|Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse|
How can I say with certainty that federal justice officials are trying to cheat my wife in a case styled Carol Shuler v. Infinity Property & Casualty et al (2:11-cv-03443-TMP)? A review of the court docket, and official actions in the case, can lead to no other conclusion--at least none that come to my mind. All of this indicates my wife has an extremely strong case, and powerful interests in the Alabama legal and insurance communities are making underhanded efforts to deprive her of any shot at justice.
Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) is representing herself, acting pro se, and that means she must rely on the U.S. mail to receive documents from the court; only members of the bar are allowed to file and receive documents electronically. She failed to receive several key documents last December and filed a motion, notifying the court that she had not been served and asking for a time extension to file objections. Putnam granted the motion but stated at a hearing, and in an order, that it was her responsibility to ensure she received mail--and hinted that he might dismiss her case if she missed deadlines due to mail issues in the future.
We suspected then that someone intentionally was failing to mail documents to MS. Subsequent events leave no doubt that our suspicions were on target.
How do we know? The scheme started to become clear to us when U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon, on March 29, filed an order and memorandum opinion regarding the magistrate's recommendations in the case to that point. Kallon had presided over the related case under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which MS alleges led to her unlawful termination at Infinity. Kallon's actions in the earlier case disqualify him from hearing the current case, so MS filed a motion to recuse on April 5. (The motion can be viewed at the end of this post.)
The key point in the recusal motion is summarized in item No. 5:
5. Judge Kallon already has demonstrated prejudice against Shuler requiring his recusal, per 28 U.S.C. 455, Section b (1). In addition, Kallon presided over another lawsuit, Roger and Carol Shuler v. Ingram & Associates, et al (Civil Action 2:08-cv-1238-AKK), which is central to the current proceeding. Under 28 U.S.C. 455, Section b (1), it states that a judge shall disqualify himself in circumstances where “he has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding.”
When MS filed the document at the Hugo Black Courthouse--as a pro se litigant, she must file documents in person, the old-fashioned way--she checked the docket report for the case and noticed a number of peculiarities. (Pertinent segments of the April 5 docket report can be viewed at the end of this post.)
Most peculiar was this: Four days earlier, on April 1 (April Fool's Day), an order had been entered setting a scheduling conference before Putnam at 10 a.m. on April 10. This was news to us because we had not received notice of the conference via U.S. mail.
Here's what I said to my wife upon learning of that docket entry on April 5: "They've had four days to notify you about the April 10 conference, and they haven't done it. They have five more days to notify you, and I bet they won't do it. In fact, I bet they have no intention of notifying you. Given Putnam's warning, they probably are counting on you not to show up, so he can dismiss your case."
MS agreed, and she vowed to be there on April 10 to see what would happen. "Here's what I think will happen," I told her. "You will catch them off guard, and they will have to come up with some sort of excuse about why you weren't notified by mail. They also will have to come up with some excuse for postponing or canceling the conference because they probably have no intention of having one."
My predictions don't often come true, but this one was pretty much on the mark. We arrived at 9:55 a.m. on April 10 to find an empty courtroom. A security guard stuck his head in the door and said, "I heard this session has been canceled."
"We didn't receive notice that it's been canceled," my wife said. "We didn't receive notice about it at all."
A few moments later, a young man entered the courtroom and identified himself as David Waters, Judge Putnam's law clerk. A couple of other guys entered at about the same time and stood facing us, with their backs to the bench. It was as if they expected us to somehow try to steal the judge's roost.
"Judge Putnam isn't here today," Waters said.
"He isn't here?" we said, more or less in unison. "He scheduled this."
"Well, I'm sorry," Waters said. "But he isn't here. It's been rescheduled."
We noted that we had driven roughly 30 miles round-trip for this conference and didn't appreciate showing up to be told it's been postponed. We also noted that we had received no formal notice about the conference and only knew of it from checking the docket on a public computer. We asked why my wife had repeatedly failed to receive court documents in the mail. Waters got a sheepish look on his face and offered no answer.
"You know this case is damned important to us," I said, "Everyone in this courthouse seems to treat it like a joke. We've had cases before Judge Acker and Judge Kallon that have been treated like jokes."
At this point, one of the two other fellows stepped forward and informed me I shouldn't curse Mr. Waters.
"Who are you?" I said.
"I'm with the U.S. Marshals Service."
"Why are you here?"
"I'm here for another proceeding."
"Well, Mr. Waters is Judge Putnam's clerk, and we need to ask him some questions about what happened to this conference. And I didn't curse him. I used a word to emphasize how important this matter is to us."
With that, Waters gave us the new date for the hearing and we started out the door. I stuck my head back in to make one more point to the man from the marshals service. "You're here because you knew this was a scam, and you knew we probably were going to be angry about what's being done."
The guy didn't reply, and we left.
Previously in the series:
We Catch Federal Court Employees In A Con Game On My Wife's Lawsuit Against Infinity Insurance (April 11, 2013)
Does The Federal Justice System Deserve Our Trust, In Boston, Birmingham, Or Anywhere In Between? (April 16, 2013)