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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bentley Appoints a Corrupt Judge to Alabama Appellate Court

Robert Bentley

Any notion that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is going to "clean up Montgomery" can officially be pitched out the window--and Bentley hasn't even been in office one month.

Bentley yesterday appointed Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner to fill a vacant seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. I have first-hand knowledge of Joiner's actions as a trial judge, and he isn't fit to preside over a pie-baking contest--much less matters of life and death.

More than any other human, Joiner is responsible for the legal headaches that my wife and I have experienced. In essence, the "judge" administered the cheat job that gave birth to this blog. Joiner is a cross-eyed, corrupt, hypocritical, despicable human being, who is a criminal himself.

Last time I checked, Joiner teaches Sunday school at a suburban mega church, The Church at Brook Hills, when he isn't screwing regular citizens in a court of law. What a fine example of "Christianity." No wonder Bentley likes him.

If this is our new governor's notion of "cleaning up Montgomery," well . . . perhaps we can look for Charles Manson to be named director of public safety.

Bentley has said that he intends to be governor for everyone in Alabama. But this is the second time in his brief reign that Bentley has made statements or taken actions that indicate he is captive to his own narrow world view. On his inauguration day, Bentley generated national news when he said that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are not his "brothers and sisters." Bentley later admitted that he was speaking in the language of his personal faith, apparently oblivious to the fact that not everyone subscribes to his particular form of Christianity.

The Joiner appointment is not likely to generate much news, but it is much more important than the "brothers and sisters" story in terms of what it says about Bentley. This appointment is an example of "homerism," of provincial thinking at its worst. Bentley is from the Shelby County town of Columbiana, which serves as the county seat and has been Joiner's base of operations since he became a judge in 1992. Joiner is a lifelong resident of Shelby County, and his family roots are planted all around the Columbiana area. In fact, he has so many relatives there that one section is called Joinertown.

If you stuck a pin in a map indicating where one of Joiner's relatives lives in and around Columbiana, you would have an awfully colorful map. I know; I've checked out where a bunch of them live. The judge himself lives in the rarefied air of  a gated community, Highland Lakes.

Joiner became a judge, and keeps easily getting re-elected, because half of south Shelby County is related to him. It certainly is not because of his qualifications or performance.

Bentley appointed Joiner simply because he is well known in the governor's hometown. It's a classic example of small-minded thinking, exactly the kind of thing that Alabama does not need.

How bad a judge is Joiner? I've written more than a dozen posts about our experiences with him, but here is a section from one that best describes how he butchered a bogus lawsuit that was filed against me by Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor--with the help of his ethically challenged attorney, William E. Swatek:

Joiner, by my conservative estimate, made 20 to 30 unlawful rulings in my case, all favoring Bill Swatek and his client, Mike McGarity. But I tend to focus on summary judgment because that's the most important issue, the one that would have brought the case to a lawful conclusion. And the indisputable record shows this:

The case had to be dismissed on so many grounds--eight to 10, at least--that I filed three motions for summary judgment (MSJ), each raising distinct issues of fact and law. On the first MSJ, McGarity filed a response, but he filed no timely evidence as required by law. He did file an affidavit--which did not dispute the fundamental facts and law at hand--but it was 10 days late and had to be stricken as a matter of law. Joiner denied summary judgment anyway.

On the second and third MSJs, McGarity filed no response at all--no affidavit, no evidence, nothing. That meant the evidence I filed, which was different from the evidence in the first MSJ, was uncontroverted. In such circumstances, Alabama law is clear: Summary judgment must be granted and the case dismissed. In fact, the law in all jurisdictions is clear: Such an MSJ simply cannot be denied, and it's a "nondiscretionary" ruling. It's about as clear and universal as law can get, like "three strikes and you're out" in baseball.

But Joiner could not get it right, and he denied all three MSJs.

Lawyers often refer to folks like Mrs. Schnauzer and me as "disgruntled litigants." We are "losers" in court and gripe only because we didn't like the outcome--not because of any improper actions by a judge or lawyer. Well, the misconduct in our case could not be more blatant, and a single piece of Alabama case law spells  that out. From our earlier post:

I could teach a seminar on all of the procedural, statutory, and case law that says this cannot be done. But here is the simplest way to understand it, straight from Alabama case law:

"When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing." Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993).

It can't get much more clear than that. For those who think I'm a misguided, loony conspiracy theorist, I invite you to check the public record in Mike McGarity v. Roger Shuler, CV 00-124, and then read Voyager Guar. Ins. Co. v. Brown. That will show you that J. Michael Joiner is, in fact, corrupt--and it's not a matter of anyone's opinion.

Yep, one simple case makes it clear beyond any doubt that J. Michael Joiner is grotesquely corrupt. But our new governor has appointed him to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. And because voters in our state tend to reflexively vote for Republicans and incumbents in court races, Joiner is likely to serve until our democracy crumbles or he croaks, whichever comes first.

Joiner's incompetence is not just about my case. Joiner's handling of the recent capital-murder trial of Ryan Gerald Russell was dubious to the point of being downright fishy. Based on news reports, a man is headed to death row based on evidence that does not come close to meeting the "reasonable doubt" standard.

I've heard from numerous litigants who have seen Joiner make grossly unlawful rulings in domestic-relations cases, apparently favoring the side with the right "local counsel." If the lives of innumerable children are disrupted by Joiner's bogus rulings, well . . . that's just tough. Joiner blissfully screws around with other people's children, while his own daughter, Christy, graduated from the private Briarwood Christian School and now is safely ensconced at the University of Montevallo--when she isn't working her part-time job at a horse farm not far from the Joiner abode. How quaint!

Shelby County has a long history of judicial corruption. Ask a relatively honest lawyer in the Birmingham area--if you can find one--and he will tell you that Shelby County is notorious for "home cooking." I've had probably a dozen lawyers tell me that, though none will say it for the record--or file official complaints regarding misconduct, as their profession's legal code requires.

Al Crowson, who was Joiner's predecessor as presiding judge, was a disgrace to the bench. We have studied his actions in a divorce case involving Sherry Carroll Rollins and Ted Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities and a member of one of America's wealthiest families. The court record in the Rollins divorce indicates that Ted Rollins was able to unlawfully move a case from South Carolina to Alabama and essentially buy "justice"--with the help of Crowson and probably lawyers from the "pro business" firm of Bradley Arant.

So what does the Joiner appointment tell us about Robert Bentley? It isn't good. As regular readers know, I don't value the opinion of former Alabama Governor Bob Riley on much of anything. But I might actually agree with Riley on one thing. In a recent piece by Bob Martin of The Montgomery Independent, Riley reportedly said he thought Bentley's term would be a "disaster."

Based on Bentley's appointment of Mike Joiner, I'd say Riley might be right about that.

1 comment:

Robby Scott Hill said...

Look on the bright side. At least we're getting a new appellate court justice who has real experience as a trial court judge and not another former prosecutor or former corporate lobbyist who has never heard a single case from the bench. Factories are famous for promoting the worst workers to keep them from messing up the important work on the production floor. This could be a blessing in disguise for the people of Shelby County. Joiner will have all the senior justices at Criminal Appeals looking over his shoulder & several staff attorneys will review & edit his opinions before they are issued. Perhaps Governor Bentley is crazy like a fox.