Eugene Robinson, of the Washington Post, is one of my favorite columnists. And he had a particularly thought-provoking column recently.
In a column titled "We, the Paranoid," Robinson writes of attending a panel discussion on "The Insecure American" at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. "(It) turned out to be a revelation--by turns alarming, depressing, and laugh-out-loud amusing--as scholar after scholar presented research showing just how unnerved this society is," Robinson wrote.
One researcher had studied gated communities, noting that people camp behind walls because they are afraid of crime, they feel isolated from neighbors, and they are nostalgic for some kind of Norman Rockwell past. The study showed that there isn't less crime in gated communities and people do not feel closer to their neighbors. In fact, many residents still turn on their burglar alarms, despite the walls and security guards.
This all made me think of my own little experience with our deeply troubled justice system in the United States. My experience has centered around corrupt lawyers and judges in Alabama's state courts, with starring roles for some of the same Republican characters who have been featured in the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman.
I have about as much psychological training as Lucy Van Pelt in the famous Peanuts comic strip. But follow me for a moment, and with Eugene Robinson's help, perhaps we will be onto something.
* The primary judge who repeatedly cheated me--and committed federal crimes in the process--is Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner. Where does Judge Joiner live? A gated community called Highland Lakes. You can read all about here. Where did Judge Joiner go to school? My research indicates he went to Indian Springs School in Birmingham and completed both undergraduate work and law school at Samford University. These are all private institutions. If Judge Joiner's precious fanny has ever touched a desk at a public school, I see no evidence of it. And where does the fine judge go to church? Why a suburban megachurch of course--the Church at Brook Hills. And where do Judge Joiner and his wife, Cathy, send their daughter, Christy, to school? My sources tell me they send her to Briarwood Christian, which is (surprise, surprise!) a private school. Another source says she has been home schooled at times. Either way, sounds like she ain't getting near a public school.
* Now here's where it gets a bit creepy. You might think Mike Joiner became a judge because he was such an outstanding lawyer. You would be wrong. My sources tell me he was a mediocrity at best as a lawyer. But half of south Shelby County, around Columbiana (the county seat), is related to him. There is even an area called Joinertown. No wonder he doesn't have to worry about whether he rules according to the law or not! He's judge for life! My sources tell me that the good judge's parents, Hubert and Christine Joiner, live in the neck of the woods around Joinertown. One of the judge's brothers is an ophthalmologist. On that kind of income, I'm guessing he's a gated-community guy, too.
* Now, let's consider William E. Swatek, the ethically challenged attorney who filed a bogus lawsuit against me and committed federal crimes in the process. Remember, Mr. Swatek has valuable ties to Alabama Republican royalty. His son, Dax, was Governor Bob Riley's campaign manager. The Daxter also ran the failed campaign of Alice Martin for a seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Alice Martin, of course, went on to become U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, where she initiated a failed attempt to prosecute Don Siegelman. The "successful" attempt to prosecute Siegelman came in the Middle District of Alabama under the esteemed Leura Canary. You can read all you need to know about Martin and Canary here and here. But back to Bill Swatek. Where does he live? Behind a gated drive off Highway 119 in north Shelby County, the one with an "S" on it. Swatek has plenty of acreage, about 18 acres I think, and you can't even see his house from the road. Guess he likes his privacy. I'm told by someone who has visited the house that there are so many firearms about that "you would think you were in an armed camp." What's Swatek afraid of? Are there some vicious squirrels on his property? Oh, and Swatek has a penchant for private schools, too. Son Chace is a Briarwood Christian grad. And Chace went to law school at Pepperdine University in California, that bastion of progressive thinking. Guess who's dean of the law school there? Yikes!
* And let's not forget Briarwood Christian School, a ministry of the behemoth Briarwood Presbyterian Church. As we've noted before, Briarwood and its powerhouse football program played a role in a strange real-estate deal that caused your humble blogger to wind up with an eight-time criminal for a neighbor and all sorts of legal and financial headaches.
So, do you see a thread here? We're talking about people who are walling themselves off from the public at large--through gated communities, private schools, mammoth doctrinaire churches. And yet what kind of people do those conditions turn out?
Well, Judge J. Michael Joiner and William Swatek are common criminals. And that's not just my opinion. They have repeatedly committed honest services mail fraud (18 U.S. Code 1346) in my case. We will go into more detail on this later, but much of the language related to 1346 refers to "theft" of honest services. And that's what they are--thieves. And who do they steal from? They steal honest services from you, me, and all of the citizens of Alabama. And because they use the U.S. mails, it's a federal crime.
Joiner and Swatek might not look like the guy you envision using a crow bar to break into your home. But they are not one bit better. In fact, they are worse. The guy with the crow bar probably did not take an oath to uphold the law, and he probably isn't on the public payroll.
This brings us back around to one of my pet theories here at Legal Schnauzer. The idea is this: If we are to get to the root of the problem with our modern justice system, we must not look at it only as a legal problem. I submit that it is also a mental-health problem. Based on Eugene Robinson's column, I suspect a lot of sociopathy is being bred behind those gated walls and inside those private schools.
Show me a sociopath, and I will show you someone who--no matter how tough he might appear on the outside--is deeply insecure.
Consider just one example: the Alabama election of 2002. The evidence is overwhelming that numbers were manipulated to give Bob Riley the victory over Don Siegelman. If that's the case, what was at the heart of that act? Insecurity. And I submit insecurity is at the heart of almost everything we have, and will, discuss on this blog--the Siegelman case in Alabama, the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, and my own Legal Schnauzer case.
And we mustn't forget the man who turned Alabama's state courts into a Republican playground and then turned the U.S. Justice Department into a criminal enterprise. That, of course, would be Karl Rove. Think he's got some insecurities?
Let's give Eugene Robinson the last word: "We're afraid of one another, we're afraid of the rest of the world, we're afraid of getting sick, we're afraid of dying. Maybe if we study our insecurities and confront them, we'll learn to keep them in check . . . maybe we'll learn that life isn't really any better behind the walls."