'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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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