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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Here is a road map for possible VictoryLand discovery related to AG Luther Strange's anti-bingo crusade


Luther Strange
If VictoryLand officials were to seek "preaction discovery" related to Attorney General Luther Strange and his crusade to close the casino, how might the process work? A 1994 ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court provides a road map.

We've shown that Rule 27 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP) is a vehicle for parties to conduct "preaction discovery" in order to determine any "cognizable" legal claim they might have--and against whom a potential lawsuit might be directed.

A case styled Ex parte Anderson, 644 So. 2d 961 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1994) provides insight on how VictoryLand might be able to proceed. The case involved Loyd L. Anderson, who had been fired from his position with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office and sought information for a possible lawsuit against the Shelby County Commission. Specifically, Anderson sought documents from an Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI) probe that led to his departure from the sheriff's department.

The trial court granted Anderson's petition. But Major Jerry Shoemaker, head of ABI, appealed to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, which found that Anderson was not entitled to discovery because Rule 27 applied only in cases where evidence might be lost or destroyed.

Anderson appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor, stating that the federal counterpart to Rule 27 indeed involved only evidence that might be lost, but the Alabama rule is broader in scope. Here is how the high court summarized the issues at stake:

Anderson alleged in his Rule 27 petition that he expected to sue the [Shelby County] Commission for money he claimed was owed to him as a result of his previous employment. Anderson took the position that he needed to see the ABI's records before he could make a good faith determination as to whether he had a cause of action against the Commission. After conducting a hearing, at which Anderson and the ABI were represented by counsel, the trial court ordered the ABI to comply with Anderson's discovery request. . . .

The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment, holding that Anderson's petition was not sufficiently specific to state a claim under Rule 27 and that he was not entitled under Rule 27 to require the production of the ABI's records, in the absence of evidence that those records were in danger of being lost or destroyed. . . . Presiding Judge [William E.} Robertson dissented, stating that he could find no basis for holding that the trial court had abused its power in granting Anderson's discovery request.

The Alabama Supreme Court wound up agreeing with Robertson, stating:

Although Alabama Rule 27 does not give a potential plaintiff "carte blanche" to "fish" for a ground for filing an action, it nonetheless provides for preaction "discovery under Rule 34," regardless of any need to perpetuate evidence, provided that the requirements of the rule are met and that the trial court is satisfied that such discovery might serve to prevent a failure or delay of justice. . . .

We must agree with Anderson and the trial court that Rule 27 is significantly different from the federal rule and that it does not limit preaction discovery under Rule 34 to perpetuating evidence. We note in this regard that limited use of Rule 27 for the purpose of evaluating a potential claim is entirely consistent with the underlying purpose of both Rule 11, Ala.R.Civ.P., and the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act, Ala.Code 1975, § 12-19-270 et seq., in that Rule 27 provides a limited means by which potential plaintiffs (and their attorneys), within the discretion of the trial court, can examine evidence before actually deciding whether they have a reasonable basis for filing an action.

What does this mean for VictoryLand? While it doesn't have "carte blanche" to "fish" for information (whatever that means), it is entitled to discovery that might help it evaluate a potential claim or respond to an appeal, which Strange has filed. The Anderson ruling suggests that even a law-enforcement agency can be subject to discovery under Rule 27. The court, however, did provide this qualifier in a footnote:

We make no judgment as to whether the ABI's records are protected from disclosure under other provisions of Alabama law. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment on the holdings that Anderson's petition was not sufficiently specific to state a claim and that he was not entitled to preaction discovery of the ABI's records for the purpose of evaluating a potential cause of action. It did not rule one way or the other as to whether the ABI's records should be the subject of a protective order. Our review in this case is limited to those particular holdings.

As we noted in our previous post on this subject, prosecutors generally are immune from suit, and our guess is that records of the Attorney General's Office likely are protected under some provision of state law. But VictoryLand's interest might be in seeking information from, or about, those individuals or entities that it believes have influenced Strange and the Alabama Supreme Court to act unlawfully against it--resulting in damages that likely reach the tens of millions of dollars, if not more.

Who might some of those individuals and entities be? Likely candidates include former Governor Bob Riley, attorney Rob Riley (the former governor's son), House Speaker Mike Hubbard, anti-gambling activist Eric Johnston, former Strange campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, and officials with the Poarch Creek and Mississippi Choctaw tribes.

Discovery related to those individuals, and perhaps others, almost certainly would bolster VictoryLand's  position on appeal--and for any action it might bring in the future to recover economic damages.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Perhaps the most inspiring video you will ever see was filmed in Birmingham's Historic Five Points South





We deal with a lot of unpleasant subjects here at Legal Schnauzer, so we (and probably our readers) could use something uplifting once in a while.

I can't think of anything more inspiring than the video for a song called "Every Praise," by Brooklyn, New York, pastor and gospel artist Hezekiah Walker. Maybe best of all, the video was filmed (expertly so, I might add) in the Historic Five Points South district of Birmingham, Alabama.

Why was Birmingham chosen for the filming? I don't know, but it's very familiar territory for me; I used to work about three blocks down the hill from where this was shot. And to see the area used to help send a soaring message that crosses racial, religious, and political boundaries . . . well, it touches the soul.

The video apparently first appeared on YouTube in October 2013. Ironically, that's the same month I was unlawfully arrested and thrown in jail for five months because of a defamation lawsuit filed by GOP operative Rob Riley. (No wonder I'm just now finding out about "Every Praise" and its video.)

My incarceration represents the ugly underbelly of the Alabama political/legal world--one that still is ruled by greed, race-based fear, white privilege, and disregard for the constitutional principles that are supposed to bind us as a nation.

So how great is it to discover that Birmingham was the site for a video that seeks to touch the best in men's souls--to give us hope for justice and a better tomorrow? Better yet, the video now has more than 5 million views on YouTube, and the song went to No. 1 on the Billboard gospel chart.

As regular readers know, my musical tastes tend to run toward what I call "1970s white guy pop/rock." But I've long had a fondness for classic church music--hymns like "Morning Has Broken," "God of Our Fathers," and "Holy, Holy, Holy." And there is no doubt that a rousing gospel tune can touch this white boy's heart. Years ago, I was fortunate to attend a performance of Mama, I Want to Sing! at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Concert Hall. It remains one of the finest theatrical performances I've ever seen--filled with rousing gospel music--and I highly recommend the show to anyone who ever has a chance to see it.

After watching the above video, all I can say is, "Thank you, Hezekiah Walker, for helping to write and perform a song that deserves to live for the ages. Thank you for bringing your choir to Birmingham, Alabama, and for choosing our city as the location for your video. May the spirit that jumps off the screen from 'Every Praise' help transform our city, state, and nation."

Hallelujah!

Here is the likely reason that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke sued my wife and tried to have her arrested


Carol Shuler, from her Facebook page
If Rob Riley and Liberty Duke had no factual basis for including my wife, Carol, as a named defendant in their defamation lawsuit against me and Legal Schnauzer, that means they had no lawful grounds to seek her arrest for alleged contempt of court--in a case that did not involve her. So why did they do it anyway?

Let's look at the evidence, and use a little common sense, to arrive at a likely answer to that question. Here are a couple of unsettling hints: (1) Our house, or rather a desire to scour the contents of our house, was the driving motivation behind the ugly events of fall 2013; (2) Carol and I, and our pets, were at significant risk of being killed.

As we noted in a previous post, suing Carol (or "Mrs. Schnauzer," as we most often call her here) is like suing tennis great Steffi Graf for something her husband, fellow tennis great Andre Agassi, wrote in his 2009 autobiography, Open. It's absurd, nonsensical, unlawful, and a classic example of what lawyers like to call "vexatious" litigation. That means it has no purpose other than to harass and annoy, and if our case had a legitimate judge other than Claude Dent Neilson, Riley and Duke would have been hit with sanctions.

Including Carol in the Riley/Duke lawsuit probably had a purpose other than to harass and annoy. Our guess is that it was designed to steal and terrorize, which makes it even more unlawful--perhaps even criminal. Why do we say that?

For starters, let's stipulate that Carol, because she was named in the lawsuit, was targeted for arrest. Jay Murrill, from the Riley Jackson law firm, sent her a letter after I had been in jail for several weeks, stating that he and his client/boss never had any intention of having her arrested. But Carol and I both know that is a lie.

When I was being arrested on the night of October 23, 2013, dragged from our home with pepper spray dripping off of me, I heard three or four officers on the scene talking about trying to arrest Carol. She was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, and somehow managed to remain asleep while deputy Chris Blevins beat me up and left debris all over the floor in our garage two stories below. I could hear officers talking about trying to nab Carol ("the wife") that night, but they apparently were reluctant to knock down our front door to get at her.

During the first week I was in jail, Carol reports that deputies made three more trips to our house--at least one of them at night, with lights being shined into our windows. They again pounded on the front door and yelled something, apparently trying to get Carol to come to the door so they could make off with her. Wisely, she did not fall for it and managed to get word out to various news outlets about my arrest. During one night-time visit, Carol was on the phone with Andrew Kreig, of the Justice-Integrity Project, so he was able to get a sense of the siege she was under.

Only when the story began to spread, with the help of Andrew Kreig, Peter B. Collins, and many other journalists, did the threatening visits to our house stop.

So what was the purpose of this terror campaign against someone who, as Riley and Duke seemed to admit in court documents, had nothing to do with writing or editing the posts in question--or any other Legal Schnauzer posts, at the time?

It took me awhile to arrive at an answer to that question, perhaps because of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) I've experienced since being released from five months in jail--apparently the first journalist in American history to be incarcerated under such circumstances. By the way, I'm not loosely throwing around the term PTSD; multiple medical professionals have diagnosed me with the disorder, and I am receiving treatment for it, although I feel its effects every minute of every day.

Carol also has been diagnosed with PTSD. Perhaps of more concern at the moment, she has not been able to receive medication for a thyroid condition, and the lack of treatment puts her health at serious risk. That's what happens when you've been cheated out of your jobs--and your health insurance--kicked out of your house, and forced to move to an unfamiliar area.

Here is the likely answer to why Riley/Duke named Carol in the lawsuit and sought her arrest; it seems abundantly clear to me now, after months of wondering, "Why on earth did they do that?"

Carol and I now are convinced that the Riley/Duke lawsuit was all about our house--or rather the imagined contents of our house.

In the fall of 2013, I was conducting research on a number of sensitive, and potentially explosive, topics regarding the tribe of white, elitist conservatives who more or less run Alabama. Some of that research led to posts about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com--a series that drew national and international attention, given Pryor's status as a controversial Bush-era appointee who was known for his numerous anti-gay public statements and actions.

Bill Pryor, at badpuppy.com
The Pryor-porn connection was not the only touchy subject I was exploring. There were three or four others, and some have not made it to print--yet. But political/legal elites knew at least some of what I was working on because I had conducted, or sought, interviews with individuals connected to certain topics. I also had gathered evidence in various forms--paper files, digital and hard-copy notes, court documents, tape recordings, video recordings, photographs. We essentially had turned one room of our home into the Legal Schnauzer Anti-Corruption Research Center.

As noted here previously, the Riley/Duke complaint had almost nothing in common with a standard defamation lawsuit. It didn't seek a trial, it didn't seek a jury, it didn't seek monetary damages, it didn't seek discovery to prove the material in question was false or defamatory. That's because it wasn't about defamation or a civil dispute (lawsuit)--it was about having me thrown in jail.

And it was about having Carol thrown in jail. Why her, too? That's where common sense enters the picture--and it took me several months to regather my wits in order to figure this out.

What happens when the two human occupants of a house--we also have two much loved and slightly spoiled kitty kats--are arrested and thrown in the slammer? The house suddenly becomes free of human barriers and open to thorough "investigation."

With the help of law-enforcement officials or "security specialists," who can easily pick locks and comb through possessions, anyone could go through our house from top to bottom. They could rifle through everything we owned--and even steal items that held a special interest for them.

We feel certain they would have found plenty of interest, especially in one room. That's why it was so important to arrest Carol. With both of us stashed in jail cells some 20 miles away, our house would have become an open book. And it's important to keep this in mind: The Riley/Duke lawsuit file was sealed, so the public would not have known the case even existed--we would have vanished, with the general public having no way of knowing what happened to us. Readers likely would have started asking questions when my blog suddenly stopped, with no explanation, but authorities easily would have been able to fend that off.

Carol's ability to escape abduction almost certainly threw a major wrench into the plans. But individuals close to Rob Riley had reason to know that our house contained information that could be highly damaging to their interests. So they had another trick up their sleeve--a Plan B, if you will.

We will spell that out in an upcoming post, and I think this much will be clear: Carol and I have been the victims of organized crime. And that's because Alabama is a dysfunctional, red state that is run by a band of white, "conservative" elites who, when threatened, resort to tactics that are criminal and organized.

How serious is this? Well, Carol and I were the targets of a conspiracy to kidnap. And had we both been abducted, and we failed to produce the desired information, I think we likely would have been killed; our pets almost certainly would have been killed. And with the lawsuit file sealed, it's likely no one ever would have known what happened to us. The local press probably would have portrayed our disappearance as "suicides" or an "accident."

If that doesn't scare you, no matter where you live . . . well, this story isn't over. Wait until you hear about Plan B.


(To be continued)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The words of NY Times reporter Campbell Robertson contradict his reporting about my incarceration


Campbell Robertson
Campbell Robertson, a reporter for The New York Times, wrote an article about my unlawful incarceration that claimed I was unwilling to hire a lawyer to fight the case. Robertson also claimed I was "no stranger to defamation lawsuits"--and a caption on his story followed suit by stating that my reporting on this blog had "prompted many defamation lawsuits."

I have shown on this blog that both Times' claims are false. (See here and here.) But now we've learned that Robertson's own words contradict his claims about my alleged unwillingness to hire a lawyer. And the public record, which Robertson apparently did not bother to check, shows that the newspaper's claims regarding defamation lawsuits are false.

All of this raises serious questions about the Times' competence, its motivations--or both--in reporting on a First Amendment case that represents a first in American history. Did the Times convey to its readers the grotesque nature of constitutional violations in my case? No, it did not, and that is not just my opinion. It comes also from Andrew Kreig, a lawyer/journalist who serves as director of the Washington, D.C.,-based Justice-Integrity Project. Kreig minces no words in showing how the Times "flubs" its reporting on my case; he also gives Robertson an opportunity to explain his approach to the article--and the reporter winds up showing that he can't keep his story straight.

How shallow was the Times' coverage? Kreig sums it up:

The Times story underplayed the court system's outrageous confiscation of Shuler's rights -- and the damage to the public. The kangaroo court proceedings set back the state's image more than 50 years to the time of the segregationist "Jim Crow" era when libel and contempt of court proceedings were used to crush the civil rights movement.

These days, the Shuler case illustrates how a court system can destroy targeted individuals and businesses by selectively ignoring basic due process protections typically expected in the legal system.

I spoke with two Alabama lawyers--David Gespass and Austin Burdick--while I was in jail, so that seems to make it fairly obvious that I was open to having legal representation. If I wasn't open to representation, I would not have spoken with Gespass and Burdick. (For the record, Gespass never presented a clear plan for gaining my release under the law and seeking damages for violations of my constitutional rights; Burdick stated that he likely would need to bill an amount that I could not afford. He also said he probably would write off the amount as pro bono representation, but I was concerned about winding up with a hefty bill--again, with no plan for seeking damages on my behalf, from which I could pay his fees.)

Robertson apparently knew I had spoken to multiple lawyers, but he still wrote the following:

So while the furor has all but dissipated, Mr. Shuler remains in jail, unwilling to take down his posts but also unwilling to hire a lawyer and contest his incarceration in the state courts.

Robertson and I spoke for an hour--in four 15-minute increments while I was in jail--and I would estimate that about 75 percent or more of the conversation was on the "hiring a lawyer" issue. Of all the profound issues present in my case, this seemed to be the only one that held any interest for Robertson.

Did I state that I had a hard time trusting lawyers, given my experiences with them in the past? (See here, here, and here.) Yes. Did I state at various times in the different interviews that I didn't want to hire a lawyer--or I was reluctant to hire a lawyer--because of those trust issues? Yes.

But did I say I was unwilling to hire a lawyer or that I would not even consider it? The answer is no. In a February 2014 post here, I summed up what I ultimately told Robertson:

I had specifically told Campbell Robertson that we are open to being represented by the right lawyer with the right strategy under the right circumstances. I felt I made that very clear, but there must have been some misunderstanding because The New York Times incorrectly reported that I was refusing to hire a lawyer. That's not true and I just want to make sure that's clear."

Does that sound like someone who is "unwilling to hire a lawyer"? No, it does not. And Robertson admits, in his comment to Andrew Kreig, that I told him I was open to hiring a lawyer. Robertson's full comment can be read at the end of this post, but here is the key section:

I spoke, in 15 minute increments, to Mr. Shuler for an hour from jail. I asked him multiple times about hiring a lawyer; it was in fact my main line of questioning, having already gotten many of the other details in a long interview with his wife. He said that he did not want to hire a lawyer because he did not trust lawyers (an answer he repeated every time I asked), and that he did not want to fight this in state court, where it currently stands.

He did say he was open if someone were to offer pro bono representation if this was in federal court. He also refused state-provided counsel on his criminal charges. None of this lessens the constitutional problems of the judge''s actions. But it does lead to a complicated story.

In other words, I did say I was open to hiring a lawyer--and Campbell Robertson admits his reporting was inaccurate. Did that hurt my wife and me as we sought justice for what amounted to a state-sanctioned kidnapping? Yes, it did--and here is how Andrew Kreig sums it up:

The Times column said that Shuler does not want a lawyer. That seems to be an error harming their chances of obtaining counsel.

Shuler’s wife Carol . . . is a co-defendant in the suit who has been permitted by authorities so far to remain in their Birmingham home without arrest. But she has been too frightened to leave for the most part since except for occasional quick trips to a store.

She told me in a phone interview this week that they would very much like to have a lawyer, as they told [Robertson].

As for the federal-court issue, my arrest raised issues under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments--constitutional matters that usually are addressed in federal courts. If I was going to seek redress for the wrongs committed against me, it seems federal court would be the proper venue. Robertson's reporting--and his questioning--hinted that my only option was to seek release in state court while ignoring any possibilities for damages in federal court, or anywhere else.

One of the lawyers I spoke with in jail seemed to have that viewpoint--and we will report on that in an upcoming post. The lawyer suggested that I should always maintain a defensive posture, never seeking to go on the offensive. Did Campbell Robertson have a similar agenda in his reporting?

It sure smells that way from here. Why would Robertson take such an approach to the story, essentially offering up a cheap hit piece on a journalist who has been abused in a way that appears to be a first in American history? We've uncovered some evidence that points to possible answers for that question, and we will look at that in an upcoming post.


(To be continued)




Here is how VictoryLand should fight back against Luther Strange and the Alabama Supreme Court


Milton McGregor
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed a notice of appeal within 24 hours of last week's circuit-court ruling favoring the VictoryLand casino in a forfeiture case. Does that mean VictoryLand officials should sit back and wait for another negative ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court, which repeatedly has violated the state constitution and its own precedents to rule in favor of Strange and former Governor Bob Riley on non-Indian gaming issues?

I don't think so, and that's because the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP) provide a remedy that should be a fit for VictoryLand. In fact, if I were in charge of the legal team for owner Milton McGregor, the remedy would have been sought a long time ago.

What am I talking about? Well, let's first return to last week's ruling from Circuit Judge William Shashy, finding that VictoryLand has been denied equal protection of the law under both the Alabama Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That means VictoryLand has been treated unfairly under the law, and as a result, it has suffered significant civil damages--and those probably total in the tens, maybe the hundreds, of millions of dollars.

As attorney general, Luther Strange and members of his prosecutorial staff likely are immune from a lawsuit--even though two leaders of his anti-gambling unit, Sonny Reagan and Gene Sisson, have been forced out amid allegations that they acted corruptly in the investigation of House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

But who has been pulling Luther Strange's strings? Who has been encouraging the attorney general to unlawfully target VictoryLand, and who has benefited from the casino being closed for roughly 28 months?

Judicial immunity likely protects members of the Alabama Supreme Court from a lawsuit. But who is pulling their strings? Who has encouraged them, over and over, to rule contrary to law in a way that has heaped devastation upon VictoryLand and its former employees?

Any individuals who are operating unlawfully "behind the curtain" might face liability that likely would reach into the eight or nine figures.

Who has been causing this massive economic harm to VictoryLand and its employees? The casino has a right to find out, and Alabama civil procedure provides a mechanism for doing just that.

It's called Rule 27 ARCP ("Discovery before action or pending appeal"). The rule allows a person or entity to seek "preaction discovery" to determine if it has a case against someone, what the nature of the case might be, and who might be among the defendants. In other words, it allows anyone who thinks he might have a cognizable legal claim to conduct discovery--via depositions, requests for production of documents, etc.--to determine if he has grounds for a lawsuit and against whom the suit should be directed.

Here is the long-winded version of what Rule 27 is about:

A person who desires to perpetuate that person’s own testimony or that of another person or to obtain discovery under Rule 34 or Rule 35 regarding any matter that may be cognizable in any court of this state may file a verified petition in the circuit court in the county of the residence of any expected adverse party. The petition shall be entitled in the name of the petitioner and shall show: (1) that the petitioner expects to be a party to an action cognizable in a court of this state but is presently unable to bring it or cause it to be brought, (2) the subject matter of the expected action and the petitioner’s interest therein, (3) the facts which the petitioner desires to establish by the proposed testimony and the petitioner’s reasons for desiring to perpetuate it, (4) the names or a description of the persons the petitioner expects will be adverse parties and their addresses so far as known, and (5) the names and addresses of the persons to be examined and the substance of the testimony which the petitioner expects to elicit from each, and shall ask for an order authorizing the petitioner to take the depositions of the persons to be examined named in the petition, for the purpose of perpetuating their testimony or to seek discovery under Rule 34 or Rule 35 from the persons named in the petition.

As the title states, Rule 27 is appropriate either before an action or pending an appeal. Well, Luther Strange's actions have VictoryLand now facing an appeal. So casino officials have every right to seek information that will either help with their appeal or with a future claim against those who have caused them damages. Also, the proper venue for such a petition likely would be Macon County.

Are there possible downsides to a Rule 27 filing? Perhaps, and the biggest one is that the petition could wind up on appeal before the same high court that already is cheating VictoryLand. But our research  indicates the Alabama Supreme Court's own rulings provide support for the notion that VictoryLand is entitled to conduct "preaction discovery" under Rule 27.

We have more on that coming up.

The bottom line? Parties who are being cheated by a dysfunctional court system--and that includes VictoryLand or anyone else--have a right to seek information that might identify the individuals or entities who are causing them harm. VictoryLand has the legal resources to pursue a Rule 27 petition, and in my view, it is way past time for doing so.


(To be continued)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rob Riley and his sidekick provide classic examples of techniques that lying lawyers use to pervert justice


Jay Murrill
Based on the number of lawyer jokes that have been floating around for years, it seems safe to say that many Americans do not hold the legal profession in high regard. We suspect that is because lawyers are seen as individuals who lie more than the average person.

Alabama GOP operative Rob Riley and Jay Murrill, his sidekick from Homewood's Riley Jackson law firm, provide prime examples.

We've already caught Riley lying to The New York Times about the dubious defamation lawsuit he and lobbyist Liberty Duke brought against me, my wife, and the Legal Schnauzer blog. We also have caught Murrill lying about the case to the CBS television affiliate in Birmingham.

But Riley and Murrill are not limited to making false statements to the press. No, they are "talented" liars who are quite capable of fudging the facts (and the law) across multiple platforms, including court documents.

Let's consider Riley's words to Sara Rafsky, a reporter for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in an article titled "Censorship in Alabama's Shelby County." Rafsky reports that Riley, in a telephone interview about his lawsuit against me, said "he has a right to seek injunctive relief in a defamation case and there is legal precedent for doing so."

Riley has a slight problem with that statement: It is false. The work of his own hack lawyer, Jay Murrill, proves it is false. The words of experts on First Amendment law, of which Riley clearly is not one, also show it is false.

As for Murrill's handiwork, evidence in the record suggests he or other members of the Riley firm wrote many (maybe all) of the orders that Judge Claud Neilson wound up signing in the case. That includes the Order on Petitions for Preliminary Injunction, which is dated October 4, 2013, and can be viewed at the end of this post.

On page 2 of the order, second paragraph, Murrill/Neilson cite a case styled South v. City of Mountain Brook, 688 So. 2d 292 (Ala. Crim. App., 1966) for the proposition that "injunctive relief can be an appropriate and effective remedy to repeated and ongoing defamatory speech."

The South case, however, says nothing of the sort. It's a criminal case, involving alleged harassing communications, and has nothing to do with defamation, injunctive relief, or any other civil matter. In fact, you don't even have to read the case to see that it represents a bogus citation--it's styling shows right up top that it's from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, so it couldn't have anything to do with civil defamation. This is a stunning example of legal chicanery, which more or less amounts to a fraud on the court.

But Murrill/Neilson do not stop there. At the sentence regarding the South case, they refer to footnote No. 3. The reader can look to that footnote at the bottom of the page and find . . . 12 other cases that supposedly support the claim that injunctive relief is proper in a defamation case.

That raises another slight problem for Murrill/Neilson--and Riley: None of those cases supports the proposition that injunctive relief is proper in a defamation case; in fact, quite a few of them say just the opposite.

Claud Neilson
This did not escape the attention of various legal experts who noticed that a journalist/blogger (me) had been sent to jail under outrageous circumstances in Alabama. In an amicus brief asking Neilson to reconsider his actions, the ACLU noted that his orders made scant mention of U.S. Supreme Court cases prohibiting injunctive relief--and then went even further. (See brief at the end of this post.)

Indeed, not only were these substantial U.S. Supreme Court cases not presented to the Court, the cases cited in the Preliminary Injunction (see p. 2 and n.3) demonstrate that injunctive relief in a defamation case requires a final determination on the merits of the litigation.

In other words, those 13 cases cited by Jay Murrill do not remotely say what he claims they say. For the record, there was no final determination on the merits of the litigation because there was no trial--and that's because Riley and Duke did not seek a trial and did not ask to have their case presented to a jury.

Ken White, a Los Angeles-based First Amendment lawyer and author of the Popehat blog, picked up on the ACLU's theme in a post dated October 27, 2013, noting that Neilson had declared certain Legal Schnauzer posts to be defamatory without any such finding at trial. Wrote White:

So how did Judge Neilson excuse granting Riley's motion for a preliminary injunction before any trial of the matter? Very badly.

Judge Neilson — who may have executed a proposed order from Riley's attorneys — utterly failed to cite or distinguish any of the wall of authority discussing how preliminary injunctions are strongly disfavored in both equity and First Amendment law. Judge Neilson didn't cite the "only in the most extraordinary circumstances" rule, let alone apply it. He only cited two Alabama cases — one 1947 case about defamation of a business that had no First Amendment analysis, and one appeal of a criminal harassment conviction that doesn't even mention prior restraint or injunctions. In a footnote, Judge Neilson cited a melange of state and federal cases from California, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois with no explanation or analysis. Those cases actually undermine his authority to issue the injunction, because they support the proposition that an injunction against defamation is almost always inappropriate before a finding on the merits at trial or if the plaintiff wins a summary judgment motion. It appears that the drafter of this order simply scoured the nation for the handful of outlier cases saying something positive about injunctions against defamation — plus the tiny number of cases approving them pretrial — while completely ignoring the authority (including from the United States Supreme Court) that such injunctions are inappropriate. . . .

How is that for an honest, accurate, and brutal analysis of Murrill and Neilson's work? White does not let Rob Riley off the hook, either:

It's difficult to see what justifies this order — unless it's the fact that Robert J. Riley, Jr. is the son of a former governor and well-connected in the Alabama Republican party. It's very rare for judges to approve pretrial injunctions against defamation in the face of the overwhelming law against it, but when it happens it tends to benefit the rich, connected, and powerful. It's called the rule of law: they rule, that's the law.

As White reminds us, all of this lying was done on behalf of Rob Riley (and Liberty Duke). How bad was it, how flagrant? To arrive at an answer, you have to understand what those 13 cases cited by Murrill/Neilson actually say. We will address that in an upcoming post.





Thursday, June 25, 2015

VictoryLand casino is set to reopen after state judge finds bingo raid was unfair and unconstitutional


Milton McGregor
Stating that actions of the Attorney General's office were unfair and unconstitutional, an Alabama judge found in an order released today that the seizure of 1,615 bingo machines and more than $260,000 dollars from the VictoryLand casino was unlawful.

The order from Circuit Judge William Shashy appears to pave the way for VictoryLand to reopen, after being closed for roughly 28 months. The facility shut down after agents for Attorney General Luther Strange seized equipment and money in a February 2013 raid, claiming violations of state anti-gambling laws, VictoryLand had operated lawfully for years under a voter-approved constitutional amendment that allowed bingo in Macon County.

Shashy's ruling grew from a forfeiture hearing in September 2014. The facts and the law appeared to be heavily on VictoryLand's side, and a ruling was expected to come around November 1 of last year. Why did it take so long to get a ruling on a relatively straightforward matter? Why was Shashy's ruling almost eight months late in arriving?

We don't have the answers to those questions, but VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor probably considers it a case of "better late than never." He also probably is relieved to have finally prevailed in a legal matter, considering that the Alabama Supreme Court consistently has violated its own precedents to rule in favor of former Governor Bob Riley (who launched the anti-bingo crusade in 2008) and Strange (who picked up the baton from Riley after being elected AG in 2010).

McGregor told al.com today that he plans to get back in business at VictoryLand, which includes a casino, hotel, and greyhound track. "The decision paves the way for electronic bingo to resume at VictoryLand and for the people of Macon County to once again go back to work and provide for their families," McGregor said in a statement.

Shashy ruled primarily on constitutional grounds, finding that Strange, by closing some electronic bingo facilities and leaving others open, had violated VictoryLand's right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state, Shashy wrote, was unlawfully "cherry picking" some casinos to target and some to leave alone.

Shashy cited the Alabama Supreme Court's six-pronged test from Barber v. Cornerstone, 42 So. 3d 65 (Ala., 2009), which has been used to determine if casinos are offering a lawful form of bingo. But Shashy found that Barber had been unevenly and unlawfully applied:

Through testimony and discussion with counsel for all the parties, it is undisputed that other facilities within the State have operated the same type of gaming devices for substantial periods of time, even while VictoryLand has been shut down. The State did not dispute that other facilities have the same machines or that they are open. The Court asked State counsel, "My question is, if they've got the same machines, why are they open?" Counsel for the State protested that the State had, at times, raided some of those other facilities; however, the State did not dispute that between August 9, 2010, the date of the first closing of VictoryLand, and the beginning of trial, a period of approximately four years, electronic bingo games like those at issue here were in operation at Tribal Facilities in the State of Alabama continuously and without interruption. The State also did not dispute that during the same time frame, non-Tribal facilities in the State of Alabama also operated bingo games at Center Stage (Houston County), Greenetrack (Greene County) and Greene County Charity Bingo (Greene County) almost continuously for 1,166 days, 1,134 days, and 1,058, respectively. During this same four-year period, Victoryland operated the same type of electronic bingo for only 63 days. Electronic bingo operations ceased at VictoryLand permanently on February 19, 2013, the day of the raid that is the subject of this trial. While electronic bingo operations at VictoryLand remain shuttered, today, both Tribal and non-Tribal facilities within the State of Alabama continue to operate the same type of electronic bingo games. The State could not and did not offer any substantive reason why it permitted this state of affairs to continue at other facilities, while taking its present stance against the same operations at Victoryland.

Such uneven treatment, Shashy wrote, runs contrary to long-held Alabama case law:

The propriety of the State of Alabama electing to currently pursue action against only one facility is of great concern. It is apparent at the present time that the State of Alabama is cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed. This Court refuses to be used as an instrument to perpetuate unfair treatment. The judiciary "cannot allow our justice system to do injustice in the name of doing justice." Aspinwall v. Gowens, 405 So. 2d 134 (Ala., 1981). "Courts exist to redress or prevent wrongs, not to perpetrate them." Kennedy v. Davis, 55 So. 104 (Ala., 1911).

Shashy then address the constitutional issues at stake:

Equal protection, under the law, is one of the corner stones of our American system. . . . It is so integral to those foundations that the motto "Equal Justice Under Law" is etched into the facade of the United States Supreme Court Building. In order to achieve the equal protection that is so fundamental to our system, the law requires that we must equally apply the law. The Alabama Supreme Court . . . quoting from the United States Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), stated: "The Equal Protection Clause directs that 'all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike.'" 
Applying this rationale, all facilities operating the same type bingo machines (Center Stage, Greenetrack, and Greene County Charity Bingo) should have the same forfeiture action applied against them each time there is a violation. This has not been done. . . .
This Court is not free to disregard an opinion of the highest court of the United States of America or the State of Alabama, nor is the State of Alabama free to apply the law in an unequal manner. Allowing unequal treatment places the Court in an untenable position.
The Court cannot condone or perpetuate unequal treatment. Perhaps it is best stated by the Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.: "Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court Building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists . . . it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability . . . "

Will Strange appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, which consistently has ruled in his favor? That is unknown at this time, but Shashy's ruling seems to rest on sturdy legs, the ones that are supposed to under gird the U.S. justice system,


Ernie Potvin, writer and archivist on the gay-rights movement, probably helped unearth Bill Pryor photos


Ernie Potvin (far left), from gaytoday.com
Ernie Potvin was a prominent figure, especially on the West Coast, in the fight for gay rights in the United States. He wrote scores of articles for newsletters and magazines, he was an active member of a nonprofit organization that focused on issues and history of the gay and lesbian movement, and he produced a movie about gay life in the Los Angeles area.

Potvin also helped organize one of the nation's largest archives of books, articles, photographs, and other items related to the gay-rights movement.

This last attribute--his desire to keep and gather items related to gay life--is one of the primary reasons we suspect Ernie Potvin played a key role in helping gay-porn photos of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor surface across the Internet in fall 2013.

Potvin almost certainly would appreciate that the Pryor photos might wind up having historical significance. After all, Pryor has been virulently anti-gay in his public statements, and we have shown that his personal secrets have made him vulnerable to blackmail--ensuring that he will help conservative interests get their way in key cases before the federal bench. The photos also strongly suggest that Pryor lied during his Senate confirmation hearings and should be subject to impeachment proceedings.

As we reported in September 2013, the Pryor photos appeared in the 1990s at the badpuppy.com Web site, which has grown to become a "super store" of gay, male images. The Web site was in its infancy when the Pryor images appeared around 1997, and a notation at the top of the nude gallery provides a clue about the photos' origins. (A screenshot of the gallery can be viewed at the end of this post.) Here is what it says:

WizardBoy Gallery #19 features new scans of classic color and B&W pix from a private collector. Thanks, Ernie! Comments to WizardBoy welcome.

So, who is "Ernie"? Here is a clue: Ernie Potvin served at the One Institute, a gay-themed nonprofit affiliated with the University of Southern California (USC). Potvin wrote for the One Institute newsletter and also for Gay Today magazine--which had an affiliation with Bad Puppy.

Potvin also was a friend and associate of Jim Kepner, who was a leading activist and historian on the gay-rights movement. This is from a New York Times article about Kepner's death in 1997:

The cause of his death was a perforated intestine, said Ernie Potvin, a board member of the One Institute. The nonprofit organization, which concerns itself with lesbian and gay issues and history, includes an archive begun by Mr. Kepner in 1942.

The One Institute is affiliated with the University of Southern California and encompasses a collection of two million items, including books, pamphlets, magazines, clippings, letters, photographs, paintings, recordings, films, videos and political banners, buttons and T-shirts.

Started when the mere whisper of homosexuality was considered scandalous, the archive offers historians and scholars vivid glimpses into the turbulent civil-rights struggle by gay men and lesbians.

How important a figure was Kepner in terms of preserving gay-rights history? An article from The Los Angeles Times, again citing Ernie Potvin, provides insight:

Bill Pryor
Jim Kepner, founder and curator of the International Gay and Lesbian Archives and a pioneer gay activist, has died. He was 74.
Kepner died Saturday at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles after surgery for a perforated intestine, said Ernie Potvin, a member of the archives executive board. . . .

The collection, valued by gay studies scholars around the world, is housed at USC. Other universities, including UCLA, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara, had vied for the archives.

"All of the public institutions for many, many years seemed like our enemies. So it's very astonishing," Kepner told The Times when USC won the treasure two years ago.

The Texas-born Kepner started collecting memorabilia and reference material when he was working as a railroad clerk in San Francisco in the early 1940s. At that time, he said, he and gay friends were just "trying to figure a way to come out of the closet."

"I've always been inquisitive," Kepner told The Times in 1988, "and, even though I never envisioned that the collection would evolve to what it has become, I always had an innate sense that what I was doing was important. It was something I felt driven to do."

Ernie Potvin clearly shared Kepner's inquisitive nature. In fact, portions of Potvin's personal papers are stored at USC and the Online Archive of California.

We know that Ernie Potvin was an avid collector, and he had ties to numerous gay publications, including Gay Today and Bad Puppy. Our research leads us to believe that he is the "Ernie" who helped provide the Bill Pryor photos that wound up on the Web.

Can we contact Mr. Potvin and ask him about this? Sadly, the answer is no. He died of heart failure in 1998. Here is a brief biography from the California archive:

Born in Massachusetts in 1931, Ernie Potvin moved to Puerto Rico in 1956. He later helped to found one of Puerto Rico's first gay and lesbian rights organizations, Comunidad De Orgullo Gay, in 1972. After moving to Los Angeles in 1976, Potvin worked as an actor, a journalist for local gay publications, and a commercial graphic artist. He volunteered for gay organizations such as the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus, Christopher Street West, and the ONE Institute and Archives. Potvin died of heart failure in 1998.

We have tracked down a number of Mr. Potvin's friends and associates who might have details about the origins of the Bill Pryor photos. We are in the process of contacting them and will let you know what our research uncovers.

The Wikipedia page for Badpuppy says "The website has increased its consumer base through online campaigns as well as Gay adult print publications over the years such as: Allboy Magazine, Freshmen, Men, Unzipped, JustUsBoys, Playgirl Magazine, Mandate, Dude Magazine and others." Our research indicates the Pryor photos probably first appeared in at least one such print publication in the 1980s before resurfacing in the 1990s on the Internet.

Who served as the conduit to take the Pryor photos from a print format into the digital era? We believe it was Ernie Potvin.













Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why did Rob Riley's lawyer send a letter to my wife, falsely claiming that she was not targeted for arrest?


Carol Shuler, from her Facebook page
After I had been incarcerated for several weeks in late 2013--the fallout from daring to write a blog about legal and political corruption in Alabama--my wife, Carol, received a curious letter from an attorney named Jay Murrill, of the Riley Jackson firm in Homewood.

The firm, of course, is headed by Rob Riley, the son of former governor Bob Riley and the individual (along with lobbyist Liberty Duke) who filed a dubious defamation lawsuit that led to my time behind bars. Murrill was the chief counsel for his boss, apparently because no lawyer from another firm would dare touch a lawsuit that so flagrantly ran contrary to First Amendment principles.

So why was Jay Murrill, who had filed papers asking that Carol and I unlawfully be arrested, writing my wife? He was trying to convince her that the Riley firm had no intention of actually seeking her arrest--even though Murrill's own court documents tell another story.

We've already shown that Rob Riley and Jay Murrill have epic struggles with the truth. (See here and here.) But this might be a falsehood for the ages.

Murrill's letter arrived via U.S. mail, and we have lost our only paper copy. I saw the letter but didn't read it, while my wife read it multiple times because she couldn't believe what she was reading. It was short, and this is the gist of it, based on Carol's memory:

Re: Robert R. Riley Jr., et al v. Roger Shuler, et al

Mrs. Shuler:

We would like to correct an apparent misunderstanding regarding the above-referenced case. Several news reports have indicated you are afraid to leave your home, from fear that you will be arrested. Please know that we never have had any intention of seeking your arrest in this matter.

Sincerely,

Jay Murrill

Why did Murrill write the letter? I can only assume he and his Riley Jackson colleagues decided it was a bad public-relations move to be seen as seeking Carol's arrest in a matter that did not involve her. But that's exactly what they were doing--and Murrill's own court papers prove it.

(The words of Shelby County deputies also prove it. On the night of my arrest--while I was sitting in the back of a patrol car with pepper spray dripping all over me--I could hear deputies talking about trying to also apprehend Carol. She was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, and the cops apparently didn't want to call even more attention to themselves by breaking down a door to get to her.

(During the first week I was in jail, deputies made at least three additional visits to our house--all apparent attempts to arrest Carol, and each one failed. The visits only stopped after word about my arrest started circulating in the press.)

As for written proof of Murrill's intentions, let's consider a document styled "Petitioner Robert R. Riley's Petition to Hold Respondents in Contempt." (See document at the end of this post.) This is the primary document where Riley asks the court--under Jay Murrill's signature--to have me arrested, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. But Riley was not after just my arrest. The clear language shows he was seeking Carol's arrest, too.

First, her name is listed right under mine as a defendant. Then consider these words from the petition's first paragraph:

Comes now Petitioner Robert R. Riley Jr. and moves this Court to hold Respondents Roger Shuler and Carol T. Shuler in contempt of this Court's September 20, 2013, Temporary Restraining Order (the "TRO") and its October 1, 2013, Order on the Petitions for Preliminary Injunction ("Preliminary Injunction") . . . 

That language clearly seeks to hold me AND Carol in contempt. How nutty is this? I could not lawfully be held in contempt of a TRO and preliminary injunction that amount to prohibited prior restraints under longstanding First Amendment law. But at least I did (and do) write, edit, and administer the Legal Schnauzer blog--and I wrote the blog posts in question. Carol had nothing to do with the blog or the posts.

Now let's consider the last paragraph of Rob Riley's petition, under Jay Murrill's signature:

In light of the foregoing, Petitioner Riley respectfully requests that the Court find that the Respondents are in contempt of the TRO and the Preliminary Injunction and requests that the Court exercise its authority pursuant to Ala. R. Civ. P. 70(A)(e)(2) to require Respondents to comply with this Court's orders. 

Notice again the use of the plural ("Respondents"), referring to both me AND Carol. Also note the reference to Alabama Rule of Civil Procedure 70(A)(e)(2), which holds:

(2) COMMITMENT IN CASES OF CIVIL CONTEMPT. The court may order that a person who had been found to be in civil contempt be committed to the custody of the sheriff until that person purges himself or herself of the contempt by complying with the court's writ, subpoena, process, order, rule, or command.

This rule is about having someone arrested for alleged contempt of court. And Jay Murrill's own words show that he intended to have it applied to me AND Carol.

So why did Murrill lie his fanny off and state in a letter that he never had any intention of seeking Carol's arrest? I can think of only two possible explanations: (1) He and Riley were receiving blow back for seeking my spouse's arrest, with no lawful grounds for doing so; (2) They were trying to convince Carol to let down her guard, so they could then nab her.

If No. 2 was the goal, it didn't work. Carol remained free and was able to drum up national and international press coverage about the trampling of constitutional rights in Shelby County, Alabama--at the direction of attorneys Rob Riley and Jay Murrill.

Does this remain a sensitive topic for Murrill? Apparently so. I sent him the following e-mail on February 19, 2015:

Mr. Murrill:

I understand that while I was in jail, upon the demands of you and Mr. Riley, you sent my wife a letter, assuring her that she was not the target of arrest.

I have seen a copy of that letter and would like to have a copy for my files.

Could you please send a copy via e-mail attachment.


Thank you,


Roger Shuler

When that did not draw a response, I followed up with another e-mail on March 16:

Mr. Murrill:

This is a followup to my request of Feb. 19, asking that you send a copy of a letter you wrote to my wife, assuring her that she was not the target of an arrest.

I do not have a copy of that letter for my files, and this is my second request for you to send me one via e-mail attachment.

Also, would you please send a copy of any affidavit that Mr. Riley filed in the lawsuit against my wife and me. I have a copy of Liberty Duke's affidavit, but I do not have a copy of any similar affidavit from Mr. Riley.

Since you and your client rushed to file a lawsuit against us, and to have me unlawfully thrown in jail, I assume you also will act in a speedy fashion to get these requested documents to me. I ask for receipt by end of workday on Friday, March 20, 2015.


Thank you,

Roger Shuler

When that did not draw a response, I tried again with an e-mail on March 31:

Mr. Murrill:

This is a followup to my requests of Feb. 19 and March 16. In those e-mails, I asked for a copy of the letter you wrote to my wife, assuring her that she was not a target of an arrest. I have not received a copy of that letter, and hereby renew my request for a copy. I have seen that letter, so I know it exists.

I also asked for a copy of any affidavit that your client, Rob Riley, filed in the lawsuit against my wife and me. You also have not sent a copy of any Riley affidavit. Does that mean one does not exist? If so, why did Liberty Duke file an affidavit, while Mr. Riley did not?

One other item that I would like to request: Would you send any and all documents related to the temporary restraining order (TRO)/preliminary injunction that Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke sought against me. Please enclose any proof that I received actual notice of the TRO by personal service or otherwise, as required by Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP). Also, please enclose a copy of any security bond (noting the amount) that was filed with the TRO/preliminary injunction application, again as required by ARCP 65.

As you know, the court file in this case was sealed for a number of months, at your client's request, meaning my access to documents either was limited or nonexistent. In the interest of fairness, I trust that you now will respond promptly to my requests for the above documents.


Thank you,


Roger Shuler

I discovered the following on my own: (1) Rob Riley did not file an affidavit; (2) He and Liberty Duke did file security bonds; (3) The file appears to include no evidence that I was personally served, as required by law, with either the TRO or the preliminary injunction. It would seem hard to violate orders that you did not lawfully receive.

The record shows that Rob Riley and Jay Murrill were quick to invade our lives, even though they had zero grounds for doing so under the law. But when questions are headed in their direction--in an effort to determine to what degree they engaged in falsehoods--they are not so quick to respond. In fact, they don't respond at all, and essentially go into hiding.

Now, why would that be?






Georgia woman seeks to pierce the veil of judicial immunity and nail a corrupt judge right in the wallet


Angela Garmley
The doctrine of "judicial immunity" usually is a corrupt judge's best friend. It means that a judge, no matter how badly he cheats a litigant or butchers the law in a particular case, cannot be held accountable via a lawsuit. In other words, a judge is home free in terms of civil liability for any actions taken in his "official capacity."

Judicial immunity, in theory, allows judges to make bold, legally sound decisions--even when they are not popular with powerful interests. In reality, the doctrine provides a license to cheat, even steal. And its victims tend to be the everyday folks immunity supposedly is designed to protect.

Unless a judge acts abominably outside his official capacity--say, by harassing or discriminating against his office staff--or attracts the attention of law enforcement by, say, beating his wife (see Fuller, Mark), he is unaccountable and truly above the law.

A Georgia woman, however, is trying to pierce the veil of judicial immunity and hit a corrupt judge where it hurts--right in the wallet. So far, it looks like she might succeed. She certainly appears to have exposed an extraordinary law-enforcement campaign to retaliate on the judge's behalf. That could turn an already intriguing case into one of the legal stories of the year.

Angela Garmley, of Chatsworth, Georgia, filed a judicial disciplinary complaint in 2012, claiming that Murray County magistrate judge Bryant Cochran had solicited sex in exchange for a favorable ruling in a case she had before him. She went to the press with her story and alleged that Cochran retaliated by planting methamphetamine in a magnet box on the underside of her car, conspiring with sheriff's deputies to frame her for a false arrest. Two deputies eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges of planting the drugs.

At a trial last December, a federal jury sided with Garmley, finding the judge guilty on six counts of civil rights and drug violations. The trial also revealed that Cochran had engaged in a three-year affair with a paralegal who testified at his trial that Cochran had asked her to lie about the affair to state and federal authorities.

The judge has been booted off the bench, but the legal battle is far from over. Garmley filed a civil complaint against Cochran, but a North Georgia judge dismissed it in February 2014. Now, after Cochran's criminal convictions, it looks like the lawsuit might rise again. It appears that Cochran's behavior was so heinous, and so far removed from his courtroom duties, that even judicial immunity won't save him. (See civil complaint at the end of this post.)

Stuart James and McCracken Poston, Garmley's attorneys, filed a motion in January for a judge to reconsider the lawsuit. From the motion:

It would be a strange contortion of the law for Cochran to stand in one courtroom of the United States District Court and have it declared 'not plausible' he committed these acts, yet stand in another courtroom in the same courthouse and have it be declared beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated the plaintiff's rights.

The case took another twist in February 2015 when Garmley, who has acknowledged that she has a methamphetamine problem, pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges. Her arrest in that case came last September, roughly two months before Cochran's criminal trial.

Bryant Cochran
Was law enforcement targeting her because of her complaint against a judge? One of Garmley's attorneys said the answer is yes. From an article at the Dalton Daily Caller:

The attorney for a woman who pleaded guilty to distributing meth on Friday says she was targeted by Murray County officials because of her role in bringing down former Murray chief magistrate judge Bryant Cochran. Angela Garmley was sentenced by Judge Jim Wilbanks to 90 days house arrest and 10 years probation. She must also pay a $2,000 fine plus court costs and surcharges, perform 300 hours of community service work, receive drug treatment and have random drug screens.

Garmley’s attorney, McCracken Poston, called that sentence fair.

“She is motivated. She will get the help she needs. It’s a very good sentence,” he said.

But Poston said Garmley had been targeted by law enforcement because she was the star witness in a federal trial of Cochran.

“Nothing excuses her meth activities that go along with her addiction,” said Poston. “They were going after a federal witness. They were trying to discredit a federal witness before she testified against Bryant Cochran. Ironically, this backfired against them because her arrest made her realize she had a problem. And because she recognized that and dealt with it she was a wonderful witness.”

Is law enforcement running out of control in North Georgia. It certainly looks that way. From the Dalton newspaper report:

Garmley was arrested on Sept. 9, 2014, by Dalton police at the Wal-Mart on Shugart Road on a warrant arising from an undercover drug investigation that began in Murray County.

“I don’t know of any other attorney who has had a client who was twice targeted like this by law enforcement,” Poston said.

What will become of Garmley's lawsuit? Will her guilty plea on drug charges hurt her case if it goes before a jury? How much prison time will former judge Cochran receive? Will a judge finally be forced to pay out of his pocket for gross misconduct and violations of constitutional rights?

All of those questions remain unanswered. But that last one will be of particular interest as this drama continues to unfold.