Land's primary grounds for denying Siegelman's request for release was that the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled on matters related to Leura Canary's recusal in the appeal of Siegelman codefendant Richard Scrushy. Siegelman argued that Canary, former U.S. attorney under George W. Bush, did not honor her recusal--and presented ample evidence that Canary remained involved with the case long after she had supposedly stepped aside. Land admitted that Siegelman had raised ""significant issues that deserve serious consideration." (See order at the end of this post.)
But then the judge, from the Middle District of Georgia, dropped back to punt. In essence, he said, "The trial court and appellate court have already ruled on this issue, and it would make the judiciary look bad if I corrected them now. Please understand that I'm not saying the previous rulings are correct; there's a good chance they are not. In fact, this case is riddled with incorrect rulings, including the fact that prosecutors brought it well outside the five-year statute of limitations. Heck, convicted child rapist and former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky got more favorable treatment in court than did Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy. But I don't have the courage to stand up and say my fellow judges got it wrong. Unfortunately, our courts are not about dispensing justice; they are about protecting the judiciary and legal elites."
That's what we mean by damage control. The federal judiciary in the South has taken a much-deserved pounding in the past 12 months or so. First came revelations that Eleventh Circuit judge Bill Pryor, whose duty station is in Birmingham, has ties to 1980s and '90s gay pornography via nude photographs that appeared at a Web site called badpuppy.com. Then came reports that Fuller, the original trial judge on the Siegelman case, had been arrested for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room. That was followed by thunderous calls for Fuller's resignation, plus a vow from U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) that she will initiate impeachment proceedings when Congress gathers again in January.
Just yesterday, we had a report here at Legal Schnauzer that Pryor--because of his gay-porn secrets--is vulnerable to blackmail by conservative interests led by GOP guru Karl Rove, who once was Pryor's campaign manager in a run for Alabama attorney general. Our report stated that Pryor has become a "gatekeeper" or "fixer," ensuring that cases of particular importance turn out in a favorable way for the Rove faction.
Pryor's reputation as a fixer apparently extends to state-court matters because, as we reported earlier this week, prominent Alabama Republican Rob Riley sought out the judge for possible intervention in a Lee County grand-jury investigation that threatens the Riley Political Machine.
In that kind of environment, where flagrant corruption has become the norm, is it any wonder that Don Siegelman's request for release was denied? When will the public demand a federal investigation that likely would send numerous bad actors--including judges, lawyers, and politicians--to federal prisons? When will the public turn to the kind of protests we've recently seen in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City over apparent police misconduct?
U.S. law enforcement apparently is infested with rogue officers, but our guess is that the judiciary (state and federal) is even worse. Clay Land's ruling today just adds to a mountain of evidence that a major shakeup is in order.