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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Roy Moore hardly is alone when it comes to ignoring federal authority in courthouses across Alabama

Roy Moore
Chief Justice Roy Moore is one of the most famous judges in Alabama history for a reason--he is notorious for challenging federal authority on certain hot-button social issues. Moore might have the loudest such voice among Alabama jurists, but he is far from alone in holding the mindset that federal authority doesn't mean much in Alabama courtrooms.

Few were surprised Sunday evening when Moore essentially instructed Alabama probate judges to "secede from the union" by ignoring a federal-court order that struck down the state's gay-marriage ban. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take action that might have kept a stay in place, so same-sex couples were able to marry yesterday at several locations around the state.

That made international news and touched off celebrations among the progressive minority in a deeply conservative state. As for us, we are happy for the newlyweds and applaud the probate judges who ignored Moore and did the right and lawful thing. But celebrations might be short lived--and that's because Alabama courts remain places where "federally guaranteed" constitutional rights often go to die.

Just consider my own experience. On October 23, 2013, I was arrested and spent five months in jail because of a defamation lawsuit that Republican political figure Rob Riley filed. Riley sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction, forbidding me from reporting certain information that had never been found to be false and defamatory at trial.

Retired Alabama judge Claud Neilson granted both of Riley's requests, even though they were classic prior restraints, which have been prohibited under 230 years of First Amendment law, predating the end of the Revolutionary War. A prior restraint forbids speech before there has been a finding at trial that it is unlawful.

The foundational 20th-century case on the subject is Near v. Minnesota (1931), in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that prior restraints form "the essence of censorship." In my one court hearing in the Riley case--there never was anything approaching a trial--I cited Near to show that the TRO, preliminary injunction, and my subsequent incarceration were unlawful. Nielson acknowledged being familiar with Near, but he refused to follow black-letter U.S. law.

Neilson ordered that I remain incarcerated until certain items were removed from my blog. When I noted that I was in jail, with no computer or internet access and no way to "cure" any alleged contempt of court, Neilson essentially told me that was my problem. I wasn't released until my wife was able to remove those items on March 26, 2014. Without that, I probably would still be in jail, without bond, as the first journalist to be incarcerated in the United States since 2006--and the only one this century to be arrested in a civil matter.

In effect, an Alabama judge censored certain topics on this blog.

Claud Neilson
Where do my story and the gay-marriage story intersect? Many of the same-sex couples who got married yesterday in Alabama are likely to wind up back in a courthouse someday. Even if they strive to lead the noblest of lives, some issue (divorce, estates/wills, real estate, car accident, etc.) is likely to bring them back to court.

When those days come, can they expect to be treated lawfully? Based on my experience, and the experiences of dozens of Alabamians I've written about on this blog, the answer is no.

That's because too many judges like Claud Neilson feel free to ignore binding U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Too many judges like Claud Neilson feel free to ignore the 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection under the law. Writing this blog has taught me that "Claud Neilsons" regularly butcher the law in numerous Alabama counties, from one end of the state to the other.

Here is another reason yesterday's celebrants should keep a wary eye: Claud Neilson is from Demopolis in Marengo County and was dragged out of retirement to handle my case in Shelby County, apparently because judges in my area had recused themselves.

Who assigned Neilson to my case, even before I was aware there was a case, before I had been (unlawfully) served, before a court could even begin to claim jurisdiction over me? The Alabama Supreme Court did it, under Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Has Roy Moore shown any sign of being concerned about the gross violations of my civil rights, even though his beloved Bible makes it clear that he should be? Not that I'm aware of. Is Moore likely to someday show contrition about his actions on the gay-marriage issue? You know what they say about snowballs and hell . . .

Despite yesterday's signs of progress, Alabama courts remain filled with judges like Roy Moore and Claud Neilson. Change comes slowly in the Deep South--and some things never seem to change at all.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing the bigger picture, at least a part of it. We still have a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

Is every story really just a story about you, Roger?

legalschnauzer said...

Are you saying the unlawful arrest of a journalist in the U.S. isn't of interest, doesn't represent an important issue?

I would invite you to go back through the archives and see how many posts here are about my experiences. The percentage is low.

Anonymous said...

sounds like someone is uncomfortable with reports about Rob Riley and Claud Neilson. hmmm.

Big Hal said...

My guess is that the commenter is nervous about attention your story received from Susan Lindauer.

Here is a solution for you, @10:30. If you don't like the content here, go to another blog.

Anonymous said...

It seems 10:30 doesn't like your blog, but he can't resist reading it. Strange.

Anonymous said...

So you go to Roger Shuler's blog and act surprised to see any material that references Roger Shuler's thoughts or experiences?

I don't get that.

Anonymous said...

Roy Moore probably would be supportive if Alabama tried to secede from the union.

Anonymous said...

Americans that do not want to support those - Roger - he who honors the rights' of individuals and ESPECIALLY, journalists ...

are indeed the worst possible reality regarding the place called United States.

Yes Roger's blog is about him and what happened because that relative truth, is the relativity of every US citizen,

We are all in debt to Roger and his blog.

WHY. Duh. Roger suffered the true reality of police state USA and has continued to BLOW THE WHISTLE, for the USA citizens hiding from the true reality.

Anonymous said...

Glad you included the material about the Bible near the end. Those passages shows Roy Moore should be concerned about injustice anywhere, but he mainly seems concerned about Roy Moore.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear what these anti federal government people would say if one day our federal government said, ok Alabama, we're out of here, we are leaving you to your own devices, if you don't like our laws, then stop taking the federal tax dollars we pour each year into your state. Never hear our two Obama hating Senators say no to Federal dollars. Our AG office is trying to undo laws that say money from federal dept of transportation can only be spend on hwys, bridges, here in Alabama and not for other state projects. Our leaders here in Alabama wants our federal government to fund their campaign to fight any action by the federal government that they don't approve of. I fear that one day we will not have to worry about seceding from the union, they will just stop funding us and that will be the end of Alabama.

Robby Scott Hill said...

The Alabama Supreme Court did nothing "they" did not instruct The Court to do. They held a meeting about you. They funded Judge Moore's re-election & they need a non-racial precedent to begin their campaign to repeal the 14th Amendment. They are better known to the public as The Ku Klux Klan & they prefer to live in a country where only White Men have rights.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hill:

I've assumed, since it happened, that Mr. Shuler's arrest was orchestrated by Bill Pryor, in retaliation for posts about the judge's ties to gay porn.

Do you think Judge Pryor has ties to the Klan? Do you think Rob Riley has ties to the Klan?

Anonymous said...


You might be onto something. The KKK today announced its support of Judge Moore.


legalschnauzer said...

I can say this: Being attacked in my own home by Shelby Co. deputies felt like being the target of a terrorist attack.

What is the most famous terrorist organization in the U.S.? I would say the KKK.

Anonymous said...

I have lost faith in the "justice" system.

I thought we did not have political prisoners in this country...in theory, anyway.

I believe that Alabama's CONstitution has had around 800 amendments. That, alone, demonstrates their past and predictive system of violating federal law.

Alabama did not repeal their anti-miscegenation statute until 2000, despite Loving v Virgina in the late 60s.

Alabama cannot issue marriage licenses because they have never been huge on equality, but they can have a history as a divorce mill...

The only way that I have ever been to Alabama was through the use of a website. I was digitally dragged into Alabama because I saw my name that has no business or ties to Alabama, and the Circuit Court of Mobile County decided to violate state and federal laws. I stated, "the long-arm hasn't reached this long since slavery" in my motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

They made sure to put "white" as my race in an attempt to bypass strict scrutiny.

I deduce that Alabama apparently owns and operates the internet.

Does Congress work? I think the House and Senate have jobs but never work. . .

I doubt the integrity, veracity, and accuracy of any and all documents in Alabama courts.

Anonymous said...

this blog exposes Alabama as the most corrupt state. what is Matt Hart up to? anybody got any scoop? I hope he nails Riley and Hubbard.