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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

U.S. Attorney Nominee Draws Mixed Reviews in Schnauzer World

The Obama administration finally is moving toward replacing our godawful U.S. attorneys, with the announcement that Joyce White Vance is the nominee for the Northern District of Alabama.

That means Alice Martin is on her way out the door, and that can only be seen as good news.

But we have mixed feelings about the Obama nominee. And it's clear that she will be under considerable pressure from our local newspaper, which has gone to comic lengths to praise the abominable Ms. Martin.

Why would I have concerns about Joyce White Vance? Well, I probably wouldn't if her name was Joyce White. It's that last name that bothers me.

Joyce White married into one of Alabama's best-known judicial families. Her late father-in-law, Robert Vance, was a U.S. circuit judge until he was killed by a mail bomb in 1989. Her husband, Robert Vance Jr., is a Jefferson County circuit judge.

I've heard nothing but good things about Joyce White Vance as an individual. Someone who used to work in the Northern District office told me she has the highest regard, both personally and professionally, for Ms. Vance. For good measure, my source said Alice Martin dislikes Vance because the latter is respected and liked among the staff. If Alice Martin doesn't like someone, that's a good sign to me.

The bad sign, in my view, is that I'm not sure we need a U.S. attorney who is part of Alabama's "judicial royalty." Martin has focused on alleged corruption in the political and business worlds. But from where I sit, some of Alabama's worst corruption rests in the judicial and legal worlds.

Is Joyce White Vance going to take a serious look at the corruption that permeates the courthouses and law firms in her district? I doubt it.

It's particularly unlikely when you consider that Robert Vance Jr. is one sorry excuse for a judge. I know because I've seen him operate in an up-close way. And he's a Democrat, by the way.

Vance was assigned to a legal-malpractice claim I filed against the first attorneys I hired to defend me against a bogus lawsuit from my criminally inclined neighbor. The attorneys were Jesse P. Evans III and Michael B. Odom, and at the time, they were with the Birmingham firm of Adams & Reese/Lange Simpson. They since have shuffled on over to Haskell & Slaughter.

To put it in a short and not-so-sweet way, Robert Vance Jr. screwed me to the wall. He dismissed my lawsuit when, by law, it could not be dismissed. I will go into details in a future post, but it's elemental stuff. Anyone who knows a thing about Rule 12(b)(6) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, and checked the public file, would readily see how Vance cheated me. (By the way, I'm pretty sure that Rule 12(b)(6) is standard in all jurisdictions, federal and state. It deals with motions to dismiss, which are supposed to be granted only in rare circumstances, none of which existed in my case.)

I've had some people explain it by saying, "Oh well, some judges just don't like legal malpractice cases."

My response? If you don't like certain kinds of legal cases, don't become a judge. No one forced Robert Vance Jr. to accept his appointment to the bench--from Don Siegelman, of all people.

Based on my experience, Robert Vance Jr. is more interested in protecting corrupt lawyers and law firms than he is in providing justice for citizens who have been victimized by lawyers.

That makes me think Vance's wife has cushy relations with the local legal community, as well. Heck, if she wants to go after a corrupt judge, she won't have to look far--just across the supper table.

Vance already is facing political heat from our local fishwrapper, and she hasn't even taken office yet. The latest comes from columnist John Archibald at The Birmingham News.

Archibald says it is critical that Vance continue the crime-fighting efforts started by the estimable Ms. Martin. Archibald says that Vance, like Martin, must "stand for the people."

I used to have some respect for John Archibald. I thought he seemed fairly broad-minded for a Birmingham News columnist. In fact, I even met with him a few months back when he showed signs in print that he was interested in looking into wrongdoing in Shelby County. When I checked back with Archibald a few weeks later, he said he couldn't work on the stuff I had spoon fed him because he was working on a much bigger Shelby County story--about really bad corruption. Great, I said, I look forward to reading it.

That was several months ago. Has the story about really bad corruption in Shelby County appeared in the paper? Nope. Will it appear? I suspect Sheryl Crow will produce Karl Rove's love child first.

It's becoming increasingly clear that John Archibald is little more than a toady for the white, over-the-mountain, evangelical, Briarwood Christian crowd the News is concerned about.

What else can explain the following garbage about the challenges Joyce White Vance will face?

She will have tough decisions to make, a tough job to do and--yeah, I'm going to say it--a tough act to follow.

Say what you will about Martin, but she has pursued corrupt officials in a way few prosecutors in this state's history have done. Black ones and white ones, Democrats and Republicans, those elected to local and statewide offices.

I believe Vance will continue the people's work. She better. For all our sakes.

The crimes will not go away with Alice Martin, and neither can the will to pursue them.

I don't know whether to laugh or hurl when I read delusional junk like that. I'm almost embarrassed for John Archibald that he would pucker up and kiss Alice Martin right on the fanny in such a public way.

Archibald says Martin has gone after white Republicans in the Northern District? Can he name one besides former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White? And court documents indicate White was targeted only because he refused to provide false evidence against former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

Evidently Archibald has never heard of Alex Latifi. And Archibald & Co. persist in ignoring the mountains of evidence that Alice Martin is far more corrupt than anyone she has ever prosecuted.

Archibald's most recent handiwork must mark at least the sixth time since Obama was elected that the News has pushed for Alice Martin's crime-fighting crusade to continue. It's almost as if the newspaper has a personal stake in keeping the Martin philosophy in place.

And maybe it does. I've heard whispers that if the Obama Justice Department takes a serious look at political prosecutions in Alabama, it could focus on the curiously cozy relationships between prosecutors and the newspapers in Birmingham and Mobile.

Now that would be an interesting fight for Joyce White Vance to tackle. Is she up to the task?

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