Lawyer Accuses Federal Judge of Catholic Bias and Misconduct; Judge Hits Lawyer With $110,000 Sanctions

There is an interesting sanction imposed by U.S. District Judge William Zloch against Florida lawyer Loring Spolter for filings accusing him of having religious bias and engaging in potentially criminal conduct. Spolter was hit with $110,000 in sanctions for his filings over the course of 42 months to try to get Zloch to step down from employment cases due to his religious beliefs and those of his clerks. While Spolter accuses Zloch of a Catholic bias, Zloch dismisses his filings as “[c]onjecture and fantasy of this sort are usually scrawled on loose leaf and filed by inmates.”

The judge ordered the sanctions under Rule 11.

The judge begins with a statement of regret:

This has to be stated from the outset: I take no pleasure in issuing this ruling. These cases and the behavior of Loring Spolter, Esq. have been a great drain on my time and attention. Meritorious cases and motions have had to sit while I address the matters surrounding Mr. Spolter and his accusations. Nonetheless, his actions demand redressing.

He then gets to business and describes the long fight with Spolter:

Mr. Spolter has been persistent in seeking my recusal from his cases. Two years ago, in 110-pages of court filings, he raised my Catholic faith and political affiliations as supposed evidence of bias against him and his clients. Contemporaneous with filing a recusal Motion, he gave an interview to a local tabloid about my alleged bias and called into question the credentials of some of my former law clerks. See Julie Kay, Federal Judge Accused of Religious Bias, Daily Business Review, Aug. 13, 2007. I ignored the article as scurrilous nonsense and denied his Motion as meritless. On appeal, he again sought my recusal from his cases; that relief was denied twice by two separate panels of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Undeterred, Mr. Spolter recently conjured up a new reason for me to recuse: he alleged a complex web of prejudice and abuse-of-power that came together in a grand conspiracy against him and his clients. In this scheme, I am to have manipulated the case assignment system of the entire Southern District of Florida, for the sole purpose of ensuring that I receive a disproportionate number of Mr. Spolter’s cases. The sinister purpose of this plot is plain: I did it so I would have the opportunity to rule against Mr. Spolter’s clients more frequently than the normal case assignment system would otherwise allow. He claimed that he had proof of this beyond his intuition——he had an expert’s Report that established I received more of Mr. Spolter’s cases than a pure blind, random case assignment system would provide. Like a good pulp novel, the tentacles of this conspiracy went far beyond Fort Lauderdale, stretching across the nation’s judiciary. He bolstered his statistical proof with allegations that as Chief Judge and while serving on the Financial Disclosure Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, I wielded my power to protect a Federal Circuit Court Judge who is also Catholic.

The court describes the religious attacks: “Two years ago, in Sabatier and Bettis, Mr. Spolter claimed that I was a Catholic zealot bent on ruling against women who returned to work after giving birth. He extrapolated as much from the facts that I am Catholic, some of the law clerks I have hired attended Catholic law schools, and I have affiliations with the Federalist Society.”

The Court is clearly mindful that the sanctions raise free speech issues:

However, the Court wishes to make absolutely clear that Mr. Spolter is not being punished for his criticism of the undersigned. Despite Magistrate Judge Rosenbaum’s thorough and articulate 92-page Report and Recommendation confirming the same, this Court will state the basis for sanctions once more——for those who continue to mislead the public by characterizing Mr. Spolter as some sort of First Amendment martyr. Mr. Spolter has the absolute right to criticize a judge, but what he does not have the right to do is to file pleadings in Federal court for an improper purpose and in bad faith.

For a copy of the order, click here.

The lawyer was also suspended him from practice in the Southern District of Florida for 42 months and referred to the bar.

“Obsessed” with his desire to win the recusal of U.S. District Judge William Zloch from his clients’ cases despite having no factual or legal basis for doing so, plaintiff’s attorney Loring Spolter made “bad-faith filings laced with baseless accusations of criminal conduct,” says the judge in a Dec. 30 order (PDF) provided by the Daily Pulp blog of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times.

After detailing Spolter’s “bad-faith filings and unreasonable behavior,” the 68-page document concludes with the judge’s decision to fine Spolter $10,000 and require him and his law firm to pay nearly $100,000 in opponents’ legal fees. It also notes that Zloch is referring the matter to Florida Bar authorities.

The sanctions were imposed under Rule 11 and / or Rule 28 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and United States Code, Section 1927.

In a written statement (PDF) also provided by the Daily Pulp blog, Spolter describes the three cases and states or implies, among other criticisms of the judge, that Zloch’s oversight of the litigation may have been adversely affected by the claimed conservative religious beliefs of his clerks.

The ABA Journal post a link to what is purported to be a letter from Spolter giving his side in this dispute, here. The material details “unusual rulings” by the judge and notes that he has hired virtually all of his clerks from Ave Maria law school, a conservative religious law school. The material goes into great detail into controversies surrounding Ave Maria law school.

This is a very heavy sanction with fees going to the opposing lawyers in the case. One would expect an appeal to follow . . .

For the story, click here and here

24 thoughts on “Lawyer Accuses Federal Judge of Catholic Bias and Misconduct; Judge Hits Lawyer With $110,000 Sanctions

  1. So help me with this: I am accused of being biased. It is requested that I step down. I then sanction he and his firm for 110K and I am not biased? Makes sense to me. Hell why did someone call blackwater to mediate and resolve this matter. It would have probably ended up costing a lot less. And then its is a final ruling. Screw the merits of the case.

    I think the Judge has some mea culpas to deal with. The recusal request seems appropriate under the circumstances. Did the judge expect that the opposing counsel had to respond to the other sides motion? The Judge actually drove up the cost of litigation.

    Now, Ava Maria Law School. Tom Monaghan, arch conservative catholic whom has donated millions to the church. Who flew his helicopter into the Det Tigers game one day? Yes, he could certainly be biased, even the judge.

  2. If you’re actually interested in help understanding it, I suggest starting around halfway down page seven of the order. The judge didn’t make this decision spontaneously in response to a single request for recusal. The situation is somewhat less worthy of outrage than one might be led to believe.

  3. This is confusing to me to say the least. On one hand how does a judge deal with a spate of possibly unfounded allegations from a lawyer, that persist in questioning the judge’s fairness? On the other my own personal prejudice is that anyone connected with either the Federalist Society, or Mr. Monahan’s Law School are preternaturally biased in bad directions. From what is presented it is impossible to come to a conclusion that is more than a hunch. My hunch is that the judge is problemmatic, but then that is an expression of my own bias.

  4. The bottom line is that two professionals succumbed to unprofessional emotions. One acted like an ass then the other over reacted.

    The Orly Taits sanctions are a better example of how a judge should handle such matters.

    The judge would have had an easier life if he had referred the recusal motion to another judge or simply recused himself to avoid more disgrace on the legal system.

  5. More fisticuffs, handcuffs, and perp-walks please!

    How about a show called Junk that Judge, or Lose that Lawyer?

    Make it game show where real bad lawyers and judges are featured and people get to vote one “off the island”. It’s a joke, but the lawyers and judges are real.

    I think another satisfying TV show would be Dump that D.A. A show about the most corrupt prosecutors (a truly wicked class of persons).

    Hunt these people down (with cameras) like the show COPS hunts down citizens getting arrested.

    Let’s demonize lawyers, judges, cops, and legislators by showing them in as bad a light as regular citizens are portrayed.

    These officials most certainly deserve it, and more so.

  6. I disagree. I’m not a fan of the Federalist Society or organized religion generally, but this lawyer sounds like a nut job. Anyone who has ever had to deal with litigants who allege vast conspiracies against them knows that sometimes it takes a big stick to make it stop. I don’t know if the $100 grand is reasonable in the context of the case, but it is easy for crazy people, or people who become obsessed with their case, to create massive legal bills for innocent parties, which appears to be what the judge was trying to address. Also, you dont get to judge shop and demand recusal just because you don’t like ajudge’s religion. There are legal tests to determine bias (or whether a reasonable apprehension of bias exists) and this guy obviously didn’t meet them, as apparently two panels of the appeal court found. To turn around and start alleging some massive conspiracy just indicates that the guy is off his meds.

  7. Tootie:

    “Let’s demonize lawyers, judges, cops, and legislators by showing them in as bad a light as regular citizens are portrayed.

    These officials most certainly deserve it, and more so.”


    “And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
    And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
    They will know we are Christians by our love

    By our love, by our love …”

    Thanks, Tootie, for reminding me of this old hymn. You seem its personification! By their love, indeed.

  8. From the PDF that appears to be a statement from Spolter, he seems a tad sketchy, certainly stretching at times, and “shotgunning” sometimes unrelated issues, hoping to get something to stick. But he doesn’t seem (in this document) to be an Orly Taitz type of nut.

    Most damning, to me at least, are his statements that the judge had so little experience with federal cases (and none as a judge, I think) when he was appointed by Reagan to the Federal bench. The judge’s apparent lack of experience or particular qualifications, combined with all the “circumstantial” issues that the attorney brings up, makes this look like he may be on to something.

    As for Ave Maria “law school”, that sounds a bit more troubling. Like the Oral Roberts “law school,” it sounds like their approach is “the Constitution doesn’t actually say what it says, it really says what we say the Bible says it should mean.” Having a bunch or lawyers (and possibly judges) running around thinking that there should be a religious reading of the law first and foremost is problematic. Hurray for Christian Sharia law!

  9. Ave Maria Law School? (wiki) Ave Maria espouses a natural law philosophy and teaches law within the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. That’s nice, I thought US law was based on the constitution and case law. If you read up on the many Ave Maria’s of Tom Monaghan you find the guy loves theocracy. Ave Maria town is a real treat.

  10. I totally agree that “law” schools catering to particular religions are a joke. But the fact that their graduates go on to wreak havoc in the Dept of Justice(anyone remember monica goodling and the dozens of other grads of Regent appointed by Bush?) and elsewhere, including the Bench, is not funny at all. If separation of church and state is so important (which I think it is), why do the states license them in the first place? We dont have any such thing up here in the colonies.

    If this judge is making decisions based not on the law, but on his own personal religious beliefs then he should be thrown to the wolves. But I don’t accept that just because a judge might attend a particular church meand that he or she cant judge based on the law and not their personal beliefs. I know for a fact that isn’t the case. But the law school info in this case certainly gives me pause, courts of appeal notwithstanding.

  11. empirecookie,

    I think I like you.


    How salient. That is Hilariousness. I enjoy your wit.


    Do you really believe what you are saying? If so, more power to you. I have to admire you for your stamina. It seems that life has taken you on a much more virtuous moral path. Does Salem, 1700’s ring a bell? Nate Hawthorne?

    How about Bradshaw, John Bradshaw? Interesting read.

  12. ThomD.Arch,

    I am amazed at the beating in to submission that this Judge has shown. The 100K sanction is I presume pocket change, except that the errors and omissions premium goes up, tremendously.

    If the Judge was not bias before, I think that he clearly has shown it. Motions and Pleadings filed to recuse a Judge just have to be filed and noticed to the opposing counsel. They have to do nothing except see where the firework lands the requester. In this case, I think that this has gone over board.

    At one time I even went to the length of filing a Notice with the Judicial Review Commission when a Judge would not get off of a case that he should have. It failed, I lost. But now the Sct has a new procedure for getting a Judge off of a case and it would have gotten this one off.

    My situation was, the Opposing Counsel, does court appointed work, appointed by the Judge. No problem until you realize that the Judges secretary is also the Opposing Counsels wife. You tell me, if there is not the appearance of Impropriety? I may be wrong.

  13. This is an interesting case that unfortunately has an Orly Taitz feel to it. The Judge may have gonetoo far and he should have recused himself and if that judge comes down with the same result, the judge looks even stronger. That being said, I am in the same boat as Mike S. After dealing with Ave Maria in the Monica Goodling fiasco, I would be nervous dealing with that Judge. But, as I said at the outset, the performance of this attorney and the appeals court decisions reminds me of a certain attorney trying to prove that Obama was never born in the US. No matter what the facts show.

  14. mespo:

    God so love the world AND hell is still open for reservations.

    Perhaps it is your misunderstanding of love.

    I reckon so.

  15. Only about you, Tootles.

    What it makes judges and lawyers, individual character flaws aside, is necessary to maintain a country of laws and not men. But when the system itself is purposely broken by corporatists interference, then it’s the system creating injustice. Because as designed, a rule of law, it’s got correcting mechanisms built right in. Like our civil rights that are being sold out to theocratic fascists.

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