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Monday, April 20, 2015

Legal Schnauzer fights back against $3.5-million default judgment in Jessica Medeiros Garrison lawsuit


Legal Schnauzer Roger Shuler with Murphy,
the real schnauzer who inspired a blog.
Alabama attorney Davy Hay has made a notice of appearance on my behalf in a defamation lawsuit brought by Jessica Medeiros Garrison, former campaign manager to Attorney General Luther Strange.

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.





12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope Attorney Hay is able to knock this one out of the park.

Anonymous said...

You and your attorney could do the state a great service by unmasking Luther Strange and young Ms. Garrison.

Anonymous said...

It should be interesting to see if Luther and Jessica are anxious to sit for depositions and to have her divorce file unsealed.

legalschnauzer said...

Those certainly seem to be two big factors moving forward, @1:08, at least in my Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer mind.

Matt Osborne said...

What's funny is that the usual RW sock puppets were tweeting at me about this default judgment even before I knew it had happened. It's been a year and a half since I schooled these fools on their conspiracy theories, and now they seem to think I'm your PR team. Maybe Mr. Hay can get an injunction against whatever idiotic backchannel they're using to spread such nonsense?

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for this comment, Matt. I, too, noticed that the sock puppets on the right were all revved up about this default judgment, much as they were when they assumed (wrongly) that I was "RogerS," commenting about Brett Kimberlin's RICO lawsuit.

I would be fine with an injunction, but I would be even more fine with a nice chunk of cash from entities that fund these dilweeds--especially if it can be proven that they were involved in my unlawful incarceration. And there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting they were.

Anonymous said...

I've read this blog regularly for several years and followed your coverage of Luther Strange with particular interest. I knew you never reported that he was the father of Garrison's child, so I'm not sure how a judge could be so out of it as to let that fly.

Anonymous said...

What happens if the judge refuses to overturn the default judgment?

legalschnauzer said...

We'll cross that bridge when, and if, we come to it. It shouldn't happen, but lots of things happen in Alabama courts that shouldn't happen. That's pretty much what this blog is all about.

Rick said...

Whatever happened to Ms. Garrison's ties to the guy who was indicted in the big offshore sports gambling bust? I forget the guy's name, but I thought that was one of the most interesting stories you've written. Didn't the gambling ring have ties to the Mob--and I mean the real Mob, not the Dixie Mafia, or whatever?

legalschnauzer said...

I need to do a followup on that story, Rick. You are talking about Erik Davis Harp, originally from Tuscaloosa, AL, and supposedly connected to some powerful folks in T-town. He was involved in a condo deal with Jessica Garrison and her ex husband. Don't forget that Ms. Garrison, before getting tied to Luther Strange, worked at the Phelps Fowler law firm in T-town. That's where Paul Bryant Jr. has done business for years. In fact, 1-2 of his partners in Greene Group came from that firm.

I'm not sure if anybody went to prison on that gambling bust, but I think the ring forfeited a whole bunch of cash. (They were raking in $20m a month, if I remember correctly.) At the time of indictment, Mr. Harp's address was listed as Las Vegas, and last I heard, he was living in Colorado. But he's a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, guy through and through.

And yes, the ring reportedly had ties to the Gambino and Genovese crime families. Here is link to one of my reports on that subject:

http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2013/08/here-is-how-pair-of-politicos-from.html

legalschnauzer said...

Rick:

While doing a little research on your comment, I came across a very interesting comment from that earlier post about the Gambino and Genovese families. It draws some rather indirect lines from Alabama AG Luther Strange to Gambino family to Carlos Marcello, who is famed for his possible connections to the JFK assassination. Here is the full comment, which is on a post dated 8/26/13, which was almost exactly two months before I was thrown in jail:


"New Orleans - where Luther Strange matriculated in college and law school and where his wife's grandfather ran the allegedly mob-affiliated Whitney Bank for 43 years as President or Chairman of the Board (Melissa Strange is heiress to a huge fortune- perhaps ill - gotten in part) - was the home of Whitney Bank customer Carlos Marcello, head of New Orleans Mafia and a noted ally . . .of the Gambino crime family of New York. Their chief illegal business? Gambling."