Two attorneys have asked a Dane County judge to make good on his threat of jail time for two litigants who continue to pursue a case the judge declared over.
Cathleen Dettman of Haley Palmersheim SC, Madison, and Timothy Barber of Axley Brynelson LLP, Madison, filed motions this week asking Dane County Circuit Judge John Markson to put pro se litigants Rodney Rigsby and Quincy Neri behind bars for the maximum allowed sentence after the pair served default judgment motions on several insurance companies who are defending themselves against a lawsuit that has already been dismissed. The default judgment motions ask to award the pair $100 million from each insurer, plus interest.
The filings come in the wake of a July 14 hearing where Markson told the pair their effort “needs to stop now,” and called their continued litigation “misguided” and “almost delusional.” He permanently enjoined them from continuing to litigate against the defendants.
Rigsby and Neri also filed an objection to the injunction, claiming the opposing attorneys “manipulated the courts to get a false contempt motion …” and said they “lied to the print media and allowed them to print lies about Plaintiffs’ and now have them responsible for libel.”
Dettman’s motion, filed Wednesday, asks for Rigsby and Neri to “be imprisoned for the maximum period of time permitted by law” for continuing to litigate a case Markson already said was over.
“I am sure I don’t need to specifically illustrate for the Court how absolutely frustrating it is to continue dealing with these issues even after Your Honor’s crystal clear warning on July 14, 2014,” Dettman wrote in her letter attached to the motion. “Not only are the default motions a patent violation of this Court’s recent order, they are practically incoherent, rife with factual inaccuracies and outright fabrications, and most certainly without any basis in law whatsoever.”
Barber filed a letter Tuesday telling the judge the pair continues “to intentionally, unabashedly and shamelessly violate this Court’s orders.”
In his motion, filed Friday, Barber stated, “Plaintiffs simply cannot be reasoned with. They have been told repeatedly that they cannot sue attorneys, law firms, or their insurers after losing a civil action. They have refused to acknowledge that their right to appeal was the only opportunity they had to challenge the adverse ruling, and they have continued to manipulate the judicial process to suit their own needs.”
A hearing date on the requests has not yet been set.
Rigsby, reached by phone Friday, said the filings, as well as their other attempts, were all done to ensure that he and Neri are adequately compensated for people’s misuse of their copyrighted material.
“This is my life,” Rigsby said. “Why would I not fight for it?”
Dettman did not immediately return messages left Thursday and Friday. Barber declined to comment.
Neri, a glassblower and painter, and Rigsby, a cartoonist and business owner, along with children’s entertainer Catherine “The Banana Lady” Conrad, have made a name for themselves by amassing 27 lawsuits against 108 defendants, with many defendants being sued more than once in state and federal court. Several of the defendants are attorneys and insurance providers who represented other people in prior cases the trio brought.
Most of the cases stem from copyright and trademark claims – as the trio owns dozens of them – though state and federal judges repeatedly throw the suits out. The trio is on the hook for more than $360,000 in judgments, attorney’s fees and sanctions, with the majority of that being unpaid.
The most recent filings pertain to a copyright lawsuit Rigsby and Neri filed against 28 defendants over Mendota Reflection, a piece of art commissioned in 2008 as part of the remodeling of a Madison condominium. According to court papers, the contractor for the remodeling, Architectural Building Arts Inc., used project photos in which Mendota Reflection can be seen in the background on its website and for a competition.
The case, as well as five of the six others that pertain to the same subject, have been thrown out.
Rigsby alleged that Barber and Dettman’s motions – as well as those made by other attorneys and judges involved in this and other cases – are part of a larger scheme. He said he is willing to go far to make sure he gets what he is owed for people violating his intellectual property.
He called the attorneys who have been involved in many of the cases “vicious,” and said he has been litigating pro se because he can’t afford an attorney and because the attorneys he, Conrad and Neri are up against have ensured there always is a conflict of interest.
“They are leading us to do the things we are doing,” he said.
Rigsby specifically pointed to Michael Crooks, an attorney with Peterson, Johnson & Murray SC, Milwaukee, who has been involved in several of the lawsuits. Crooks is the son of Justice Patrick Crooks, and Rigsby posited that it’s not unheard of for a father to help out his son.
Michael Crooks did not immediately return a phone call.
“How much justice are you going to have?” Rigsby asked.Follow @eheisigWLJ