Mastro v. Rigby

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Bankruptcy Law
  • Date Filed: 08-22-2014
  • Case #: 13-35209
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge Tashima for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Alarcón and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

Disrespect or disregard for the judicial system is not a sufficient basis to utilize the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, as it is a harsh penalty and should be narrowly applied.

Linda Mastro and her husband were involved in a detailed bankruptcy scheme. The pair were found guilty of fraud in bankruptcy court, and appealed to the district court, claiming that the bankruptcy court acted with insufficient evidence. While the case was being processed by the district court, Mastro and her husband fled the country and moved to France to avoid persecution. Due to her flight, Mastro was indicted on criminal bankruptcy charges and the district court refused to consider the case on the merits because the district court considered Mastro a fugitive. The court claimed that Mastro exhibited such blatant disregard for the justice system that they dismissed Mastro’s claim under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. Mastro appealed the district courts decision, claiming that the district court abused its power when it utilized the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. The Ninth Circuit began its analysis by explaining that the fugitive disentitlement doctrine allows courts to throw out criminal appeals when the defendants have become fugitives. However, the panel explained that the doctrine is one with harsh consequences and should therefore be applied narrowly. The panel determined that the use of the doctrine by the district court in this case reached too far. The panel explained that disregarding the authority of a separate court does not justify use of the doctrine. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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