Will folks in my neck of the woods be smart enough to boot G. Dan Reeves to the exits? We will find out on June 1 in Alabama's primary election.
We have written numerous posts about Reeves and shown, from firsthand experience, that he is a monstrously bad judge. Birmingham lawyer Ferris Ritchey is putting up a serious challenge to Reeves, and we recommend a vote for Ritchey in the strongest terms possible.
It's rare that you have a chance to replace one of the good old boy judges who have turned the courthouse in Columbiana into an ethical cesspool. The county is heavily Republican, so Democrats usually have no chance and general elections mean nothing. Everything is decided in the primaries, and most local lawyers don't have the cojones to challenge an incumbent.
Ritchey evidently does have a pair, and we give him credit for that. If he loses, and he's clearly the underdog, he's likely to face all kinds of retaliation for having the audacity to run against Reeves.
It's going to take more than one person to turn around the sleaze pit in Columbiana. But if Ritchey could get elected, it might be a major step in the right direction.
How bad is Reeves? First, he isn't remotely qualified to be a judge. According to Reeves' biography, he earned a degree from Birmingham School of Law in 1984 and was elected circuit clerk in Shelby County in 1988. He served 10 years as clerk before becoming a judge in 1998.
At most, Reeves has four years of experience as a practicing lawyer. And multiple sources have told me that they have no memory of him seriously practicing law before he became clerk. Essentially, he went from being clerk to a judge, with almost no courtroom experience. It's hard to imagine a judge with a thinner resume than Reeves'.
Ritchey, on the other hand, has more than 25 years of experience as a lawyer and currently serves as president of the Birmingham Bar Foundation. His practice has focused on family, probate, and estate-planning law.
Reeves is corrupt, incompetent, and stupid--the big trifecta for a judge. In fact, he makes almost no effort to hide the fact that he is crooked. I've had numerous parties contact me about their horrifying experiences before Reeves, and in their rare honest moments, several lawyers have told me they are well aware that Reeves is a bad and dishonest judge.
Do they do anything about it? No, they are afraid to. Shelby is the fastest growing county in Alabama, it's court dockets are swelling by the month, lawyers can make a lot of money there, and hardly anyone wants to take on a member of the corrupt establishment.
Consider this scene from my own experience with Reeves, where I was representing myself in defending a bogus lawsuit brought by my neighbor, Mike McGarity. Of course, I didn't start out representing myself. But the two lawyers I'd hired didn't have the guts to stand up to corrupt judges, so I took the case over myself.
I had filed a motion for summary judgment, properly executed and supported with materially relevant evidence that showed the case could not go to trial. The motion raised multiple issues that had not previously been raised in the case. McGarity's lawyer, William E. Swatek, had filed no response--nada, zilch. We had a hearing to argue several motions that were before Reeves:
Me: Are we going to address the motion for summary judgment?
Reeves: Yes, we are.
Me: Well, the other party has filed no response to my motion.
Me: Well, that means the motion has to be granted and the case dismissed. That's the law.
Reeves: Mr. Shuler, I will make my decision.
Me: There's no decision to make. The law says you have to grant summary judgment. The law makes the decision for you.
Reeves: Mr. Shuler, I don't want to hear any more on this. I will make my decision.
Me: You have to grant summary judgment. You have no choice.
Reeves: Mr. Shuler, I'm going to hold you in contempt.
Me: I'm just arguing my case.
Reeves: Mr. Shuler, I've told you that you need to get a lawyer, but you don't have one. And that's why you keep losing these rulings.
Me: This doesn't have anything to do with whether I have a lawyer or not. The law is clear: When I present materially relevant evidence, the other party has to present evidence to contradict it. If they don't respond--and you just admitted they haven't responded in this case--the law says my evidence must be considered uncontradicted, and summary judgment must be granted. The deadline for their response is well past, so the case is over. It's real simple.
Reeves: Mr. Shuler, I'm warning you . . .
Me: They haven't presented any evidence because they don't have a case. They've never had a case, and Mr. Swatek knew it the day he filed the complaint. Of course, he has a 30-year history of unethical actions with the Alabama State Bar, but I guess that doesn't trouble you.
Reeves: Mr. Shuler, you are going to jail if you don't watch it.
I'm not making this up, folks. It's been almost six years since that exchange, so I might not have every word exact. But that's the basic exchange. And you will not be surprised to learn that Reeves denied the motion, and a case that by law had to be dismissed, went to trial--costing Alabama taxpayers thousands of dollars.
I've got a dead stump in my back yard that could have gotten that ruling right. But Reeves was too corrupt and too ignorant to do his job in a lawful fashion. That tells you everything you need to know about Dan Reeves.
Is Ferris Ritchey the answer to all of Shelby County's problems? Not by a long shot. The Shelby sleaze has been building for decades, and one man and one election are not going to make it go away.
Besides that, I have one qualm about Ritchey. We've written about him before here at Legal Schnauzer, and it had to do with a golf outing where his partners included Circuit Judge Mike Joiner (Reeves' evil twin) and the esteemed William E. Swatek, our favorite dirt bag lawyer.
Why was Ritchey playing golf with such low-life characters? Perhaps there is an innocent explanation. I know that Swatek has endorsed Reeves, which tells me the establishment is against Ritchey. That tells me I'm for him.
Some free advice for Ritchey: If you really need to play golf, find some honest people to join your foursome. Playing golf with Mike Joiner and Bill Swatek is not the way to go.
Interestingly, Ritchey contacted me via Facebook recently. After informing me that I know how to "raise a ruckus," he asked what I thought of his run against Reeves. I said, in so many words, "Mr. Ritchey, if you are serious about bringing real justice to the Shelby County Courthouse, I am all for you."
Ritchey assured me that he is not part of any good old boy network, and I will take him at his word.
Based on the number of Ritchey yard signs I've seen in the area where I live, it appears Ritchey is making a serious challenge. His problem, I suspect, is that Reeves lives in the more rural southern part of the county and probably will dominate in that area.
Will Ritchey's support in the relatively urban north be enough to pull an upset? Could Shelby County take one small step away from the shadows of corruption?
We will be watching closely.