Freeman v. King
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER directing as follows: (1) appellee King's 5 motion for sanctions is granted to the extent that (a), by 9/6/2011, appellee King shall file a supplemental statement setting forth her expenses, including the time reco rd of her attorney along with the apropriate affidavits establishing the reasonable hourly rates for his services; and (b) by 9/20/2011, appellant Jesse Lewis Freeman may file a response; (2) appellee King's 5 motion sanctions is denied in all other respects. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 8/30/11. (Attachments: # 1 civil appeals checklist). Furnished to bankruptcy clerk via electronic notice.(djy, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, EASTERN DIVISION
JESSE LEWIS FREEMAN,
JESSE LEWIS FREEMAN,
GLADYS F. KING,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
decision by the Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District
of Alabama lifting an automatic stay of a state-court
action brought by appellee Gladys F. King.
court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision.
Freeman, 2011 WL 3627370 (M.D. Ala. Aug. 17, 2011).
case is currently before the court on King’s motion for
sanctions made pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy
For the reasons that follow, the court
will grant that motion in part and deny it in part.
Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8020 authorizes
this court, after determining “that an appeal from an
order, judgment, or decree of a bankruptcy judge is
frivolous” and ensuring that the appellant has notice and
damages and single or double costs to the appellee.”
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8020.
This authority parallels that of
the courts of appeals under Federal Rule of Appellate
In re Porto, 645 F.3d 1294, 1306-07 (11th
Freeman is one of 83 named defendants in a statecourt action brought by King to quiet title to a parcel
of real property in which Freeman claims an interest.
Throughout the pendency of that action, he has repeatedly
used the federal courts in order to interrupt and delay
the state-court proceedings.
In 2008, Freeman twice
removed the case to federal court, only to have it
See King v. Parcel of Land, No. 3:08-cv-
302 (Doc. No. 4) (Watkins, C.J.); King v. Parcel of Land,
No. 3:08-cv-72 (Doc. No. 6) (Watkins, C.J.).
second removal, he was warned that further attempts to
use removal in order to dely the state-court proceedings
might result in sanctions.
Following that warning, Freeman filed a Chapter 13
Middle District of Alabama.
On June 16, 2009, The
bankruptcy court confirmed Freeman’s Chapter 13 plan and
an automatic stay was placed on all pending judicial
proceedings against his property, including King’s action
to quiet title.
11 U.S.C. § 362(a).
counsel and moved for relief from the stay.
The bankruptcy court lifted the stay and later
denied Freeman’s motion to reconsider.
Acting pro se, and against the advice of counsel,
Freeman appealed to this court.
moved to withdraw.
His counsel promptly
In that motion, counsel explained
that he had spoken with Freeman several times regarding
reconsideration in the bankruptcy court and his appeal to
this court were “against the advice” that he had given;
and that “irreconcilable differences” about how best to
proceed with the case prevented him from continuing his
Mot. to Withdraw 3-4 (Doc. No. 6).
This court granted counsel’s motion to withdraw.
Freeman, who apparently has some paralegal training, has
continued to press his appeal pro se.
On August 17,
2011, this court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision
to lift the stay.
In re Freeman, 2011 WL 3627370 (M.D.
Ala. Aug. 17, 2011).
Only King’s separate motion for
sanctions remains undecided.
The vast majority of the briefing that he has
provided this court addresses the merits of the statecourt proceeding, rather than the bankruptcy court’s
decision to lift the automatic stay.
That focus is
unsurprising since the bankruptcy court’s decision was
possible resolution based on the facts of this case.
Unable to question that decision, Freeman resorts to
irrelevant attacks on the state-court action.
When Freeman does focus on the bankruptcy court’s
First, Freeman argues that the bankruptcy court violated
his due-process rights by failing to call him on his
personal telephone so that he could participate in a July
13, 2010, conference call.
But Freeman readily admits to
receiving notice prior to the call.
That notice directed
him to dial in to the call with a number that the court
There is no conceivable way that his failure
to follow those instructions amounts to a due-process
bankruptcy court’s decision to lift the stay.
his vague and cursory references to alleged error fail to
identify anything that the bankruptcy court actually got
wrong; nor could it, since every single factor that the
bankruptcy court was obligated to consider before lifting
the stay, see In re Marvin Johnson's Auto Serv., Inc.,
192 B.R. 1008, 1014 (Bankr. N.D. Ala. 1996) (Cohen,
B.J.), confirms that court’s decision.
If the only issue was the strength of Freeman’s
appeal, then this court would be somewhat reluctant to
reasonably viewed as unfair to welcome those unfamiliar
with the law into the courtroom and then impose sanctions
whenever inexperience leads them astray.
therefore often considered inappropriate in cases where
a pro se litigant files a frivolous appeal.
IRS, 3 F.3d 403 (11th Cir. 1993).
However, this is not
such a case.
After thoroughly examining the record and closely
observing the litigation’s path through state, federal,
and bankruptcy courts, only one conclusion is possible:
Freeman’s motivation is to delay, for as long as he can,
the state-court action to quiet title.
To put it simply,
Freeman has acted in bad faith and has done so in the
face of contrary advice from counsel and warnings from
Under these circumstances, sanctions are
judicial resources and to ensure that the state-court
See United States v. Morse, 532 F.3d 1130, 1132-
33 (11th Cir. 2008) (sanctioning pro se litigant for
raising frivolous arguments after he had been warned that
they were frivolous); Pollard v. Comm’r, 816 F.2d 603,
604-05 (11th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (sanctioning pro se
appellant for raising issues that had “long been settled”
after a warning that they were frivolous).
The court does not take the imposition of sanctions
lightly, but it cannot ignore Freeman’s bad-faith efforts
support this appeal.
Indeed, when confronted with King’s
allegations and given an opportunity to respond, Freeman
justification for this appeal.
Instead, he baselessly
accused King of perjury before the bankruptcy court and
The court therefore easily concludes that,
personal unnecessarily resources defending this appeal,
actual, reasonable amount of attorney fees plus court
information with which to calculate that amount.
will be therefore directed to file a supplement to her
motion for sanctions setting forth her costs, including
a detailed time record of her attorney and appropriate
affidavits establishing the reasonable hourly rate for
the handling this appeal.
King’s request for additional sanctions tied to the
estimated value of the property at issue in the state-law
action would produce an unnecessary windfall for King and
will be therefore denied.
For the foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED as follows:
(1) Appellee Gladys F. King’s motion for sanctions
(doc. no. 5) is granted to the extent that (a), by
including the time record of her attorney along with the
appropriate affidavits establishing the reasonable hourly
rates for his services; and (b), by September 20, 2011,
appellant Jesse Lewis Freeman may file a response.
(2) Appellee King’s motion for sanctions (doc. no. 5)
is denied in all other respects.
DONE, this the 30th day of August, 2011.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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