Leaderboard 728 X 90

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Here Is The Real Reason That Judge Dorothea Batiste Is Under Fire From The Alabama Legal Establishment


Dorothea Batiste
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste is on trial this week in Montgomery, supposedly for making excessive use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases. But the real reason for the Batiste trial is that she threatened the revenue streams of certain Birmingham law firms, a source tells Legal Schnauzer.

How did Batiste do that? Upon taking office in early 2011, Batiste discontinued her courtroom's "special masters" program, which had become a major factor in many Jefferson County divorce cases.

What is a special master? The Online Legal Dictionary describes a special master as "a representative of the court appointed to hear a case involving difficult or specialized issues." Certain members of the domestic-relations bar in Jefferson County had come to expect special-master appointments, and our source says this work can help pad a firm's bottom line.

For one thing, lawyers are compensated for their service as special masters. But perhaps more importantly, the part-time jobs allow lawyers to cut favors for each other, in ways that can greatly affect the outcomes of cases . . . and prove lucrative for law firms.

Batiste, apparently thinking a judge actually should do the job of overseeing divorce cases, decided to ax the special masters program in her court. When that happened, certain lawyers let out squeals that apparently could be heard throughout the Alabama legal community. Among the divorce lawyers to squawk the loudest were Steve Arnold, Randy Nichols, and Wendy Brooks Crew--although they hardly were alone.

The lawyers complained about Batiste to Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell (now retired), and that is what prompted him to lead the charge against her with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC), which suspended her with pay. The AJIC complaint led to this week's trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, where Batiste faces possible removal from the bench.

A special masters program, administered correctly, serves a valid purpose, our source says--especially on a domestic-relations docket where each judge has roughly 3,000 active files. In theory, a special master should rule on preliminary matters--issues related to insurance are common in divorce cases--while allowing the judge to focus on core issues. 

But the special masters program in Jefferson County had grown out of control, with masters often ruling on core matters such as custody and child support, while cutting each other favors and issuing orders that might not square with the facts and law of a case. In some instances, our source says, masters would conduct ex parte meetings on critical issues, outside the presence of one party and its counsel.

When Batiste took office, she saw a problem and decided to fix it. In the process, she stepped on some powerful toes, and the owners of those toes went to Scott Vowell.

Why would Vowell undermine a sitting judge at the behest of whining lawyers? It appears that Vowell has some unconventional issues in his personal life--issues that have been well known for years among members of the bar, but are to be kept from public scrutiny. During his years as presiding judge, Vowell and local lawyers reached a devilish agreement--lawyers would keep Vowell's secrets and provide him with power, and Vowell would let them have pretty much anything they wanted.

This arrangement served to significantly pad the bottom lines of divorce lawyers, and if some mothers, fathers, and children suffered because of tainted rulings . . . well, that was just too bad. Scott Vowell and members of the domestic-relations bar, it seems, did not care.

What, by the way, is unconventional about Scott Vowell's personal life? We will be taking a close look at that question in upcoming posts.

As for the Batiste case, AJIC prosecutor Griffin Sikes said in his opening statement on Monday, "This case is about due process of law."

In fact, the case is about lawyer fees, and it has nothing to do with due process, our source says. Did Dorothea Batiste go overboard on some of her contempt findings? Perhaps, but that's not the reason she is in trouble. Scott Vowell definitely knows it, presiding judge J. Michael Joiner almost certainly knows it, and Griffin Sikes probably knows it.

How bad is Jefferson County domestic-relations court? Our source puts it in perspective:

"It's like a doctor using his knowledge to kill people rather than to cure. What goes on in that court is contrary to everything you are taught in law school. You have lawyers using their knowledge of the law to harm people, even children." 

The Batiste trial is expected to continue through today.

37 comments:

Robby Scott Hill said...

Reported Attack Page!

This web page at www.crewandhowell.com has been reported as an attack page and has been blocked based on your security preferences.

Attack pages try to install programs that steal private information, use your computer to attack others, or damage your system. Some attack pages intentionally distribute harmful software, but many are compromised without the knowledge or permission of their owners.

Report by McAfee

Robby Scott Hill said...

Court of the Judiciary is not the appropriate remedy for any mistakes Judge Batiste may have made. I don't see a longstanding pattern & practice of intent to deprive folks of their liberty without due process. In fact, the lawyers were the ones who called for contempt of court. Call the lawyers who practice in front of Judge Batiste in front of the Alabama State Bar to answer for their dubious contempt motions & compensate anyone detained without due process. This is a witch hunt to protect a revenue stream. Montgomery County also employs this special master system. It's all about that Dollar Bill.

Anonymous said...

I and my children were unfortunate victims of Steve Arnold and the Shelby county court system. During my divorce we were often with masters of the court universe. I considered it invasive, unusual and inappropriate, remembering one meeting in particular with Doug keys. This practice of allowing attorneys decide anything in a divorce seems to be a new way to scramble justice at a price, southern style.

legalschnauzer said...

Rob:

I got the malware notice at Crew & Howell, too. That's why I didn't link to their Web site. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the lawyers were running the divorce show, and they took exception to a judge stepping in and taking over, doing what she is supposed to do.

Anonymous said...

From al.com about attorneys' role in seeking contempt:

Batiste and her attorneys have repeatedly said throughout questioning that attorneys in the divorce cases are the ones who file the motions to hold someone in contempt for failing to do something. Also, it is not a judge's responsibility to make sure the notices are mailed or served personally, the attorneys argue.

Sandra said...

Chances of a white, male judge being treated this way? Zero.

Want proof? Just look at Sibley Reynolds in Chilton County.

Anonymous said...

Hey, LS, your old buddy Robert Vance Jr. is involved in this. From al.com.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance also testified today about ordering, on July 23, 2012 the release from jail of Curtis Austin - of one of the people Batiste had jailed on contempt charges. Austin had testified Monday he had been jailed for 12 days without bail and without an opportunity first to fight the contempt charge.

The case file did not indicate Austin had been notified of the pending contempt charge and he ordered Austin released, Vance said.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:18--

Lots of my "buddies" are involved in this. Former Shelby County Circuit Judge Mike Joiner is presiding over the case. Judges do not come any more corrupt than Joiner:

http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2011/02/bentley-appoints-corrupt-judge-to.html

Anonymous said...

Guardian ad litems are another racket. Family courts are setup in this state to drain as much money from the parties as possible. Of course the families, especially the children, suffer because of this SOP but the attorneys enjoy all the benefits of their vile practice. Just my experience.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please! Do a follow-up tomorrow on this situation. I'll try to get some info today about this persecution.

legalschnauzer said...

I've heard tons of horror stories about GALs. "Guardian ad litem" must be Latin for con artist. I've yet to see how they serve any useful purpose, other than to help transfer money from regular citizens to the legal tribe.

Anonymous said...

@9:06
I thought the attorneys always run the show:
http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/07/alabama_gop_committee_to_consi.html

There is a price to pay if you don't go along to get along...

Anonymous said...

Steve Arnold and Rick Fernambucq are two of the biggest thugs to ever walk the earth. You can bet Fernambucq was in the middle of attacks on Judge Batiste.

Kristina Nolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
legalschnauzer said...

Kristina:

Thanks for sharing. Who were some of the key players in your case--judge, attorneys, GAL, etc.?

Anonymous said...

Jefferson County Judge Eddie Vines allows abuse against women and children! He put everything in a GAL's hands . The GAL saw my kids TWO times in TWO years!! Judge Vines has allowed the suffering of my children FOR NO REASON! No air, no heat, kicked in doors, loss of our home, abuse on the kids, YEP Judge Eddie Vines let this happen!!! Watch for my blog and my outright fight against this soon because I will NOT stay silent. NOT SO SWEET HOME ALABAMA~ A MOM'S WAR

Kristina Nolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Enquiring minds want to know more:

"Why would Vowell undermine a sitting judge at the behest of whining lawyers? It appears that Vowell has some unconventional issues in his personal life--issues that have been well known for years among members of the bar, but are to be kept from public scrutiny. During his years as presiding judge, Vowell and local lawyers reached a devilish agreement--lawyers would keep Vowell's secrets and provide him with power, and Vowell would let them have pretty much anything they wanted."

Anonymous said...

Each divorce judge has 3,000 active files? Good God and Sweet Jesus in heaven! So much for the sanctity of marriage. Why do the gays want any part of this?

Anonymous said...

Scott Vowell has an "unconventional personal life"? Do tell, please tell.

legalschnauzer said...

Will tell . . . soon.

Anonymous said...

Scott Vowell is married to a lesbian. That's unconventional.

Anonymous said...

Roger-I appreciate what you are trying to do but you need to get your facts straight. Special masters are not paid. Further, regardless of anything else the judge does have a responsibility to check to see if service has occurred before she throws someone in jail. Your serious accusations lose credibility when you say things that are factually incorrect.

legalschnauzer said...

I will conduct additional research on the issue of special master compensation. If a correction needs to be made, I will make it. Regarding service on contempt charges, that is not an "accusation" from me; that came straight from reporting at al.com.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most powerful quotes I've read in a long time:

"It's like a doctor using his knowledge to kill people rather than to cure. What goes on in that court is contrary to everything you are taught in law school. You have lawyers using their knowledge of the law to harm people, even children."

Anonymous said...

@ 1227
I thought it was a profound quote as well. The legal tribe destroy families every day... every single day.

Anonymous said...

There should be a distinction made between " Special Master" and "Daily Master." Daily masters are not paid. They are lawyers who volunteer to help clear a judge's docket of routine matters, due to the high volume of cases. Lawyers who volunteer to be a daily master typically do it about once a year, for the full day.

Special masters are indeed paid, and usually paid well. Often they are chosen by the lawyers in a case, similar to hiring a mediator or arbitrator, and I believe their decision on a case is most always signed off on by the judge.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 1:02--

Thank you for the clarification. My research indicates special masters definitely are paid. Perhaps the commenter from 11:10 yesterday was confused about a daily and a special master. Sounds like there is a big difference between the two.

Anonymous said...

Four years ago my husband and I were having problems. I contacted Batiste to discuss a possible divorce. What happened next as she pushed and pushed and tried to put words in my mouth and make everything sound a hundred times worse than it was, frightened me. I felt trapped. Long story short, I had to get the attorney my husband was using to get her to leave me alone. I had nightmares. Still do.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 8:43--

What was the style and case number on your divorce matter?

Anonymous said...

Judge Vowell is innocent. The complaints against Judge Batiste were brought to him by the people who were illegally jailed without due process. Judge Vowell had an obligation under the rules all judges and lawyers have to abide by to report those complaints to the judicial inquiry commission. By the way, special masters are paid by the parties in a divorce action. Daily masters volunteer their services. They are not paid, and they only hear motions. They do NOT try cases. The Judge can disregard the daily master's report, (or decision). It is clear that Judge Batiste did not have sufficient knowledge of the law to handle the cases before her and that finally got her in trouble. She will be back on the bench after her 90-day suspension. I hope her second trip to judge's school helps.

Anonymous said...

I will still never understand why Jefferson County Courts did nothing to help these people. She had no regard for anyone that had been hurt women or children. When you take a case like she did mine and rule for the man who had two affairs, was hiding money, not reporting the correct amount of income to the IRS I believe something went down before her and it was ruling for the large lawfirm. Pretty sad when this judge was not even qualified enough that now they are sending her to classes. Don't let her back on the bench. Black or not,
Color has absolutely nothing to do with this. She absolutely is not
qualified. I warn everyone not to enter Jefferson County Courts because they don't give a damn.

Anonymous said...

When will she be able to go back to the bench?

legalschnauzer said...

My understanding is that the three-month suspension will be up in November.

Anonymous said...

I had a 16 year nightmare in Judge Gary Pate's "courtroom". I would love to know how may other women he has felt his wrath?

Anonymous said...

Doug Key is a candy ass. He tried to intimidate me when I was a college kid and we annihilated his fat Jabba the hut looking ass. If it makes you feel any better.