Federal justice run amok
One woman's tale of judicial roadblocks in trying to expose government corruption

[The following is from a woman fighting corrupt government in Norfolk who came to the attention of U.S. District Court Judges.  Now she has been threatened with jail and fines for not giving the federal court documented records of corruption she has obtained.

[One lawyer who witnessed the recent abuse of power by U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan wrote: 

"Here are the details of a scary tale I briefly described before.

"Do not directly bash the political class in Norfolk, especially if there is proof of serious wrongdoing.

"Ninety percent of federal and state appeals court decisions are "unpublished" and virtually unfindable.  I have seen cases like Ms. Briggs' dealt with by stating only a single sentence on the merits of the case and never stating the issues before the court.  Protection of the politically powerful almost always come ahead of the law in court (unless the unusual person is seated on the bench).  The bigger the mess that is stirred the more likely there will be a result like this one.    

"Why does the Virginian-Pilot ignore court cases like this one?"

[In her own words, here is Donna Biggs tale before her recent court appearance in Norfolk.]

                                                                                            August 29, 2003
            Re:  Briggs v. City of Norfolk (2:98cv288)
                   September 3, 2003 contempt hearing
                   U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Va.

On September 3, 2003 at 11:30 a.m., I will be tried again for contempt by U.S. District Court Judge Henry Morgan, at 600 Granby St., in Norfolk, Va. At issue is the judge’s order that I relinquish “all documents” ever produced by the City of Norfolk in response to my discovery requests during my thwarted four year effort to litigate civil racketeering (RICO) and constitutional claims against the city, and a number of police officials.

The aborted litigation asserted patterns of withholding exculpatory and impeachment evidence about prosecution witnesses during criminal proceedings, witness and evidence tampering, and patterns of threats, and retaliation against citizens who filed police misconduct complaints with the Internal Affairs Division, or who testified against police officers in civil trials.  I provided the court with 16 sworn statements documenting such threats and retaliation, including two from former Norfolk police officers, (a third former officer actually suffered an “accidental” death three days after I noticed his deposition, and one day after I was told he would be killed before he could testify), in addition to a wealth of other evidence, Judge Jerome Friedman refused to try any of the charges, “sealed” all evidence I had received from the City, and ruled it all inadmissible.

Judge Friedman never complied with any of the procedural requirements established by the U.S. Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for sealing judicial records.  No inventory of the sealed documents exists, nor did he issue required detailed findings on the record to support his decision to seal them.  Of particular interest is a Rule 56G Submission I filed with the court in December 1999 requesting sanctions against two senior police officials for filing willfully false affidavits with the court.  Included in that submission were over 1200 pages of documents concerning prior complaints filed against one of the police defendants in the case, including conclusive evidence of the commission of multiple crimes of moral turpitude, perjury, making false claims for money, planting incriminating evidence, stalking, assault and battery, etc., evidence prosecutors are required to disclose to criminal defendants, by U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland , each time that officer is called as a witness for the prosecution. 

In March 2000, I filed an appeal to the 4th Circuit (case number 00-1434), seeking the independent judicial review of Friedman’s decision to seal the records, a mandatory review according to the U.S. Supreme Court and First Amendment case law.  The required review has never been conducted by the Court of Appeals despite four subsequent appeals requesting it, and another appeal regarding this matter currently pending.  After I finally filed complaints against several appellate court judges for repeatedly failing to perform the required review, Judges Motz, Traxler and King ordered the 1200 un-reviewed pages removed from the appellate court files and returned to the defense attorney.  Then the complaints were dismissed.

On August 28, 2003, Judge Morgan had me handcuffed in court and incarcerated for two hours for my unwillingness to swear under oath that I had relinquished all copies of “all documents” in the case.  My request for a specific inventory of the documents covered by this order has been denied.  Moreover, Morgan has forbidden me to disclose the contents of these records to the FBI, the Commonwealth Attorney, the Virginia State Bar, or any administrative or legislative committees tasked with investigating judicial disability or misconduct complaints.  Indeed, I was told yesterday that I would be in contempt of court if I disclosed the records to an attorney representing me.        

Because I have previously documented alterations to the district court’s copies of my Rule 56G Submission while in the sealed custody of the court, I have repeatedly requested that I be permitted to retain my own copies until the matter is actually reviewed on appeal.  My requests to stay further contempt proceedings until the 4th Circuit actually issues a substantive opinion on the issue have been denied. 

Because I consider the documents evidence of criminal misconduct by public officials, I have requested an advisory ethics opinion from the Virginia State Bar before I surrender the last documents.  On September 3rd at 11:30 a.m., Judge Morgan will incarcerate me indefinitely unless I surrender without appellate review what I believe is documentary evidence of criminal misconduct as well as “Brady material” required to be publicized to criminal defendants when these officials are testifying as prosecution witnesses. 

If you are able to attend the hearing, I would greatly appreciate it.  I am no longer permitted to submit written pleadings with the court to state my position on these matters.  Even if you cannot attend, you have the right as a citizen to file a Motion to Intervene in the proceedings to request access to these judicial records.  A simple one page document serving that purpose is attached.  If you choose to sign one, the original must be filed or mailed to the district court, any copies should also be mailed to me and to the opposing counsel as indicated.  

It is my understanding the United States currently has the highest percentage of citizens in prison of any country in the world.  Virginia’s execution rate is second only to Texas.  I believe it is imperative that we demand integrity in our criminal and civil justice systems.


 Donna M. Briggs