ROANOKE – Roanoke judges have long taken a dim view of the legal work of a well-known local landlord. Now, a court order says the businessman is barred from any new court filings without legal representation.
Once the owner of a string of popular eateries in Shenandoah Valley college towns and in the Roanoke area, Roland “Spanky” Macher now works as a landlord with a string of distressed properties.
The former proprietor of “Spanky’s” restaurants now manages rental homes. When he has trouble with tenants, he turns to the courts, often filing pleadings on his own, without benefit of an attorney.
That practice may have to change. A Roanoke judge has ordered Macher not to file “any legal claim or any legal proceeding whatsoever” in the General District Courts of the 23rd District without a lawyer. The ban applies to pleadings filed by Macher representing himself or as an agent for any of his corporations.
The Aug. 17 order was followed by sanctions from another judge in January for what the judge saw as unwarranted unlawful detainer proceedings filed by Macher. In that case, the judge said Macher rented a house deemed uninhabitable to two and perhaps three different would-be tenants.
Macher has long had difficulties with the law. He served nearly two years behind bars for tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and food stamp fraud, emerging in 2013 to continue his Roanoke property management business.
Often in court over tenant issues, Macher regularly tested the patience of judges. His tenants often find help at the Legal Aid Society of the Roanoke Valley, which now has five unpaid judgments against Macher, according to Senior Staff Attorney Henry Woodward. Macher has been sanctioned for suing in the name of the wrong corporate entity and on behalf of entities no longer in good standing with state regulators.
Chief Judge Jacqueline F. Ward Talevi of the Roanoke General District Court cited three past sanctions orders when she took Macher to task for his liberal approach to garnishment fees in a series of collections actions.
Talevi concluded Macher made “material misrepresentations” in seeking payment in excess of the court judgment, in demanding garnishment costs based on an arbitrary calculation and in pursuing the debt after issuing a notice of satisfaction.
“The Court further finds Roland Macher has a proven pattern of misrepresenting information to the court when he files suit…. The evidence is clear this pattern of behavior has not abated,” Talevi wrote.
Talevi ordered that Macher be barred from filing further pro se pleadings and directed that her order be posted in plain view in the general district courts of the 23rd District.
Talevi’s Aug. 17 order is In re: Roland Macher show cause summons.
Macher sought to appeal the ruling to Roanoke Circuit Court, but may have missed a deadline. He said he was not timely notified of Talevi’s order.
“How was I to know what was going on? This appears to be a violation of my rights to defend myself through the appeal process,” Macher wrote Sept. 4.
Unlawful detainer case
Although represented by an attorney in a separate consolidated action before another Roanoke General District judge, Macher suffered defeat yet again.
Evidence showed Macher had rented a small house that lacked a required rental certificate to three separate tenants in short order, collecting advance rent from each. The first two declined to stay after appreciating the poor condition of the house, according to Woodward, whose office represented those two would-be renters.
In each case, Judge Scott R. Geddes decided Macher or his company breached the rental contract and violated the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act. The VRLTA violations brought attorney fee awards. One violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act produced triple damages.
Moreover, Geddes said sanctions were appropriate for Macher’s filing of an unlawful detainer action against the second renter, who was not behind on rent. Unlawful detainer cases can be a prelude to eviction.
“Unlawful Detainer pleadings are submitted to the Court under oath. They are, in effect, a verified claim that the allegations are true,” the judge wrote.
“It is difficult to attribute the actions taken by Macher as mere sloppiness or poor bookkeeping, as suggested by counsel. There are few more serious orders that this Court may issue than those orders which result in the removal of a tenant from their home. Our system of justice and the adjudication of civil claims in our courts most often rely on a person’s promise to tell the truth,” Geddes said.
Geddes sanctioned Macher personally $580 and ordered him to pay $500 in attorney’s fees.
Geddes’ opinion and Jan. 5 order are Hurt v. RLPJ Properties LLC.