United States District Court, District of Columbia
In re: W.A.R. LLP Bankruptcy Debtor.
ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, District Judge.
Appellants to this matter, Wade Robertson ("Robertson") and W.A.R. LLP ("W.A.R."), seek de novo review of a Bankruptcy Petition, Bankr. Case No. 11-044. This case is one of several matters filed by Robertson and W.A.R. objecting to, appealing, or seeking review of the underlying bankruptcy decision. The Court has previously ordered appellants to show cause why they should not be enjoined from further filings in the instant case, further appeals from the underlying bankruptcy case, and from filing new related matters in this Court. For the reasons discussed below, appellants are enjoined from further filings in the instant case and related Case No. 11-1574, except for a Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the Court's Order in this matter. Appellants are also enjoined from filing further appeals from the underlying bankruptcy case, Bankr. Case No. 11-044, and from filing new related matters in this Court.
The instant bankruptcy case and request for de novo review is an offshoot of previous litigation in this Court between the founding partners of the debtor partnership W.A.R., Robertson and William Cartinhour ("Cartinhour"). Robertson v. Cartinhour, Case No. 09-1642. Judge Ellen Huvelle entered judgment in that litigation on February 25, 2011. Judgment, ECF No. 165. Robertson initiated that litigation in April 2009, filing a complaint against Cartinhour seeking a declaratory judgment regarding an agreement to "hold harmless" for any claims Cartinhour might have related to the partnership. Complaint, ECF No. 1. Cartinhour countersued, alleging that Robertson had fraudulently induced him to invest in the partnership. Counterclaim, ECF No. 2. A jury trial took place in February 2011. The jury awarded Cartinhour $3.5 million in compensatory damages for his countersuit and $3.5 million in punitive damages for Robertson's breach of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice. Judgment, ECF No. 165.
In November 2010, Robertson filed a similar suit in the Southern District of New York, Robertson v. Cartinhour, Civil No. 10-8442, addressing the same factual dispute as the case before Judge Huvelle. The new suit caused Cartinhour to file a motion for an anti-filing injunction in the pending declaratory judgment case. Emergency Motion for Permanent Injunction, No. 09-1642, ECF No. 128. Judge Huvelle denied the motion on December 30, 2010, but noted that Robertson had engaged in a variety of frivolous filings. Order, ECF No. 147. The New York case, after transfer to this Court, was later dismissed on the basis of res judicata, judicial estoppel, and failure to state a claim. Mem. Op., Case No. 11-1919, ECF No. 95.
Additionally, while the declaratory judgment case was ongoing, an outside W.A.R. creditor filed an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the Western District of Tennessee against W.A.R. Bankruptcy Petition No. 10-32530. This bankruptcy petition is the foundation for the suit subject to the instant petition for de novo review. After determining that the D.C. District declaratory judgment case was not subject to the automatic bankruptcy stay,  the Tennessee court transferred the bankruptcy case to this Court on January 4, 2011. Order Transferring Bankruptcy Case Re: W.A.R. LLP, Bankr. No. 11-044, ECF No. 1. Robertson appealed the transfer order to the District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, and his appeal was denied on April 18, 2011. In re W.A.R. LLP, W.D. Tenn. Case No. 11-cv-2082.
The bankruptcy trustee conducted a creditors' meeting in Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2011 and filed a "no distribution" report on March 30, 2011. W.A.R. and Robertson both filed objections to that report, and Cartinhour opposed their objections. Judge Teel issued a preliminary order and memorandum, Bankr. No. 11-044, ECF No. 171, on June 23, 2011. The final order and memorandum, entered on July 11, 2011, overruled the objections to the trustee's report of no distribution, ECF No. 209 and 210, and through separate order, closed the bankruptcy case and discharged the trustee, ECF No. 213. W.A.R. and Robertson appealed these orders to the D.C. District Court on August 30, 2011 in Case No. 11-1574.
In their first appeal to the Court, W.A.R. and Robertson argued that W.A.R. had an interest in the funds held in the Court's registry in the declaratory judgment case before Judge Huvelle. Brief of Joint-Appellants, Case No. 11-1574, ECF No. 12. This Court affirmed the ruling of the Bankruptcy Court on January 27, 2012. Mem. Op., ECF No. 22. Cartinhour then filed a motion for sanctions on February 3, 2012. Mot. for Sanctions, ECF No. 23. The Court granted Cartinhour's motion for sanctions, ECF No. 23, against Robertson and his lawyer Ty Clevenger ("Clevenger") for filing a frivolous appeal on April 2, 2012. Order, ECF No. 33. Robertson and W.A.R. filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the order for sanctions and pending show cause orders in the instant case on August 24, 2012. In re W.A.R. LLP, USCA Case No. 12-7084.
On the same day that it overruled the objections to the trustee's report, July 11, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order directing Robertson and Clevenger to show cause why the court should not impose sanctions against them for pressing the frivolous argument that the bulk of the funds in the registry of the District Court were property of W.A.R.'s estate. Bankr. No. 11-044, ECF No. 212. The Bankruptcy Court imposed a monetary sanction of $10, 000 each against Robertson and Clevenger, on behalf of W.A.R., on May 3, 2012. Order, ECF No. 277. Robertson and Clevenger sought de novo review of the sanction order in the present case on May 31, 2012. Request for De Novo Review, ECF No. 1.
The Court filed the original show cause order in this case and dismissed objections to the Bankruptcy Court's May 4, 2012 Memorandum and Orders on June 26, 2012. Show Cause Order, ECF No. 7. The Court vacated the original show cause order and entered a Second Order to Show Cause on July 25, 2012. Second Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 11. Robertson filed his response to the order to show cause on August 8, 2012. Resp. to Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 12. W.A.R. filed its response to the show cause order on the same day. Resp. to Order of the Court, ECF No. 13. Robertson filed an appeal on the Court's second show cause order to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on August 24, 2012. USCA Case No. 12-7083. 7083. The Circuit entered judgment affirming this Court's rulings in Case Nos. 11-1574 and 12-306 on November 6, 2014. In re W.A.R. LLP, USCA Case Nos. 12-7083 and 12-7084.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Repeated frivolous and meritless filings will not be tolerated by this Court. "It is now well established that a court may employ injunctive remedies to protect the integrity of the courts and the orderly and expeditious administration of justice." Urban v. United Nations, 768 F.2d 1497, 1500 (D.C. Cir. 1985); Kaempfer v. Brown, 872 F.2d 496, *2 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Any such restrictions must be narrowly tailored to protect that interest "without unduly impair[ing] a litigant's right of access to the courts." In re Powell, 851 F.2d 427, 431 (D.C. Cir. 1988). The constitutional right of access to the courts, however, is neither "absolute nor unconditional." Caldwell v. Obama, 6 F.Supp. 3d 31, 49 (D.D.C. 2013) (citing In re Green, 669 F.2d 779, 785 (D.C. Cir. 1981)).
Three steps are required before the Court may issue a filing injunction. Powell, 851 F.2d at 431; Caldwell, 6 F.Supp. 3d at 50. First, because a filing injunction concerns a potential denial of due process rights, the Court must provide sufficient notice and the opportunity to be heard. Caldwell, 6 F.Supp. 3d at 50 (citing Powell, 851 F.2d at 431; Rodriguez v. Shulman, 844 F.Supp.2d 1, 15 (D.D.C. 2012)). Second, the Court must develop a record for review "to further ensure that the filer's due process rights are not violated." Id. (citing Powell, 851 F.2d at 431; Kaempfer, 872 F.2d at *3; Rodriguez, 844 F.Supp.2d at 15). "[M]ere litigiousness does not support the issuance of an injunction." Powell, 851 F.2d at 434. The Court must consider "both the number and content of the filings" when considering an injunction of this nature. Id. ; Caldwell, 6 F.Supp. 3d at 50. Finally, the Court ...