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United States District Court Judge James Nowlin has trampled on the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by filing a false account of a jury verdict. Three courts have had the opportunity to correct Judge Nowlin’s “error” but not one has even addressed it, much less discussed reversing it. Is the Seventh Amendment as important today as it was when James Madison first introduced it? It should be.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees American citizens the right to a trial by jury. It also expressly prohibits federal judges from overturning a jury verdict that is supported by the evidence.
The right to a jury trial is premised on the notion that all members of society are equal before the law. At the time of the American Revolution, Colonial judges still served at the pleasure of the King. Beholden to the monarch, their rulings generally favored the monarch’s position. One of the main grievances precipitating the American Revolution, was the King’s abolishment of trial by jury in the Colonies.
Judge Nowlin circumvented the Seventh Amendment by falsifying a jury verdict instead of overturning it.
In January 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took 74 year-old Brian Pardo of Waco, Texas, a Vietnam veteran who had not even had a traffic ticket in 25 years, to court, accusing him and his company of fraud, insider trading, scienter and 12 other offenses.
After five days of testimony before Judge Nowlin at the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, a jury disagreed with the SEC and found Pardo innocent of fraud, innocent of scienter, innocent of insider trading and ruled that 10 of the 12 other charges had no merit. The two that had merit were fineable up to $7,500.
Unlike the Colonists under the rule of the King of England, the Seventh Amendment protected Pardo from the judge or the government overturning the not guilty verdict. Or did it?
In December 2014, ten months after the jury found Pardo not guilty of the charges levied against him by the SEC, Judge Nowlin declared in his final judgement that the jury rendered a guilty verdict instead of not guilty. He then issued a fine so large, $46 million, that Pardo was forced to place his company in bankruptcy.
How fair are bankruptcy courts? “Bankruptcy court corruption is not just a matter of bankruptcy trustees in collusion with corrupt bankruptcy judges,” said John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General. “The corruption is supported, and justice hindered by high ranking officials in the United States Trustee Program. Cases are intentionally, and unreasonably kept open for years. Parties in cases are sanctioned to discourage them from pursuing justice.”
Pardo’s company has a portfolio valued at more than $2.5 billion. But the portfolio is owned by some 20,000 investors, not the company. For more than two decades, Pardo acting as trustee, guided the investment portfolio to increased profitably – even paying quarterly dividends to investors higher than most blue chip companies including Exxon and Ford.
Judge Nowlin’s disregard for the Seventh Amendment has extended a legal battle two additional years and generated untold amounts of collateral damage. Since providing his false account of the jury verdict, 700 lawsuits against investors, former employees and even charities have been filed, tens of thousands of pages of legal briefs have clogged Federal Courts and at least $50 million in additional legal fees have been paid – following a Not Guilty verdict.
During the two years the SEC has been running Pardo’s company it has been unable to find any evidence of fraud – just like the jury said!
This was the second time Pardo had to defend himself against the SEC. In 1996, another jury found him innocent of charges filed by the SEC.
Is the Seventh Amendment important?
About the author:
John McLemore is an award winning television reporter and freelance journalist. His work has been seen in the NY Times, Dateline, Charles Kuralt and many other places. He gained national recognition in 1993 for live coverage of a deadly gun battle between federal agents and members of a religious cult. Commended by the Director of the ATF for his role in helping save the lives of three federal agents.
His awards include:
1993 – Emmy Award Finalist
1993 – Katie Award winner
1993 – Associated Press Award winner (2)
1994 – Associated Press Award winner
1995 – Associated Press Award winner