A Federal Appeals Court has taken an unusual approach to handling
lawsuits by people accused of abusing the court system: assigning an
Unidentified Judge to decide whether the court will hear the matter.
Frustrated with increasing court dockets, judges around the country
have taken special steps to deter suits by so-called vexatious
litigants and protect corut officials. But the policy adopted by the
2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has raised concern among
some civil libertarians, who question whether anonymous judges should
have any roles in the judicial system.
"It is a bad precedent for a free society," said Harvey Silvergate of
the Boston law firm of Silvergate and Good. "Once you breach the
principle, even in the case of a guy who really is a paranoid,
vexatious litigant, the exception will grow and grow."
The 2nd Circuit policy came to light earlier this month in a decision
rejecting 2 requests to identify the judges deciding such matters.
The requests were made by 2 men considered vexatious litiigants by
The appeals court said in its ruling that the policy was a
"reasonable response to the harassing abuse of the litigation
The ruling, written by 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Jon Newman, said:
"Maintaining confidentiality of the judge is a reasonable precaution,
necessitated by the unfortunate tendency of some vexatious litigants
to direct their harassing tactics personally at the judges whose
rulings displease them."
The requests to identify the judges were made by Anthony R. Martin of
Palm Beach, Florida and George Stassower of White Plains, New York.
The Court said in its ruling that the 2 men, who represent themselves
in court, had shown "an extraordinary pattern of vexatious and
harassing litigation pursued over several years."
Although courts can sanction people for filing frivolous lawsuits,
such sanctions aren't always enough, the appeals court said. The
court said that for some people it is necessary to craft special
arrangements "that impose severe limitations on the opportunity of
such individuals to pursue their penchant for vexatious litigation."
Then ruling explained how the policy works. An unidentified judge is
assigned to each vexatious litigant, who has been previously
sanctioned by the court. To file any motion with the appeals court,
the person must get permission from that judge. If the judge denies
the request, no appeal of that decision can be made, because it is
treated as an unappealable procedural matter.
The court also declined to explain how a judge is assigned to a
particular litigant. Several people are currently considered
vexatious litigants by the appeals court and each has an assigned
judge. The court said that sending all of one person's requests to a
particular judge makes it easier to rule on the validity of the
To illustrate the need to protect the identity of the judges the
appeals court cited what it called an "outrageous action" taken by
Mr. Martin to get back at the Federal judge whose rulings displeased
him. The court said Mr. Martin had sought to intervene in the judge's
divorce case and have himself appointed as the guardian for the
"Judges have absolute immunity in cases like that," Mr. Silvergate
said. "In exchange for immunity, the least judges could do is use
their real names."
The judges' concerns "are understandable" said Alan Dershowitz,
Harvard Law School Professor, "but it is totally antangonistic to the
American justice system to have an anonymous judge."
Mr. Martin said, "It is the 1st time anyone in history has tried to
create a secret court." In re Martin-Trigona No 93-5008, In re
from the WSJ 11/18/93
Here's a message concerning the above article you'll find
While I don't know what kind of litigation Anthony R. Martin-Trigona
is currently involved in I can truly understand why the Court found
it necessary to refuse to identify the Judge involved in reviewing
filings made by the gentlemen. I knew Tony in the late 60's and
early 70's when he began his pseudo-legal career out here in
Champaign County, Illinois. Tony passed all of his classes at the
University of Illinois Law School and the written portion of the
Illinois Bar Exam. He failed Character and Fitness and was denied a
license to Practice by the Illinois Supreme Court. He appealed to
the U.S. Supreme Court and the denial of admission was affirmed.
Tony then engaged in real estate development locally while he ran for
various offices and lost. He met litigation on contracts by filing
spurious counter-claims against the opposing litigants and counsel.
He would sue every one who had contact with the case, including the
Judge to whom the case was assigned and then file a motion to recuse
the judge because he, Tony was suing him.
He was successful in making litigation so expensive and vexatious
that he usually wore his opponents out.
Finally, he defended a stop sign ticket by first throwing a punch at
the cop and when that resulted in a second charge of resisting - he
did not land the punch - he sought to remove the case to Federal
Court claiming that the the stop sign ticket was in violation of his
rights under the Constitution. When that was sucessful only in
delaying trial about a year he filed an action against the former
prosecutor, under whose administration the case was filed, the then
current prosecutor who inherited the case and every judge in Illinois
Sixth Circuit claiming that they had all engaged in a conspiracy to
deprive him of something or other.
That action in the then Eastern District (now Central District) of
Illinois asked for damages of $1 Million Plus. I represented the
former prosecutor and filed a counter claim asking $15,000.00 damages
for his vexatious pleading.
The amount was carefully calculated to reasonably reflect the cost to
defend his vexatious pleadings and manuevers and to send a message to
him hat we were not going to play his game and set the matter down
for pre-trial conference.
Tony appeared and took a voluntary dismissal and Judge Henry Wise, on
his own motion, dismissed our counter claim.
Meanwhile his manuevers and game playing delayed the stop sign ticket
for another four years and the Third States Attorney was in charge of
prosecuting the case. His tactic then was to a) meet with the States
Attorney to "negotiate" the case. b) call the media and announced
that the States Attorney was soliciting a bribe and set a press
conference with the media for the following Friday on the Court house
steps. The media got great motion pictures of Tony being served with
sumons in a Defamation Action in which Fred Grosser and I represented
the Plaintiff, Tom DiFanis the States Attorney.
A few weeks later an apartment building which Tony owned had a
suspicious fire. Toney sued Fred and I and then Senator Charles
Percy as well as every judge in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of
Illinois charging that we had conspired to burn down his building.
Fred and I were insulted when he only aske half a mil damages from us
but wanted 6 mil from Percy. (I had never met Percy and never voted
for the man)
The result of the defamation suit was a $750,000.00 jury verdict
against the man. It was ultimately reversed on appeal but Tony left
the area and surfaced again in Connecticut. I last hear of him as a
"Florida Lawyer" announcing that he was going to run for Governor or
some other Statewide office. I trust that the State of Florida has
NOT admitted the gentleman to its bar and the identification as
Lawyer was a journalists error.
The point of this long message is that the kind of vexatious conduct
- as outrageous as it is - should not be an excuse for permitting
courts to cloak themselves with anonimity. Such sanctions as jail -
Tony has spent up to 18 months for contempt - won't deter him. I'm
not sure that there is a solution other than providing for some
protection to the bench for this kind of abuse of the system.
Perhaps there is no solution consistant with providing an open court
system available to the public scrutiny.
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