'The most litigious man in history'

September 10, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer reporter Michael W. Hoskins wrote this post.

You might hear the name Gordon Gekko and think of the movie “Wall Street” and the character played by Michael Douglas. But that name has special meaning for Indiana’s federal courts, where a prisoner pro se litigant uses that as one of his many aliases to file lawsuit after lawsuit.

A current resident of the Federal Medical Center hospital prison in Kentucky, prisoner litigant Jonathan Lee Riches has filed 34 lawsuits in the Hoosier federal courts during the past five years – 11 in the Southern District, five in the Northern District, and 18 at the appellate level with a few still open.

But that’s only a small slice of his overall impact on the nation’s court system. He’s filed a ridiculous number of suits – federal dockets show 1,453 as of this morning -- in federal courts nationally since his arrest and incarceration. That stemmed from his arrest for a multi-state wire fraud and identify theft ring, which he received a 10-year federal sentence on. His projected release date is in March 2012, but before that comes he’s making a name for himself as a serial prisoner litigant.

Through the years, some of his more famous lawsuit targets have been New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, former President George W. Bush, Martha Stewart, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, entrepreneur and Apple guru Steve Jobs, Somali pirates, and pop singer Britney Spears.

The Guinness Book of World Records designated him as the most litigious man in history, filing or intervening in more than 5,000 civil and criminal cases at all levels. Of course, he sued Guinness for tagging him that way, along with the Library of Congress, Encyclopedia Britannica and some other publishers who he claimed hurt his feelings and violated his civil rights by doing a disservice to his hard work.

In Indiana’s federal courts, Riches sued the 2008 World Series teams – Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies – for creating a danger for him in prison by angry Florida fans who could watch the game past the normal 10 p.m. lockdown time. He’s also sued all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices for not releasing him from prison and blaming them for the harsh conditions he’s had to live in. U.S. Judge Robert Miller in the Northern District has dismissed his claims as frivolous – as have other Indiana District judges – and restricted Riches from entering any more appearances in that court.

His latest intervention comes at the 7th Circuit level, in the case against former East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick who along with former top aides is on the hook for $108 million in damages following a default judgment from Judge James Moody earlier this year. The case stems from the Sidewalk Six paving-for-votes scheme, in which the longtime mayor and his allies misspent $25 million in public funds on paving project in exchange for primary election votes in 1999.

Using the alias Gordon Gekko, the litigation-happy Riches is appealing the November 2008 decision by Judge Moody to not let this pro se prisoner litigant intervene in the Pastrick case.

“Citing his convictions for computer hacking and identity theft, Riches claims that he ‘can provide this court with vital information dealing with these types of crimes, as I’m a whistleblower and a [sic] Advocate Against crime.’ Without providing any factual support, Riches makes the highly-suspect claim that he has newly discovered evidence pertaining to this case.”

Judge Moody found he didn’t make the required showing to meet the federal rules of civil procedure, and on Sept. 1 the prisoner litigant appealed to the 7th Circuit. The Federal Prisoner Litigation Reform Act applies and the appellate court has suspended proceedings until he pays the required fee. Meanwhile, the case plays on at the District level without Riches – or Gekko -- as the state tries to collect the $108 million judgment.

Is there any question what his intentions are here in clogging the courts? One of his filings offers some insight into the serial prisoner litigant’s mind. The motion comes from the Southern District of New York, which declined his request to represent Martha Stewart.

“Jonathan Lee Riches will be in every local, state, federal court in the world, then when my name gets banned or flagged, the 100’s of AKA’s of mine kick in and refile,” the motion says. “I’m Murphy’s Law, the Plague, Cyrus the Lawsuit Virus. I swine flu suits with tainted pork in the courts. I appeal. Anyone is welcome to write me. I appeal.”
 

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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