Litigious inmate

August 3, 2009
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It seems like a month doesn’t go by without my reading an appellate case involving Eric D. Smith. It’s such a generic name, but his name always jumps out during a quick scan of the appellate opinions. He had two suits ruled on today.

Smith is very well-known by the courts, and because of the nature of our paper, we are also quite familiar with him. This inmate at the New Castle Correctional Facility has a penchant for litigation. According to appellate opinions, he has more than 50 cases on the docket and files about one suit a month.

Why? He’s purposely trying to clog up the judicial system. He’s upset about his arson conviction in 2001 and 20-year sentence. He’s filed dozens of law suits pro se alleging various violations involving makeshift hammocks, confiscated mail, and disciplinary hearing matters.

I don’t know of any other inmate who’s filed and appealed as many suits as Smith has. If there is, he or she isn’t appealing the trial court decisions with as much frequency as Smith.

Usually his suits get dismissed as frivolous, but every once in a while, he scores a victory. Last year, an appeal of his led to the Indiana Supreme Court holding the Three Strikes Law to be unconstitutional because it violated the Open Courts Clause of the state constitution.

As someone who reads appellate opinions every day, when I see his name on the list, I chuckle because I already have an idea that his case is going to be dismissed for being frivolous. I also think back to a handwritten letter he sent to Indiana Lawyer a few years ago, encouraging anarchy and saying he’s going to file every suit he can think of just to bog down the system. When you’re in prison, I guess that’s one way to try to “get back” at the judicial system.

I imagine the judges who have to deal with his filings aren’t amused. But as the appellate judges frequently point out, even if his suits end up being baseless, if they aren’t clearly baseless on the face, they have to survive. The courts still have to decide the merits of the case, even though they know Smith’s legal background.

Smith is getting his intended point across: He wants to annoy anyone who is responsible for putting him in prison and keeping him there. The judges in opinions constantly note his litigious nature, but by law, they must rule on his appeals. And as long as he keeps filing suits and the courts rule on them, we’ll keep writing about him.
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  1. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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