During the last few years, the City of Romulus has suffered major financial setbacks. With property values falling, the tax base has decreased, and there has been very little new development. Romulus has been forced to cut back many city services. Fireworks were cancelled last summer at Elmer Johnson Park on Ozga Road. The library closed recently, and the Romulus senior center is closing soon. Several parks may close, and even the Romulus recreation center hangs in jeopardy.
There is no magical cure to solve Romulus’ financial crisis, but the City of Romulus should not waste money on attorney fees. The city prosecutor, attorney Raymond Guzall, III from Seifman & Guzall PC in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is hell-bent on recklessly charging taxpayers for unnecessary work.
In connection with every motion in a criminal case and every appeal of a criminal conviction arising out of the 34th District Court in Romulus, Guzall seeks civil lawsuit sanctions.Under a rarely used statute, parties to a civil lawsuit are allowed to seek compensation from the other side if a lawsuit is so clearly frivolous that it merits an imposition of sanctions. The statute is rarely used by the courts because the lawsuit must be clearly unsupported by any factual development and contrary to the law.
Several courts have expressed that Guzall cannot use the civil statute in criminal proceedings, denying his request for sanctions. Criminal and civil cases are distinctly different. Guzall has never produced a single authority that supports his position, but he repeatedly files the same motion. Taxpayers are charged for his time “researching and briefing” this issue, irrespective of the fact that he simply cuts, copies and pastes the same argument from one pleading to the next.
Guzall also seeks sanctions under the Michigan Court Rules. Under the provisions of another rarely used rule, an attorney to a civil or criminal case assures the court that by signing a document, the pleading is “well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good-faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.” Sanctions may be awarded if a party violates this rule. In criminal cases, however, “[a] lawyer for the defendant in a criminal proceeding . . . may so defend the proceeding as to require that every element of the case be established.” MRPC 3.1 Only one published case has ever held that the rule can theoretically apply to criminal cases, but the higher court reversed an award of attorney fees. See, People v Herrera (After Remand), 204 Mich App 333, 514 NW2d 543 (1994) (Incarcerated prisoner repeatedly filed the same pleading with the court after the requested relief had been denied.)
As a watermark, no other prosecutor in the state files similar motions. From the Wayne County prosecutor’s office down to the smallest townships, prosecutors do not request sanctions. Why would Guzall, on contract with the City of Romulus, file these unusual motions?
Taxpayers might assume that Guzall is looking out for Romulus, since the prosecutor seeks to recoup money spent prosecuting cases. Of all the instances where Guzall has filed his motions and briefs seeking sanctions, however, he has succeeded in recouping only $250, later spending thousands defending that award. Meanwhile, untold hours have been assessed to the City by its prosecutor to pay for the various billable hours that he passes along, bilking the budget in every case.
Guzall knows that he will upset a defense lawyer by filing his request for sanctions. It is a personal jab at the lawyer, aimed more to insult than help his client recoup attorney fees. He knows that the accused will have to bear the cost of paying the defense attorney to respond to the motion, even though his own client will also have to pay. Like a bull in a china shop, Guzall is unconcerned with the consequences of his actions.
Putting a halt to Guzall’s reckless practices will not cure Romulus’ budget deficit, but it surely can’t hurt.