United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division
April 4, 2002
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
ONE PARCEL OF REAL ESTATE LOCATED AT 1948 MARTIN LUTHER KING DRIVE, SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, United States District Judge.
When attorney Bruce Locher's discovery motion was denied, he took an
underhanded course to obtain that which the Court said he could not have.
There is a price to be paid for this misconduct.
Mr. Locher is sanctioned $1,000.00.
Mr. Locher represented Marvin Logan, father of Springfield area drug
Melvin Logan, in a civil forfeiture case before this Court.
On May 26, 1999, Mr. Locher sought leave to file a motion for
production of probation and parole records. In its June 7, 1999, Order,
the Court informed Mr. Locher that the discovery deadline expired on
March 19, 1999, that the deadline had previously been extended for his
benefit by a period of 120 days, and that he had ample time within the
extended discovery period to file a timely motion for production.
Explaining that it would "not sanction the current attempt to extend
discovery well beyond the Court imposed deadline as the trial"
approached, the Court denied Mr. Locher's motion for production. The
Court also warned him that it would not tolerate additional delay and
that further "dilatory conduct may justify the imposition of sanctions."
Try as the Court did to impress on Mr. Locher that its patience and the
discovery period had both ended, these efforts were to no avail. On
August 19, 1999, Mr. Locher appeared in U.S. District Judge Jeanne E.
Scott's courtroom during a sentencing hearing for Melvin Logan, the drug
kingpin who supplied the money used to purchase the real estate, cars,
etc. at issue in the forfeiture case. Without ever mentioning this
Court's June 7, 1999, Order, or the fact that discovery had expired, Mr.
Locher made an oral motion for a copy of Melvin Logan's presentence
investigation report ("PSR"). Judge Scott asked Melvin Logan, his
attorney, and counsel for the Government if any of them objected to Mr.
Locher's motion. When no one objected, Judge Scott ordered the United
States Probation Office to provide Mr. Locher with a copy of Logan's
Mr. Locher's backdoor ploy might have gone undetected had his
co-counsel not used the PSR to later cross examine a Government witness.
When the Court asked co-counsel how he got a copy of the PSR, co-counsel
said that "It was disclosed as a result of the motion that Mr. Locher
made orally to Judge Scott."
The Court inquired of Mr. Locher whether he told Judge Scott that he
had moved for a copy of the PSR on May 26, 1999, and that the Court
denied his motion in its June 7 Order. Mr. Locher admitted that he did
not tell Judge Scott about the June 7 Order.
The Court informed Mr. Locher that it was of the opinion he "appear[ed]
to have at the least dissembled with Judge Scott and tried to go in the
back door and get what he could not get in through the front of this
case." It invited Mr. Locher to dissuade it of that opinion, and he
Your Honor, my motion which was filed May 26th,
1999, asked this Court specifically for the probation
and parole records of certain informant witnesses that
the Government intended to call during the trial. And
that was the motion that this Court ruled upon and
denied. Melvin Logan is not an informant witness.
He's a defendant in that case. That's the motion that
was before the Court, Your Honor. That's the motion
R. at 639.
The Court held the issue of Mr. Locher's conduct in abeyance until
March of 2000. At that time, the Court issued two opinions. One held
that 18 of the properties at issue in the forfeiture case should be
forfeited. The other ordered Mr. Locher to pay $1,000.00 in sanctions
"for his willful failure to abide by the Court's ruling and for his
deceptive and disobedient conduct in obtaining Melvin Logan's PSR."*fn1
United States v. One Parcel of Real Estate Located at 1948 Martin
Luther King Drive, Springfield, Ill., 2000 WL 331749, *3 (C.D.Ill.).
Given the egregious nature of Mr. Locher's actions and the preposterous
explanation he offered for his misconduct, the Court believed that a
sanction hearing was unnecessary.
Mr. Locher appealed both the forfeiture of the properties and the
leveling of sanctions. On November 5, 2001, the Seventh Circuit Court of
Appeals affirmed the forfeiture, but held that Mr. Locher should have been
afforded a hearing prior to being sanctioned. It remanded the case for
the limited purpose of affording Mr. Locher a sanction hearing. See
United States v. 1948 South Martin Luther King Drive, 270 F.3d 1102, 1116
(7th Cir. 2001).
Pursuant to the Seventh Circuit's instructions, this Court held a
sanctions hearing on March 26, 2002. Mr. Locher did not call any
witnesses to speak in his defense. Rather, he testified under oath to
the events described above and again stated that his request for and
acquisition of Melvin Logan's PSR did not violate the June 7 Order
because the Order only denied discovery of materials relating to
government witnesses and Melvin Logan's PSR was not such a material since
Melvin Logan was not a Government witness.
Once a court notifies a party of its intention to impose sanctions, and
the party is given an opportunity to respond, the court may impose
sanctions via its inherent powers. See Larsen v. City of Beloit,
130 F.3d 1278, 1287 (7th Cir. 1997).
The inherent powers doctrine allows a court "to impose silence,
respect, and decorum, in their presence, and submission to their lawful
mandates." See Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43, 111 S.Ct. 2123,
32, 115 L.Ed.2d 27 (1991) (citation omitted). These powers are "governed
not by rule or statute but by the control necessarily vested in courts to
manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious
disposition of cases." Id. (citations omitted).
Moreover, they reach "both conduct before the court and that beyond the
court's confines, for `[t]he underlying concern that gave rise to the
contempt power was not . . . merely the disruption of court
proceedings.'" See 501 U.S. at 44; 111 S.Ct. at 2132 (citations omitted).
In the instant case, Mr. Locher admits under oath that even though the
Court's June 7 Order denied his motion to discover probation and parole
records he nevertheless sought a copy of Melvin Logan's PSR for
"discovery purposes". One would think that these admissions would be
followed by the sound of a man apologizing for his misconduct. But
rather than own up to his misconduct, Mr. Locher tries to justify his
actions with one ridiculous explanation after another.
Initially, Mr. Locher claims he did not understand the June 7 Order to
bar additional discovery. However, when pressed on the obvious language
of the Order's denial, Mr. Locher tries to get around its meaning by
asserting that he is "not competent" to render an opinion as to the
meaning of the Court's Order.*fn2 Mr. Locher cannot have it both ways on
this point: either he is competent or he is not. If he wishes to claim
he is incompetent, his next argument certainly supports his position.
In his next argument, Mr. Locher contends that the June 7 Order did not
bar him from seeking Melvin Logan's PSR because the Order only denied
materials relating to Government witnesses and the
Government was not going to call Logan as a witness. Kindly put, Mr.
Locher's argument is ludicrous.
First, the June 7 Order denied all additional discovery attempts
because the discovery deadline had expired. Thus, the Government's
decision to use or not use a witness was not some magic factor that
allowed Mr. Locher to proceed with discovery. Mr. Locher should have
Second, if Mr. Locher truly believed Melvin Logan's PSR was
discoverable because the Government was not going to call Logan as a
witness, he should have filed a discovery motion with this Court.
Instead, he went before another judge and requested the PSR without ever
mentioning that this Court — a brother district judge in the same
courthouse — had denied his discovery request. This shifty conduct
speaks volumes of Mr. Locher and the credibility of his construction of
the June 7 Order.
Third, even if Mr. Locher could have reasonably construed the June 7
Order in the manner he did (and the Court emphasizes that he could not),
he would still have to explain how his August 19, 1999, oral motion*fn4
for the PSR could be appropriate given that the discovery period ended
four months earlier. Once the discovery deadline ended, Mr. Locher was
no longer allowed to seek out the PSR or any other discovery materials.
Nevertheless, he admitted at his sanction hearing that he sought Melvin
Logan's PSR "for discovery purposes."
Mr. Locher's misconduct is a sorry affair surpassed only by the
patently fallacious explanations he offers to justify his actions. The
Court is dismayed by his actions and his explanations alike.
Ergo, the $1,000.00 sanction the Court previously imposed on Mr. Locher
remains in effect.
IT IS SO ORDERED. CASE CLOSED.