United States v. Alkaramla, No. 16-2191 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Bernstein, an attorney appointed under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. 3006A, to represent an indigent defendant in federal district court, hired forensic expert Speckin to analyze evidence for the defense. Bernstein disregarded the Act’s rules and failed to obtain the court’s preapproval; he submitted a voucher for the expert’s services six months after his client was sentenced, requesting $15142.90, about six times the statutory cap. The judge would not approve it. Speckin sued Bernstein in a Michigan state court, which entered a default judgment against Bernstein. Bernstein then unsuccessfully asked the federal district judge to vacate the state-court judgment or enjoin its enforcement. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. No statute authorized the district court to review the Michigan judgment. Bernstein hired Speckin outside the bounds of the CJA, so their dispute is one of private contract and governed by state law. The Anti-Injunction Act prohibits federal courts from granting an “injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments,” 28 U.S.C. 2283. Nothing in the CJA comes close to authorizing an injunction of state-court proceedings.