We are setting the stage for an inside look at selective prosecution, as practiced by Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. But as we work our way toward unmasking Alice Martin for the partisan hack that she is, we need to shine a spotlight on two recent justice-related stories out of Shelby County, Alabama.
Shelby County, of course, is where your humble blogger resides and where our Legal Schnauzer case originated. It's possible that some readers have read about my legal travails and thought, "Hey, it's a civil case involving unfamiliar legal theories and relatively small amounts of money. What's the big deal? And besides, it's probably an isolated case."
Well, one of the key themes of this blog is that my experience is not isolated, that many people get cheated in Alabama's trial courts, in Shelby County and beyond. And perhaps most alarmingly, our Republican-dominated appellate courts have a habit of abusing the state's no-opinion affirmance rule to uphold unlawful trial-court rulings and sweep judicial corruption at the trial-court level safely out of public view.
Another theme is that judicial shenanigans can go beyond civil cases over what might seem to be relatively mundane matters. If a judge will tinker with the law in a civil case, what is to keep him from tinkering with the law in a criminal case--perhaps a case involving serious and disturbing charges?
The first story I want to spotlight from Shelby County received scant attention in the Birmingham press. But it's a case that all Alabamians should scrutinize closely.
It involves a highly emotional subject--child sexual abuse. And it involves someone who is central to our tale of judicial corruption here at Legal Schnauzer--Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner.
Joiner recently set aside a jury's guilty verdict against a woman in a child sex case when her lawyer sought a new trial for her. Amy Holley, 28, no longer stands convicted of sexual abuse following Joiner's action. She had been sentenced in November to five years in prison. Her lawyer is Mickey Johnson, who has practiced in Shelby County for many years.
Holley, a former assistant city clerk at Columbiana City Hall, and her husband, Charles Holley, 39, had been convicted last September. Charles Holley still stands convicted of sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse and is free on bond pending appeal. Joiner sentenced him to 15 years in prison. (By the way, isn't it interesting that someone convicted of sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse of a child is free on appeal, but former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is in federal prison while his conviction is appealed?)
The Holleys were foster parents to two children, and their conviction was reported here by the Shelby County Reporter.
Even The Birmingham News, a staunchly conservative newspaper, called Joiner's decision to set aside the verdict "unusual." All of the judges in Shelby County are Republicans.
John Lentine, who teaches criminal law at the Birmingham School of Law, said: "I have been in practice for 20 years and have not been a part of a case where this has happened."
Lentine went on to say it took "courage" for Joiner to say "there is not ample evidence to support the jury's verdict."
But that is not Lentine's only mind-boggling quote. He went on to describe Joiner as "a very conservative judge and very law-and-order oriented. He follows rules scrupulously."
I was eating breakfast at a local Hardee's when I read that, and I almost spewed biscuits and gravy across the restaurant.
I've written numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer about the utter disregard for the law that Mike Joiner displayed in handling the bogus lawsuit that was filed against me in Shelby County. Here is a post that summarizes what Joiner did, and I will be writing many more with gruesome details about this corrupt "public servant." If you want to read more posts about Joiner's handling of my case, just type J. Michael Joiner into the search window at the top of this blog.
We're going to consider the Holley case in more detail and take a look at some of the troubling questions it raises. But for now, let's consider this: We recently celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, who wrote in his famous letter from the Birmingham jail, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Those words are profoundly true, and they have an even broader meaning than many people might realize.
We will show with absolute certainty on this blog that Shelby County Judge J. Michael Joiner acted corruptly in his handling of a bogus lawsuit that was filed against me by a neighbor with a lengthy criminal record. And we will show that Joiner repeatedly made unlawful rulings in favor of this neighbor and his attorney, William E. Swatek, who himself has an almost 30-year record of unethical behavior in the legal profession.
We already have shown that Joiner admitted that he and Swatek were longtime golf buddies and had been neighbors for many years and that by finally recusing himself (upon my motion), Joiner was showing that he never should have taken the case in the first place. We also have shown that, under the law, Joiner was required to recuse himself from the outset, but he failed to do it and proceeded to allow his numerous unlawful rulings to stand. In short, we will show that Mike Joiner was about as corrupt as a judge can be in his handling of my case, repeatedly favoring and providing protection for an attorney--Bill Swatek--who is a disgrace to the profession. And that is not a matter of my opinion. It's a matter of public record. Anyone can visit the Alabama State Bar and view its file on Swatek, which is almost a foot thick.
Swatek's background, and the pathetic lawsuit he filed against me, didn't matter with Judge Joiner. All that seemed to matter was that Bill Swatek has practiced in Shelby County for many years and is buddies with the judge.
Interestingly, Amy Holley's lawyer, Mickey Johnson, also has practiced in Shelby County for many years, and I'm told he also is quite friendly with Joiner. Now I don't want to imply that Mickey Johnson resides in the same legal depths as Bill Swatek. A number of people have told me that Mr. Johnson is a fine attorney. I don't know that he needs help from judges on the Shelby County bench.
But I've talked with probably 20 local attorneys about my experiences, and the vast majority of them said this about law in Shelby County: The judges are notorious for playing favorites with certain "local counsel" who appear before them on a regular basis. And these lawyers say it is well known, and pretty much accepted, that "good old boy" politics will trump the law on more than a few cases in Shelby County.
All of this gets to the core of why I am writing Legal Schnauzer. You see, my wife and I have told our tale of legal woe to numerous people, and we tend to get curious reactions. Some people just don't get it--they don't understand the legal aspects of it and don't want to invest the energy it would take to understand it. Other people seem to get it, but they also seem to think, "Hey, it was just a civil case over relatively minor issues, and sure it cost you some money, but now it's over, so get on with your life."
But those folks don't understand the point Martin Luther King was making: If a judge allows an injustice in one case, how can we be sure he won't allow an injustice in another case? In other words: If we can't trust Mike Joiner to get it right on a simple civil case involving property-related issues, how can we trust him to get it right on a criminal case involving sexual abuse of a child?
If Mike Joiner played politics with my case--and we will show that he unquestionably did--would he play politics on a child sexual abuse case?
More on this subject, which is disturbing on many levels, coming up.