|Chilton County Judge Sibley Reynolds|
(From Montgomery Advertiser)
Carlos B. Ortigoza, of Jemison, served a day in the Chilton County Jail after Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds found him in contempt of court for violating an order not to post on social media about a divorce case styled Renee Hicks Ortigoza v. Carlos B. Ortigoza. Reynolds originally ordered Carlos Ortigoza incarcerated for five days, but decided to free him after one day.
Reynolds has a history of unlawfully throwing people in jail. If his name sounds familiar, that's because you might have read about his abusive actions here against a female litigant. (More on that in a moment.)
In an order dated July 18, Reynolds stated that Ortigoza was "prohibited from posting on social media anything concerning issues that fall within the control of the Court Order of Final Decree." (See order at the end of this post.) On August 3, Ortigoza posted about the case at GoFundMe, with the post also appearing at Facebook, and described Reynolds as a "corrupt judge." At a court hearing the next day, the post was brought to Reynolds' attention, and he ordered Ortigoza to jail for five days. (See order at the end of this post.)
Does Reynolds have the authority to tell someone in advance that they cannot write on social media? I haven't been able to find such authority, and it's hard to imagine that any exists. Considering that I was thrown in jail for five months in Shelby County (just north of Chilton) because I write Legal Schnauzer, one must wonder if Alabama is about to become a First Amendment-free zone.
|Screenshot from Carlos|
Ortigoza's GoFundMe page
Reynolds' order forbidding Ortigoza to write about a certain subject on social media almost certainly is an unlawful prior restraint. And his order to have Ortigoza incarcerated for practicing free speech probably amounts to false arrest/false imprisonment.
It's almost impossible to successfully sue a judge for such violations of civil rights. But Ortigoza probably would have a civil case against anyone who participated with Reynolds in a false-imprisonment scheme. Also, Ortigoza could file a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), which currently is busy trying to get Roy Moore off the Alabama Supreme Court, although that august body is notorious for failing to discipline rogue judges.
Immunity, for the most part, protects judges from civil complaints, but they are not above criminal law. It's way past time for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Reynolds and the relationships he has with certain favored lawyers. Our guess is that a federal indictment against Reynolds could be quite lengthy.
Unlawfully tossing someone in jail is a familiar tactic for Reynolds; it's as if he takes a perverse delight in violating the rules he is sworn to uphold. In 2012, Reynolds kept Clanton resident Bonnie Calahane in the "Chilton Hilton" for almost five months over issues connected to her divorce from Harold Wyatt. Reynolds found Cahalane in contempt for failing to pay a debt of about $165,000 related to the divorce -- even though Alabama case law states that a party cannot be subject to contempt, and incarceration, for failure to pay a property-related debt from the dissolution of a marriage.
How does Reynolds get away with this stuff? Well, in our "justice system," no one oversees judges, especially if the DOJ has been sound asleep, as it has during most of President Barack Obama's tenure. Judges almost never can be sued; outfits like the the JIC tend to be worthless and spineless. Appellate courts are more likely to cover for a corrupt judge than to do anything about his crooked acts.
The only solution is for everyday citizens to become informed and outraged, demanding reform in a broken system. Pehaps the Carlos Ortigoza case will draw national attention and help unmask Sibley Reynolds, and others like him, before a wide audience.