Suspended lawyer handed harsh words from COA for frivolous filings in IU case

The Indiana Court of Appeals has cut off the tap for a suspended attorney who it says has acted as a broken faucet of frivolous filings for far too long concerning injuries he claimed to sustain after falling at Indiana University, despite an earlier dismissal from the court.

Troubles began for suspended Gary lawyer Robert Holland in 2016 when he filed a complaint against IU for injuries he received in falls outside its Northwest Library. In late 2018, Holland filed an affidavit alleging that because IU operates retail establishments on its campus, the university is a corporation under federal law and can never claim sovereign immunity under state law.

The Lake Superior Court struck the affidavit as frivolous and sanctioned Holland, ordering him to pay $1,500 in attorney fees within 60 days. It warned Holland that if he continued to file such frivolous motions, as had been his pattern, the next sanction would be dismissal of his lawsuit. Additionally, the trial court rejected his request to certify 24 of its orders for interlocutory appeal.

Regardless, Holland proceeded with the appeal and failed to arrange for a transcript, prompting the Indiana Court of Appeals to order him to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed. When he failed to do so, the appellate court dismissed the appeal.

When Holland filed a petition to transfer, the Indiana Supreme Court denied it in July 2019. IU requested additional sanctions on Holland for failing to pay the original $1,500 and for his continued frivolous filings, prompting the trial court to dismiss his lawsuit.

Holland next sought transfer of the appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court under Indiana Appellate Rule 56 because the trial court had refused to acknowledge the special rights he claimed as a “Moorish American.” Indiana justices denied his petition and dismissed his appeal, only to have Holland file an untimely, amended notice of appeal seeking to appeal the same orders he challenged in that dismissed appellate proceeding.

Holland further filed a request for review, claiming the trial court’s orders violated a 1787 Moroccan Treaty of Peace and Friendship and were void and unconstitutional. Both the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Court of Appeals issued orders denying him relief, effectively ending his appeal.

He in turn filed three motions to set aside the judgment in August 2020 with the trial court, which rejected all of them on grounds that he had “exhausted all appeals” and nothing remained pending before it.

In his latest appeal to the COA, Holland challenged the orders rejecting his purported Trial Rule 60(B) motions as well as a number of the orders and judgments entered by the trial court during the last three years.

Dismissing all portions of Holland’s appeal except his challenge to the trial court’s orders dated Aug. 5 and 31, 2020, the appellate court on Friday concluded that his Trial Rule 60(B) motions and latest appeal were merely attempts to relitigate issues that were conclusively litigated in the earlier proceedings.

“Although Holland is correct that Trial Rule 60(B) allows a collateral attack on judgments that are void or procured by fraud, it does not authorize such an attack when final judgments adverse to the Trial Rule 60(B) movant already have been entered on the identical questions of voidness and fraud,” Judge Leanna Weissmann wrote.

“As Holland’s Trial Rule 60(B) motions simply regurgitate prior arguments already conclusively decided, we conclude no pertinent evidence supports the allegations in Holland’s Trial Rule 60(B) motion and, therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Holland’s Trial Rule 60(B) motions without hearing,” Weissmann wrote.

The appellate panel further concluded that IU’s requested sanctions were merited and that “enough is enough.”

“Holland may no longer operate as a broken faucet from which the flow of frivolous filings never ebbs. We affirm the trial court’s judgment and remand to the trial court to determine, after due consideration of Holland’s history of abuse, which of the restrictions authorized by our Supreme Court in Zavodnik v. Harper, 17 N.E.3d at 268- 269 (Ind. 2014), should be imposed against Holland. As we believe filing restrictions are an adequate sanction, we deny IU’s request for monetary sanctions.”

Holland was suspended from the practice of law in Indiana in 2009 and has never been reinstated, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys. He was initially admitted to the bar in 1997.

The case is Robert Holland v. Trustees of Indiana University, et al., 20A-CT-1696.

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