This is Carol, Roger's wife. Today marks two months that Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler has been housed in the Shelby County Jail because of a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley seeking removal of certain posts related to lobbyist Liberty Duke.
Shuler points to the case as one of the worst first amendment abuses in modern American history. "As Americans celebrate Christmas, I hope they will take a moment to realize their constitutional protections are rotting out from underneath them," Shuler said. "The prior restraint doctrine that grows from the first amendment and is supposed to protect my reporting in this case dates to 1780, and that predates the Lewis and Clark expedition. If our judiciary is so corrupt that it can't get simple constitutional law like this correct, then we are about to become more like Communist China that any of us care to admit."
Shuler points blame for the case squarely at Riley and retired Marengo County Circuit Judge Claud Neilson who was specially appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to hear the case. "The law is clear for some 230 years that there can be no restraint on publication without a final judgment that the reports are false and defamatory," Shuler said. "In this case there's been no discovery, I've not even been allowed to make an answer to the complaint and there's certainly been no jury or bench verdict on the matter. We have a Yale educated lawyer in Rob Riley who's seeking unlawful sanctions in this case and we have a veteran Alabama judge in Neilson who is granting them. That amounts to all kinds of civil and criminal actions on their part including false imprisonment, obstruction of justice, and deprivation of rights under color of law."
Shuler said Americans should be particularly alarmed that the case amounts to state-sanctioned censorship. That issue was raised in a 1931 case styled Near v. Minnesota that Legal Schnauzer reported on just prior to Shuler's arrest. "The Near case clearly states that prior restraint involves a restriction on publication prior to a final court judgment that the reporting is false and defamatory. That's exactly what has happened here even though Near is the premium case on the subject in the 20th century. It's dumbfounding that I have been held in jail for two solid months over an issue contrary to law that is black-letter in nature and could not be more clear." Shuler added that the best known and recent prior restraint case was called the Dietz case out of Virginia. "In the Dietz case, a woman was unhappy with the work of a contractor in a remodeling job and she expressed her displeasure in an online forum. The contractor sought to have her comments removed from the forums, but a Virginia court found that violated the prior restraint doctrine and said that it could not be done. So even though that case is a 2011 case, it's very clear what the law is and that's exactly what Rob Riley has tried to do is force me to remove reporting without a finding that it's false and defamatory and it's clearly unlawful."
Shuler said state-sanctioned censorship runs counter to most all the constitutional rights that Americans hold dear. "I hope that Americans during this holiday season will take time to ask do they really want the government censoring reporting in what's supposed to be a free press." Shuler said "That's why I've fought this case so hard because it goes at the basic notion of a free press and it tries to bring censorship into the state of Alabama."
Here is a link to an ACLU article about the Dietz case: Prior Restraint Doctrine Protects Negative Yelp Review Against Preliminary Injunction
Here is a link to a previous post on Legal Schnauzer about the Near v. Minnesota case:
Judge in Rob Riley's Lawsuit Violates 230 Years of U.S. Law