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In re Grenadier

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

July 2, 2018

IN RE JANICE WOLK GRENADIER

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Henry E. Hudson Senior United States District Judge.

         This show cause proceeding is the culmination of a protracted history of frivolous, and at times indignant, legal actions filed by Janice Wolk Grenadier ("Grenadier"), in the United State District Court and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Her filings have cast a wide net encompassing claims against forty-two active or retired federal judges from the Eastern District of Virginia, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and the Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria. She has also filed complaints against a host of federal and state officials, ranging from the clerk of the Alexandria Circuit Court to the President of the United States and members of the President's cabinet. Each of the lawsuits filed by Grenadier has been dismissed as facially meritless, save for two which are stayed pending this proceeding and one that was only just filed.

         Grenadier is presently before the Court on an Order to Show Cause issued April 12, 2018 (ECF No. 2), requiring her to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for failing to obey orders of the Bankruptcy Court to abstain from refiling bankruptcy actions without cause and, despite numerous admonitions, for continuously filing frivolous and unmeritorious pleadings in the District Court. The Order to Show Cause was personally served on Grenadier by the U.S. Marshals Service on April 18, 2018.

         This show cause proceeding was initially premised on a Certification from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to this Court (the "Certification") recommending criminal contempt proceedings against Grenadier for failing to abide by orders of the Bankruptcy Court, specifically a two-year bankruptcy filing bar imposed against her on October 13, 2016. (See Bankr. Case No. 17-13354-BFK, ECF No. 48.) According to the Certification, this filing injunction was imposed as a result of her continuing failure to abide by the statutory requirements for filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy, namely not having regular income as required by 11 U.S.C. § 109(e). The Bankruptcy Court's injunction did not impose an absolute filing prohibition; its language left the door ajar by allowing Grenadier to file a Chapter 13 action during that two-year period, if such action was accompanied by a motion and affidavit representing her ability to satisfy all requirements of Chapter 13, including regular income.

         As reflected in the Certification, Grenadier's 2016 bankruptcy filing, which resulted in the Bankruptcy Court's imposition of the two-year filing injunction, was affirmed by the United States District Court. Her appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was dismissed. The Certification further revealed that on October 24, 2017, less than one year after the two-year bar was imposed, Grenadier filed another bankruptcy case, in violation of the two-year filing bar. Grenadier did not file the requisite motion and affidavit and, in fact, acknowledged to the Court that she still lacked employment and regular income, a prerequisite to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

         The Certification also noted that Grenadier has now filed ten bankruptcy cases which fail to satisfy the statutory requirements of Chapter 13, despite repeated admonitions. According to the Certification, Grenadier has filed an additional eight actions in the District Court that have all patently failed to state a plausible claim. In fact, as the evidence will reveal, most are largely incomprehensible.

         After thoroughly reviewing the reasoning of the Bankruptcy Court and its recommendation, while firmly grounded, this Court decided to adopt a more measured approach and consider a formal pre-filing injunction requiring leave of court before any pleadings are filed, along with possible monetary sanctions under Rule 11, in lieu of contempt at this stage. The object of the immediate proceeding is to ensure that Grenadier obeys the orders of this Court. This Court will reserve the Bankruptcy Court's recommendation of criminal sanctions as a last resort.

         I. The Show Cause Hearing

         Pursuant to the aforementioned Order to Show Cause, this Court held a hearing on May 22, 2018, beginning at 10:00 a.m., at the U.S. District Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.[1] The Order to Show Cause advised Grenadier that she may wish to engage counsel prior to the hearing and that, because show cause hearings are not criminal in nature, the right to counsel was not otherwise guaranteed. See Cromer v. Kraft Foods N. Am., Inc., 390 F.3d 812, 821 (4th Cir. 2004). Grenadier chose to appear pro se. To facilitate the presentation of any evidence necessary to authenticate court records and to represent the interests of the Court in the proceeding, Susan Podolsky, Esquire ("Podolsky"), a member of the bar of this Court, was appointed as counsel, absolving the undersigned judge of the need to both advocate and adjudicate the matter. (See ECF Nos. 3, 4.)

         After thoroughly explaining to Grenadier the procedural posture of the hearing and the purpose underlying the show cause proceeding, [2] the Court asked for opening statements. Podolsky presented first. In the course of outlining Grenadier's filing history, Podolsky offered the following certified records of the District Court and the Bankruptcy Court, without objection by Grenadier[3]:

• The Docket Reports of 24 civil cases filed by Grenadier or opened as a result of her appeals from orders of the Bankruptcy Court[4] and of 2 civil cases in which she filed a Motion to Intervene[5] (Exs. A2-A27);
• The "Disposition Orders" from 23 of those cases[6], and the Orders denying Grenadier's two Motions to Intervene (Exs. A28-53);
• Grenadier's two Motions to Intervene, her Complaint in Civil Case No. 1:17cv1106, and her Amended Complaint in Civil Case No. 1:18cv571, as exemplars of her filings (Exs. A54-57);
• The Docket Reports of 14 bankruptcy cases filed by Grenadier[7](Exs.B2-B15);
• The Disposition Orders for all those cases (Exs. B16-B29);
• Motions, a "Demand," and a Letter filed by Grenadier in various cases, as exemplars of her behavior during the pendency of these actions (Exs. B30-B36);
• Judge Kenney's Order to Show Cause in Bankr. Case No. 17-11024 (Ex. B37); and
• Judge Kenney's Certification to the District Court for Criminal Contempt Proceedings (Ex. B38).

         This collection of records creates a striking snapshot of Grenadier's history of litigation. She has participated in forty cases, thirty-eight of which she initiated herself. Those thirty-eight cases have generated over 1, 500 docket entries, representing the staggering amount of Court time, energy, and resources that have been required to deal with Grenadier's filings. (Hr'g Tr. 10:19-11:8.) Individual filings within that collection of cases range from 5 pages to over 400 pages. (Id. at 13:8-12.) Even those filings lacking in any merit whatsoever consume Court personnel time, given that the pro se motions and notices must be received and scanned and docketed before they ever get to the presiding judge for disposition. (Id. at 11:9-16.) Grenadier's behavior has, in short, created a mountain of work for this Court and others.

         Podolsky then proceeded to address the nature of Grenadier's filings. As demonstrated by the records before the Court, a survey of Grenadier's various complaints and motions reveals a pattern of retaliatory filing. After Grenadier receives an adverse ruling, she frequently files a "cross claim" or new complaint against the presiding judge and the court personnel involved, often in addition to filing a motion for reconsideration of the underlying decision, an appeal, or both. (Id. at 13:23-14:20 (citing Civil Case Nos. 1:17cv1106, 1:15cv1497 and Bankr. Case No. 17-01124 as examples); see also Exs. B30-36.)

         Moreover, Podolsky highlighted the fact that none of Grenadier's civil actions have been found to have had merit. Her bankruptcy appeals have been almost uniformly dismissed for failure to prosecute[8] (Exs. A28-A35, A37, A39-A42), and her freestanding civil actions have been dismissed as meritless or frivolous[9] (Exs. A43, 44, 46, 47, 49, 50, 53), with all ancillary motions denied as meritless (see Ex. A44 n.1). Similarly, Grenadier's Motions to Intervene in two independent civil actions were both denied as unfounded. (Exs. A51, A52.) And even when a case has been dismissed as meritless or frivolous, Grenadier persists in filing motions and cumulative appeals, none of which have prevailed to date. In Civil Case No. 1:14cv827, for example, Grenadier continued to file miscellaneous motions for reconsideration, appeals, and motions to take action against Judge Brinkema for over two and a half years after Judge Brinkema dismissed the action itself. (Ex. A18, Docket Report.)

         Podolsky also pointed to Grenadier's thirty-three post-dismissal filings in Civil Case No. 1:14cv827 to demonstrate the burden that Grenadier has placed on the Court. Each judge faced with a complaint or appeal from Grenadier has had to sift through meandering allegations of wide-reaching conspiracy and wrongdoing, allegations which time and again judges have found to be incoherent, lacking in a sufficient basis in fact, or simply failing to state a cognizable claim. As represented by Podolsky from her survey of court records, each judge and court has worked carefully to address the claims-such as can be identified-that have come before them. This takes time, especially where some of Grenadier's filings are more than 400 pages long. Additionally, court support staff must devote countless hours to reviewing, scanning, and processing Grenadier's pro se filings. (See Banke Decl. ¶¶ 3, 9; Counts Decl. ¶¶ 3, 9.) In short, "in terms of sheer volume, the consumption of resources by the Court [in addressing Grenadier's filings] is significant." (Hr'g Tr. 19:5-6.)

         After hearing this summary of the evidence from Podolsky, the Court accepted the proffered records into evidence pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 902 and 1006. The Court then invited Grenadier to make her opening statement, though it cautioned her that the purpose of the hearing was not to revisit the merits of previously decided cases, and that she was to constrain her allocution to whether or not her behavior constituted an abusive pattern of filing. (Id. at 22:1-20.) Grenadier asked if she might prepare her own evidence for admission, and the Court said yes but again asserted that it would only hear evidence that related to whether or not the previously introduced court records were authentic and accurate. (Id. at 23:5-10.) Grenadier responded that "It all relates to everything." (Id. at 23:11.)

         From the outset of her opening statement, Grenadier embraced the fact that she had filed "quite a bit of documents," and stated that she had done so "because we have a judicial system that seems to be two-tier.... One, if you have money and power, and one if you're poor and you've been blackballed by the old boys network, which ...


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