Seventh Circuit punishes serial litigant (Neal v. LaRiva, No. 14-1165 (7th Cir.))

Neal v. LaRiva, No. 14-1165 (7th Cir.). Decided September 3, 2014. Like so many pro se filings, Neal is a primer on what not do in the trial court and on appeal. You know the appellant is in hot water when the first line of the decision is “Robert Neal seems unable to resist dishonesty.” Neal is currently serving 327 months on wire fraud conviction. He is serving his sentence at FCI Terre Haute in Indiana. Neal had signed a court document with the name of David Nelson, and was sanctioned by the prisoned by revoking his commissary and telephone privileges for 180 days. Neal challenged this decision by filing a writ of habeaus corpus under 28 U.S.C §2241. Neal then moved three times to stay the §2241 by submitting a fake “arbitration agreement” (replete with “gibberish”) to the court, seeking to compel arbitration. The court denied Neal’s motion for stay. The court thereafter denied the §2241 petition on the merits, holding that the impositions of the sanctions did not affect Neal’s custody, making relief under §2241 unavailable.

Neal appealed, but the Seventh Circuit did not merely deny Neal’s meritless appeal. By “his own admission, Neal has over and over again flouted his duty to be honest with the court.” Neal’s course of conduct before this court has earned him a sanction for his repeated filing of frivolous appeals and documents. See Neal v. United States, No. 13-2486 (7th Cir. Oct. 29, 2013), and Neal v. Oliver, No. 13-2598 (7th Cir. Oct. 29, 2013). Neal was fined $500 in these two cases. The Court ordered that until he paid the fines and filing fees for those two cases, “the clerks of all federal courts in this circuit have been directed to return unfiled any papers he submits either directly or indirectly.”

The Court then imposed three additional sanctions:

“First, we are imposing an additional fine of $500 on Neal. Until he pays all outstanding fees and sanctions, clerks of all federal courts within this circuit must return unfiled any papers he submits in any habeas corpus action unless the petition attacks a state-court criminal judgment. See Montgomery v. Davis, 362 F.3d 956, 957–58 (7th Cir. 2004). As in Montgomery, the filing bar imposed by this order applies to any post-judgment motions Neal might try to file in any existing case. After two years, Neal may seek modification or rescission of this order.

Second, we order Neal to show cause within 14 days of this opinion why we should not sanction him under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 for filing a frivolous appeal.

Third, we order the Clerk of this court to send copies of this opinion and the case file to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, so that he may consider the question whether Neal should be prosecuted for the crime of perjury, 18 U.S.C. § 1621, or any other offense that he deems appropriate.”

Neal squarely addresses those litigants who “are unable to resist dishonesty” by imposing harsh sanctions and even recommending perjury charges be filed. Filer beware.

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