“[W]e expect that our Court’s role in the drama between Fieger and the Michigan justices has finally come to a close.”
Geoffrey Nels Fieger
Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr., 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Fieger v. Corrigan, et al. (Fieger V).
Déjà vu. The Sixth Circuit has tossed out Geoffrey Fieger’s latest, and, Martin apparently hopes, last attempt to make a federal case of his claims that he can’t get a fair and impartial tribunal when Michigan Supreme Court Justices Maura D. Corrigan, Robert P. Young Jr. and Stephen J. Markman are involved.
Fieger’s previous attempts include:
From Martin’s opinion in Fieger V:
Each of his previous cases in this Court involved some variation on a constant theme: Fieger and the Michigan justices (who must stand for re-election and, thus, commonly make public statements) have been involved in an on-going public spat and that, in retaliation against Fieger, the justices had voted to overturn large jury verdicts that Fieger’s firm had won on behalf of its clients.
Both this case and Fieger IV involve the same allegations:
(1) the Michigan justices had unjustifiably refused to recuse themselves from cases in which Fieger represented the plaintiffs, and
(2) these justices are likely to continue to refuse to recuse themselves in Fieger’s future cases. In this case, Fieger seeks a declaration that Michigan’s recusal rules deny him his constitutional right to a fair tribunal in which to be heard.
Fieger V reached the Sixth Circuit via Fieger’s fast footwork in Judge Marianne Battani’s federal district courtroom.
In 2004, Fieger filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (the “2004 case”), which resulted in both the Fieger II and Fieger IV opinions.
In the 2004 case, Fieger complained of the Michigan justices’ past refusals to recuse themselves and brought facial and as-applied constitutional challenges to Michigan’s judicial recusal rule. The district court dismissed Fieger’s Complaint on Rooker-Feldman grounds. On appeal, this Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to address Fieger’s claims insofar as they concerned future recusal decisions, as those claims would not implicate Rooker-Feldman.
On Fieger II‘s remand of the 2004 case, the district court heard argument on the defendants’ renewed motion to dismiss. According to Fieger, the district court seemed to be leaning towards dismissing the 2004 case again, which Fieger, of course, believes was the wrong way to lean. He therefore brought the instant case – again in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, but before that court had actually issued its decision on the renewed motion to dismiss in the 2004 case – alleging the identical as-applied challenges that he brought in the 2004 case against the same parties. …
After Fieger filed the instant suit, the district court did, in fact, dismiss the 2004 case after the Fieger II remand. Fieger once again appealed the district court’s ruling in the 2004 case, while the instant case was still before the district court.
On April 21, 2010, another panel of this Court issued an opinion dismissing Fieger’s forward-looking declaratory judgment claims in the 2004 case as moot because, in the intervening period, the Michigan Supreme Court amended its recusal rules in a manner that substantially addressed Fieger’s claims against the justices of the Michigan Supreme Court. …
If the reader finds the above procedural background to be odd, we agree; so too, apparently, did the district court. Faced with Fieger’s request to review its prior decision, the district court found that res judicata applied and dismissed the case.
Martin wrote that Battani got the right result but from a strict legal standpoint, it was because Fieger’s latest suit was moot.
At the time the district court issued its decision in this case, the 2004 case was on appeal and therefore not final. Furthermore, on appeal, Fieger IV was decided on mootness grounds, so the 2004 case did not result in a final judgment on the merits to which we could now give preclusive effect.
However, the principles underlying res judicata still operate to bar Fieger from bringing materially identical cases in rapid succession. Litigants may not escape res judicata‘s preclusive finality merely by filing a new, identical case before the prior case becomes final.
It follows, then, that because the claims in this case substantially mirror the claims in the 2004 case, so too should the result. … Because the claims in the 2004 case were mooted by Michigan’s subsequent revision of its recusal rules, Fieger IV … this case is also moot.
Five strikes and you’re out.