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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Luther Strange Embarks On a Wild Shopping Binge In Search Of Friendly Judges For Gambling Cases

Judge Thomas Young
(Updated at 1:40 p.m. CST on 3/19/13. See update at end of post.)

You might think that Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer would be above judge shopping. But you would be wrong.

In fact, events leading up to two gambling-related hearings this week indicate Attorney General Luther Strange is an ardent judge shopper. And that should cause reasonable citizens to question the quality of arguments Strange plans to present before the courts.

What evidence suggests that "Big Luther" is practicing the low art of judge shopping? As Exhibit A, consider a hearing that is scheduled today before Macon County Circuit Judge Thomas Young. The hearing originally was set on VictoryLand's motion that its property is due to be returned after Strange's office seized electronic-bingo machines, money, and other items in a February 19 raid. But Strange filed a motion for Judge Young to recuse himself, and today's hearing now is expected to focus only on that issue

As Exhibit B, let's consider a hearing that is scheduled for Thursday before Houston County Circuit Judge Mike Conaway. Officials with Center Stage Alabama are seeking the return of 600 electronic gaming devices and $283,000, which were seized in a raid last July. In that matter, Strange has steadfastly opposed the recusal of Judge Conaway.

Why does the attorney general want a judge in Macon County to step down from a gambling case, while he wants a judge in Houston County to stay put? Well, it appears "Big Luther" is a pretty unprincipled guy. Actually, he does seem to have one principle, and it goes something like this: "I want cases to be heard only by judges who rule in my favor. All other judges must be removed because of 'bias.'"

What is Luther Strange really up to with all the drama of gambling raids? The folks at Dothan-based Rickey Stokes News recently summed it up pretty well, in our view:

While the Attorney General says the operation [at Center Stage] is illegal, he has yet to file any criminal charges in the case. However, he is working for a civil forfeiture of the machines and the equipment. This is a way to circumvent his having to prove the legality of the machines. We have to only take the politician's words because he can't put up or shut up in a criminal proceeding.

With the AG facing shaky facts and law, perhaps that's why he is focused heavily on the pursuit of friendly judges. What is the law on recusal of a judge? Well, it's filled with all sorts of high-minded language that sounds good in theory. But the reality often is muddled and subjective. The basics can be found in a case styled Matter of Sheffield, 465 So. 2d 350 (Ala. Sup. Ct, 1984):

Recusal is required . . . when "facts are shown which make it reasonable for members of the public or a party, or counsel opposed to question the impartiality of the judge. . . ." Specifically, the . . . recusal test is: "Would a person of ordinary prudence in the judge's position knowing all of the facts known to the judge find that there is a reasonable basis for questioning the judge's impartiality?"

Alabama courts also have held that "recusal is not required by a mere accusation of bias unsupported by substantial fact." Crowell v. May, 676 So. 2d 941 (Ala. Civ. App., 1996).

Published reports indicate that Strange's recusal motion in Macon County is based almost entirely on the fact that Judge Young ruled against him on an application for a search warrant at VictoryLand. But we've seen no evidence that Young's ruling was contrary to fact or law--or that it was driven by bias. In fact, it was a discretionary ruling, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with Young's finding. The raid took place only after the Alabama Supreme Court granted Strange's writ of mandamus, forcing Young to approve the search warrant.

(For what it's worth, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board also agreed with Young. It granted VictoryLand a liquor license, stating that it could not find the facility was engaging in illegal activity.)

Evidence of bias on Judge Young's part--supported by substantial fact--might be presented at today's hearing or at some point in the future. But for now, it's hard to see any lawful grounds for him to step down from the VictoryLand case.

As for the matter in Houston County, it presents some troubling facts regarding recusal. Judge Conaway was appointed to the bench by former Governor Bob Riley, who spent much of his last two years in office launching a crusade against non-Indian gaming at facilities such as Center Stage. During the appointment process, former Riley adviser Sonny Reagan interviewed Conaway; Reagan now works for the attorney general's office and serves as chief prosecutor on the Center Stage case.

To summarize: Substantial evidence suggests Judge Conaway owes his spot on the bench to Sonny Reagan--and Mr. Reagan now is arguing against Center Stage before Judge Conaway. Do attorneys for Center Stage have the kind of "substantial fact" that goes beyond a "mere accusation of bias"? If they don't, it's hard to imagine a party in Alabama who would.

Despite that, the Alabama Supreme Court has found that Conaway can stay on the Center Stage case. With that as a backdrop, it seems Strange has no grounds for Judge Young's recusal in Macon County.

But as we noted earlier, Strange is an unprincipled guy, and he's trying to get Young off the case anyway. We should know pretty soon if the attorney general is successful. If he is, we will know just how far the rule of law has sunk in this state.

(Update at 1:45 p.m. CST on 3/19/13)

Macon County Judge Thomas Young this morning denied Attorney General Luther Strange's request to recuse himself from the VictoryLand seizure case. Here is a report from al.com:

Macon County Judge Tom Young Turns Down AG's Request . . . 


Anonymous said...

Luther was thoroughly debriefed yesterday by Head Aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison, resulting in a point of discovery. Unfortunately, again there was no hard evidence in this case. When examining evidence in child pornography cases, however, Luther immediately produced hard evidence that will stand up in court.

Anonymous said...

It seems clear that Luther can't win these cases on the merits. Maybe that's why judge shopping is his best bet.

Anonymous said...

Can we assume, if Judge Young refuses to step down, that Luther will take it to the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus?

legalschnauzer said...

I think that's exactly what will happen, unless Young has been "persuaded" that he should step down today.

Anonymous said...

Thank God someone filled us in on what Head Aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison is up to. I've been wondering about that. You never know when she might debrief Luther on an important topic.

Anonymous said...

Here is simple math in Luther's world:

Judge Rules Against Me = Judge Is Biased

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the law say that a judge is presumed to be unbiased, that bias must be proven?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:27--

You know your law; that is exactly what it says. The theory is this: A judge has taken an oath to decide cases in an impartial manner, so it is assumed he will follow that oath, unless facts are submitted that show the appearance of bias.

Those of us who have been before judges know that theory is a joke. The bench is filled with wildly biased and corrupt judges; I've personally encountered a bunch of them. Evidence that a judge has repeatedly violated clear legal precedent can be grounds for recusal, although the preference is to have those matters challenged on appeal. I've experienced that whole charade multiple times, in state and federal court.

The key with Young is that he made a discretionary ruling that has support within the facts and law. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with him. I see no way that bias can be shown via his rulings, and I'm not aware of any personal bias that can be shown.

jeffrey spruill said...

"I want cases to be heard only by judges who rule in my favor. All other judges must be removed because of 'bias.'"


Wouldn't you like having Judge William M. Acker Jr. removed & replaced by one more to your liking?

legalschnauzer said...


Yes, I would like to have Judge Acker removed, but it's not so much a matter of having a judge to my liking. I have a strong case, so I don't need a judge "to my liking." I just need one who will administer justice and follow precedent.

I would like to have a judge who doesn't state in open court that he is going to cheat me--Acker did that. I would like to have a judge who actually follows simple procedure--Acker didn't.

In other words, I would like a judge who follows the law--and I would like that sort of judge for every American; we are guaranteed that under the Constitution.

The record in my case shows actual bias on Acker's part, both in his rulings and in his personal statements from the bench. Nothing like that exists, that we've seen so far, with Judge Young in the Luther Strange scenario.

If such bias does surface, I want Judge Young off Luther's case, just as I would in any case.

Anonymous said...

LS, you are obviously well educated and also have taken the time to be the best citizen the U.S. could hope to imagine.

What is the further truth of the above-paragraph?

There is no due process law, no spirit, letter or rule either.

This is C 21 Globalized U.S.

America was a dream and it got aborted via the Global War On Terror ramped up for the New World Order, JeffreyS, knows!

Thus, I would begin petitions there in the south, lots and lots until there are no more of the "SUPER TECHNOMANIACS.

Maniacal. The "Leaders of the Free World are Maniacs."

Technology has given these mentally, criminally insane, "Technocrats" the ideology which we can witness in the STRANGEST of sub-human behavior.

When our Constitutional Republic has good law and there are "Judges" who and whom have been "hired by the people?" and/ or appointed via the Super Technomaniacs, to do other than honor the due process law, then we must take action.

Petitions do work.

Keep the beacon shining Roger Shuler, cockroaches slither into the darkness -- and, maybe, Rollins Pest Control can do the right job, after all.

"Digital Dust Money" is the Technomanics' ignorance. Digital FRAUD for the dissolution of the greatest potential 'country' in earth is not intelligent by any stretch of an imagination or for that matter millions of imaginations!

We can and must do better, surely we can.

Anonymous said...

Luther Strange and hisHead Aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison are just two lawyers in love. However, her constant pesonal interacting with Big Luther gives new meaning to the term de-briefing.

Q. 1 - Does he wear boxers or briefs?
Q. 2 - Can someone who is not a party to a relationship go to the Mont. C. Circuit Clerk's office and file a compliant against
big Luther for committing adultery?

Molli said...

Was at Macon County trial. Young did not recuse himself. Attorney Spencer for a Victoryland entity spoke of the issues of the AG judge shopping in Houston, Greene and Lowndes counties. Her arguments were many, concise and applied law to each fact. Imagine that...applying the law? Luther Strange is simply a lobbyist and now lobbies for Bob Riley under the ruse title of AG.

legalschnauzer said...


Thanks for the update. And I think you nailed it about Luther Strange--he is a lobbyist and not really a lawyer and certainly not an attorney general.

Anonymous said...

Although I am not much of a gambler I would have bet the farm that Strange would not show for this hearing or any other where he would be torn to shreds by the likes of Espy and Co. I was right! He sent his Riley suck-buddy Sonny Reagan.

legalschnauzer said...

Luther seems to be pretty consistent about this. He doesn't show at official proceedings, he doesn't respond to press inquiries.

DTrain said...

Many props for Judge Young. The man has a spine.

Anonymous said...

Petition to remove AG Strange.

Petition to honor his honor who has honored the due process rule of law.

We have to do something as an American community with the same "spine" as Judge Young.

Petitions are the best way to have a filing, after-a-fashion.

Excellent outcome for Judge Young.


AG is a Techno-maniacal-Technocrat. The poor mindless zombie does whatever the salivation of digital fraud says.

Our America is very insane.

jeffrey spruill said...

Mr.Shuler,you,in representing yourself,demonstrated to me that you are more cognizant of and aware of the Rules of Civil Procedure and some of the statutory causes of action you present or attempt to present than some of the lawyers that come in here, and that may be occasioned by the fact that you're a frequent filer.


I think Judge William M. Acker Jr. was just pissed off at all the money that he & other lawyers wasted on law school.

Anonymous said...

Luther buys his strange undies at one of the porn stores.

His head aide assists.

While he eats his panties off, sharing of course, he proves his double-jointed head aide and he, acrobat the internal fire religiously.

legalschnauzer said...


That's a good line about Acker. And it might be part of the reason he was pissed.

Mainly, though, I think he was pissed that I wouldn't hire a lawyer that he and his puppet masters could use to "manage" me. They wanted me to spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a lawyer and probably get nothing for it. The lawyer would not have conducted any discovery, at Acker's insistence, and I likely wouldn't have even gotten my job back, much less any damages.

That's the game they wanted me to play, and Acker screwed me because I wouldn't play it.

Actually, I'm not sure Acker cares enough about anything to get pissed. The old fart has been so corrupt for so long that he probably gets mildly irritated when anyone comes along and sees through what the "justice system" is doing.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 2:18--

You might have a future in high-class porn. Your work has a comical touch, with just enough weirdness to attract a big-time audience. If you make it big, please remember that you got your start here--and send a few residuals the Schnauzer's way.

Maybe we could combine on a joint venture, examining the intersection of the law and porn. We could call it "Legal Schnauzer Meets Porn Pomeranian."

Anonymous said...

I like it. Porn Pomeranian. I was owned by a Pom, once. She was the most remarkable dog. Went everywhere with me, her name was "Josie," after the song by Donovan.

She never did fail me either.

Ok, Legal Schnauzer meets the Porn Pom that has the graces to be as good as the Pomeranian and dance, spin, whirl AND, I bet Strange and his Head Aide would be jealous.

Luther went to find his Head Aide it's said, when lo-behold, she was there all along, in-between his you know what-where, "down there," taking inventory. It's her J-O-B she forgot not to mix her money and her honey. Now the stinger can't be removed cause it's just too moot about the loot, and fiction isn't unacceptable once practiced, ask Mr. Mencken.

What do you think about our first go at this?


legalschnauzer said...

Pretty stout, I likey. Heck, you might take us viral, and I will have to hire a staff of 20-somethings to handle the social-media crunch.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that Porn Pom might draw quite an audience. The writing is funny, yet oblique, with funky cultural references--kind of like Bernie Taupin's lyrics in some of the early Elton John classics.

Speaking of Elton John, what the heck happened with his show in Bham the other night. Dude just skipped town? We aren't good enough for him? And he can't be bothered to reschedule?

Our city has been so supportive of gays and other minorities over the years . . . you'd think the guy would cut us some slack.

Anonymous said...

PP here.

Also known as so many other adorables, fur poofs are like that, love to be called lots of names, aka Porn Pom Pomeranian Poo Poo adorable, squeezable ever so lightly, silent never ending big loves.

Speaking of, Elton, been listening to him lately, his earliest "Daniel," 1976. Wow.

He a no show there. Damn the poof.

PP has spoken.

Thank you for the confidence in Porn Pomeranian, you named the queen of malapropism, quite perfect indeed.

Looking forward to the new career, roll over JP Barnum, and Beethoven maestro our show, we go on, Porn-Po-mer-an-i-a-n attacking the injustice with Legal Schnauzer in the cosmic giggle arena.

Lots of barks closing here.

Anonymous said...

Would it be fair to say that the rule of law still exists in this state and that those (neocons) who have for so long tried to do away with it are being sent a message here? Wishful thinking?