The file of Fuller's divorce from his first wife includes questions about domestic violence and drug abuse, al.com writes in an editorial, and that information should be available to Congress if it initiates impeachment proceedings against Fuller.
That's fine as far as it goes, but al.com leaves out a critical piece of information--it and other mainstream news outlets have done a miserable job of covering the Fuller story. In fact, nontraditional news sites, including our Legal Schnauzer blog, have done almost all of the heavy lifting.
Al.com, with its major operations in Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville, now is taking the moral high road on the Fuller story. But when news of Fuller's divorce broke in 2012, al.com was nowhere to be found. We did a search at al.com on "Mark Fuller divorce 2012" and found nothing on the case. We did a search for Fuller's first wife, "Lisa Boyd Fuller," and found nothing other than a brief reference to her in the new editorial.
How late is al.com to the party? It isn't even the first news organization to ask for the divorce file to be unsealed. Andrew Kreig, director of the D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, led an effort to do that in May 2012. Bob Martin, publisher of the Montgomery Independent, and I lent our support to Kreig's effort, and you can read the petition here. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Anita Kelly, to whom al.com now addresses its request, did not unseal the file then.
Consider these ironic words from al.com's editorial:
Court documents available before the record was sealed give us insight into what the record contains.
We know that Fuller's wife asked him to confirm or deny whether he had physically abused her.
We know that she subpoenaed records from at least six pharmacies, asking each of them to list what prescriptions they had filled for Fuller.
How does al.com know that? It's because of reporting from more than two years ago in the nontraditional press. Does al.com make any mention of that? Nope.
Bob Martin, of the Montgomery Independent, broke the divorce story in his weekly print publication on May 16, 2012. We picked up on the story at Legal Schnauzer the next day and wound up writing four posts on the subject. We also published five documents from the case file to the Scribd online document-sharing site, including documents that strongly hinted at domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse. (See the Request for Admissions at the end of this post.)
Three days after our first post, Fuller's lawyer moved for the file to be sealed, and the motion was granted--even though court files in Alabama generally are considered public records.
Al.com is correct to state that Fuller's 2012 divorce case shines important light on the charges the judge now faces. It also is correct to state that the divorce file should be made available to Congress in the event of impeachment proceedings. But al.com should be honest enough to admit that it did nothing to inform the public about ugliness in Mark Fuller's personal life when it had the chance in 2012.
Does the nontraditional press matter in the United States of 2014. The Mark Fuller story provides evidence that the answer is a resounding yes.