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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Muzzling the Legal Schnauzer?

We recently posted about John W. Goff, a Montgomery insurance executive who faces a possible federal indictment, apparently as retaliation for a lawsuit he brought against Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

In his lawsuit, Goff alleges that Riley and others took actions that helped ruin one of Goff's insurance companies. Scott Horton, of Harper's, has reported that Riley was highly agitated at the idea of having to answer questions under oath in the Goff case and was looking to the U.S. Attorney's Office to make it "go away."

I noted that it appeared someone was trying to misuse the justice process in order to shut up Mr. Goff. And I said I could identify with that because I'd recently had a similar experience.

Here's what happened: My wife and I came home one evening in late September to find a note on our door from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. It said they had legal papers that needed to be delivered to me.

Such a notice is rarely good news for anyone. But based on my experience in Shelby County, it almost always means something fraudulent, stupid, threatening, or incompetent is afoot. In many cases, it's all of the above.

Turns out the deputy needed to deliver a document called a writ of execution, which was dated September 21, 2007. That's a document that is issued when a judgment has been found against you in court and you allegedly owe a certain amount of money.

I will go into much more detail later, but here are the basics for now: In the bogus lawsuit filed against me by my neighbor, Mike McGarity, there ultimately was a judgment against me for $1,525.

Keep in mind that, by law, McGarity's lawsuit had to be dismissed (summary judgment) three different times. Why? Because three times I filed a properly supported motion for summary judgment (MSJ), citing distinct facts and appropriate case law each time. (The case had to be dismissed on about a dozen different grounds. That's partly why multiple MSJs were filed.)

On the first MSJ, McGarity did not file any evidence in the time frame required by law. (In fact, he filed no admissible evidence at all.) And on the second and third MSJs, he filed no response or evidence of any kind. Clear Alabama law says summary judgment must be granted, forthwith, under such circumstances.

But corrupt Shelby County judges, J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves, caused the case to go to trial--when by law, it could not go to trial. This cost me and Alabama taxpayers thousands of dollars. Next time you hear a Republican talk about being "conservative" with money, think about this example of your tax dollars at work.

Now get this: The trial and the judgment against me came in June 2004. I filed postjudgment motions, which Reeves never ruled on. I filed an appeal with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, packed completely with Republicans, and it upheld the unlawful trial-court judgment. The Court of Civil Appeals abused Alabama's "no-opinion affirmance" rule to do this, giving no explanation for their affirmance because one does not exist under the law. My legal sources in Montgomery tell me this is a common occurrence with our current corporate court when it wants to favor one party and cheat another party.

I sought a writ of certiorari for review by the Alabama Supreme Court, but it was denied. This is pretty much the same Supreme Court (except for Democrat Sue Bell Cobb) who recently cheated Alabama out of $3.5 billion in punitive damages in a case involving ExxonMobil. You will learn here at Legal Schnauzer that cheating regular folks is nothing new for this bunch.

For example, Alabama appellate procedure requires the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in a case where a lower-court ruling contradicts a previous finding of the Supreme Court of Court of Civil Appeals. But why should this august body be concerned about the rules of appellate procedure. I wasn't one of their corporate cronies, so I didn't deserve justice.

From June 2004 to mid-September 2007, I never heard a word from Mike McGarity or his esteemed attorney, William E. Swatek, about the judgment I "owed." Why is that? Don't know for sure. But public records indicate McGarity took out a second mortgage on his home in fall 2004, not long after the "trial." It appears he had an expense in an amount he was not anticipating. I'm guessing it was a sizable legal bill. And I'm guessing he couldn't afford to pay even more money to go after $1,525.

Of course, even an attorney as sleazy as Swatek knows the "judgment" was based on fraud. Maybe he just didn't want to fool with it anymore.

So fast forward to summer 2007, and yours truly has started a blog about my experiences with Alabama's corrupt courts. The blog is about three months old when, presto, this writ of execution appears.

Hmmm. I wonder if somebody in the state's Republican hierarchy wants to put a muzzle on a certain schnauzer, sort of like the one they are evidently trying to put on John W. Goff?

Well, let's consider what topics I was writing about in September that might have struck a nerve:

* I was writing about the felony assault Mike McGarity had committed against me, one that Shelby County officials were insisting was a misdemeanor. In fact, just a few days before the writ of execution arrived, I had an e-mail exchange with Circuit Clerk/Magistrate Mary Harris, telling her that the case was wrongly being classified as a misdemeanor. Ms. Harris said she was getting ready to be away for a few days, but she referred me to Assistant Magistrate Lou McLeroy. Ms. McLeroy said she would not change the misdemeanor designation and suggested I speak with the district attorney's office. I've left voice messages that have never been returned and sent an e-mail to DA Robby Owens. It's never been returned. Is this how a crime victim gets treated in Shelby County? You complain about our unlawful rulings and we'll send you a writ of execution--one that was based on fraud. That's how it looks from here.

* I was starting to write about Briarwood Christian School and the peculiar real-estate deal that resulted in football coach Fred Yancey (my former neighbor) moving to a house on school property and gave me a new neighbor--Mike McGarity and his impressive criminal record. Seeing as how Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner has a daughter, Christy, who did go to Briarwood School (and I believe still does)--and Swatek's son, Chace, is a Briarwood graduate--it's possible that was a squeaky wheel that needed to be quieted.

* And perhaps most interesting of all, three days before the date on the writ of execution, I began to write extensively about the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. Why would Republicans care if I wrote about that? Well, I don't know for sure. But we've heard about many connections between Alabama and Mississippi Republicans. These connections involve luminaries such as Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Dan Gans, Dax Swatek (son of William E.), and Bob Riley. Is it possible that Mississippi GOPers put out that word to Alabama GOPers to muzzle that nutcase blogger who keeps writing about the Paul Minor case? If so, I didn't know I had that kind of pull. But I'm pleased to say that since I started writing about the Minor case, it has gone from being off the radar screen to being part of a Congressional investigation into selective prosecution by the Bush Justice Department. Clearly, Scott Horton, of Harper's, and Adam Cohen, of The New York Times, are the folks who brought the Minor case into the national spotlight. But if the GOPers think I had something to do with it . . . well, then I am deeply touched--and honored.

So what will happen with the writ of execution? I have no idea. As is typical for Shelby County, it isn't even close to being executed according to the law. But the law never is a factor in anything that happens involving Shelby County courts, at least from what I've seen.

The writ says that any lawful officer of the State of Alabama is ordered to seize the property described below. It then lists our house and our two cars.

So they are going to take our house and our cars to satisfy a $1,525 debt? (By the way, they've tacked on $30 in court costs and $674.64 in interest, for a total of $2,229.64.) Not sure how interest can accrue on an amount that no one ever has tried to collect.

Anyway, will state troopers be storming our house and making off with our worldly goods?

Stay tuned. But we're talking about Alabama here, so I wouldn't bet against it.


John Leek said...

Keep Writing. Keep Fighting.

astilbe said...

What keeps you in such a god awful place? The weather?

legalschnauzer said...

You ask a thought-provoking question. I'm going to address it in an upcoming post. Hope you will stick around.


Anonymous said...

Shelby County you say! If your child gets in trouble here you have 3 choices. Leave them in jail, pay a bailbondsman cash you'll never see again or sign a property bond which must consist of two seperate properties with dwellings. (How many common folks own 2 seperate properities?)I believe all other counties in Alabama only call for one property on a property bond. I know Jefferson County requires only one property.
Another Shelby County Encounter. The State of Alabama and all other counties will allow you to fax your Insurance card for dimissal if you were ticketed for Proff of Insurance (providing it's current). Shelby County Sheriff tickets for proff of Insurance must also be faxed for dismissal and you have to pay $134.00 court cost.(Even though you didn't go to court). I told the lady @ the courthouse I felt this was a rip off and corrupt. She said a lot of people feel that way. I told her only because it is true and thanked her for her time. What else can I say? I also filed a complaint with the States Attorney's Office. Waiting on reply.