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
"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"unpublished" and virtually unfindable.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
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
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
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
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
Donna M. Briggs