, Washington v. Alaimo, 934 F.Supp. 1395 (S.D. Ga. 1996)

"The motion which Plaintiff filed was entitled 'Motion to Kiss My Ass" (Doc. 107) in which he moved "all Americans at large and one corrupt Judge Smith [to] kiss my got [sic] damn ass sorry mother fucker you.'"

There were some other interesting motions there too. I've referenced it in briefs on occasion when pointing out how frivolous my opponent's positions were.
12.10.2005 6:29pm
MCG (mail) (www):
For a while I wrote recommendations on prisoner pro se appeals in the Justice Department. I started out thinking that I would have to read those stacks of hand-printed arguments very carefully, because they might contain buried treasure. I never found any.

If the courts have more to do than to hear frivolous lawsuits, however, they should also have too much to do, and too much generosity of spirit, to ridicule the prisoners who seek their aid.
12.10.2005 9:52pm
Public_Defender:
Part of my job is to screen claims from prisoners to see if they have any remedies to challenge their convictions. A lot of these pro se claims are arguments someone like me has rejected.

I refuse to accept the vast majority of potential clients, but there are a few good arguments in the stack.

One difficulty is that there's a big difference between a morally compelling claim and a legally compelling claim. I've had clearly guilty and repulsive clients with strong claims, and other clients who I thought got unfairly reamed with no legal claims.

If I think the guy got screwed (either wrongly convicted, convicted of too much, or sentenced way too harshly for the offense compared to other inmates), I am more likely to push the limits by filing a weak claim. Conversely, if I think the guy got a lucky break at trial, I'm less likely to file.

(I can do this ethically because I am reviewing their files to see if they will become one of my clients. I make sure they know that they are responsible for their cases unless I write to them and tell them I will be their lawyer. )
12.11.2005 6:18am
Visitor Again:
The motion to kiss my ass opinion is here.
12.11.2005 11:42am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
The reason they are pro se is usually (1) the case has no legal merit or (2) its merit is outweighed by the fact the plaintiff is the Client From Hell. Self-absorbed, demanding, expecting that the atty will abandon the rest of his life and practice to cater to them. (I remember one case I took on that had some modest legal merit. Bad sign: client comes over to office toting his own 12-pack of coca-cola, just so he doesn't run out during his visit. Worse sign: client asks if you could store a few file cabinets of his records because he's moving into a smaller apartment).

There may be some (3) case has merit but odds or damages mean it's not something an attorney would take on, but I'd suspect that's well under 10%.
12.11.2005 10:23pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Excellent thread!
12.12.2005 10:34am
NickM (mail) (www):
I ran across one of these "nutso pro pers" recently, when he sued a number of local elected officials and other political figures for unspecified wrongdoing - literally!

The key paragraph against my clients was:

"8. Defendants [long list of names omitted] and each of them violated the California Political Reform Act in that they [he followed with 5 blank underlined lines, which I can't reproduce in a comment thread]."

He dismissed the case voluntarily before I could file my SLAPP motion. :-(

I also ran across several similar types of people while clerking for a U.S.D.C. judge. She referred prisoner pro se cases to the magistrate by standing order, but all other pro se litigants were dealt with as if they were represented by counsel. Some may have legitimate claims, although often their only potential meritorious claims would be state law claims. Others are just cranks. Those are most easily recognized by the fact their suit names one or more other judges, or Congress and/or the President, as defendants. My judge dismissed one such plaintiff's claims against Congress, of whom he demanded "[t]hey must see how the Rotten Federal judicial system call for to be reformed" on the ground of mootness after 12(b)(6) motions were filed by counsel for the House and Senate, since the only relief he had requested against these defendants had already been accomplished by serving them with his complaint.

Nick
12.12.2005 6:55pm