Friday, September 07, 2012

Pro Se Games People Play

While researching a matter, I came across the charming Michigan Court of Appeals unpublished case of Sharp v. Department of Corrections.

From the Case and from OTIS, it is apparent that M. Sharp is in prison on multiple counts of assault with intent to commit murder and is sentenced in 1988 to about 30 to 110 years in prison with his earliest release date in 2018 and his latest in 2078 (this is strange as 110 years should be 2098 - maybe its the new math or a long-term criminal discount).

In other words, the man has a considerable amount of time on his hands.

And lo, he uses that time to file a pro se complaint alleging the Department of Corrections owes him more than (insert Dr. Evil voice here) 19 Billion Dollars.

How did he get to such a princely sum you msy ask?

[Sharp]filed a complaint alleging that defendant Department of Corrections owed him more than $19 billion pursuant to a “Private Agreement” under which defendant became indebted to plaintiff at a rate of $1 million per day for every day that plaintiff remained wrongfully imprisoned. Plaintiff alleged that he sent the “Private Agreement” to the prison warden by certified mail, but that neither the warden nor any other agent of defendant responded. By its terms, the document was “self-executing” and would become effective if defendant allowed a five-day period to expire without responding. Plaintiff claimed that defendant was liable to him under the terms of the “Private Agreement,” as either an express contract or an account stated.

This is what happens when you let people read the Uniform Commercial Code without any context.

Unsurprisingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of his complaint.

The trial court properly concluded that plaintiff failed to plead facts sufficient to establish mutuality of agreement. A contract requires mutual assent or a meeting of the minds on all the essential terms. Kloian v Domino’s Pizza, LLC, 273 Mich App 449, 453; 733 NW2d 766 (2006); Burkhardt v Bailey, 260 Mich App 636, 655; 680 NW2d 453 (2004). The document that plaintiff mailed to warden Kurt Jones, demanding payment of $1 million for every day that plaintiff remained incarcerated, constituted, at best, an unaccepted offer. “An offer is a unilateral declaration of intention, and is not a contract. . . . A contract is made when both parties have executed or accepted it, and not before. . . . Mere discussions and negotiation, including unaccepted offers, cannot be a substitute for the formal requirements of a contract.” Kamalnath v Mercy Mem Hosp Corp, 194 Mich App 543, 549; 487 NW2d 499 (1992) (citations omitted). As plaintiff admitted in his complaint, Jones and defendant failed to respond in any way to plaintiff’s unsolicited correspondence; accordingly, there was no acceptance, no mutuality of agreement, and no contract.

Plaintiff cites various provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in support of his contention that a valid contract exists. However, Article 2 of the UCC applies solely to transactions in goods, MCL 440.2102; Neibarger v Universal Cooperatives, Inc, 439 Mich 512, 536-537; 486 NW2d 612 (1992); DaimlerChrysler Corp v Wesco Distribution, Inc, 281 Mich App 240, 245; 760 NW2d 828 (2008), and is therefore inapplicable to plaintiff’s Private Agreement.

He also lost on his account stated claim as again, there had never been any agreement or any mutual dealings of a monetary nature.

Using the UCC and Account Stated - You're Doing It Wrong.

In short the whole "If you don't respond you owe me millions" scheme just doesn't work.

The only way he could have made his case even more thrilling and legally sophisticated would have been to claim he was an indigenous Moor and that Moorish law should apply.

One wishes the Court of Appeals could not just affirm the dismissal but also tack on additional sentencing time or bar him from filing further complaints for wasting court resources, filing a frivolous complaint, and being a dunce.

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