Sunday, September 07, 2003

Frequent filer denied law license, federal litigation ensues

In Dubuc v. Michigan Board of Law Examiners, the Sixth Circuit reversed in part the dismissal of plaintiff's constitutional claims, in a case about the federal civil rights suit brought by an individual denied admission to the Michigan bar for lack of good moral character.

Evidently, the evaluation of the applicant's moral character involved some consideration of his history as a litigant:

"Dubuc had been involved in approximately thirty-eight lawsuits in the twenty-five years preceding his Board hearing. He filed one of these lawsuits in Michigan’s Livingston County Circuit Court in 1992. In 1993, he moved to disqualify the presiding judge, Judge Daniel Burress. During a hearing on September 27, 1995, Dubuc accused Judge Burress of engaging in a conspiracy against him. During a hearing on October 6, 1995, Dubuc told Judge Burress that he had filed criminal charges against him for conspiracy, bribery, bribery attempt, and abuse of process. In an affidavit he filed in support of his criminal charges, Dubuc attested that Judge Burress was engaged in a “conspiracy to destroy [him],” obstruction of justice, abuse of process, bribery, and attempted bribery.

Judge Burress ordered Dubuc to pay over $180,000 in sanctions for violating several court orders, and after a bench trial, Judge Burress dismissed Dubuc’s lawsuit as frivolous. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Burress’s decision to award sanctions and dismiss the lawsuit. Dubuc v. Green Oak Township, No. 191293, 1999 WL 33455145 (Mich. Ct. App., Jan. 5, 1999). The Michigan Supreme Court denied Dubuc’s application for leave to appeal, 604 N.W.2d 679 (Mich. 1999), and denied his subsequent motion to reconsider, 609 N.W.2d 829 (Mich. 2000). In conjunction with the denial of his motion to reconsider, Justice Corrigan, joined by a majority of the other Michigan Supreme Court justices, issued a statement encouraging the trial court to consider “extraordinary sanctions to deter [Dubuc] from continuing his vexatious tactics that have led to years of abusive litigation.” 609 N.W.2d at 829. Among many other things, Justice Corrigan found that Dubuc had engaged in abusive and frivolous tactics to delay the proceedings, including “naming the trial judge as a witness; seeking to depose the judge; accusing the judge of criminal conduct and of conspiring with defense counsel; and threatening to file a complaint with the Judicial Tenure Commission against the judge.” Id. at 830.

Relying upon the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision denying Dubuc’s motion to reconsider, the Board found that the issue of whether sanctions were appropriate against Dubuc had been decided against Dubuc and was no longer an issue for the Board to resolve. Dubuc’s attorney admitted to the Board that he knew of no facts that would support a criminal charge against Judge Burress for bribery or conspiracy. Dubuc stated to the Board that he had not intended to accuse Judge Burress of bribery, but that he meant only to accuse Judge Burress of knowing that bribery was occurring and doing nothing to stop it. According to the Board, Dubuc refused to accept responsibility for falsely accusing a judge of criminal actions and persisted in believing that the issues in front of the Board were not his fault. In its opinion, the Board found that his failure to accept responsibility for his actions prevented him from carrying his burden to prove that he was fit to practice law."

In his lawsuit, the plaintiff sought, among other things, "declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting defendants from using his alleged First Amendment activities (criticizing a judge) as a basis for denying his second application."

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