'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. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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