United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the appeal of Appellant Ross H.
Briggs (“Briggs”) of two Bankruptcy Court orders
in a Chapter 7 proceeding: (1) a May 4, 2016 Order denying
consolidation (“May 4 Order”); and (2) a June 29,
2016 Order reinstating previously-imposed sanctions
(“June 29 Order”). ECF No. 1. Also before the
Court is Appellant's combined motion and memorandum to
disqualify the Honorable Charles E. Rendlen, III, on remand.
ECF No. 25. For the following reasons, the Court will deny
Briggs's appeal because Briggs is foreclosed from
appealing the May 4 Order denying the motion to consolidate.
And having failed to appeal the June 29 Order in the seven
other bankruptcy proceedings, Briggs's appeal of the June
29 Order is moot. In light of these rulings, the Court will
also deny as moot the motion to disqualify.
facts giving rise to this appeal are complex, although most
are not relevant to the issues now on appeal. Briggs claims
he occasionally worked on a contract basis with Critique
Services, LLC (“Critique”), a bankruptcy services
company. ECF No. 25 at 1-2. In June 2014, Judge
Rendlen suspended James Robinson, another attorney
associated with Critique, and Briggs assumed representation
of Robinson's former clients, including the bankruptcy
proceeding brought on behalf of Evette Nicole Reed
(“Reed proceeding”). Id. at 5. After a
series of issues involving Briggs and Robinson with regard to
attorney's fees, Judge Rendlen issued a 250-page order on
April 20, 2016 (“April 20 Order”) imposing
sanctions on Briggs in the Reed proceeding. The Order was
also entered in seven other bankruptcy cases in which Briggs
assumed representation from Robinson.
sanctions included, inter alia, a suspension from practicing
before the Bankruptcy Court in any bankruptcy suits filed
after April 20, 2016; a prohibition against using the Bankruptcy
Court's electronic filing system; and the requirement
that Briggs complete 12 hours of professional ethics CLE.
Appeal of the April 20 Order Before Judge Ronnie L.
April 28, 2016, Critique filed a motion to consolidate the
eight bankruptcy cases, which Judge Rendlen denied on May 4,
2016 (“May 4 Order”). Bankr. ECF No. 151. On that
same day, May 4, 2016, Critique and Briggs filed notices of
appeal in each of the eight cases in which the Bankruptcy
Court entered the April 20 Order. Critique then filed a
motion on May 13, 2016, to consolidate the identical appeals
in the case bearing the lowest cause number, Case No.
4:16-cv-00633, before Judge White. Judge White granted the
motion on May 25, 2016. April 20 Order Appeal, ECF No.
On June 7, 2016, Critique filed an amended statement of
issues to be presented on appeal to include an appeal from
the May 4 Order. April 20 Order Appeal, ECF No. 26; Bankr.
ECF No. 194. Briggs did not raise the May 4 Order denying
consolidation in his appeal.
January 3, 2017, Judge White issued a detailed Memorandum and
Order denying the appeals of Briggs and Critique and
affirming the April 20 Order. April 20 Order Appeal, ECF No.
57. Specifically, Judge White found that Judge Rendlen had
the authority to issue sanctions, that the sanctions were
civil in nature, that Briggs received adequate due process,
and that the Bankruptcy Court did not abuse its discretion in
its factual findings that formed the basis of the sanctions.
Judge White also found that the Bankruptcy Court did not
abuse its discretion when it entered the May 4 Order denying
Critique's motion for consolidation. Briggs appealed
Judge White's order, and the matter is currently pending
before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. See Ross
Briggs v. Hon. Charles Rendlen, Case No. 17-1143 (8th
Cir. appeal docketed Jan. 17, 2017).
after the April 20 Order, Briggs filed in the Reed proceeding
two motions for limited relief from the April 20 Order based
on his declared intention to be candid regarding his
knowledge of Critique and his cooperation with the Missouri
Attorney General, who was investigating the activities of
Critique. Bankr. ECF Nos. 138 & 139. Judge Rendlen
granted the motions on April 28 and May 10, respectively,
allowing Briggs to remotely access the Bankruptcy Court's
electronic filing system and file new cases on behalf of
clients who had retained Briggs prior to April 20, 2016.
However, the sanction prohibiting Briggs from filing new
cases on behalf of clients who retained Briggs after April
20, 2016, remained in place. Judge Rendlen made it clear that
the relief granted in both orders was on an interim basis and
that by lifting some of the sanctions, Judge Rendlen was not
reconsidering or vacating the April 20 Order.
29, 2016, Briggs filed a new bankruptcy case on behalf of
Melody Young (the “Young proceeding”), which was
assigned to Chief Bankruptcy Judge Surratt-States. After the
case was filed, the clerk's office noticed discrepancies
between the attorney signing the petition (Greg Luber) and
the use of Briggs's electronic filing passcode. Based on
these discrepancies, paired with Briggs's explanation
thereof, Judge Rendlen entered an Order (the “June 29
Order”) immediately reinstating the prohibitions on
Briggs from remotely using the electronic filing system and
from filing any new cases for pre-April 20, 2016 clients, on
the terms set forth in the April 20 Order. The June 29 Order
was entered in all eight cases. Briggs did not file any
motion to consolidate following the issuance of the June 29
Appeal Before This Court
now appeals the June 29 Order reinstating sanctions, as well
as the May 4 Order denying Critique's motion to
consolidate. The Court previously addressed Appellee's
motion to dismiss (ECF No. 7) certain issues raised in
Briggs's Statement of Issues to be Raised on Appeal (ECF
No. 5). The Court granted in part and denied in part that
motion to dismiss (ECF No. 18), holding that Briggs was
precluded from challenging the jurisdiction or authority of
the Bankruptcy Judge to issue the April 20 Order, but
permitting Briggs to address the other issues raised in his
Opening Brief. The Court will now address the following
issues raised by Briggs on appeal:
(1) Judge Rendlen lacked jurisdiction to enter the June 29
Order based on a filing made in a case before Chief Judge
(2) the June 29 Order, entered sua sponte, violated
Briggs's right to due process because he was not provided
with notice or an opportunity to respond;
(3) Briggs's notice of appeal filed in this lawsuit is
sufficient to appeal the entry of the June 29 Order in all
eight cases; and
(4) Judge Rendlen abused his discretion when he denied
Critique's motion to consolidate in the May 4 Order,
which Briggs has standing to appeal.
addition to the aforementioned issues on appeal, Briggs has
filed a motion to disqualify Judge Rendlen on remand.
OF THE PARTIES
of June 29 and May 4 Orders
argues that Judge Rendlen lacked jurisdiction to reinstate
sanctions against Briggs because the Young proceeding was
before Chief Judge Surratt-States and had nothing to do with
the cases to which the April 20 Order applied, and that he
was denied due process when Judge Rendlen reinstated the
April 20 Order's sanctions without notice of the
court's intent to reinstate sanctions and providing an
opportunity to respond. Briggs further asserts that the
notice of appeal of the June 29 Order filed in the Reed
proceeding is sufficient to appeal the entry of the June 29
Order in the other seven bankruptcy cases. With respect to
the May 4 Order, Briggs argues that Judge Rendlen abused his
discretion when he denied Critique's motion to
consolidate in the May 4 Order. Briggs ...