|Ted W. Rollins|
Americans went to the polls last week and voted overwhelmingly for the Republican Party, which historically has favored the wealthy over everyday folks. Voters apparently were anxious to cure our economic and social ailments by putting the GOP in charge. You might want to file that one under "Be Careful What You Wish For."
It's not breaking news that moneyed interests have all sorts of advantages in our capitalistic system. But we've seen firsthand evidence that those advantages can extend even to our court system, which is supposed to ensure "equal protection" for all.
In fact, we've seen one case where a member of a wealthy Republican family received favors in an Alabama court that are downright unlawful, possibly criminal. In the wake of last week's GOP tsunami, it seems likely that such injustices only are going to increase.
Consider Rollins v. Rollins, a domestic-relations case that was filed in Shelby County, Alabama, where I live. In fact, this travesty took place in the same courthouse, in Columbiana, Alabama, where my legal headaches began.
We wrote recently about the "public disintegration of the Rollins family," an unfortunate tale that has been receiving plenty of ink in the Atlanta press. The Rollinses, after all, are one of America's richest families, thanks to their interest in Orkin Pest Control and other enterprises, including outdoor advertising, broadcasting, truck leasing, and more. Whenever you see that an entity is associated with Rollins Inc., you can rest assured that big money is involved.
So how did the Rollins family intersect with our little corner of the world here in Alabama? It started when Sherry Carroll Rollins filed for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina, from Ted W. Rollins, the son of John W. Rollins. John W. was one of two brothers who built the Rollins empire.
Campus Crest Communities, one of Ted W. Rollins' ventures, recently entered the New York Stock Exchange with an IPO estimated at $380 million. You can see that he is continuing the family tradition of dealing in big bucks.
Court records indicate that Sherry Rollins' divorce case, at first, was moving along in a normal fashion. A South Carolina judge had issued a temporary order that called for Ted Rollins to pay $3,355 a month in child support for the couple's two daughters, $5,000 a month in alimony, and continue paying the mortgage, taxes, and insurance on the marital home.
Records indicate that the mortgage was not paid, and Sherry Rollins and her children were forced from their home. Mrs. Rollins fled to Alabama, where her two sons from a previous marriage were living.
What happened next? Ted Rollins failed to pay the court-ordered alimony and child support, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. For you or me, that would mean we were in deep doo-doo.
What did it mean for Ted Rollins? Not much. He filed a lawsuit for divorce against his wife in Alabama--and Shelby County Judge Al Crowson actually allowed it. For anyone who's had a few days of Law School 101, that last sentence should shock the conscience. That's because such a transfer of a case across jurisdictional boundaries simply cannot be done.
It can be done, however, in GOP-controlled Alabama when your name is Ted W. Rollins--and you are part of one of America's richest families. It probably did not hurt that Ted Rollins had worked for years with Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings, one of the largest and most conservative law firms in Alabama.
In fact, Ted Rollins has especially close ties to Bradley Arant lawyers Dawn Helms Sharff and Walter Sears. Bradley Arant, of course, is home to Rob Campbell, son-in-law to Alabama Governor Bob Riley. The firm has received huge sums of state dollars during the Riley era, and we will be taking a close look at the firm's action in future posts--especially as they relate to Ted W. Rollins.
Why was it unlawful for Ted Rollins to move a divorce case from South Carolina, where it already was well under way, to Alabama? It's a simple matter of jurisdiction, which is supposed to be a serious matter under the law. Judges are not to take action on a case where they do not have jurisdiction. And even the most clod-headed of attorneys should know that. The lawyers at Bradley Arant certainly should know that.
Such fundamental matters are governed by all kinds of law. One of the most clear-cut Alabama cases is styled Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953 (Ala. Civ. App., 1993). The case states, in very clear language:
Once jurisdiction has attached in one court, that court has the exclusive right to continue its exercise of power until the completion of the case, and is only subject to appellate authority.
A lawyer for Sherry Rollins filed a Motion to Dismiss, correctly pointing out that the Alabama court had no jurisdiction and the case could not be heard in Shelby County. But Judge Al Crowson, who mysteriously retired as Rollins v. Rollins was winding down, ignored the motion and let the case move forward. (See Motion to Dismiss at the end of this post.)
Did Ted W. Rollins benefit from having his case heard in Alabama? Oh yes, indeed. Did his friends at Bradley Arant also benefit? Sure looks like it. And we will show you exactly how it happened.
(To be continued)
Rollins v. Rollins Dismiss