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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Were No Opinions Issued On Appeals of Alabama Hunting-Club Lawsuits?

Hunting-club land in
Lowndes County, Alabama

The legal profession reeks of dirty secrets, and one of my favorites is this: Many federal judges do not write the opinions they issue. Attorney William Domnarski shined light on the subject in a recent op-ed piece for The New York Times, noting that ghost-written judicial opinions raise serious questions about the integrity of federal courts--as if federal courts had any integrity to begin with.

Law clerks write the opinions for almost all federal appellate judges, Domnarski writes, and it stands to reason that the practice also is common in federal trial courts. Domnarski says members of the legal tribe rarely discuss the issue because it "raises too many embarrassing questions." Domnarski goes on to write: "We have become too comfortable with the troubling idea that judging does not require that judges do their own work."

So what is the public to make of instances where federal appellate judges do no work at all on a case before them?  That apparently is what happened on a pair of lawsuits that originated in Birmingham, alleging that corrupt lawyers and judges used a hunting club as a place to fix Jefferson County divorce cases.

Joseph W. Blackburn, a professor of taxation at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, was involved in both cases, first as a plaintiff and then as an attorney representing other alleged victims of hunting-club fraud. Both cases were unlawfully dismissed by federal judges in the Northern District of Alabama, with the plaintiffs denied an opportunity to conduct discovery that might have proven their cases.

That is suspicious in itself. But a foul odor really becomes noticeable when you realize the cases went before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta--and both were dismissed without an opinion, with no explanation whatsoever.

These were companion lawsuits, both alleging gross corruption in Alabama domestic-relations courts. They level charges of serious misconduct against some of the best-known divorce lawyers in Alabama, essentially stating that their successful practices are built largely on cases that are fixed.

Hunting Club Case No. 1 was dismissed on a variety of technical grounds, and District Judge B. Avant Edenfield took 30 pages to describe the complex set of circumstances involved in the case. Hunting Club Case No. 2 was dismissed on pretty much identical grounds, with U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Armstrong mostly parroting Edenfield's ruling.

Are we to believe that a 30-page trial-court finding can be adequately handled on appeal when the Eleventh Circuit issues no opinion? Are we to believe it's a mere coincidence that the appellate court does the same thing on the second hunting-club case?

You can check out the two appellate "opinions" at the links below. Don't worry, they won't take long to read:

Opinion in Blackburn v. Calhoun, et al (Hunting Club Case No. 1)

Opinion in Powell, et al v. Gorham, et al (Hunting Club Case No. 2)

First, we should  note that both three-judge panels were chaired by Gerald Bard Tjoflat. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because he was on the three-judge panel that unlawfully upheld some of the convictions in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. If Gerald Tjoflat's name is on an appellate panel, should we assume the outcome will be tainted and corrupt? I'm starting to think the answer to that question is yes. In fact, I'm starting to think Gerald Tjoflat is simply a criminal who happens to wear a robe.

Are appellate courts required to issue opinions on all cases before them? Not necessarily. Most circuits have provisions that allow appellate judges, under certain circumstances, to affirm a lower-court ruling without an opinion. They also have provisions that allow appellate courts to issue unpublished opinions, which have no precedential value.

Unpublished opinions are becoming increasingly common and chip away at what might be left of judicial integrity, according to Citizens for Judicial Accountability (CJA). An article at the CJA Web site says about 80 percent of federal appellate opinions are stamped "Not to be Published," "Not Precedential," or words to that effect. Should the public be concerned about that? Yes, it should. From CJA:

Even if these unpublished non-precedential "per curiam affirmed" decisions contain some form of explanation, generally they are not carefully analyzed as are the published opinions. In many cases the decision is based on facts inaccurately stated, sometimes fabricated and do not follow the controlling precedent. It is not unusual for a judge's law clerk to write these opinions.

That brings us back to ghost-written opinions, and rulings that have no opinions at all. The Eleventh Circuit used to have Rule 36-1, which allowed for affirmances without opinions. The rule read as follows:

When the court determines that any of the following circumstances exist: 
(a) the judgment of the district court is based on findings of fact that are not clearly erroneous; 
(b) the evidence in support of a jury verdict is sufficient; 
(c) the order of an administrative agency is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole; 
(d) a summary judgment, directed verdict, or judgment on the pleadings is supported by the record; 
(e) the judgment has been entered without a reversible error of law; and an opinion would have no precedential value, the judgment or order may be affirmed or enforced without opinion.

That rule, however, was rescinded in 2006. According to a memorandum from Clerk Thomas K. Kahn, the change was made on the grounds that “only a min[u]scule portion of appeals are currently terminated in this manner.”

Since 2006, the Eleventh Circuit has had no provision allowing an appeal to be disposed of without an opinion. And yet, two cases were handled in exactly that fashion--one in 2008, the other in 2010--and they just happened to be cases that alleged serious misconduct among Alabama lawyers and judges.

Even when Rule 36-1 was in effect, if we are to believe Clerk Thomas K. Kahn, only a "minuscule portion" of appeals were terminated without an opinion. So how could the two hunting-club cases be terminated in that manner, even after Rule 36-1 had been rescinded? And how could there be no opinion when summary judgment was not supported by the record, and the judgment clearly was entered based on reversible error?

I can think of only one answer: The Eleventh Circuit knew it could not issue an opinion under the law that could justify the corrupt trial-court dismissals--so it chose to issue no opinion at all.

That brings us back to William Domnarski's op-ed piece in The New York Times. Ghostwritten judicial opinions, he writes, cut at the heart of a court's integrity:

There is also the matter of intellectual integrity. Put simply, it cannot be accepted as legitimate that judges can put their names on opinions that they did not write. It’s not quite plagiarism, but it puts me in mind of the product known in the academic world as “managed books”: a professor will use research assistants to not only research a project but also write a first draft — but nonetheless the professor claims the work as his own. The managed books approach has been condemned as an affront to intellectual integrity. There is no principled reason the judicial counterpart should not be similarly condemned. I am reminded of Henry J. Friendly, the great judge of the Second Circuit, who explained that he wrote his own opinions because “they pay me to do that.”

For Americans who live in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida--the states covered by the Eleventh Circuit--it's not just a matter of judges failing to write their own opinions; in some cases, judges aren't issuing opinions.

If it's illegitimate for judges to issue ghostwritten opinions, what term applies when they issue no opinion at all


Anonymous said...

I personally ...

Federal Judge Robert J. Bryan, in the United States District Court, in the Western District of Washington, AT Tacoma, supposedly wrote an OPINION - ORDER, and I challenged the writing on the basis, IT WAS NOT HIM.

Sent an APPEAL to the "Ninth Circuit" that literally put its own CAPTION as though I was litigating one of my own plaintiff party pro se participants (26 of us filed together) in the claims filed in the Court of Owen M. Panner, Article III, Court, in Medford, Oregon.

RJB: OPINION - ORDER was so USDC PortlandESQ, and this was where the debacle has a deep root of corruption, the Chief Justice Ann L. Aiken, for FRAUD in MERS and just yesterday, I received from top attorneys in Oregon, the challenges facing Oregon in MERS. MERS was and is a gulag, to steal whatever, and ALL JUDGES in the US were and are in the "partnership business" with the FED, et al.


.. The outrageous never-before-told inside story of how the Justice Department, the Israeli lobby and the mass media conspired to set up and take down Ohio’s outspoken Congressman Jim Traficant . . .

.. . . From the pen of AFP correspondent Michael Collins Piper—the only journalist
Jim Traficant agreed to speak to from prison after being convicted on trumped-up corruption charges. Traficant wouldn’t even speak to The New York Times!

In TARGET: TRAFICANT, veteran author Michael Collins Piper—whom Jim Traficant has said was the only journalist to tell his story truthfully and correctly from the beginning—has assembled this eye-opening and disturbing overview of the campaign by high-level forces to set up and take down the no-nonsense populist congressman.

If you have ever had any doubts about Traficant’s integrity—doubts instilled by a long-standing media cacophony attacking Traficant—you’ll soon realize that the Traficant case represents one of the most outrageous and thoroughly illegal hit-and-run operations ever orchestrated in our “democracy.” It is perhaps all too representative of the high-level corruption for which the “Justice” Department has been found responsible time and time again.

Piper dissects the intrigues of the Justice Department and the FBI (as well as the maneuvers by the federal judge who oversaw the Traficant trial) and demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that Jim Traficant was absolutely innocent of all of the charges on which he was convicted . . .

American Free Press

Roberta Kelly aka Biloxi Marx 3752 Scribd

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what happened to me. My case was not legally an Alabama case as Alabama did not have jurisdiction, South Carolina did. I appealed Judge Al Crowson's order at the circuit court level and at the state supreme court level; each court refused to give an opinion.

Just shows that someone controls what these courts do and I think we all know that certain lawyers, judges, and senators and yes even governors control some of our cases from beginning to end. Add to these facts that Al Crowson, the presiding judge took a six year early retirement after he rendered the judgement in my (fake) divorce case in 2005.

And if you are reading this Judge Crowson; you know who I am.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 12:37--

You touch on a very important point. It's not a crime for a judge to rule unlawfully on case. (I think it should be in some circumstances, but that's a point for another day; parties certainly should be able to file a civil case to force a judge to follow the law, but the judge now is protected by immunity.) But if someone else is pulling his levers--a certain law firm, other judges, a senator, etc.--that goes to a conspiracy that could involve all sorts of crimes. Obstruction of justice is one. Mail and/or wire fraud might also be present.

Crowson is in Shelby County, so that means you were in one of the most corrupt jurisdictions in the state . . . in the world . . . on the planet . . . in our solar system.

No depths are too low for the slime balls in Shelby County, and I am convinced from personal experience that much of the criminality starts in the clerk's office, run by the esteemed Mary Harris.

Apollos Creed said...

This is an interesting story. this one take place in the Northern Distinct of Texas were what you say about judges making unlawful judgments if not unlawful for them.

I have another story that will make your hair stand on end. My son, Jeff baron, is going through a horrific battle with the Northern District of TX. involving a lawsuit where the federal judge threatened my son with "death" in a civil lawsuit.

The case involves a lawyer billing scam supervised by a federal judge. In the apparent scam, a Dallas business owner (the "victim") had all possessions seized, without any notice or hearing, prohibited him from hiring a lawyer, and essentially ordered him into a bizarre civil lockdown. Jeff has been under this civil lockdown order for nearly two years, and is prohibited from having a lawyer, from owning any possessions, from freely traveling, from working, etc... How many Civil Rights violations can one court treat on?

http://LawInjustice.com/ has details about this disturbing case and some quotes from the judge:

THE COURT: "I'm telling you don't screw with me. You are a fool, a fool, a fool, a fool to screw with a federal judge, and if you don't understand that, I can make you understand it. I have the force of the Navy, Army, Marines and Navy behind me."

THE COURT: "You realize that order is an order of the Court. So any failure to comply with that order is contempt, punishable by lots of dollars, punishable by possible jail, death"
Watch this video on YouTube to get the full picture.
then go to http://LawInJustice.com for a bigger story and actual
court docs.

legalschnauzer said...

Mr. Creed:

Thanks for sharing. I hope readers will check out your links. Sounds like scary stuff. Abusive courts, both state and federal, seem to be a problem in all parts of the country. But the South seems to have a particularly bad problem, and Texas certainly fits the mode.

legalschnauzer said...

Mr. Creed:

I just started looking at your links, so my knowledge still is thin, but I noticed right off that this involves bankruptcy court. That and domestic-relations courts seem to be perhaps the two biggest hell holes in our "justice system." Lawyers and judges in both courts seem to have a "symbiotic relationship," where all sorts of huge fees are awarded for very little work. I'm going to look at more of your info, but I would like to encourage readers to check this out as what sounds like a classic example of corruption in a bankruptcy court.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Creed, Rkelly response,

Bankruptcy Court is the biggest racket, in my experience and in the experience of CRYSTAL COX, too, and her attack was for no less than TEN MILLION DOLLARS.


Crystal refused BK "Judge" RANDALL L. DUNN AND USDC HERNANDEZ Federal Judge, in Oregon, to APPEAR further after their most unbelievable fraud.

I was told by USDC, Portland Div., John V. Acosta, that he literally had the right to strike me down in his court as a FEDERAL JUDGE [only a "Magistrate"] and that was in the very beginning of the 2008, meltdown. Do we believe the plan was not hatched already a LONG time ago?

Chief Justice Ann L. Aiken sent the U.S. Marshal to entrap me, his name? Brian KELLY.

These "evildoers" are out to kill and leave, therefore, no more than it's said, 500,000 AMERICANS.

"... Once Rome accepted Julius Caesar’s coup, the Roman Republic was gone. Those who tried to save the Roman Republic by assassinating Caesar failed, because the majority of the legions had gone over to the dictatorship, which promised them more money than the Republic had. Caesar’s name became the title for Rome’s dictators.

In the US, even your friendly local police have gone over to dictatorship. And they are armed with its tools. A friend, a competitive shooter for accuracy, told me that as he left his gun club on August 27, a local sheriff department entered in a military armored vehicle, something one would expect to see on a battlefield, followed by a large sheriff’s department truck full of military equipment. He says that the gun club allows local police to use the club’s facilities so that club members are not stopped and harassed about their firearms as they go to and from the club. He reports that the police will line up 30 abreast, with automatic weapons, not allowed to club members, and fire at one target, with 30 police emptying 30-round magazines at the same target.
He once asked our protectors if they were practicing for some competition. The answer was, “No, we are preparing to control the outcome when there is trouble.”
Control is the operative word. We have seen for a number of years now that the Republican Party is power-addicted. Remember when the Bush administration fired the US Attorneys who refused the order to indict only Democrats? Remember the Republican Party’s transparent frame-up of popular Alabama Democratic governor Don Siegelman? Evidence indicates that the Republican operative Karl Rove took advantage of a Republican federal judge, vulnerable according to news reports to corruption charges, and a compliant Republican US attorney in Alabama to railroad Governor Siegelman. The message to Democrats was: if you get elected in our Southern Territory, we will get you.

The Republicans Cross The Rubicon
By Paul Craig Robert
Global Research, September 04, 2012

Anonymous said...

"... Northern District of TX. involving a lawsuit where the federal judge threatened my son with "death" in a civil lawsuit ...."

This is what we get, those of us who believe we have a right to be "free" and of course, then, an "American," living in the FREE United States that is "exceptional."

Your son, Jeff Baron, tragically, is one of the many YOUNG VICTIMS, to teach the GENERATIONS, according to the PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION, how to continue being a "sacrificial lamb" in their "Old Testament" ideology of goy vs. "Heb."

I am so incredulous about how the Bush, Rove, ET AL "agents for the Fed," have destroyed our country and the ignorant "courts" are too brain dead to get, it is over.

No nation historically, survived a militant fascism sanctioned by "a coup shadow government."

Must study the case. Thanks, rk

Anonymous said...

Please allow me to issue my opinion on the appeals of the "hunting club". Judge Armstrong, a native of Shelby County, is guilty of hiding criminal activity of certain judges and lawyers. These RICO lawsuits would have exposed the crimes that these felonious individuals initiated. The crimes have destroyed many a good person. A number of these were children. The average person has no idea of the criminal activity involved in the domestic relations court. Neither did I, until I went through a divorce in Jefferson County.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Schnauzer, I understand that a RICO lawsuit is in the works. It supposedly concerns a prostitute and her involvement with elected officials, including a former domestic relations judge, the district attorney, an appellate court judge, some local attorneys and a former TV reporter. This prostitute, I am told, has recently been involved with the head of a defense contractor. This should be interesting.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 11:43--

That does sound interesting. We're talking about a defense contractor with ties to Alabama? Hmmm. Please keep us posted.