The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals imposed sanctions and penalties against attorneys involved in bringing forward a 9/11 Truther lawsuit, specifically for frivolous and vexatious appeals and motions. The suit, originally filed by a survivor of the Pentagon attack, accuses various U.S. leaders of conspiring to arrange the September 11 attacks. In addition to learning how hard it can be to convince a court of controversial subject matter, the lawyers discovered something more fundamental: If you’re upset that the judges on a federal circuit panel aren’t buying into your conspiracy theories, it might be wise to refrain from making bold accusations regarding their professionalism in your subsequent submissions—as it turns out, judges do read them and can be rather unamused.
Plaintiff, April Gallop, was working at the Pentagon with her infant son on the day of the attacks, and both sustained injuries from the collapse of the building’s ceiling and walls. She alleges that the building was not hit by a plane crash, but by either a missile or explosives—on the order of U.S. leaders. She claimed the conspiracy was motivated by a desire to create a political atmosphere where officials could pursue their policy objectives and to conceal trillions of dollars in defense misappropriations. She named a variety of defendants including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The District Court dismissed the case as frivolous, characterizing it as “factually baseless[,] . . . fanciful, fantastic, and delusional.” Plaintiff appealed and, three weeks after a 2011 hearing, the 2nd Circuit affirmed the decision while also ordering Gallop and her attorneys to show cause for “why we should not impose sanctions.” Apparently missing the message sent by the court, Gallup’s attorneys let emotions get the better of them.
Upon receiving plaintiff’s response the court noted, in its subsequent sanction order, that it “present[ed] only irrelevant information in a jarringly disorganized manner, united solely by its consistently patronizing tone.” They observed it was a “comprehensive compilation of every rumor, report, statement, and anecdote that may reveal an inconsistency or omission in an “official version” of the 9/11 attacks” without actually tying them together convincingly. But the attorneys didn’t stop there and apparently decided hurl accusations, which were duly noted:
Moreover, the response contains a robust collection of unsupported accusations of bias against the Court. For example, it accuses the Court of “an untoward, actionably biased judicial response” to Gallop’s claims, “angry pre-judgment,” and participation (or at least acquiescence) in the “ongoing” government “conspiracy” regarding the events of 9/11.
Unsatisfied by the reply, the court ordered the attorneys to pay the government double costs in addition to damages in the amount of $15,000.
Adding fuel to the court’s ire, one of the plaintiff’s counsel, William Veale, made a motion to disqualify the panel “and any like-minded colleagues” from considering plaintiff’s petition for panel rehearing and rehearing in banc. Veale asserted the panel should be disqualified due to “evident severe bias, based in active personal emotions arising from the 9/11 attack . . . leading to a categorical pre-judgment totally rejecting [Gallop’s] Complaint, out of hand and with palpable animus in [its] decision.” The court noted the demand targeting “any other members of the bench of this Circuit who share [the original panel's] feelings” was one where “no precedent was presented, nor, as far as we know, exists.” It further observed:
The affidavit was also peppered with disdainful and unsubstantiated conclusions about the panel members’ emotional stability and competence to serve objectively [. . .] alleging that the Court had engaged in a “rank, dishonest wielding of ordained power,” and that the participation of one member in particular was so egregious that it “would or should provoke a congressional investigation”.
Without a sense of irony, Veale called the court’s decision “highly emotional” and “angry” and claimed the Court’s decision sacrificed “the integrity of the Court, and of history.”
Veale apparently came to his senses and, in a later affidavit, tried to apologize for his “regrettably . . . intemperate” tone and for “allowing his personal feelings to influence the tone of his submissions”, explaining he was not “motivated by a desire to harass or disparage” the court. Still, a firm believer in the Truther movement (with his own website), he claimed his motion was meritorious and repeated claims that were evident in his earlier affidavits. The court was unimpressed:
We refuse to accept that any attorney acting in good faith, particularly an attorney who claims to have 32 years of trial experience and who avers that he “taught criminal trial practice at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law for 11 years” [. . .] could sincerely believe that he was justified in demanding disqualification of the three panel members “and any like-minded colleagues,” [. . .] or that his affidavit was otherwise legally sound and meritorious.”
Faulting the former public defender for allowing his emotions to cloud his decisions for what was best for his client, the court sanctioned Veale.
Perhaps the Gallop team would’ve had more success if they’d started all their submissions with a helpful “Wake up, sheeple!”