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Bartlett v. Washington State Bar Association

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 18, 2019

ALAN M. BARTLETT, Plaintiff,



         On March 12, 2019, plaintiff filed a fake order purporting to alter the terms and conditions on which he was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in the above-captioned matter. The fake order recites that the Court is “correcting its error, ” makes findings regarding plaintiff's ability to pay and consent to payment, and vacates a previous order to the extent it directed the agency having custody of plaintiff to calculate and collect an initial partial filing fee and subsequent monthly payments. Plaintiff included a “signature” block that reads:

Mary Alice Theiler US Magistrate Judge
and instructed the Clerk of Court to docket and distribute the “Order.”

         Plaintiff was directed to explain his actions. Although his response was timely filed, it is not satisfactory. Plaintiff is apparently unaware that the statute that authorizes the commencement of a civil action without prepayment of the filing fee expressly requires that the Court “assess and, when funds exist, collect” installment payments from prisoners bringing a civil suit until the full amount of the filing fee is paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). He argues that Judge Theiler's order, which directed the custodial agency to calculate and collect payments as specified in the statute, is itself “fake”, some sort of “fraud, ” and/or exceeds the Court's subject matter jurisdiction.

         The Court finds that plaintiff filed a fake document purporting to be a court order in an effort to improve his position in this case, to manipulate the proceedings in his favor, and to gain an advantage above and beyond what was granted by the court. His conduct is unacceptable and unjustified. If plaintiff thought Judge Theiler had made a mistake in directing the custodian to calculate and collect installment payments, he could have and should have requested that the undersigned review the order: instead he chose to abuse the judicial process by issuing his own order in direct contravention to that of the Magistrate Judge.

It has long been understood that “[c]ertain implied powers must necessarily result to our Courts of justice from the nature of their institution, ” powers “which cannot be dispensed with in a Court, because they are necessary to the exercise of all others.” U.S. v. Hudson, 7 Cranch 32, 34, 3 L.Ed. 259 (1812); see also Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 764 (1980) (citing Hudson). For this reason, “Courts of justice are universally acknowledged to be vested, by their very creation, with power to impose silence, respect, and decorum, in their presence, and submission to their lawful mandates.” Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. 204, 227, 5 L.Ed. 242 (1821); see also Ex parte Robinson, 19 Wall. 505, 510, 22 L.Ed. 205 (1874). 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.” Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-631 (1962).

Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43 (1991). Plaintiff fraudulently attempted to alter the terms of a court order to his benefit: his conduct is far more egregious than failing to be respectful in the courtroom and even exceeds a simple violation of a court order. His conduct is certainly sanctionable. Fink v. Gomez, 239 F.3d 989, 991 (9th Cir. 2001).

         The question, then, is what sanction is appropriate. The Court has already stricken the fake document and given plaintiff an opportunity to explain why he chose to submit a document purporting to be an order granting relief rather than filing a motion requesting the relief he desired. Plaintiff's response to the Order to Show Cause establishes that the abuse was willful, that he appears to view his improper conduct as justified, and that filing “motions, declarations, and orders” is his right.[1] These aspects of his response are deeply troubling, suggesting a profound lack of respect for the judicial process. Dismissal of a plaintiff's claims is a permissible sanction in these circumstances because plaintiff “has engaged deliberately in deceptive practices that undermine the integrity of judicial proceedings, ” and he “willfully deceived the court and engaged in conduct utterly inconsistent with the orderly administration of justice.” Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. Nat. Beverage Distribs., 69 F.3d 337, 348 (9th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Because of their very potency, [however], inherent powers must be exercised with restraint and discretion.” B.K.B. v. Maui Police Dep't, 276 F.3d 1091, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 44). Before imposing the harsh sanction of dismissal, the Ninth Circuit advises that district courts consider the following factors:

(1) the public's interest in the expeditious resolution of litigation;
(2) the Court's need to manage its dockets;
(3) the risk of prejudice to opposing parties;
(4) the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their ...

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