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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alabama Woman Remains Incarcerated Because Of An Unlawful Mediation In Her Divorce Case

Bonnie Wyatt

An Alabama woman has been held in the Chilton County Jail since July 26, based on a divorce mediation that appears to have been unlawful on multiple grounds.

Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds ordered Bonnie Cahalane (Knox) Wyatt and Harold Jay Wyatt into mediation, which ended with a settlement agreement that had Ms. Wyatt paying $165,000 for her husband's interest in the marital home--even though she owned the house prior to the marriage. When Ms. Wyatt failed to pay the amount, Reynolds found her in contempt of court and ordered her arrest.

Court records show that mediation was to be conducted on March 9, 2011, with Clanton attorney Wayne Cordery. But multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer that the parties and their attorneys met with Cordery that day for only about an hour before they were summoned to the Chilton County Courthouse. The mediation was completed before Reynolds, in his courtroom, even though that appears to violate at least three provisions of the Alabama Civil Court Mediation Rules.

We already have shown that Ms. Wyatt's incarceration is unlawful because a case styled Dolberry v. Dolberry, 920 So. 2d 573 (Ala. Civ. App., 2005) holds that a party is not subject to contempt, and possible incarceration, because of a property-related debt connected to dissolution of a marriage.

But now we learn that the settlement agreement itself is due to be set aside because it was produced via an unlawful mediation. In almost all cases, mediation is to include only the parties, their representatives, and the mediator. The only exception is in cases of alleged domestic violence, where the victim can have a supporting person of his or her choice. The presence of any other third party can come only with the permission of the parties and the consent of the mediator.

Judges appear to specifically be excluded from the process. Why did Reynolds summon the parties in Wyatt v. Wyatt to his courtroom and participate in the mediation? That is not clear, but it appears he had no grounds for doing so.

Let's consider three relevant provisions of the Alabama Civil Court Mediation Rules:

Rule 1. Definition of Mediation and Scope of Rules

(a) Mediation is an extra judicial procedure for the resolution of disputes, provided for by statute and by the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.

Comment: The meaning of an "extra judicial procedure" is clear: It is outside the authority of a court. It does not take place in a judge's presence. This seems real easy to understand.


Rule 10. Privacy

Mediation sessions are private. An alleged victim of domestic or family violence may have in attendance at mediations a supporting person of his or her choice. In all other cases, persons other than the parties and their representatives may attend mediation sessions only with the permission of the parties and with the consent of the mediator.

Comment: Do you see a provision there for the presence of a judge? Neither do I. Can't get much more straightforward than this.


Rule 11. Confidentiality
(c) A court shall neither inquire into nor receive information about the positions of the parties taken in mediation proceedings; the facts elicited or presented in mediation proceedings; or the cause or responsibility for termination or failure of the mediation process.

Comment: This might be more straightforward than Rule 10. This one specifically tells judges to butt out.


How could such an unlawful mediation take place? Amanda Baxley, of Clanton, was Ms. Wyatt's attorney at the time, and we see no signs in the record that Ms. Baxley objected to the mediation. In fact, the court file shows that Ms. Baxley withdrew from the case shortly after the settlement agreement was reached.

Was Amanda Baxley out to lunch? Did she allow herself to be strong-armed by a corrupt judge? Did she feel powerless to do anything about it? We don't have answers to those questions, but it is clear that Amanda Baxley's client is paying a heavy price for a settlement agreement that was generated under unlawful conditions.

What motivation did Judge Sibley Reynolds have for inserting himself into the mediation process? Given that Ms. Wyatt wound up with the short end of the settlement-agreement stick, a reasonable person might conclude that Reynolds forced her into a bad deal.

Regardless of the judge's motivations, his participation in the mediation process was forbidden by law. And that appears to present grounds to have the settlement agreement set aside. A case styled Nero v. Chastang, 358 So. 2d 740 (Ala. Civ. App., 1978) spells it out:

When parties who are sui juris make a final settlement between themselves, such settlement is as binding on them in many respects as a decree of the court. However, such settlement may be opened for fraud, accident, or mistake. See Burks v. Parker, 192 Ala. 250, 68 So. 271 (1915).

I  would classify Reynolds' actions as fraud. But an argument could be made that they come under the heading of "accident" or "mistake." Whatever terminology is used, Bonnie Wyatt has powerful grounds for having her settlement agreement set aside. And that is one of many reasons that she should be released from jail.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are no "accidents" in our family courts.

Anonymous said...

I am still pondering this one......Could she have been jailed for protection from some sort of danger? There is no explanation for this, so it leaves me to invent reasons.
Six on Your Side should be at the jail, filming a news video of this.

Anonymous said...

Does Sibley Reynolds make up law as he goes along?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:03--

You raise some interesting possibilities. My guess, however, is that Ms. Wyatt is much more safe in the real world, on her own, than she is in jail.

As for Six on Your Side, they seem more interested in stories about plumbing and air-conditioning folks who botch a job. I've not seen them report on misconduct by powerful authority types.

I agree they should be all over this. But I'm not sure the station wants to take on the judicial thugs who run our state. Would love to be proven wrong about that.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 8:26--

I agree. These things are planned in advance--rigged is the word that probably applies. That seems to be the whole purpose of the hunting clubs, and I'm told Reynolds is quite active on the hunting circuit.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of hunting clubs, here's one Sibley is involved with.

http://www.cpoole.com/page3/page3.html

He's the one with the gray hair.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:03--

Wow, that is a heck of a picture. Love all of the camouflage. These guys look like members of a backwoods militia group, like they have up in Michigan and elsewhere. Probably need to do a post on this. Absolute evidence of an Alabama judge on the hunting club circuit.

Great find, and thanks for sharing. I urge readers to check out your link.

Anonymous said...

Hey LS, Bonnie's attorney, Angie Collins, represents the Chilton County Hospital Board and Sibley is on that board.

Also, I hear that Ms. Collins is getting a divorce. According to my sources, she was/is having an affair with a Chilton Co. sheriff's deputy and her divorce is pending in front of one Sibley G. Reynolds.

Perhaps that is why she has not filed a writ of mandamus to get her client out of jail. I would imagine that she's counting on Sibley to give her a sweet deal in her divorce if she plays along with his little charade.

Anonymous said...

Also, if that website happens to disappear, no worries. The great thing about the internet is that nothing ever really disappears!

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:19--

Thanks for some very interesting background. Will look into this. It might explain Ms. Collins' inaction on the Wyatt case, and if so, that's a big problem. Talk about a conflict of interest.

I'm proud to say that we have some pretty darned good investigative reporters among Legal Schnauzer readers--and you clearly are one of them. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

If Sibley Reynolds is a judge, why would he be serving on a hospital board? Sounds like another case of judges wanting to have their cake and eat it, too.

If you are a judge, you should not be serving on hospital boards, you shouldn't be in hunting clubs with lawyers who have cases before you, you shouldn't be playing golf or tennis or whatever with your lawyer buddies. You shouldn't have lawyer buddies.

Under the law, a judge should have a limited social and civic life, so that he can avoid the appearance of impropriety. The public should demand this, but we don't.

If a judge can't handle a fairly spartan lifestyle, then don't become a judge.

Anonymous said...

moneyed corporations put judges on any board they have to....to get things arranged the way they want it in court....

I know a man in Mountain Brook who goes to S.D. every year with the lawyer hunting club; every year they take a private plane and stay a week....he lives down the road on montevalo rd.....wonder if these judges are on the trips too? Wish I could pick his brain...

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 12:21--

Does S.D. stand for South Dakota? I've heard of one group of Alabama lawyer/judges who went pheasant hunting in South Dakota about three weeks ago. Maybe your guy was on this trip?

Anonymous said...

What part of "extra judicial" does Sibley Reynolds not understand?

Sharon said...

Would be interesting to know what Amanda Baxley might have to say about this case and why she bailed out so quickly after the settlement agreement supposedly was reached.

legalschnauzer said...

As I understand it, one of the theories behind any settlement negotiation is that parties reach a "meeting of the minds." That can't happen if one party or the other is strong armed. And it can't happen when individuals take part in the process, even though they are forbidden by law to do so.

Anonymous said...

10:31 Anon, the way the Federalist Papers read, the judges must be the top knowledge, information, understanding and of course then, a "PROFESSIONAL" in the U.S. Constitutional Law.

This is the law which judges do not obey, the strict law of true keeping the protection of our U.S. Constitution as their number one oath and the agenda. Clearly, this is not happening in the U.S.

To attorn means to turn over our rights' to an attorney and this is also wrong according to our U.S. Constitution's protection of our Bill of Rights.'

Our country got turned upside down and backwards by a man not even a lawyer, but regardless Louis Brandeis sat on the U.S. Supreme Court and had a sleight of hand to pen, 1933-34, for the Federal Reserve Cabal, our right to be a sovereign nation and thus, manufacture our own money was stolen and we appear unable to get this right back.

Absent this right we are where we are - an "Imperial Judicial" working for the Fed.

Justices do not get the money or we would not have gotten a failed economy in the aught years, for the sake of JUST US, common sense.

These current TRIBAL LEGAL all belong to the same clubs, sit on the same and / are the owners of, corporations that get digital "money" to keep America in bondage to the St. Peter don't you call me I can't come regime.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:03, incredible link, thank you. How adorable are the judges dressed and ready to do the ICE CUBE hunt down? Remember how much fun it is for them "on the bench" to shoot and kill, how marvelous to get to actually play the video game in real time. These sub human filth need to hunt one another down until they're ALL gone from our civilized reality!

Anonymous said...

Global Justice Clinic (GJC) at NYU School of Law

Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (IHRCRC)

Anonymous said...

Do you think Joseph Blackburn would find that site interesting?

Anonymous said...

Those filing are public record right? Roger...

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 4:54--

Prof. Blackburn certainly should be interested in that site.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 4:56--

Yes, those records should be public.

Anonymous said...

Who is the guy who shot himself in the fed court clerks office today?

legalschnauzer said...

Strange story. My understanding is that he was director of building services at the courthouse, which usually is the clean-up crew, etc. I'm checking for more details, but I believe his last name was Williams--a white male, about 50--and he shot himself in the office of the clerk, Sharon Harris.

jeffrey spruill said...

Wish I knew Mr. Schnauzer before I appeared in Chesapeake General District Court, Va. with David W.Bouchard- Friday December1,2006- so the FBI Director would show up in the unethical/criminal rag "Va. Pilot"

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson was the former editor-working three years as an editor for Norfolk's The Virginian-Pilot:

http://hamptonroads.com/node/189481

alerting criminals/authorities(Bush crime family)to the fact that Gonzales/Bush adminstration could proceed with the Thursday-December7,2006 US Attorneys firings:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dismissal_of_U.S._attorneys_controversyhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dismissal_of_U.S._attorneys_controversy

***

Sure would have given them a run wouldn't we Mr. Schnauzer?

legalschnauzer said...

Jeff:

Blogs existed in 2006, of course, but I'm not sure they were used much yet for news/analysis, etc. With the digital revolution in full bloom, citizens have many new weapons to fight back against corruption. I hope we all have given the bad guys a few things to think about.

Anonymous said...

The house was a shell when Mr. Wyatt married Bonnie. Mr.Wyatt paid to build the house. I think he should of stop paying for it when he moved or should I say when she had him removed when he got home from the hospital from back surgery. Bonnie is the one who came up with the amount of 165k to pay him and Mr Wyatt agreed to what she wanted. Why don't you talk to Bonnie's sister. She can let you know what type of a person she is.

Anonymous said...

I find it disturbing that you talked all this trash about Harold Wyatt but yet you will not post his comments. Why?

Anonymous said...

Would releasing her now be an admission that the jailing of her, the taking of her freedom and liberty, have been a wrongful act on behalf of Judge Sibley Reynolds? So to prevent such admission, the judge simply decides to keep her in jail until forced by some higher authority to release her. And undoubtedly the judge will not be fined, sanctioned, or reprimanded at all for violating a legal U.S. Citizens God-given, Constitutional and unalienable rights. Oh the American justice system - it's the greatest in the entire world!! - Chris H0bbs

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:25--

I would be happy to talk to Bonnie's sister. What is her name and contact information? She can contact me via the e-mail address that is published under my photo, down the left-hand side of the blog's front page.

legalschnauzer said...

At 10:28--

What trash have I talked about Harold Wyatt?

Anonymous said...

Sibley scheduled a hearing for December 18 at 9 a.m. in this case. Too little too late.

Anonymous said...

Her sister is Diane Chapman. She lives in Maplesville and is owner of a hair salon in Selma. The name of her salon is " It's all about me". You could also fine her on FB

Anonymous said...

If that is true the public should attend!!!!

Anonymous said...

Did he schedule a hearing because a higher authority made him? Will Ms. Collins still represent her?

Anonymous said...

The question is not, is Bonnie Wyatt a good person. There are always two sides to every story. Instead the actions of the judge and lawyers should be the core issues as it pertains to their "judicial" activities. Don't lose sight of what is important here...

Anonymous said...

If your a liberal DA and make a comment it gets posted if not it gets deleated by LS!!!!!!!!!

legalschnauzer said...

If you make defamatory, nonsensical, or unintelligible comments, they get deleted.

What, pray tell, does this issue have to do with liberalism or conservatism? That one baffles me.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Disturbing revelations here.

Anonymous said...

Hey LS here's your chance to interview Wyatt (just a hunch). LS, will you ask Anon 9:04 how long he's been in cahoots with Knox and Reynolds to take down Bonnie? Can't leave the attorneys out of this RICO suave scam! So tell us Wyatt?

Robby Scott Hill said...

At $12 a day, she will be sitting in that jail for 13,750 days or 37.67 years. If you're not already married, never get married. If you're already married, never get divorced.

Anonymous said...

Good advice Robby! And so true!

Anonymous said...

LS,will you be in court tomorrow covering this story?

legalschnauzer said...

I won't be in court, but I will have a post about it in the a.m. and will follow up on that.