United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
In re PAULINE A. BRADY, et al., Debtors,
HON. CHARLES E. RENDLEN III,  Appellee. ROSS H. BRIGGS Appellant, In re Long, In re Beard, In re Moore, In re Logan, In re Stewart, In re Shields
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the appeal of Appellant Ross H.
Briggs ("Briggs") from the Bankruptcy Court's
June 25, 2018 Order denying his motion to disqualify Judge
Rendlen from ruling on Briggs's reinstatement. For the
following reasons, the Court will affirm the decision of the
noted previously, these consolidated cases have a complex and
complicated history. The following is a recitation of the
facts that are relevant to this bankruptcy appeal, which
includes a history of the Bankruptcy Court's various
orders related to Briggs's conduct.
2001, Briggs has had various business and contractual
relationships with Critique Services,  a now defunct
bankruptcy petition preparation company founded by Beverly
Diltz. (Briggs Brief, Doc. No. 6, at 13). In June 2014, the
Bankruptcy Court suspended one of the lawyers associated with
Critique Services (James Robinson), and Briggs thereafter
assumed the representation of many of Robinson's former
Chapter 7 clients.
the resolution of a number of those cases, the Bankruptcy
Court directed Robinson, Briggs, and Critique Services to
turn over certain documents related to the disgorgement of
attorney's fees. (Bank. Ct. Doc. No. 47). They failed to
comply, and, on July 6, 2015, the Bankruptcy Court indicated
that it was contemplating the imposition of sanctions for
noncompliance. (Bank. Ct. Doc. No. 70). During hearings
related to the disgorgement of funds, Briggs made
representations that he was not affiliated with Critique
Services and was not in the "power circle, " thus
rendering him unable to answer questions or seek the
documents and information sought by the Bankruptcy Court.
22, 2015, the Bankruptcy Court found these statements not
credible, citing numerous connections between Briggs and
Critique Services. The Bankruptcy Court advised Briggs that
if he agreed to comply with a number of terms, including a
six-month suspension, the Court would not impose additional
sanctions on him or refer his misconduct to the Missouri
Supreme Court's Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel
("MO OCDC"). (Bank. Ct. Doc. No. 88). Briggs
responded by denying his connection with Critique Services
and requesting that the matter be transferred to this Court
for a de novo hearing and determination. (Bank. Ct.
Doc. No. 90). The Bankruptcy Court denied his request. (Bank.
Ct. Doc. No. 91).
a flurry of filings by Critique Services, the Bankruptcy
Court issued a 250-page order ("April 2016 Order")
sanctioning Robinson, Briggs, and Critique Services for their
failure to comply with the Bankruptcy Court's orders
compelling turnover of documents. As relevant to this appeal,
the April 2016 Order prohibited Briggs from filing any new
bankruptcy cases for six months or using his login
credentials on the Bankruptcy Court's online filing
system ("CM-ECF"). Briggs was permitted to seek
reinstatement on or after October 1, 2016. (Bank. Doc. No.
Briggs then engaged in considerable litigation challenging
the April 2016 Order. See In re Reed, 2017 WL 44645
(E.D. Mo. Jan. 3, 2017) (Judge White); In re Reed,
2017 WL 994798 (E.D. Mo. March 15, 2017) (Judge Fleissig);
In re Reed, 888 F.3d 930 (8th Cir. 2018). In each of
those appeals, he sought the disqualification of Judge
Rendlen on remand, all of which were denied.
10, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court-on Briggs's
motion-reinstated his right to file new cases for certain
existing clients and to use the CM-ECF filing system because
Briggs had provided an extensive statement to the Missouri
Attorney General regarding his involvement with Critique
Services. However, on June 29, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court
again suspended Briggs's ability to use CM-ECF after his
login credentials were used to file a pleading signed by
another attorney. (Bank. Ct. Doc. No. 153). The Bankruptcy
Court also referred Briggs to MO OCDC.
August 13, 2016, Briggs filed a motion seeking early
reinstatement, citing completion of the continuing legal
education requirements contained in the April 2016 Order.
(Bank. Doc. No. 155). The Bankruptcy Court denied his request
as premature. (Bank. Doc. No. 156).
January 2017, Diltz was deposed in connection with a state
investigation of Critique Services and testified that she had
a close relationship with Briggs, that she had financial
dealings with Briggs, and that she had received a "cash
packet" from Briggs as recently as December 2016. On
February 3, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court filed an Order
referencing the Diltz deposition and notifying Briggs that if
he sought reinstatement, he might have to to address whether
he had any financial or professional involvement with Diltz
or Robinson since the April 2016 Order, which prohibited him
from any such involvement. (Bank. Ct. Doc. No. 162). The
Bankruptcy Court again referred Briggs to MO OCDC. (Bank. Ct.
Doc. No. 164).
23, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court filed an Order notifying
Briggs that if he sought reinstatement, he might have to
address questions regarding representations made on his
website that appeared to be misleading or false in light of
his suspension. (Bank. Doc. No. 167). The Court also alerted
the bar admission and regulation authorities of Illinois and
Florida regarding representations made by Briggs on his
website that he operates law businesses in those states,
despite not being licensed in those states. On June 19, 2017,
the Bankruptcy Court, at the suggestion of the Attorney
Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court
of Illinois, forwarded a copy of the relevant orders to the
Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, as
well as the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of
September 26, 2017, Briggs initiated a miscellaneous
proceeding seeking reinstatement from Chief Bankruptcy Judge
Kathy Surratt-States. In re Briggs, Case No.
17-401-659 (E.D. Mo. Bank.). On November 6, 2017, Judge
Surratt-States denied the request, holding that there was no
basis for the relief requested under the local bankruptcy
rules or the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement for the
District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Id. at Doc. No. 2. Shortly thereafter, on November
13, 2017, Briggs filed a petition seeking reinstatement from
Chief District Judge Rodney W. Sippel. In re Briggs,
4:17-mc-00674-RWS. On December 15, 2017, Judge Sippel denied
Briggs's motion for reinstatement for lack of
jurisdiction, holding that "[c]learly, Briggs should
seek reinstatement from Judge Rendlen directly."
Id. at Doc. No. 5. Briggs appealed both decisions
denying his motion for reinstatement. While the appeals were
pending, the Bankruptcy Court filed a notice advising that
Briggs could seek reinstatement, but that it would require a
hearing. (Bank. Doc. No. 170).
April 25, 2018, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the decisions of
Judge Surratt-States and Judge Sippel, holding that Briggs
should file his motion for reinstatement directly with Judge
Rendlen. In re Reed, 888 F.3d at 940. The Eighth
Circuit also denied Briggs's motion to ...