I couldn’t pass on writing about a Business Court Order that the Court itself described as “Sua Sponte Order on Abusive Language.” This is In re SE Eye Ctr, 2023 NCBC Order 15.
Abusive language? That might be too complimentary a description of the stream of vitriol let loose by Mark McDaniel, a “contingent debtor” of Southeastern Eye Center, in his court filings. McDaniel, not a physician (nor a lawyer), is the former Executive Director of the Center. He is proceeding pro se.
Judge Bledsoe laid out a long list of abusive statements by McDaniel in his order. Most of the abuse was targeted by McDaniel against what he referred to as the “Trio,” who were the Receiver appointed in the case, the Receiver’s attorney, and one of the major creditors of the Center. Judge Bledsoe’s itemization of the abusive statements goes on for pages (2-5) in the Order, but here are some of the gems:
- That the Trio have acted with ‘complete disregard for facts’ and in a ‘flippant and cavalier manner’;
- That the Trio have committed extortion;
- That one member of the Trio ‘has no regard for the law [and is willing] to commit outright felonies’ ;
- That the Trio are willing to ‘ruin lives with fake evidence’ with this Court’s connivance;
- That one member of the Trio is professionally incompetent;
- That one member of the Trio has defrauded the Internal Revenue Service;
- That the Trio have operated a ‘scam’;
- That the Trio have committed federal bank fraud;
- That the Trio are guilty of ‘[g]reed and ethical failures.’
Here’s how Judge Bledsoe summed up McDaniel’s invective:
Even a cursory review of the Objections shows that each is replete with personal vitriol against the Receiver and other parties in this case, ad hominem attacks against the Receiver and others, and egregious accusations of misconduct against others with virtually no citations to evidence, the developed record, or to applicable law.
If you are underwhelmed by ther abusive nature of McDaniel’s statements, this was apparently a longstanding approach by McDaniel of which Judge Bledsoe obviously was tired. He said “[u]nsupported and unwarranted personal attacks and vitriol have been a hallmark of McDaniel’s advocacy before this Court, certainly since he was permitted” to appear in the case. He said that it was “beyond the bounds of zealous advocacy.” Order ¶8.
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to “foster civility among members of the bar.” That’s from the Rules of Professional Conduct As Judge Bledsoe put it, “[t]he principles of professional courtesy that forbid such language are . . . crucial to the proper administration of justice.” Order ¶9. McDaniel didn’t have a pass from the obligation of civility because he was proceeding pro se. The Rules which govern attorney conduct apply to anyone appearing on a pro se basis. Order ¶11
Despite its annoyance with McDaniel’s conduct, the Business Court actually went fairly lightly on him. It did not sanction him, but ordered him to “cease and desist further abusive and invective-based advocacy, either in writings filed with the Court or in oral presentations before the Court.” Order ¶16(a). Judge Bledsoe reserved his right to sanction McDaniel in the future. Order ¶17.
Can McDaniel clean up his act? I’ll keep an eye out.