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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bonnie Wyatt's Attorney Appears To Have a Conflict As Judge Prepares To Rule On Incarceration

Bonnie Wyatt

A judge is scheduled today to hear arguments about the incarceration of an Alabama woman who has been in the Chilton County Jail since July 26 because of a property-related debt connected to her divorce case.

Bonnie Cahalane (Knox) Wyatt, at least in theory, could be freed in time for the Christmas holidays. But a review of court records raises serious doubts about whether Wyatt is receiving vigorous legal representation in the case.

Angie Avery Collins, Wyatt's Clanton-based attorney, filed a Motion to Reconsider Incarceration on December 6--and it is due to be heard, along with a number of other cases, on a motion docket beginning at 9 a.m. today at the Chilton County Courthouse. Collins' motion, however, might be described as "watered down" (at best) and "ineffectual" (at worst).

To muddy the waters even further, Collins is engaged in her own divorce, in the same circuit court. Might she be tempted to go soft on Bonnie Wyatt's defense in order to gain favor for her own divorce battle? Does that represent a conflict of interest that threatens Bonnie Wyatt's fundamental rights to due process?

A reasonable person could conclude that the answer to both questions is yes, especially after reading the motion that Angie Collins prepared in advance of today's hearing. It calls for Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds to reconsider his decision to issue an arrest warrant for Bonnie Wyatt. But it includes no mention of clear-cut Alabama law--best stated in Dolberry v. Dolberry, 920 So. 2d 573 (Ala. Civ. App, 2005)--that makes it unlawful for a judge to subject a party to contempt and incarceration because of a property-related debt from the dissolution of a marriage.

Collins' motion includes no citations to law. Her primary argument is that Wyatt would be better able to secure the funds to pay her alleged debt if she was freed from jail. The motion also states that Wyatt's "health is failing due to cancer." We've seen at least one other court document that states Wyatt has been battling cancer, but we have not been able to confirm that with sources close to her family.

We have, however, established that Reynolds violated black-letter Alabama law by ordering Wyatt's incarceration. If it turns out that she is a cancer patient, her jailing becomes not only unlawful, but inhumane.

Collins, in her motion, seems to perform all sorts of contortions to avoid stating the obvious--that Judge Sibley Reynolds violated his oath to uphold the law when he order Bonnie Wyatt's arrest. The facts are these: Alabama law says Bonnie Wyatt never should have been jailed in the first place, and any demand for her release has nothing to do with her health status or her ability to pay an alleged debt to her former husband for his equity stake in the marital home.

Based on her motion, Angie Collins seems more interested in not offending Sibley Reynolds, a demonstrably corrupt judge, than she is in achieving justice for her client. Why might that be?

Well, Collins is in the midst of her own divorce case, which also is being heard in the 19th Judicial Circuit (covering Chilton, Elmore, and Autauga counties). Angie Collins filed for divorce from James Thomas Collins on September 11, 2012. The case originally was assigned to--guess who--Sibley Reynolds. It then was assigned to Ben Fuller, another judge in the 19th Circuit. When James Collins moved that all judges in the circuit recuse themselves--citing the fact that Angie Collins regularly practices before all of them--the case was assigned to District Judge George N. Sims, of Talladega County.

Collins v. Collins apparently could involve some fireworks. Angie Collins' divorce complaint cites the usual language found in such documents--the parties have grown "incompatible," the marital bonds are "irretrievably broken," etc.

But James Collins' counterclaim hints at something deeper. The document states: "Because of the course of conduct by the Plaintiff [Angie Collins], there has grown between them an incompatibility of temperament."

It goes on to state that "the bonds of trust have been severed."

What does that mean? Perhaps we will find out soon. But it seems safe to say that Angie Collins' attention is not fully on Bonnie Wyatt--a client who has serious legal needs of her own.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the U.S. Constitution the language is clear, Bonnie Wyatt should have been able to represent herself.

Her case in point proves why our "law" provides protection for We The People to NOT "attorn" our rights' over to those that are licensed at a B.A.R.

British Accredited Registry is NOT in the Bill of Rights,' and this is NOT by accident.

Bonnie Wyatt's "attorney" who she gave her right to speak directly to the judge over to, rather than file the proper paperwork to demand her right to liberty, is clearly under the B.A.R. tongs and hammer.

Anonymous said...

Talladega, huh? Isn't that where the elite go to get their quickie divorces? Isn't that where Liberty Duke obtained her divorce?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 8:39--

Yes, Talladega is known for its quickie divorces, and I'm not quite sure why that is. My understanding is that you can live in another Alabama county but still get your divorce in Talladega, which is an odd bit of jurisdictional hocus pocus. A Talladega divorce, I'm told, not only is quick, but it is likely to keep sensitive information away from the prying eyes in your home county. Perhaps others knows more about the history and procedure of Talladega divorces.

Barb said...

I hope Bonnie Wyatt gets good news today. Thanks for staying on top of this story, LS.

Anonymous said...

Is this just a way to make it look like Ms. Wyatt's attorney actually is doing something?

TLR said...

Why would the lawyer not cite the relevant law that shows this incarceration was bogus? That's either awfully weak or awfully suspicious. Ms. Wyatt's lawyer seems to be suggesting this has some basis in law, even though it doesn't.

legalschnauzer said...

TLR:

I share your concerns about that. Angie Collins appears to be sucking up to the judge. The whole point of filing a motion is to argue the relevant law, but she didn't do that. It's as if she didn't want to hurt the judge's feelings by pointing out the obvious--that he acted outside the law.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Collins is playing courtroom softball. Sometimes that's the best way to deal with a judge who is a bully. Sometimes it's a sign that a lawyer is just giving in.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't like Ms. Wyatt's chances of getting a positive result today. This sounds like a show trial.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:57--

I hope you are wrong, too. But I share your concerns. It's possible she won't get any result today. I believe this is part of what I call a "cattle call," a motion docket with a bunch of cases being heard. You will hear a lot of mooing coming from the Chilton County Courthouse today. Reynolds might "take it under advisement" and issue a ruling later.

Anonymous said...

Is it a coincidence that the judge waited until one week before Christmas to give Ms. Wyatt a court date? Perhaps putting some excess pressure on her?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:10--

That thought had crossed my mind, too. You might be onto something there. It could be part of trying to get Bonnie W to sign some sort of bad deal.

Anonymous said...

Is Sibley and the associated lawyers unaware that people are following this case??? Or is it that they just don't care?

@955; going along to get along... A tried and true tactic used by many lawyers. Why piss off the judge when you have to "practice" in from of him for 10-20 years??? Look clients come and go, but your career is yours to keep...

Anonymous said...

I hear Ms. Wyatt already has been offered one bad deal while in jail. How could any agreement, made under such duress, hold up under the law?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:26--

It wouldn't hold up in a real court, but we are talking about Chilton County, AL here.

Yes, I understand Bonnie W has been offered a deal that essentially would leave her penniless and homeless. Can't imagine why she didn't jump on that deal.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it. All Chilton county attorneys are guilty of this.

Anonymous said...

The language in the husband's counterclaim makes it sound like Angie Collins has engaged in hanky panky outside the marriage, or at least he thinks she has.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:43--

In other words, lawyers in the county pledge their loyalty to certain judges, not to the law.

How did our system get so badly off the track? It's a train wreck.

Anonymous said...

The question is what can be done to change the corrupt county?

Anonymous said...

Train wreck yes! From the looks of how our courts are being run, we are in the process of being weened off of our system of law and our constitution. Some judges just no longer seem to respect either nor the oath they swore to uphold. What's more so interesting and has been referenced by a commenter here in previous weeks is the timing of the US attorney firings and the cases those attornys were in the process of prosecuting. Very telling! What's so disturbing is the weakness and conformity to evil that those who swore to uphold our constitution have so obviously CHOSEN!!!!

Anonymous said...

Off subject, well sort of. Just heard Victoryland was opening at 2pm. Something appears to be going down.

Anonymous said...

Talladega County is where a number of non-adversarial divorces are filed. Attorneys did this because they were assured that whatever they put in the divorce decrees would be signed by the judge without a hearing. A former Birmingham lawyer, Lee Borden, only did uncontested divorces. All of his cases were filed in Talladega County. I'm not sure if this practice started before Judge Fannin was on the bench, but he was the one who signed these orders for a number of years. I have been told that this practice started so that the county because wanted the revenue from the filing fees.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 12:37--

Thanks for sharing. That's a surprise.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 12:41--

Thanks for your insights. Was a law passed at some point to get around the jurisdictional hurdle? If my wife and I live in Shelby County, we can't get a divorce in Walker County, right? Some exception was made for Talladega County?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the option of a Talladega divorce sometimes can be used as a threat against the opposing party. If the party, perhaps one guilty of misconduct, doesn't agree to a quickie in Talladega, then the gloves come off and the beans get spilled in the home county.

Anonymous said...

What is victory land?

Anonymous said...

Have you heard if Ms. Wyatt was released?

legalschnauzer said...

You must be from out of state. It's the dog track/casino/hotel complex in Macon County, near Montgomery. Various right-wing politicians have been trying to shut it down. Now they are trying to keep it from reopening. The big issue is electronic bingo. The county passed an amendment allowing bingo, and V'land says its machines are legal. Certain politicians, who have taken money from rival Indian casinos, say the machines are illegal slot machines.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 1:03--

No, I haven't heard any news about a ruling. It's possible a ruling won't come today. It's common for judges to conduct a hearing and issue a written ruling later. The parties, however, might have an idea of which way he is leaning. I hope to hear something before too long, but if it's like some of the "cattle call" motion dockets I've witnessed, it could take a while.

Anonymous said...

I thought that anon who said days a ago that Reynolds called a hearing for Wyatt, said it would be on the 19th?

Anonymous said...

It would be surprising if Wyatt hearing is during a "cattle call" although she is a "W" so would be one of last cases.

Anonymous said...

Based on my experience docket call is a place where lawyers swap jokes, catch up on the past weekend's events and explain how they *vigorously* represented their clients. Oh they also inform the judge whether the parties have or have not reached an agreement. If not then they request a trial (or other money making mechanism). It's unlikely that ms Wyatt had a hearing today. If she did it would most likely be very short in duration. I would think that short duration hearing would not be in ms Wyatt benefit in this judge's courtroom. However the case law is apparently clear so a 5 minute hearing granting ms Wyatt motion would seem the proper course of action...

David in S. Alabama said...

Not long after Ari Onassis married Jackie Kennedy, Ari's daughter flew into Mobile one morning and picked uup and taken to the Admiral Semmes Hotel where she checked in making her a legal resident of Mobile. A local divorce lawyer showed up and she signed a divorce petition. She flew out that afternoon. A Circuit judge signed an order granting divorce a few days later when her husband failed to appear in court. The Mobile paper noted that tehere was no record showing that he had ever been in the US. The odd part of this story is that at that time Geneva County was the divorce capital of Alabama