|Legal Schnauzer Roger Shuler with Murphy,|
the real schnauzer who inspired a blog.
The Garrison case produced a $3.5-million default judgment against me, with Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship releasing an order last week. Garrison has been executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).
On RAGA's Web site, Garrison currently is listed as senior advisor, with Strange set to be the group's chairman in 2016-17. Garrison also serves in an "of counsel" role with the Birmingham law firm Balch Bingham.
I'm not in a position to publicly discuss legal strategy, but I can say the law provides avenues to overturn default judgments, which are considered disfavored as both a matter of law and public policy in Alabama. I have not participated in the case for roughly a year--unable to defend myself or file valid counterclaims--and that is what led to the default judgment. I am still getting caught up on the case, but here are a few points I can make:
(1) As has been widely reported, I was unlawfully incarcerated from October 23, 2013, to March 26, 2014, because of a defamation lawsuit brought by Republican political figure Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke. From the moment I set foot out of the Shelby County Jail, my wife Carol and I were faced with possible foreclosure on our home--and the foreclosure actually took place on April 29, 2014. Without going into too many details at this point, that was part of the fallout from me being cheated out of my job at UAB for reporting accurately on this blog about the Don Siegelman case and the actions of wife-beating U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (who now faces possible impeachment)--and from Carol being cheated out of her job at Infinity Insurance.
Bottom line? We were forced to move, and I stopped receiving notice about matters in the Garrison lawsuit. That's what led to the default judgment. Al.com's Kent Faulk reported the following in his story about the $3.5-million judgment:
Bill Baxley, one of Garrison's attorneys, also said the ruling "speaks for itself." He said he doubts his client will be able to collect any money from Shuler, who had his house foreclosed upon a year or so ago.
That seems to indicate Baxley knew my address had changed and that I likely was not receiving notice of court proceedings.
(2) Based on Kent Faulk's reporting about the $3.5-million default judgment, a significant portion of it apparently is based on allegations that I reported that Luther Strange was the father of Garrison's child. I did not, however, report that Luther Strange fathered a child with Garrison. From Faulk's article:
At the March 9 hearing the judge heard testimony from Garrison and Strange. Both testified the allegations Shuler had written that the two had an extramarital affair and had a son together were false, according to the judge's order.
Anyone is free to scour every post I've written about Jessica Medeiros Garrison, and it will be clear that I never wrote that Garrison and Strange had a son together. In fact, Faulk's article strongly suggests that Garrison and Strange testified falsely before the court.
(3) Both Baxley and Judge Blankenship apparently have tried to hold me accountable for comments left on my blog. Consider this from Faulk's article:
Garrison testified that Shuler had written false comments in his Legal Schnauzer blog concerning her and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, the judge's order states.
"The (Legal Schnauzer) comments suggested that the plaintiff (Garrison) received preferential treatment from the Attorney General because the two were engaged in an ongoing extramarital affair; and that the Attorney General was the father of the Plaintiff's minor son," the judge's order stated.
Garrison testified that the comments were false and "were embarrassing, hurtful and degrading."
This suggests Garrison's case and Blankenship's order are based largely on comments left at my blog, and not on the posts that I wrote. Is it lawful to hold me liable for comments left at my blog? Based on an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) article about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), the answer appears to be no. From the EFF article:
CDA 230 also offers its legal shield to bloggers who act as intermediaries by hosting comments on their blogs. Under the law, bloggers are not liable for comments left by readers, the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information received through RSS feeds. This legal protection can still hold even if a blogger is aware of the objectionable content or makes editorial judgments.
In summary, the $3.5-million default judgment rests on shaky legal and factual grounds. Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange essentially picked on somebody who could not defend himself. In my view, that raises questions about the validity of the foreclosure on our home, which was at 5204 Logan Drive in Birmingham, 35242.
Did someone get the foreclosure process started with an ulterior motive in mind? Was the motive to turn our lives upside down and force my wife and me to move, thinking that would be the end of Legal Schnauzer?
Those are questions to address on another day. But for now, Legal Schnauzer lives on. And so does my defense in the Jessica Garrison lawsuit.
Attorney Davy Hay filed his Notice of Appearance on Saturday (April 18, 2015), and the document can be viewed below.