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In re Skupniewitz

January 4, 1996

IN THE MATTER OF:

JOSEPH SKUPNIEWITZ, RICHARD POSNER, BARBARA CRABB, AND THE UNITED STATES SEVENTH CIRCUIT,

PETITIONERS.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

No. 95 C 374--Thomas J. Curran, Judge.

Before FAY,*fn2 LOGAN*fn3 and GUY,*fn4 Circuit Judges.

LOGAN, Circuit Judge.

SUBMITTED DECEMBER 20, 1995

DECIDED JANUARY 4, 1996 *fn1

PUBLISHED JANUARY 11, 1996

This petition for a writ of mandamus presents new twists and turns in the efforts of the court to curb an abusive pro se litigant.

According to Support Systems Int'l, Inc. v. Mack, 45 F.3d 185 (7th Cir. 1995), the sanction order at the heart of this case,

Richard Mack was sued in a Wisconsin state court by SSI, Inc. over a piece of machinery. He sought to remove the suit to federal district court. There was no legal basis for such removal, and the district court imposed a $100 sanction on Mack which he was to pay to his adversary, SSI, for filing a frivolous petition to remove. Mack did not pay but instead created a Wisconsin corporation having the same name as his adversary and advised the district court that he had paid the sanction, as ordered, to SSI--but he meant his own corporation, though he did not tell the court this. When the district court learned of his fraud, it increased the sanction to $500, and Mack, again without complying, appealed to this court--appealed and asked us to strike the appearance of the law firm that represents his adversary, on the ground that SSI had fired the firm. But Mack was referring to his SSI, whereas the law firm represents the SSI that had sued him in state court. The motion was denied, but Mack renewed it, and this time in denying his motion we directed him to show cause why we should not summarily affirm the district court's sanctions order and impose additional sanctions under Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Mack did not respond and on July 21, 1994, we summarily affirmed the district court's order and imposed an additional sanction on Mack [again payable to his adversary] of $5,000. The district court meanwhile enjoined Mack from filing any additional motions without leave of court, and he has appealed from the injunction as well as from the district court's order imposing the $500 sanction. He has also taken to sending abusive letters to judges of this court. And he has yet to pay a cent of the sanctions imposed on him. Id. at 185-86.

Based on this behavior and additional filings by Mack the court ordered "the clerks of all federal courts in the circuit to return unfiled any papers that the litigant (Mack) attempts to file, unless and until he pays in full the sanctions that have been imposed against him." Id. at 186. The opinion made exceptions for any criminal case in which Mack was a defendant and for petitions for a writ of habeas corpus. The court permitted Mack to move, after two years, to modify or rescind the order. In explaining the limitations of its order the panel offered the gratuitous statement that "[t]he state courts remain open to Mack, and most federal claims can be litigated in state court." Id. at 187.

Mack's nearly immediate response was to sue in Wisconsin state court the United States Seventh Circuit itself, Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Richard Posner, Eastern District of Wisconsin Chief District Judge Barbara Crabb, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin Clerk Joseph Skupniewitz. The complaint, which with exhibits totaled twenty-four pages, was based principally on the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. secs. 1961-68. In a disjointed list of ten racketeering acts, Mack sought to hold the defendants liable for the alleged torture murder of Mack's father, attempted murder of Mack, Medicare fraud, mail fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice, and criminal defamation. Many of these wrongs allegedly flowed, directly or indirectly, from the court's sanction order in Support Systems.

Petitioners might have sought dismissal in state court, asserting their absolute immunity and other defenses. Instead they chose to remove the case to federal district court, invoking 28 U.S.C. secs. 1441(a), 1442(a)(3), and 1446. The district court, however, sua sponte ordered the action remanded to state court. Interpreting the sanction order as prohibiting federal court clerks within the circuit from accepting any papers submitted on behalf of Mack, the court gave as its reason for remand that "this case obviously cannot be conducted in federal court." Mack v. Skupniewitz, No. 95-C-374, slip op. at 2 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 17, 1995).

Responding to a motion for reconsideration and recall of the remand, the district court entered an order stating that it "finds itself being tossed in the seas between Scylla and Charybdis." Mack v. Skupniewitz, No. 95-C-374 (E.D. Wis. May 17, 1995) (order denying motion to reconsider). The court questioned, based upon Support Systems, whether it should have accepted the petition for removal because it incorporated Mack's state court complaint. The court believed, because of the circuit's sanction order, it could solicit the positions and arguments of only the defendants in the suit and not of Mack, "an untenable situation that flies in the face of due ...


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