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Appeal based on judge’s Facebook page backfires

Hindu man argued that Christian judge was biased

//September 28, 2012

Appeal based on judge’s Facebook page backfires

Hindu man argued that Christian judge was biased

//September 28, 2012

Disgruntled spouses commonly use social media sites to dig up dirt that can be used against their significant others in court. But a Hindu man recently took the tactic to the next level when he used Facebook to go after a District Court judge.

Ajit B. Sood tried to convince the N.C. Court of Appeals that Judge Michael K. Lands in Gaston County is biased against Hindus because he attends a Baptist church and teaches Sunday school – information disclosed on the judge’s re-election campaign Facebook page.

After Lands granted temporary custody of Sood’s child to his estranged wife, a Catholic, Sood argued pro se on appeal that the judge’s decision was based solely on religious bias and should be overturned because it violated his constitutional rights.

Photo credit: Annette Shaff /

But the court denied Sood’s petition for review and dismissed his appeal without considering the merits of his claim, concluding that he’d failed to show that he voiced his concerns about Lands during the custody hearing and therefore had not properly preserved the issue for appeal. Also, temporary orders typically are not subject to appellate review.

In rejecting Sood’s argument, Judge Donna S. Stroud admonished him for including in his appeal printouts of Lands’ Facebook page and other exhibits that had not been introduced in the trial court – a violation of the procedural rules.

Stroud, who advised Sood to heed the old adage that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, said she would have sanctioned him if not for the fact that the opposing counsel, Timothy T. Leach of Gastonia, deserved the same punishment for discussing Lands’ Facebook page in his brief.

“We further admonish [Leach] that it is entirely improper for him to state, in the first person, his personal recollection of events at trial or after as part of his argument in an appellate brief,” Stroud added.

Leach admitted in a phone interview that he’d made a mistake, explaining that he does not have much appellate experience and “fell into the trap” of responding to Sood’s arguments even though they weren’t supported by the record.

“Mr. Sood was just throwing stuff in from here and there and you feel like you need to make some response to it. … In retrospect, I should have had more faith that the Court of Appeals would respond to what he was doing,” said Leach, who added that he’s had a difficult time dealing with Sood.

“He tried to have me arrested at one point, claiming that I had threatened him and assaulted him, which was pure fiction,” he said. “He had [his estranged wife] arrested for criminal trespass the first time she tried to exchange custody with him.”

Attempts to reach Sood for comment were unsuccessful. His attorney at the time of the custody hearing, Ashley E. Lorance of Katzenstein & Lorance in Gastonia, confirmed that she and Sood did not raise any concerns about Lands’ religious affiliation or ask for his recusal. She was surprised about his argument on appeal, but not the outcome.

Lands, meanwhile, denied being biased against Hindus or any other non-Christians and described the religious disclosures and other personal details on his Facebook page – he’s also a big fan of James Bond movies and plays tennis – as simply “general information that people want to know about candidates.”

The unanimous 13-page decision is Sood v. Sood, Lawyers Weekly No. 12-07-0950. The full text of the ruling can be found at


Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter @NCLWBantz


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