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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Under Alabama law, Jessica Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment violates due process and any sense of "fair play" -- and I have unlimited time to attack it


Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Was it smart of GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison to crow to the Marie Claire fashion magazine about her $3.5-million default judgment in a defamation case against yours truly? I would say no, especially given the ruling represents a classic violation of due-process rights, where I was deprived of the "fair play" that is supposed to be present in American courts.

The Marie Claire article last fall is particularly nonsensical when you consider that Garrison is a lawyer. She should have known that Judge Don Blankenship's ruling was contrary to Alabama law that frowns on default judgments, in part because they tend to short-circuit due process. Garrison should have known that, as we've shown in recent posts, she failed to give proper notice of her default application, making Blankenship's order void. She should have known that gives me unlimited time to attack the order as a nullity.

Even the antiquated Alabama Constitution of 1901 shows Garrison's default judgment was on shaky ground from the outset. This is from Kirtland v. Fort Morgan Authority Sewer Service, 524 So. 2d 600 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1988):

Article 1, §§ 6 and 13, Alabama Constitution of 1901, by guaranteeing the due process rights of citizens, and Article 1, § 10, by holding inviolate a person's right to defend himself in a civil action to which he is a party, elucidates this state's commitment to protect an individual's right to attain an adjudication on the merits and to afford litigants an opportunity to defend. We, therefore, emphatically hold that a trial court, in determining whether to grant or to deny a motion to set aside a default judgment, should exercise its broad discretionary powers with liberality and should balance the equities of the case with a strong bias toward allowing the defendant to have his day in court.

In other words, I was supposed to have my "day in court," but Blankenship unlawfully trampled my right to defend myself. It's a sad day when the unwieldy, racist Alabama Constitution of yesteryear shows more respect for due process than does a black Democratic judge like Blankenship.

Jessica Garrison, to no one's surprise, is excited about a court acting corruptly in her favor? That speaks volumes about her "ethics." It also shows she has a massive sense of entitlement, a condition that seems to run rampant through the Republican population.

As for Garrison's judgment being void, a case styled Cornelius v. Browning, (AL Sup. Ct., 2011helps drive home that point. (See also Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing, Ala. Civ. App., 2010.) The Cornelius case revolved around plaintiffs who received a default judgment on several investment-related claims against a Blountsville man named Jeff Cornelius, among others. Cornelius claimed he had never received notice of the default motion. The trial court refused to overturn the default, but the Alabama Supreme Court took a different view:

On March 11, 2010, the plaintiffs initiated a garnishment proceeding in an attempt to collect the judgment against Cornelius. . . . On March 23, 2010, Cornelius moved the trial court to set aside its October 28 judgment and the subsequent garnishment proceeding. . . . Cornelius argued in his motion that he did not receive a copy of the plaintiffs' default-judgment motion and that allowing the default judgment to stand would be “a miscarriage of justice” and would violate principles of due process.

The state's high court agreed with Cornelius. From the ruling:

[w]hen the grant or denial of relief [from a default judgment] turns on the validity of the judgment, as under Rule 60(b)(4)[, Ala. R. Civ. P.], discretion has no place. If the judgment is valid, it must stand; if it is void, it must be set aside. A judgment is void only if the court rendering it lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter or of the parties, or if it acted in a manner inconsistent with due process. . . .

Procedural due process, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 6, of the Alabama Constitution of 1901, broadly speaking, contemplates the rudimentary requirements of fair play, which include a fair and open hearing before a legally constituted court or other authority, with notice and the opportunity to present evidence and argument, representation by counsel, if desired, and information as to the claims of the opposing party, with reasonable opportunity to controvert them. It is generally understood that an opportunity for a hearing before a competent and impartial tribunal upon proper notice is one of the essential elements of due process. (citations omitted).

On paper, at least, Alabama courts take due process and fair play seriously. How seriously? Consider this from a case styled McConico v. Patterson (Ala. Court of Civil Appeals 2016). It addresses post-judgment motions, which normally are subject to time constraints. That is not the case when the motion seeks to overturn a void default judgment:

[A]s a nullity, a void judgment has no effect and is subject to attack at any time. . . . [A] motion for relief from a void judgment is not governed by the reasonable-time requirement of Rule 60(b)[, Ala. R. Civ. P.].

A case styled Ex parte Full Circle Distribution, L.L.C., 883 So. 2d 638, 643 (Ala. 2003). helps drive home the point:

The rationale for being able to vacate a void judgment at any time is that "a void court order is a complete nullity." Hodges v. Archer, 286 Ala. 457, 459, 241 So.2d 324, 326 (1970). As a nullity, a void judgment has no effect and is subject to attack at any time.

Jessica Garrison is the lawyer here, not me, so you might expert her to know the judgment is a "nullity" which "has no effect." You might also expect her to know about this law regarding fair play. I can only conclude that Garrison isn't interested in fair play -- and she probably made sure I had no notice, and could not appear, because she didn't want anyone to controvert her story in court. As I've noted before, an attorney who reviewed the file -- I haven't seen it since being forced to leave Alabama -- said the record showed that notice of the default application and hearing was not sent, much less received.

On a final note, consider Garrison's attorney, the "estimable" (maybe that should be "excremental") Bill Baxley. Just yesterday, Alabama Political Reporter editor Bill Britt published a piece that portrayed Baxley as an utter doofus in the courtroom during post-trial hearings in the Mike Hubbard case. But Baxley has been a courtroom clod-head long before the Hubbard case came along. In representing Garrison, he allowed a corrupt judge to issue an order that was void before the ink had dried on paper, and then foolishly let his client crow about the order to an international audience, ignoring this inconvenient truth -- the order is a nullity that has no effect; it's worth equals zero, not $3.5 million.

If Garrison isn't interested in fair play, what does "float her boat"? She seems to be interested in getting something for nothing, whether she deserves it or not. That brings us back to entitlement, and she seems to have a massive sense for that.

Perhaps Garrison knew, from the get-go, that she did not have a legitimate defamation claim, but she had the "connections" to make sure she got a favorable outcome anyway. That's how shallow, morally bereft individuals view our court system -- as a plaything to pull con games on the rest of us.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would not be at all surprised if Garrison and Baxley intentionally did not send notice because there is no way they wanted someone there who might ask questions under oath about her relationship with Luther Strange.

Anonymous said...

Aboard the Eliza Battle,Emile Zola was recounting the Alfred Drefus political prosecution and his own conviction of criminal Libel because he accused the goverment of the political persecution of Drefus. Mike chimed in that they should get Roger to write about Mike's political prosecution. Emile said,"Non Mon Ami. You are not Abraham Lincoln.You are the lice of the beggar." Mike responded that he did help his poor friends scratch out a living, but he was not a blood sucker.
Mary Mack asked Sheldon why Emile called Mike a lice. Sheldon pointed out that Emile was thinking in French but replied in English. What he meant was that Mike was not in a cent like Lincoln. Mike must catch a ride on someone's coattail like the weed called the "beggar's lice."

Anonymous said...

The guy who looks awful in this is Blankenship. I suspect con artists like Garrison and Baxley have hung around Alabama courts for decades, but the public depends on judges like Blankenship to cut them off at the past. Instead, he just folds in their presence. What a poor judge, what a weak person.

Anonymous said...

Just a question...would you trust the Alabama court system to agree with you enough to where you would actually try for a nullity? Seems like the same crooked system would come up with the same answer.

Anonymous said...

I know you've had commenters trying to convince you, and your audience, that this judgment isn't void, that it was your responsibility to provide court with updated address. The part about updating addresses generally is true, in the course of a typical legal action. But when you are talking about a default judgment the law becomes protective of the defendant. It becomes the plaintiff's burden to make sure the defendant receives notice. If the plaintiff fails to do that, the defendant's due process rights have been violated, and any judgment issued is void. The law is quite simple: If you intend to seek a default judgment, you've got to figure out a way to notify the defendant.

legalschnauzer said...

Would I trust the Alabama court system to get anything right? No. Would I try to have the case declared a nullity? Absolutely, and I will. Why? It's the only system we've got. I wish we had another one, one that actually dispensed justice.

I should point out that it's not a matter of whether a court "agrees" with me or not. The Cornelius case, cited in today's post, states as follows:

"[w]hen the grant or denial of relief [from a default judgment] turns on the validity of the judgment, as under Rule 60(b)(4)[, Ala. R. Civ. P.], discretion has no place. If the judgment is valid, it must stand; if it is void, it must be set aside."

Notice this is not a discretionary matter. It's a factual matter, and it's undisputed that I did not receive notice, lawful or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

It is pathetic that the "framers" of Alabama's racist 1901 constitution cared more about due process and fair play than does a 2016 black Alabama judge like Don Blankenship. What a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

JMG has stated publicly that her "mentor" is Bill Pryor. No wonder she's a crooked snake.

Robby Scott Hill said...

If we are going to have White Supremacy, we will have it by law. Every Negro & Poor White who thought his vote would be counted will pay the highest fees in America for a state issued photo ID to fund & perpetuate a system that is designed to convict him of felonies & crimes of moral turpitude & thereby deny him the right to vote & hold office. Should the Negro or the Poor White still manage to get to the ballot box, the Christian God, Jesus Christ, will overtly choose those who shall rule over him while ES&S appoints them covertly. Alabama is the State of Surprises, but it also has women of many surprises. So many surprises in fact, Wanda's Desk needed to be moved. God forbid any good Christian Woman to hear the crests of another woman's orgasms washing over her & flooding the State Capitol while her God Chosen State Official is surfing that vagina!

legalschnauzer said...

In my view, this is one of the most important posts I've ever written, and here's why: This $3.5-million judgment is a classic example of how white elites (with the help of a corrupt black judge, in this case) use the court system to terrorize the rest of us. This judgment was drawn out of thin air with four lawyers -- Garrison, Strange, Baxley, and Blankenship -- overseeing things. Every one of them had reason to know the judgment was void, but their plan was to use it for terrorism purposes. This storyline is extra important because such tactics can be used in court against any of us. It also shows that a lot of lawyers and judges simply have no respect for the rule of law. They go to law school to try to pass a test to get a bar card, and beyond that, they have zero interest in the law. And they don't care how many of their fellow citizens get hurt.

Shaheed AbdulAzeez said...

Corruption has no color!

Robby Scott Hill said...

Using the court system to terrorize the rest of us is right! Karl Rove holds training classes at his Rosemary Beach compound in Seaside, Florida to train selected Republican prosecutors & attorneys to become the NKVD or Stalinist secret police of the Republican Party. Among the rumored graduates of Rove's training is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi who is also rumored to be Donald Trump's top pick for Attorney General of the United States & Judge Bill Pryor & Former Judge Mark Fuller. Trump's master plan is rumored to be promoting Pryor to the Supreme Court of the United States while Fuller will be rehabilitated after being appointed to a statewide office, maybe US Senate after Shelby wins & retires with Fuller possibly voting with Sessions to get Pryor confirmed. I've got to get off this computer so I can pack for my flight to Denver. I'm going to Colorado to celebrate Mass with The Reverend Baker & Activist Jesus. You know Him. He's the Socialist dude in the Bible who hung out with hookers, drank wine, fed the poor & healed the sick; not that Republican Jesus impostor they talk about in Baptist Churches. I looked for him in the Bible & the Holy Ghost told me He never heard of him.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Will somebody please park a taco truck in front of Karl Rove's compound at Rosemary Beach, Florida, build a fried chicken shack at the pier & invite about a thousand Blacks & Mexicans? I'd like to see the look on his Lilly White face. Lol

legalschnauzer said...

An interesting, and scary, comment, Rob. You're hearing that Rove has training classes to essentially promote corruption in our court system? Pretty unnerving when you consider the number of Alabamians listed in your scenario, and we should note that Pam Bondi was a top honcho at Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) when Jessica Garrison was there -- and Bill Pryor started that crappy organization. Is it possible that RAGA is part of Rove's mechanism for training rogue prosecutors?

Robby Scott Hill said...

Yes, Roy Moore & Tom Parker will appoint special judges & put the fix in to deny your right to freedoms of speech & press and a jury trial. Yet, they pick & choose which laws apply to them. As soon as someone calls the Judicial Inquiry Commission on them, well, they demand a federal lawsuit complete with a jury trial to protect their sacred right to speak freely on behalf of Republican Jesus. It would be awful nice if the Alabama Supreme Court would extend the same courtesies to us which they demand for themselves would it not?

Robby Scott Hill said...

Regarding RAGA, yes it definitely is according to a trusted source.

legalschnauzer said...

It's interesting that JMG bailed out of her RAGA gig back in January this year. Wonder if she smelled bad news coming down the tracks. Given Obama's poor record on justice issues, I can't imagine his DOJ striking fear into anyone -- although they reportedly are investigating "Luv Guv" and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I'm going to start writing fiction based on a true story: As he waited for the helicopter to deliver his wallet via air mail, his penis remained imprisoned within his trousers. He could almost feel her tongue tossing his salad as he remembered his freshly shaven Tea Bags steeping between her hot, red lips. In a recent rendezvous, she had suddenly took his manhood into her mouth without asking his permission because he was her bitch & he knew it. She made more money than him anyway & if he wanted her to keep making deposits into their joint bank account, that's how that shit worked. She got to choose when she caught a dick & with which hole, not him. Then, his pupils rolled up into the back of his other head like he had suffered a stroke or something, but the only thing that was about to get stroked was her plump, juicy ass, but only when she gave him the green light. It was just like it was at work. She pulled the strings & he danced, but only when she commanded. Baby Bear was no longer in control for the first time since Governor James brought the Auburn Gang to town. Baby Bear called the office to get some language inserted into the executive order and she hung up on him like he was just some Black guy from the West Side who managed to get the Governor's phone number from a staffer with looser morals than hers. Baby Bear was outraged that his university had produced a woman who had proven to be more cunning than him. He had made & paid for this Governor & she had hijacked his puppet show. What a backstabber, he said to himself as he made plans for an end run. Meanwhile, in Montgomery, the grand jurors were sequestered & drinking Diet Mr. Pibb because that's the only thing left in the vending machine after 6 on Friday evenings after the hookers had been entertaining state officials all day.

S C said...


I hope they are (investigating) Luv Guv and others.

In other news, Obama's Chicago is a mess; strictest gun laws & highest murder rate...something to be proud of ....hello? the bad guys always have weapons.

Why don't most people see the grey? They're so left or so right, they miss the big picture.

I say; smoke out the bad guys and see who's left (if anybody)

That's why i like this blog...

Anonymous said...

Just a thought- Marie Claire is owned by Hearst. As "press", what is their obligation to validate Garrison's claims regarding your coverage of her. As a NY based entity, would publsihing such a piece subject Garrison/Hearst to defamation claims you could make to a NY court (most likely more liberal and perhaps more fair than Alabama). (I just reread the article- is JG still supportive of Bentley/Mason now that your interpretation of their relationship is widely accepted?)

legalschnauzer said...

All good questions, @9:18. Defamation law can get fairly complex, so I won't go into a lot of detail (especially since I'm not a lawyer, much less a defamation lawyer), but my understanding is that they have an obligation to at least not act with negligence. In the JMG article, I saw no sign they even checked the court record, they obviously never checked the law, they didn't check basic facts, and they never contacted me to seek my side of the story. You would expect a magazine like that to at least run such an article by a company lawyer, and if they did, they sure picked a bad lawyer. I'm not sure about the jurisdiction question; you probably could make arguments either way. My understanding is that the general rule is jurisdiction is determined by the defendant's location. In that sense, you might be able to make an argument for New York as the proper venue. But the article mainly is about people and events in Alabama, and Garrison's home base is Alabama, so that's probably correct venue. As for Bentley/Mason, Garrison has been pretty quiet on that topic lately.

Anonymous said...

9:18- thanks for the response. My Bentley/Mason comment was more of an aside since she seemed to get a last little dig in there, most likely never imagining the story would take on a national presence when she threw it out there. Not a defamation lawyer here, but I would be inclined to go fishing in NY for somebody that would pursue this on a contingency basis. It really is sloppy journalism at best, and I don't know why a national magazine would think this story worthy of the space. (I can't see what audience they were trying to attract- Does Pam Bondi have 10,000 subscriptions that were at risk?). The fact that the writing style itself is probably objectively at a high school level (maybe) is a bit surprising as well.

legalschnauzer said...

Well, it's a fashion magazine that, to my knowledge, isn't known for producing news-oriented journalism. It was an "as-told-to" article, so it's like they let Garrison write it, and Liz Welch cleaned it up a bit and let it rip. (Actually, I'm not sure Welch cleaned it up at all; looks more like she served as Garrison's glorified stenographer.) Horrible journalism practices, and I intend to find out exactly how the story came to be. Yes, it is sloppy journalism, but it's also defamatory, probably per se (on its face).

Phil Fleming said...

Garrison is lucky she didn't live in Salem Massachusetts in 1670. She would have been tried for witchcraft.

Anonymous said...

I know Garrison better than anyone. News will be forthcoming at the appropriate time. Stay tuned.

legalschnauzer said...

News of what sort? We need a hint here.

Anonymous said...

Patience....

legalschnauzer said...

C'mon, @5:12. You must realize you are talking patience to a generation that wants to fire college football coaches after 9-3 seasons and college basketball coaches coming off an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Patience is nice in theory, but can you tell us all you know right now . . . please, please, please.