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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dothan TV reporter perpetuates myths about the Rob Riley and Liberty Duke story, so we are here to set the record straight and help launch a panel discussion


Ken Curtis, of WTVY in Dothan
How could a journalist be blindingly ignorant of First Amendment law, which to a great degree forms the foundation for his profession? If the journalist is not up to speed on the First Amendment, how could he be so lazy as to not even attempt to research the subject before reporting on it?

Those are some of the questions that come to mind in the wake of a piece by Ken Curtis, senior reporter at WTVY in Dothan, Alabama, which trashed Web-based journalism in general--and Legal Schnauzer, in particular.

In taking a swipe at our coverage of the relationship between Republican lawyer/politico Rob Riley (son of former governor Bob Riley) and lobbyist Liberty Duke, Curtis proves that he knows zero about the facts surrounding the case--and maybe even sub-zero about the relevant law.

We sent an e-mail to Curtis, in a good-faith effort to set the record straight and hopefully help educate his viewers on a subject that is pretty darned important under the U.S. Constitution. But Curtis has not responded, so we can only assume that he is not in the business of enlightening the masses.

That leaves us to take matters into our own hands by sharing the e-mail that lays out facts and law with which Curtis obviously is not familiar. Here is the missive we sent to Mr. Curtis, with a copy to his boss, news director Kim Allen, at 2:42 p.m. on December 7:

Mr. Curtis:

I write the blog Legal Schnauzer, which you noted in the above-referenced article. Here is the notation about my blog:


"Some have threatened lawsuits against Carroll for false reporting though, to our knowledge, none have been filed. However, the man behind the Alabama-based website Legal Schnauzer was recently jailed for several months after refusing to remove unproven reports involving the son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley."


I think you should know the following:

* I have a bachelor's degree in journalism (B.J., 1978, University of Missouri), with more than 35 years of professional experience in the field. The defamation lawsuit that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed against me in fall 2013 was the first such case in my career.

* First Amendment law in the U.S. requires that defamation cases must be heard at trial, by a jury, to ensure that a single judge does not, in essence, act as a one-man censor. The Riley/Duke case against me never went to trial, never was heard by a jury. A judge (Claud Neilson), in fact, acted as one-man censor, contrary to law--and he did it in a case where there was no discovery. Riley and Duke never sat for depositions, never answered interrogatories, never turned over documents--they did nothing to prove their case in an adversarial setting.

* Your piece implies that it's common practice for reporters to be jailed in defamation cases. In fact, there is no provision of law for incarceration under such circumstances. It appears that I am the only journalist in U.S. history to be imprisoned because of a preliminary injunction that is expressly forbidden by Near v. Minnesota (U.S. Supreme Court, 1931), which is considered the "foundational" case of the 20th century on the subject.

* My reporting never has been found false and defamatory at trial. In other words, Riley and Duke did not come close to meeting their burden of proof. I gave up five months of my freedom for practicing journalism and writing a story that has not been proven to be anything other than true.

* Rob Riley has made no statement under oath that my reporting was false. As a lawyer, he could face serious repercussions for making a false statement under oath.

Please accept this as a formal request for an interview, so that you and I can shine light on the actual facts and law surrounding the Riley/Duke case. I think it would be a great idea for you to also interview Rob Riley and Liberty Duke and their respective attorneys (Jay Merrill, of Birmingham, and Christina Crow, of Union Springs). In fact, I would love to take part in a televised panel discussion, if your station is willing to host such an event.

As it stands now, you have given the public a wildly skewed and inaccurate portrayal of what took place in the Riley/Duke case. I submit that it's important to set the record straight, and I would welcome the opportunity to do so.


Best regards,


Roger Shuler


Three key takeaway points from all of this?

(1) The Riley/Duke lawsuit, contrary to law, never went to trial and never went before a jury. Judge Claud Neilson violated federal law by acting as one-man censor.

(2) My reporting was not proven false or defamatory at trial; there was no trial. Riley/Duke never came close to meeting their burden of proving my posts were false.

(3) There are no provisions under state or federal law for a preliminary injunction in a defamation case, which could lead to incarceration of a journalist for writing a story that has not been proven to be anything other than true.

Liberty Duke
(4) Even Rob Riley has not made a sworn statement claiming my reporting was false--no affidavit, no answer to an interrogatory, no answer to adversarial questions in a deposition or open court. Nothing, nada, zilch. Riley's own actions indicate the story is true.

Finally, I am absolutely serious about the highlighted section above. I dearly would love to be involved in a panel discussion about the Riley/Duke case. My incarceration drew international news coverage, and while many of the stories were solid and well reported, I'm not sure any of them has fully explained that my treatment was so grossly unlawful that . . . well, it should make any constitutional scholar want to vomit. Heck, it should make any sentient citizen want to puke.

So I hereby challenge Rob Riley and Liberty Duke, and their attorneys Jay Murrill and Christina Crow, to a panel discussion--hosted and televised live by WTVY, of Dothan. Heck, Ken Curtis can even serve as moderator, and I would be glad to help him get boned up on the relevant facts and law in advance.

What are the chances that any of the individuals above will take up this challenge? I will keep you posted.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ken Curtis isn't alone. Lots of Americans are ignorant about the First Amendment and the Constitution in general.

Anonymous said...

Does Ken Curtis assume he is subject to incarceration every time he goes out to report on a story?

Anonymous said...

I agree with @11:47...we could all use a brush up on the Consitution these days. It seems to take a beating in all manner of brutality, false imprisonment...heck even just basic government separation between the three branches of the government. Hope they take you up on it LS. Would make for great TV. Keep us updated if they reply and keep up the good work on exposing those who use their positions erroneously!

Anonymous said...

Are you saying Rob Riley has never denied your story about Liberty Duke?

legalschnauzer said...

He's denied in a couple of press reports, but he's never denied it under oath in a court proceeding.

Anybody can deny anything in the press. It's a much different thing, especially for a lawyer, to deny something under oath in a legal setting. Riley's never been willing to do that.

Anonymous said...

Liberty Duke denied it under oath, didn't she?

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, she filed an affidavit stating as much. She never was cross-examined on the subject.

Anonymous said...

So you don't believe Liberty Duke's sworn statement?

legalschnauzer said...

No, I don't. Do you? I gave her every opportunity, prior to publication, to answer questions about the story, and she never responded. That doesn't help her credibility, at least with me.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the kind of panel discussion you propose. Heck, I would drive from north Alabama all the way to Dothan and pay an admission price to see that. Would be better than watching Holly Holm kick Ronda Rousey's ass.

Johnnie C said...

It's amazing how many journos and lawyers seem to accept that having a journalist thrown in jail, with no finding at trial that he wrote anything false, is normal in this country.

It could not be more abnormal. But people shrug their shoulders and accept it, and these are professionals, probably with one or more college degrees. We are a clueless bunch, and the most clueless among us seem to be the ones who breed.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me, @3:52, that it would be awfully easy for Liberty Duke, or anyone else, to tell a few fibs in an affidavit, especially when she knows she isn't going to be challenged about it on the stand. The case against Mr. Schnauzer was cooked from the beginning, with a judge who belongs in federal prison, so I'm sure Ms. Duke had no qualms about fudging information in her affidavit. Heck, she probably didn't even know it was a sworn statement.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Liberty Duke wrote that affidavit. One of Riley's lackey lawyers probably wrote it for her. I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't even read it.

Anonymous said...

Rob Riley is too big a puss to ever debate this issue with you in a public setting. You would tear him to shreds, and he knows it.

legalschnauzer said...

In a lot of ways, @11:17, it wouldn't be a debate. There really isn't anything to debate. Riley and Duke asked for remedies that are not allowed by law, and Judge Neilson granted remedies that aren't allowed by law. Plus, Carol and I never were lawfully served, and our challenge on service never was heard (and Riley/Duke never proved proper service, as required by law), so the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

You are right, I'm sure, that Rob Riley wants no part of discussing all of that in a public setting. It would expose him for the scam artist that he is. It also would show that he, Jay Murrill, and Christina Crow should have their bar cards suspended.

Anonymous said...

That "challenge" could have occurred if Mr. Shuler had appeared to defend himself. He knew he was being sued, and he hid out in his house to avoid service, threw papers out of his car window instead of just dealing with the situation. If he wanted his day in court, he can thank his own actions for his predicament. He did not want his day in court. Not at all.

legalschnauzer said...

Still, hacking away at the same old tired and false narrative, @1:45? The public record shows I was not lawfully served; The cop in question, Mike DeHart, admits in notes that he conducted a pretext stop, which is unconstitutional except where probable cause exists for a possible crime connected to the vehicle. And a lawyer with 40 years of experience viewed the sealed file and said no summons had been issued until long after I'd received numerous rulings against me--all of which, it turns out, were void.

How many people appear in court when they have not been summoned to court? Can you name one?

Can't wait to hear your answer on that one. You, of course, enjoy being ignorant of the facts and law, and I see no reason to think that will change.

Anonymous said...

You posted video of you avoiding service. You knew there was a suit. You knew they were trying to serve you.

You should have taken your day in court.

legalschnauzer said...

Your denseness seems to have no boundaries, @4:00. Whether I knew there was a suit or not is irrelevant under the law; look it up. You still have to be lawfully served. (For the record, I had seen no lawsuit, so I didn't know I was being sued.) Second, I did not know cops were trying to serve me--and, in fact, the record as we know it now, shows that they weren't. That's because, according to lawyer David Gespass, no summons had been issued, and you can't conduct service without a summons. Therefore, I was not avoiding service. (Please cite law that says any citizen has an obligation to answer the door just because someone in uniform is knocking. I can't wait to see what you come up with.) Third, I did take my day in court. I filed a Motion to Quash, upon which the judge ruled without ever holding a hearing to force plaintiffs to prove service had been proper.

So you are wrong on every count, and this is all laid out in the public record, which you ignore because it doesn't square with your agenda. You must be some sort of dim bulb, but I admire your consistency--you are consistently wrong, every time, on every point.

Anonymous said...

You are being dishonest. You were very clearly, by the tape you posted yourself for all te see, avoiding service. Why screw around with that? You through sue papers out of the car! Even if you were certain the stop was a pretext, the place to deal with that is court. And If your reporting was defensible with a reasonable basis, show up and defend it.

You have a pattern and practice of trying to run out clocks and delay and avoid, instead of confronting persons in legal disputes with you. None of that avoidance ever helped you. As a practical matter it hurt you very badly. Even people very ready to speak up for violations od police or the judiciary of unlawful suppression of speech such as the prior restraint issue in you case re libert Duke, just let it go ...for more than one reason but not the least of these was your own unwillingness to deal with substance and you tendency to play technicality games.

You display this tendency over and over again. The latest example is refusing to face reality that your landlord was not going to renew your lease and they wished you to leave.

legalschnauzer said...

Admire your consistency, @5:56. You never get anything write about the facts or the law. In fact, one might say that is your "pattern and practice."

Question No. 1: What in the videos I posted tells you the cops were trying to conduct service? Are they wearing a sign or uniform that indicates they are serving process? Anything about their vehicles say that? I had no idea what they were doing at the time those videos were taken. But I know from experience, the Shelby Co. Sheriff's Office is corrupt, and I wasn't going to open the door for them just because they were on my property (probably unlawfully). I had been properly served once before, and that involved one officer and one vehicle. This involved 2-3 officers and 2-3 vehicles each time. It looked nothing like a service attempt. I've stated this probably a dozen times or more, and you still can't get it. And you suggest I'm hard-headed?

Question No. 2: Regarding the unlawful traffic stop, which you are getting close to admitting was unlawful, I did deal with that in court. I filed a Motion to Quash Service; I've run it on this blog multiple times. That's the proper step, and by law, it should have prompted a hearing to see if the plaintiffs could meet their burden to show that service was proper. I was arrested (kidnapped, actually) before such a hearing ever took place. Since Riley/Duke never met their burden, the court had no jurisdiction over me, and no authority to order my arrest.

Question No. 3: How do you know officers at my house, or at North Shelby County Library, included proper service documents in their materials? Answer: You don't. The one person I know of who has seen the sealed file (David Gespass) said no summons had been issued at the time. Without a summons, there can be no lawful service. Again, the officers were not attempting lawful service, so I was not avoiding service. You apparently are incapable of grasping that, but it should be clear for most reasonable people. And it's hardly a technicality. Without proper service, a court has no jurisdiction over you, so that is a hugely important matter.

Question No. 4: How do you know how people view my handling of certain aspects of these cases? You don't, you have no clue. Based on feedback I've received, quite a few folks admire my determination to make sure the actual law and procedure are followed. I've had no feedback of the sort you describe.

Question No. 5: I've posted our lease here, so can you find any provision that requires us to qualify on our own if the cosigner bails out? Answer: No you can't, because there isn't one. You refuse to face the reality that the landlord was violating the lease, which is called breach of contract under the law. I notice you also can't deny, and don't even try to deny, that the eviction was unlawfully scheduled and it had been stayed by our Notice of Appeal.

Sorry, but the law is not a loosy-goosy thing where it's OK to sort of do things in a sort of correct way. People have tried to hold my feet to the fire, so I'm going to do the same with them. If you want to handle your own legal affairs in a haphazard manner, go ahead. But that's not how I'm going to handle mine, and I'm not going to follow the lead of someone who doesn't even have the courage to identify himself.