Bolton attorney, Mary Lee Holmes, faces sanctions over post conviction court filing, which smeared Judge Starrett and federal prosecutors

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Hattiesburg attorney Mary Lee Holmes

It is expected that Judge Starrett (left) will hand down sanctions against Bolton attorney, Mary Lee Holmes (right) for smearing the court and prosecutors.

 

hattiesburg attorney mary lee holmes and bud holmes

(click to enlarge) Hattiesburg attorneys Mary Lee Holmes and her father Bud Holmes are very close to the Charles and Linda Bolton.

Local Hattiesburg attorney, Mary Lee Holmes, faces almost certain court sanctions after she made allegations of fraud and prejudice against the prosecution and Judge Starrett.  Holmes entered a post conviction appearance in the Bolton's tax evasion trial in a motion she filed called Limited Supplemental Motion In Support of Reply Motion Supporting Motion For Bond Appeal [Doc.250].  Document 250  is a fourteen page emotional rebuke of Judge Starrett's Court and the U.S. Attorney's office, which successfully prosecuted the Bolton's tax case. Holmes's Supplemental Motion is chock-full of allegations that the government prosecutors and Judge Starrett committed fraud, deceit, prejudice, improper conduct, unconstitutional rulings, and committed error.

Holmes alleged the reason the government brought tax charges against the Boltons was, 

“to get egg off of their face”

after they couldn’t get an indictment against the Boltons for food theft, and that

“this whole trial was an attempt to justify a false media driven unsubstantiated food theft.”

Holmes  repeatedly alleged that the government prosecutors,

“defrauded the court”; “blatantly lied in open court”; and made “lies and deceit in open court,” “wild accusations” and “fraudulent assertions.”

Mary Lee Holmes  also attacked Judge Starrett  and accused him  of violating Bolton's Constitutional due process rights at sentencing. Holmes said,

“The court did something the Grand Jury couldn’t find.  It found the Boltons guilty of the theft the lawfully empaneled Grand Jury that thoroughly investigated the charges could not find ….  Like it or lump it, this court tried, convicted, and sentenced the Boltons although the Grand Jury refused to indict.”

Holmes went on to castigate Judge Starrett and accused him of "deep seeded (sic) prejudice" after he enhanced Charles Bolton's sentence in connection with Bolton's purported involvement with the stolen food from the Billy McGee Detention Center.  Holmes said,

“in open court, this trial judge says you are guilty of stealing food and you owe taxes for such.  In looking back, it is obviously from this court’s statements during the sentencing about the food that it was prejudiced on its part about an unsubstantiated, unproven set of facts [and] prejudiced his thinking throughout the trial ….  This deep seeded (sic) prejudice was evidenced and manifested itself at the sentencing.”

The prosecution quickly filed Document 252, which was a motion for sanctions against her.  In Doc. # 252, the government accused Ms. Holmes of intentionally violating several rules of civil procedure on what it called her,

“blatantly false and slanderous allegations” that “are totally unsupported by the record.”

Ms. Holmes replied to the Government’s motion for sanctions with Document 253 In that she requested oral arguments before Judge Starrett and doubled down when she stated that she,

“stands by the statements made to the Court ….”

Next, Judge Starrett  issued an Order, Document 307, which compelled Ms. Holmes to show cause as to why she should not be sanctioned by the court.  In the order, Judge Starrett said,

"Given her outrageous arguments in her Motion [250],1 the Court finds that Holmes should be sanctioned under its inherent powers. Under its inherent power, the Court may impose sanctions for “bad faith or willful abuse of the judicial process.”

Judge Starrett also stated,

"the Court finds that sanctions are appropriate against Holmes and will give her two weeks from the date of this order to show cause why sanctions should not be levied against her. In order to evade sanctions, Holmes must show that each and every allegation made in her Motion [250] is supported by facts contained in the record and must specifically cite to the record for each of her factual contentions. In doing so, Holmes should keep in mind that the Court will be viewing each cited fact in light of the entire record and that it will consider a half-truth as a whole lie."

Ms. Holmes filed her response on August 8th, 2017. The Response to Order to Show Cause (DOC. 307) is a six page account of her emotional and personal history of friendship with the Boltons. The document is peppered with both excuses and apologies.  Ms. Holmes blamed her emotions, youth, inexperience, and failure to recognize terms for her egregious filing.  Ms. Holmes stated in her response,

"For my deep, deep emotions getting in the way of my thinking in trying to defend Linda Bolton, I sincerely apologize to the Court and all those concerned who I may have offended"

"In rereading the transcripts and information on the record I have access to, I now see how my emotions heavily clouded my thinking."

"I realize I misunderstood a number of things, and for that, I owe an apology to Mr. Fred Harper. 

"My failure to recognize the terms 'likely' and 'potential' in the rule and transcript is much of the root in why, again, my interpretation was that the government had misled the court"

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 Rules under which Ms. Holmes might be sanctioned.

There are several ways the legal profession punishes a lawyer’s improper conduct that may be grounds for sanctions against Ms. Holmes.  According to my discussions with several attorneys, it is very rare for an attorney to be sanctioned.  But it looks like that may well happen to Ms. Holmes less than a year after becoming a lawyer.  Here are some of the rules that Judge Starrett may find she violated.

  1.             Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Rules of Professional Conduct provides standards that attorneys must adhere to.  If the Mississippi Bar learns that a lawyer violates one of these “ethical” rules, it can take any number of actions against him, including disbarment, suspension from the practice of law, or public or private reprimand. In Doc. # 252, the government accused Ms. Holmes of intentionally violating several of those rules based on what it called her “blatantly false and slanderous allegations” that “are totally unsupported by the record.”

  1.             Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

The duties created by Rule 11 boil down to two basic categories.  First, the lawyer did not file the pleading or motion for an improper purpose, such as to harass or cause unnecessary delay or expense.  Second, the lawyer made a reasonable inquiry (or investigation) into the factual and legal contentions made in the motion or pleading.  Here’s the exact langue in Rule 11:

     (b) Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper--whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it--an attorney or unrepresented                party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

          (1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

          (2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

          (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

          (4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

     (c) Sanctions.

          (1) In General. If, after notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond, the court determines that Rule 11(b) has been violated, the court may impose an appropriate sanction on any attorney,                    law firm, or party that violated the rule or is responsible for the violation ….

          (2) Motion for Sanctions. A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b) ….  If warranted, the court may award to the prevailing party the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred for the motion.

          (3) On the Court’s Initiative. On its own, the court may order an attorney, law firm, or party to show cause why conduct specifically described in the order has not violated Rule 11(b).

          (4) Nature of a Sanction. A sanction imposed under this rule must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. The sanction may include nonmonetary directives; an order to pay a penalty into court; or, if imposed on motion and warranted for effective deterrence, an order directing payment to the movant of part or all of the reasonable attorney’s fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation.

Did Ms. Holmes file Doc. # 250 for an improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation?  Were her legal contentions warranted by existing law?  Did her factual contentions have evidentiary support?  Before she made them, did she conduct an adequate investigation to determine whether they did?  These are questions Judge Starrett will decide, of course.  But in her response to the Order to Show Cause, Ms. Holmes does not seem to address any of those issues.  She simply apologizes and basically blames her mistakes on her lack of experience and emotional ties to the Boltons.

  1.             28 U.S.C. § 1927.

Judge Starrett might also impose sanctions against Ms. Holmes under a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1927, which prohibits lawyers in federal court from “multiplying the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously,” and authorizes federal courts to order any lawyer who does so to “satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.”

The statute requires the court to find more egregious actions than those warranting sanctions under Rule 11, basically only for “reckless” conduct, and not simply for “negligence.”  Maybe that’s the reason Ms. Holmes argues in Doc. # 313 that she simply “misunderstood” so many things and blames her actions on her “lack of accuracy and fact checking,” her “youth and inexperience,” and emotions.  But the courts have found lawyers to have acted “unreasonably and vexatiously” when they engaged in serious and studied disregard for the orderly process of justice, made claims that didn’t have a plausible legal or factual basis, or made assertions in court filings that a reasonably careful attorney would have known, after appropriate inquiry, to be unsound.

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The below document (Doc.250) is what was filed by Mary lee Holmes which led to her being threatened with sanctions.

doc250
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The below document (Doc.251)  was filed by Mary lee Holmes to withdraw Document 250 from the record

doc251
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The below document (Doc. 252) is the government's response to document 250, and in it prosecutors ask Judge Starrett to impose sanctions.

doc252
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The below document (Doc.307)  is Judge Starrett's Order to Show Cause as to why Ms. Holmes should not face sanctions.

doc307
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The below document (Doc.313)  is Mary Lee Holmes's response to Judge Starrett's Order to Show Cause (Doc. 307)

doc313
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62 thoughts on “Bolton attorney, Mary Lee Holmes, faces sanctions over post conviction court filing, which smeared Judge Starrett and federal prosecutors

    1. Joe Locascio

      Hattiesburg Patriot News Media just because she is a new attorney dose not mean she dose not know what she is doing. A Dr. Right out of school are sometimes the best because the schooling is fresh in their mind.

    2. Hattiesburg Patriot News Media

      An attorney versed in Federal court procedure does not find themselves facing sanctions. It is very uncommon for an attorney to face sanctions like this.

      Ms. Holmes let her emotions and outside influence get the best of her. She was not prudent or diligent in her research of the filing in question.

      A degree is one thing. Real world experience is another.

    3. Joe Locascio

      what’s wise to some may not be to others. everyone has their own opinion and mine is mine and yours is yours. Bottom line I will always stand behind the Holmes because what I know. That’s the great thing about America everyone has the right to their own opinion. Have a great and blessed weekend.

    4. Mary Lee Holmes

      You know TG, I seem to recall a certain attorney who DID read what I wrote before it was filed… said it was excellent and actually said he was piggy-backing his response off of mine and was relying on me filing the arguments to support both of our clients… hmm…

  1. Matt Larry

    Seems pretty doubtful that the sanctions will actually stick. They are typically reserved for continued misconduct or obvious bad faith.

    The claim that she misread or misunderstood things is pretty ridiculous though. Seems like the client wouldn’t have to look too hard to find grounds for malpractice if the attorney is overlooking basic legal terms. But her general argument, that a court can’t find someone guilty of tax violations on something a grand jury never even indicted the client for stealing makes sense. The tone of the motion notwithstanding. Granted, I’m not all that familiar with the background on this.

    Also, were all those typos in her motion or just in the article transposition? I didn’t have time to read the actual documents.

    1. Hattiesburg Patriot News Media

      You do not understand the facts. Bolton’s sentencing was enhanced in connection with stolen food at the jail. The Boltons were indicted on 10 tax crimes, tried, and convicted.

      The court never found anyone guilty. A jury did. That she asserts the court found the Boltons guilty on crimes they were not indicted for is false. It never happend.

    2. Matt Larry

      A judge can’t even infer from some other conviction that some fact was found beyond a reasonable doubt to increase a sentence. It has to be explicitly a part of the crime on which the jury rules or found as a matter of expressed fact by a jury. And that doesn’t seem to have happened here.

    3. Matt Larry

      This ruling further clarified and extended Apprendi: “United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court decision concerning criminal sentencing. The Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial requires that, other than a prior conviction, only facts admitted by a defendant or proved beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury may be used to calculate a sentence exceeding the prescribed statutory maximum sentence, whether the defendant has pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. The maximum sentence a judge may impose is a sentence based upon the facts admitted by the defendant or proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Booker

    4. Hattiesburg Patriot News Media

      Ms. Holmes recognizes this fact in her apology. Federal judges have great latitude in enhancements. Very different from state courts.

      There were guilty pleadings in the food theft. The persons who pleaded guilty implicated Charles Bolton. So did 8 or 10 other people who gave statements under oath.

      Judge starrett enhanced boltons sentence as a result of his connection with this criminal activity. This all happened in open court.

    5. Matt Larry

      Great argument. You just keep saying that judges have great discretion. They have some discretion (since apprendi and then booker) if there is a fact found beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury on which they base their reasoning to increase a sentence.

    6. Matt Larry

      Otherwise, federal judges can only sentence within the federal guidelines.

      But I am totally open to the chance that the facts in this case that the judge used to increase the sentence might have been found beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury.

    7. Matt Larry

      Let’s say someone gets busted with ten pounds of heroin and the maximum sentence is 10 years. The judge can’t sentence to 5 years and then increase the sentence to 10 because it is likely the defendant had a gun.

    8. Matt Larry

      They can however increase the sentence over 10 years to whatever the additional term is defined by the federal guidelines if the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a gun.

      This is simply me explaining the way the law works. This standard of law is based on opinions by Scalia. I assume you are a fan.

    9. Michael C. Barefield

      The sentence imposed did not exceed the prescribed maximum statutory sentence. It was enhanced from the minimum sentence to a sentence less than the maximum. Don’t have a dog in this fight but thought I would clear up what appears to be a misunderstanding of the cited court decisions.

    10. Matt Larry

      Thanks for the clarification. A sentence can’t be increased no matter if the original sentence was lower than the maximum based on anything other than a fact found beyond a reasonable doubt.

      The attorney should appeal.

    11. Matt Larry

      So a judge can sentence someone to crime x for any term at or below the mandatory maximum for that crime. But a judge can’t sentence someone to a sentence and then make a determination of fact to increase the sentence. It’s a procedural rule. The judge here shouldn’t have increased the sentence for facts not found by the jury and just started with the sentence he ended with.

    12. Matt Larry

      I think the rule is good, but obviously has some weird practical applications. Like I have no feeling one way or the other in the case at issue. But really the judge should have just not mentioned the external facts in the decision.

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