W. James Mac Naughton, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Ishaihu Harmelech, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
May 17, 2019
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14
C10016 - Gary Feinerman, Judge. Nos. 17-cv-227 &
06-cv-3578 - Thomas M. Durkin, Judge. No. 16 C 9027 - John
Robert Blakey, Judge.
Ripple, Manion, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
complex background of these consolidated appeals burrows
through over a decade of litigation. Russian Media Group sued
Ishaihu Harmelech and his company ("Harmelech
Defendants") in 2006. Attorney W. James Mac Naughton
actively represented the Harmelech Defendants in this case
("RMG Action") for ten weeks ten years ago. The
relationship ended in a dispute over his fees. After he
withdrew, the case settled with the entry of a consent
judgment against his former clients.
Naughton then pursued his former clients for money in myriad
ways. One maneuver he used was acquiring rights to the
judgment entered against his former clients in the RMG
Action, the very matter in which he previously represented
them. He then sought to collect this judgment by filing
multiple other cases and by seeking to reopen the RMG Action.
December 2014, Mac Naughton and Casco Bay (his company) sued
Harmelech and his son to collect the RMG Judgment and to set
aside the conveyance of property on Sunnyside Avenue
("Sunnyside Action"). In March 2015, Judge
Holderman disqualified Mac Naughton from attempting to
collect this judgment personally and from representing Casco
Bay in its attempts to collect it. But Mac Naughton defied
that order and continued his efforts. In June 2018, Judge
Feinerman (to whom this case had been transferred) dismissed
the claims predicated on this judgment as a sanction for Mac
Naughton's willful defiance of the Holderman Order.
September 2016, Mac Naughton sued Alden Management and others
to collect for himself money owed to his former client
("Alden Action"). Judge Blakey dismissed this case
as a sanction for violating court orders.
January 2017, Mac Naughton sued his former clients to set
aside a conveyance of property in Palm Harbor ("Palm
Harbor Action"). Judge Durkin dismissed this case on the
same grounds as Judge Feinerman dismissed the Sunnyside
Action. Judge Durkin also rejected Mac Naughton's attempt
to reopen the RMG Action.
the district judges in the four cases consolidated here
rejected Mac Naughton's efforts to collect the RMG
Judgment entered against his former clients. We affirm.
warned, the tangled details of these consolidated appeals and
related cases twist through thirteen years of federal and
state litigation. Multiple courts summarized this history. A
brief account suffices here. We sort the history by case.
Media Group ("RMG") provided Russian-language
satellite television programming to subscribers. In 2006, it
sued Ishaihu Harmelech and Cable America, predecessor of USA
Satellite & Cable (collectively "Harmelech
Defendants") in the Northern District of Illinois for
unfair competition involving Russian television in
Chicago-area apartments and violations of the Illinois Cable
Piracy Act ("RMG Action"). In April 2009, the court
ordered that all payments received by the Harmelech
Defendants from certain apartment tenants must be held in
escrow pending further order. On May 8, 2009, Mac Naughton
began representing the Harmelech Defendants in this case. In
the process, he learned confidential information about them.
On July 16, 2009, he "stopped actively
representing" them (his words) because they owed him
attorney's fees and costs. He finally received leave to
withdraw in January 2011. The case settled in his absence. In
May 2011, the court entered a $286, 374.76 stipulated
judgment ("RMG Judgment") for RMG against the
Harmelech Defendants and ordered the release of escrow funds
to RMG. Harmelech claims he paid some of the RMG Judgment.
discussed below, in August 2014, RMG assigned the unpaid part
of the RMG Judgment to Casco Bay Holdings, owned and
controlled by Mac Naughton, as part of a settlement in a New
Jersey state court case. In September 2016, Casco Bay
assigned its rights in the RMG Judgment to Mac Naughton
personally. In December 2017, Mac Naughton moved to
reopen the RMG Action against his former clients. On June 22,
2018, Judge Durkin rejected this. He noted Judge Feinerman in
the Sunnyside Action (discussed below) ruled Mac Naughton was
violating a court order by continuing to pursue the RMG
Judgment. Judge Feinerman dismissed the Sunnyside Action as a
sanction for this continuing violation. In the RMG Action,
Judge Durkin adopted Judge Feinerman's reasoning and
ruled the RMG Action remained closed.
Federal N.J. Action
August 11, 2009, the Harmelech Defendants gave Mac Naughton a
promissory note for $65, 879 for the attorney's fees in
the RMG Action. According to Mac Naughton, the Harmelech
Defendants defaulted in September 2009. So he sued them in
the District of New Jersey in October 2009 ("Federal
N.J. Action"). In September 2016, Mac Naughton won a
$77, 679 judgment against the Harmelech Defendants in the
Federal N.J. Action. The Harmelech Defendants satisfied this
judgment. But Mac Naughton wanted more. He argued he was
entitled to attorney's fees for his pro se
representation in the Federal N.J. Action. The New Jersey
district court rejected that argument because a pro
se attorney ...