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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reverses dismissal of a federal lawsuit over my unlawful 2013-14 arrest and incarceration in Shelby County, AL


Liberty Duke
Dismissal of a federal lawsuit over my 2013-14 arrest and incarceration in Shelby County, AL, has been reversed on appeal.

The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a "Do Not Publish" opinion dated August 23, 2017, overturned the dismissal by District Judge R. David Proctor in the Northern District of Alabama. The Eleventh Circuit, based in Atlanta, covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The case is styled Roger Shuler, et al v. Liberty Duke, et al. (The opinion can be viewed at the link above and is embedded at the end of this post.)

We have referred to this as "The Jail Case," to distinguish it from "The House Case" (involving a wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham). An appeal on "The House Case" is pending in the Eleventh Circuit.

Our complaint in "The Jail Case" was filed on March 26, 2016, and the court issued its final dismissal order on September 14, 2016. We timely filed a notice of appeal, and the case had been sitting in the Eleventh Circuit for almost a year. Courts can be slow, but that is a ridiculously long time for an appeal that involved a clear and simple issue -- in a case that hasn't really gotten started yet. I happened to check the Eleventh Circuit Web site late Tuesday night and was shocked to see an opinion finally had been issued. I was even more shocked when I read the two-page ruling and realized the court had found in our favor.

Under the law, that's the only ruling the court could make. But we've had similarly clear-cut rulings go against us before, so I was braced for the worst. In fact, I hardly knew how to react to a federal-court victory -- even a small one. It's the first time in our 17-year legal sojourn that a federal court has gotten the facts and law correct, ruling in our favor.

Defendants in "The Jail Case" include Homewood attorney Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) and members of his Riley Jackson law firm; lobbyist Liberty Duke and her attorney, Christina Crow; former Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and three of his deputies, including Chris Blevins, the officer/thug who entered our home without a warrant, beat me up, and doused me with pepper spray; federal judge Bill Pryor; businessman Ted Rollins (and Campus Crest Communities), his stepmother Michele Rollins (and Rollins Jamaica), his former stepson Zac Parrish (and McMichael and Parrish Homes); and Google.

Rob and Bob Riley
Proctor, a protege of Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, dismissed the case for "failure to prosecute," claiming my wife, Carol, and I failed to serve defendants in a timely matter. The court, however, had granted us in forma pauperis (IFP) status, and federal law is clear that the court is responsible for completing service for IFP litigants.

In his dismissal order, Proctor claimed we were granted only "partial IFP" status and were not entitled to have the clerk's office in Birmingham's Hugo Black Courthouse effectuate service. We argued there is no such thing as "partial IFP" status under the law, and in so many words, the Eleventh Circuit agreed with us. From the opinion:

We review a district court’s sua sponte dismissal for failure to effect service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m) for an abuse of discretion. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). “We affirm unless we find that the district court has made a clear error of judgment, or has applied the wrong legal standard.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Without addressing the merits of the appeal, we reverse the district court’s dismissal because it should have effectuated service for the Shulers, who had IFP status. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(3), the district court must order that service be made by either a United States marshal, a deputy marshal, or by any person specially appointed by the court when the litigant is proceeding under IFP status.

REVERSED.

I was starting to think I might never live to read such words from a federal court -- words that nailed it on the facts and law, words that found in our favor. I keep rereading the opinion to make sure it's true.

How simple are the issues at this point in the proceedings? We spelled that out in the primary section of our appellate brief:

The district court has granted the Shulers in forma pauperis (IFP) status in two pending cases – the instant case and a related case styled Shuler, et al v. Garrison et. al (Case no. 2:16-CV- 695-VEH). The court in Garrison, without interference from a judge (it was under a different judge from Proctor at the time), issued summonses and executed service for the Shulers, as required under statutory and case law. Garrison, which was filed after the instant case, has moved along at a normal pace. But Proctor, in the instant case (Duke), unlawfully interfered and prevented court-conducted service, meaning Duke has been stuck in limbo, with no service on defendants.

This is not just a matter of Proctor getting the law wrong in Duke – although he clearly has. It’s also a matter of gross inconsistency. The Northern District of Alabama has followed the law regarding court-conducted service for IFP parties in one case, while ignoring it in another. . . .

Here are more on specifics of the relevant law:

The foundational law is found at 28 U.S.C. 1915 (“Proceedings in forma pauperis"), which holds at section (d): “The officers of the court shall issue and serve all process, and perform all duties in such cases. Witnesses shall attend as in other cases, and the same remedies shall be available as are provided by law in other cases.”

FRCP 4 (c)(3) drives the point home further: “By a Marshal or Someone Specially Appointed. At the plaintiff's request, the court may order that service be made by a United States marshal or deputy marshal or by a person specially appointed by the court. The court must so order if the plaintiff is authorized to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. 1915.

The three-judge panel that issued the reversal included Charles R. Wilson (Clinton appointee), Julie E. Carnes (Obama appointee), Jill A. Pryor (Obama).

Ted Rollins
What does this ruling mean? Well, it's not a sweeping victory on the merits, by any means. It's a procedural ruling that allows "The Jail Case" to finally begin, after being grounded for more than a year.

What happens next? We will address that in an upcoming post. But the main thing is this: The court will issue summonses and complaints to defendants, as required by law, and a case that should have been well under way -- maybe near the finish line -- finally will get rolling.

Many questions lie ahead, but this much is certain: "The Jail Case" lives!





Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Court docket shows that multiple documents were on file to stay our eviction, but dumb-ass Missouri cops went ahead with it anyway, breaking Carol's arm


Debi Wade
A Missouri deputy claims in an investigative report that, on the day of our eviction, she could find no changes in the record that would stay execution. Officer Debi Wade even claims to have spoken to individuals in the sheriff's legal office, and they told her to proceed with the eviction. But a simple check of the docket reveals at least three documents were filed, all dated Sept. 8 or 9, 2015, and all proving that we timely filed a notice of appeal that put a stay on the eviction.

All three documents are embedded at the end of this post, and we also link to them in the text of this post. Let's briefly examine each one, knowing that together, they provide a mountain of evidence that the eviction leading to Carol's broken arm was unlawful:

(1) Notice of Appeal -- This shows that we timely filed the Notice of Appeal, inside the 10-day window allowed by Missouri law. It was filed at 11:56 a.m. on Sept. 8, 2015, roughly 27 hours before cops arrived to evict us. It also shows we paid the $70 filing fee -- and a copy of the court order we were appealing shows there was no money judgment, so no bond was required. This one document shows the eviction was unlawful, and Wade admits she saw it. So how did we get thrown out of our home? I can think of only one explanation -- cops are stupid, incompetent, and dishonest.

(2) Case.net Retrieval Notice -- The date on this document is not clear, but it apparently was filed on Sept. 8, 2015. The notice states: "Notice of Appeal saved and attached in PDF format for Attorney(s) to retrieve from secure case.net. Notice of Appeal sent electronically to Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District." I sent notice via e-mail to all lawyers involved in the eviction case -- Gregory Lulich, of Johnson Lowther firm, and my own corrupt brother, David Shuler. So they had two forms of notice -- the one I sent, and the one noted in this document via secure case.net. Is there any excuse for two attorneys to allow a clearly unlawful eviction to proceed? I can't think of one.

(3) Missouri Court of Appeals Correspondence -- This document, dated Sept. 9, 2015, shows that not only had we filed a Notice of Appeal, but the Missouri Court of Appeals had received it.

Debi Wade stated that she could find nothing that stayed our eviction, and no one in the sheriff's legal office could find it either. These documents show she was lying or was blazingly incompetent.







My nephew was victim of bogus search in Clever, MO, even though SCOTUS found in "Rodriguez" that cops must have reasonable suspicion to extend traffic stops


Blake Shuler
You might think word of U.S. Supreme Court decisions would filter down to all jurisdictions, no matter how small. But they apparently don't make it to Clever, MO. That's how my nephew, Blake Shuler, wound up with a criminal record, as fallout from a traffic stop and unconstitutional search of his vehicle.

Shouldn't the not-so-clever cops in Clever keep up with U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions? Yes, they should, but Blake's experience indicates they do not. Clever Municipal Judge Matthew B. Owen certainly should keep up with high-court rulings -- as should any attorney who practices before him, such as Blake's "counsel," David Shuler (my brother) But alas, they don't seem to keep up with them either. Perhaps the cops, the lawyers, and judge simply don't care what the nation's highest court rules -- especially if it runs contrary to their personal beliefs or instincts.

Such stupidity and/or callousness has repercussions for the public. In Blake Shuler's case, it left him with a criminal record he does not deserve. How do we know? A SCOTUS ruling that is barely two years old -- focusing like a laser on the law of traffic stops and vehicle searches -- makes it clear.

First, let me note that this case goes way beyond a family member's experience in a tiny midwestern town. Issues related to traffic are probably the No. 1 reason many Americans come in contact with our "justice system." And what often starts out as an incident that appears likely to end in a ticket or a warning, can suddenly turn much more serious. In fact, Americans probably are most vulnerable to abuse of ignorant or reckless law-enforcement officers when they are driving, or riding in, a vehicle.

Here is some advice from the Legal Schnauzer: Next time you get pulled over by a cop, remember one word: Rodriguez. It tells you much of what you need to know about search of a vehicle.

SCOTUS found in Rodriguez v. U.S. (2015) that "a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures. A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, “become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission” of issuing a ticket for the violation."

The Rodriguez court goes on to hold that extension of the stop beyond its traffic-violation purpose is lawful only if officers have a "reasonable suspicion" that additional criminal activity is associated with the vehicle. From the opinion:

We granted certiorari to resolve a division among lower courts on the question whether police routinely may extend an otherwise-completed traffic stop, absent reasonable suspicion, in order to conduct a dog sniff. . . . [W]ithout additional reasonable suspicion, the officer must allow the seized person to depart once the purpose of the stop has concluded.”

The dog sniff in Rodriguez produced more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, and the driver faced federal drug charges that had him staring at a five-year prison sentence. But SCOTUS found the purpose of the stop involved an officer's observation that Rodriguez had driven on the shoulder of the road. Did the officer have reasonable suspicion of any other criminal activity, beyond the traffic violation? In other words, was there any reason to suspect there were drugs in the vehicle, justifying extension of the stop and a search of the vehicle via a dog sniff?

David Shuler
SCOTUS noted that the district court found "the dog sniff in this case was not independently supported by individualized suspicion" and vacated the Eight Circuit's judgment, sending the case back to lower courts for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. In essence, SCOTUS found that Rodriguez and his passenger should have been allowed to depart once the traffic warning was written. From the opinion:

An officer, in other words, may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop. But contrary to JUSTICE ALITO’s suggestion . . .  he may not do so in a way that prolongs the stop, absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individual.

What about Blake Shuler and his passenger, once a breathalyzer test proved he was innocent of DUI? Should they have been allowed to depart, instead of being subjected to a vehicle search? There is nothing in the incident report suggesting police suspected the presence of drugs in the car, or suspected any other criminal activity associated with the car or its passengers. In light of the 2015 Rodriguez case, the cops narrative (see below) strongly suggests they had no "reasonable suspicion," meaning the vehicle search was unlawful.

Did David Shuler pursue that line of defense for Blake? The record indicates he did not, and David is not responding to questions about the matter. But we next will present the questions that were posed to him.


(Previously in this series)


Blake M. Shuler, my nephew, pleads guilty to possession of marijuana and paraphernalia . . . (6/29/17)


My nephew, Blake M. Shuler, faced a harsh lesson of American life . . . (7/26/17)



My nephew got legal help from Missouri lawyer David Shuler . . . (8/23/17)



Recent SCOTUS ruling indicates . . . (8/28/17)








Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Missouri landlord Trent Cowherd claims I allowed an "outlaw" (my wife) to live in rental until, but evidence shows Cowherd is a bully of comic proportions


Trent and Sharon Cowherd
Finding humor in a story that involves an unlawful eviction, the theft of many of your worldly goods, and thuggish cops shattering your wife's arm . . . well, it's difficult. But a newly discovered document from Missouri landlord Trent Cowherd and his rogue lawyer, Craig Lowther, does add comic relief to our mostly grim tale.

The humor can be found in Cowherd's Petition for a Rent-and-Possession (R and P) order that would remove us from rental property at 4070 S. Fort in Springfield, Missouri. Cowherd is not content to simply get his rental unit back, he has his undies bunched because he somehow is convinced that someone -- namely, my wife, Carol -- had been living unlawfully in the unit with yours truly.

Never mind that on the day I signed the Rental Agreement in Missouri, I told Cowherd's leasing agent that my spouse of 25 years was in Birmingham gathering our belongings and would be joining me to live at the rental unit in Springfield -- and the leasing agent said that would be A-OK. The agent filled out the document, based on what I told her, but she neglected to write down Carol's name as a tenant or lessee. Was that on purpose? Probably so. Was it at the direction of one or more members of my family? Given how they have dumped on Carol and me since we got married, the answer probably is yes. (The Petition and Rental Agreement are embedded at the end of this post.)

If anyone ever doubts that Trent Cowherd is a crooked, dishonest, lying bully, just consider these foreboding, tough-guy words from his Petition, prepared by "attorney" Craig Lowther:

7. Upon information and belief, there is a person or persons not lawfully occupying the above described premises as either a tenant or lessee.

8. Pursuant to RSMo. 441.760, [Cowherd] requests the court order any person not lawfully occupying the dwelling unit as either a tenant or lessee be immediately removed.

Wow, sounds like I was hiding an ISIS cell in that rental unit. The humor comes when you check out page 7 of our eight-page rental agreement. That page is titled "Rental House Pet Agreement," and they must have let me fill that out because it appears to be in my squiggly hand writing -- which was more squiggly than unusual, given that I had just spent five months in an Alabama jail and was going through a bogus foreclosure on our home of almost 25 years in Birmingham.

Craig Lowther
I filled out page 7 to inform the landlord that we had two cats -- Chloe (female) and Baxter (her brother). I put down their ages (11) and their weights (13 and 11 pounds, respectively). I listed their breed (Tonkinese) and their color (tan). For the record, I told the leasing agent that Chloe and Baxter were in Birmingham with their "mother," my wife, and all three would be joining me in Springfield to live at the rental unit. The agent didn't bat an eye, said that was fine.

It wasn't until almost one year later, when our 13-month lease was almost up, that I realized the woman had neglected to put Carol's name on the lease. Was that an accident? I doubt it, especially considering that we recently discovered the R and P Petition to learn that Cowherd was making a big deal about the presence of an "outlaw" at our unit.

Let's consider what Cowherd/Lowther wanted a court to believe: That I remembered Chloe and Baxter, our cats, were going to be living with me in Springfield, and I put down all kinds of specifics about them -- but I didn't remember that I had a wife, she had been my one and only wife for 25 years, and she was going to be living with me, too.

Now, I love our pets. This blog is named in honor of our first pet -- the original Legal Schnauzer, Murphy Abigail Shuler. And I loved our cats just as much as I loved our dog. But I'm going to remember our cats and not say a word about my wife? I don't think so.

This might not be the kind of humor that appears on SNL and goes viral on the Web. But it's pretty darned funny to me, almost like an old Henny Youngman routine. "Oh yes, my cats will be with me at all times. My wife? Gee, I forgot I even had one. Who is this wife person of whom you speak? Take my wife, please!"



Monday, August 28, 2017

Recent SCOTUS ruling indicates search of my nephew's vehicle in Clever, MO, was unlawful, but attorney David Shuler apparently failed to challenge it


Blake Shuler
A recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case proves the search of my nephew's vehicle in Clever, MO, was unconstitutional, but records indicate he has a criminal record because my lawyer-brother, David Shuler, apparently failed to challenge the search.

The case is Rodriguez v. United States (Sup. Ct., 2015), which involved a driver and his passenger who were stopped for a traffic violation -- driving on the shoulder of the highway. Instead of simply dealing with the traffic issue, a police officer conducted a dog-sniff search of the vehicle, which turned up methamphetamine. Rodriguez was hit with federal drug charges and a magistrate judge refused to suppress evidence from the search. Rodriguez entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. On appeal, the case went to SCOTUS, which found the search violated the Fourth Amendment and vacated the judgment.

My nephew, Blake Shuler, went through a similar unlawful search (minus the dog sniff) in Clever, MO, but he wound up with a criminal record anyway -- for "peace disturbance." We will have more on the Rodriquez case shortly. But first, I would like to drive home why this case matters to me, and why it should matter to you.

I have a criminal record in Alabama for an offense -- resisting arrest -- that I did not commit and should not be on my record, for several reasons. One, it came as the result of an unlawful traffic stop. Two, it came as the result of an unlawful entry to our home -- without an apparent warrant, without the cop stating his purpose for being on our property, and with no allegation of a crime. (It involved an alleged contempt of court over a preliminary injunction in a defamation lawsuit, with such injunctions having been prohibited by more than 200 years of First Amendment law. In other words, the officer had no criminal issues to tend to at my home; it was a 100 percent civil matter.)

Both the traffic stop and the entry to our home of 25 years in Birmingham are violations of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Still, I wound up with a resisting arrest charge, even though Officer Chris Blevins admits in his incident report that I never initiated contact with him -- while he pushed me to the concrete floor in our basement three times, doused me with pepper spray, and one of his associates threatened to break my arms.

Bottom line: I know what it feels like to have a bogus criminal mark on my record, and it sucks. It makes you ask, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" I didn't like it when it happened to me -- and we have two pending federal lawsuits in an effort to resolve the violation of civil rights -- and I don't like it now that cops concocted bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges against my wife, Carol, in the wake of our unlawful eviction in Springfield, Missouri on Sept. 9, 2015. That also was the result of gross Fourth Amendment violations.

Records now suggest another member of my family, nephew Blake Shuler, also has a bogus criminal blotch on his record. Blake's issues started with a traffic stop in Clever, MO, for alleged DUI and involved a field-sobriety test that he supposedly failed -- followed by a breathalyzer test, which came back negative for alcohol. While Blake was proving his innocence of the alleged offense at Clever City Hall, a second officer who had been called to the scene, decided to conduct a search of Blake's vehicle, apparently without bothering to ask for consent. That turned up marijuana and drug paraphernalia, so police hit him with those charges -- even though he had proven innocent on the charge for which he was stopped.

Blake pleaded guilty to the drug-related charges, while representing himself. His lawyer-uncle, David Shuler (my brother) made an appearance in the case and got the drug-related guilty plea withdrawn. But Blake still wound up pleading guilty to "peace disturbance," even though there is nothing in the public record to suggest he disturbed the peace in any way. (Incident report is embedded at the end of this post.)

I was convicted of a bogus charge largely because I was dealing with a corrupt court system in Shelby County, AL -- but it didn't help that my resisting-arrest trial came while I already was unlawfully incarcerated in the defamation matter, and I had no opportunity to prepare a defense and no ability to hire a lawyer, even if a good one had been available. Blake had a lawyer, but his uncle David apparently was not willing to fight for him. David probably was interested mainly in catering to Clever Municipal Judge Matthew B. Owen (who is one of his Facebook friends) and placating the keystone cops who apparently populate the city's police department. It also is possible David didn't charge Blake anything, so he put forth minimal effort. If that's the case, our review suggests Blake got what he paid for -- nothing.

This much is clear: David doesn't want to answer questions about the case. We've given him multiple opportunities, and he has not responded to our queries.

At least three aspects of Blake's case were ripe for challenge from a competent lawyer. It appears David didn't challenge any of them one. We will look at two of the issues today and examine the third one (the most important one, by far) tomorrow.

(1) Field-sobriety tests -- The police narrative claims Blake was administered field-sobriety tests and failed three of them. But the report provides no details on what tests were administered, how they were administered, and how police determined that Blake failed them. That Blake allegedly failed the field tests but then passed the breathalyzer test raises all kinds of questions about how the field tests were conducted. But David Shuler apparently didn't bother to ask such questions. Blake was arrested based on the outcome of the field tests, but they are known for questionable reliability. From an article at the Web site for Ward and Associates, a St. Louis, MO, law firm:

Many times, police officers have inadequate training, and the field sobriety tests are not properly administered. The average police officer learned about the exercises/tests at the police academy, and has had no training since that time. The result is that the required testing conditions and scoring procedures are never learned, or they are forgotten or modified.

Police officers have also been known to create their own tests, such as having the subject recite the alphabet backwards, starting from the letter M, and then fail the subject because he or she could not do so. Having to recite the alphabet backwards is not a recognized field sobriety test in Missouri or anywhere else.

The research conducted by NHTSA attributing a likelihood of impairment assumed that the police officer properly administered, interpreted and scored the standardized field sobriety tests. If the officer does not properly administer the tests, NHTSA states that their “validity is compromised.” In such case, they should not have been relied on.

Were Blake Shuler's field tests reliable? It appears David Shuler didn't bother to find out.



David Shuler
(2) Peace disturbance -- Blake wound up pleading guilty to "peace disturbance," but the obvious question is, "Why?" Here is how the City of Clever Municipal Ordinances defines the offense:

Section 210.200. Peace Disturbance. A. A person commits the offense of peace disturbance if: 1. He/she unreasonably and knowingly disturbs or alarms another person or persons by: a. Loud noise; b. Offensive language addressed in a face-to-face manner to a specific individual and uttered under circumstances which are likely to produce an immediate violent response from a reasonable recipient; c. Threatening to commit a felonious act against any person under circumstances which are likely to cause a reasonable person to fear that such threat may be carried out; d. Fighting; or e. Creating a noxious and offensive odor. 2. He/she is in a public place or on private property of another without consent and purposely causes inconvenience to another person or persons by unreasonably and physically obstructing: a. Vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or b. The free ingress or egress to or from a public or private place.

The offense essentially involves making a loud noise, using offensive language, making a threat, or fighting. There is nothing in the police narrative to suggest Blake did any of those things. So why did David Shuler allow his nephew to plead guilty to something he didn't do?

Again, David isn't answering questions, but we will show the questions posed to him in an upcoming post, after we take a closer look at Rodriguez v. U.S.


(Previously in this series)


Blake M. Shuler, my nephew, pleads guilty to possession of marijuana and paraphernalia . . . (6/29/17)


My nephew, Blake M. Shuler, faced a harsh lesson of American life . . . (7/26/17)



My nephew got legal help from Missouri lawyer David Shuler . . . (8/23/17)







Friday, August 25, 2017

Don Siegelman's push to shine spotlight on corruption gains momentum with Neil Cavuto interview on Fox, plus report of documentary screening in Montgomery


Neil Cavuto
Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman gained traction this week in his effort to shine light on corruption related to the political prosecution that sent him to prison for more than six years.

First came reports that a news Web site had arranged for a showing in Montgomery of the documentary Atticus v. The Architect: The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman. Then came a mostly favorable interview yesterday with Neil Cavuto, of Fox News, in which Siegelman argued that President Donald Trump should pardon him.

A screening of the Siegelman documentary is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts on Troy University's Montgomery campus. (Note: Mrs. Schnauzer and I were fortunate to catch a concert by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham in March 2007 at the Davis Theatre. As a long-time fan of Buckingham's work, I consider this perhaps the finest concert I've ever attended. And we give the Davis Theatre two thumbs up as a venue. It should be a fine place to view the Siegelman film.)

Prattville-based Alabama Political Reporter (APR) is sponsoring the showing, after the Capri Theatre canceled a scheduled screening because of complaints from board member Leura Canary, who was U.S. attorney for the Siegelman prosecution. From a report by APR's Josh Moon:

“Atticus v. The Architect: The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman,” as the documentary is officially named, was originally set to be shown at the Capri Theater in Montgomery in July. But former Federal Prosecutor Leura Canary, who serves on the Capri board, convinced her fellow board members in June to rescind that rental agreement.

Montgomery residents were outraged, and a heated Capri board meeting a few days later ended in nasty exchanges but no change in the vote.

That’s when APR owners Bill and Susan Britt decided to step in.

“When we heard that the documentary showing in Montgomery had been cancelled because of pressure from the so-called political elites, it wasn’t surprising,” Bill Britt said. “We don’t like censorship at APR, and we decided we’d do whatever we could to give Montgomery residents an opportunity to see the film, to judge for themselves the contents of it.”

It only makes sense that the film be shown in Montgomery. But Moon reports it was a challenge to make the screening a reality, and it might not have happened without a push from Dr. Jack Hawkins, president of Troy University:

Much of that story took place in Montgomery, and the city served as a backdrop for much of the documentary.

Siegelman served as governor in this city. He was tried in this city and found guilty by a jury that resides in this city. Many of the people featured in the documentary reside in Montgomery.

And yet, time and again, APR ran into fear and bureaucracy when trying to find a location to show the film. Every venue was surprisingly busy or uninterested in accepting their usual rental fees to show “Atticus.” Some never returned calls. Others had exorbitant insurance demands.

Enter: Troy president Dr. Jack Hawkins. . . .

“We are committed to freedom of speech and transparency,” Hawkins wrote. “Within the Academy and within a free society there is little room for censorship.”

That did the trick. A contract was prepared and signed within days.

Many props to Hawkins, the Britts, APR, and Troy University for making this happen. How is this for irony? The Davis Theatre has a seating capacity of 1,200 (compared to 700 at Capri) and almost certainly is nicer and more spacious than the film house. Our message to Leura Canary and the cowards on the Capri's board: Stick it up your collective ass.

Davis Theatre, in Montgomery
As for the interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox, Siegelman pushed the argument that Trump should pardon him. Cavuto said that is unlikely to happen, and he's almost certainly correct -- in part, perhaps, because Trump might soon be headed toward impeachment, indictment, conviction, and imprisonment himself. With any luck, Attorney General and former Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, who played a major role in the Siegelman prosecution, also will be headed for the federal slammer soon.

Cavuto did note the dubious nature of the Siegelman case, which also ensnared former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy:

Cavuto stated with amazement that "Normally you look for a big ole suitcase of cash but there was no suitcase and no cash [in your case.]"

He warned "this could happen to Republican or Democrat, anyone in power, because . . . [in] campaigns you get money. . . they could be perfectly innocent but all of a sudden it looks like a 'Pay to Play' deal."

The interview can be viewed at the link below:


Don Siegelman interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News

Thursday, August 24, 2017

When asked about specific false statements in my post about Andy Schroeder, president of South Central Steel, lawyer Tommy Majors produces a strange reply


Andy and Monica Schroeder Johnson
An Alabama lawyer who claims I defamed his client, when asked for specifics, can't point to a single statement in my post that is false. In the process, attorney Tommy B. Majors provides one of the strangest replies I have ever seen to a law-related question.

Majors represents Andy Schroeder, president and owner of South Central Steel in Harpersville. We reported in a July 12 post that Schroeder's name appears on the Alabama list of paying customers for the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site. In a letter dated August 7, Taylor demanded that I "cease and desist" from defaming Schroeder's character and remove the offending post from Legal Schnauzer. (A copy of the cease and desist letter is embedded at the end of this post.)

Majors asserts multiple times in his letter that my post about Schroeder is "false," he invites me to direct any questions to him -- and he notes that if I don't remove the post within three days, I will face a lawsuit, seeking money damages, costs, attorney fees, etc. I did, in fact, have a question or two, so I followed instructions and sent my queries to Majors. The No. 1 question: What specifically is false in my report about Schroeder?

The lawyer had a hard time with that question; I had a hard time getting a straight answer from him about anything. In the end, we had a brief e-mail chain that left me wondering, "Why in the hell did this guy send a 'cease and desist' letter, threatening a lawsuit, when he can't articulate anything that is false in my post?" The exchange began with this e-mail from Majors, with his cease and desist letter attached:


Mr. Shuler,

Please be advised that The Majors Law Firm represents Andy Schroeder. I am writing you with specific regard to the defamatory statements made in your 12 July 2017 blog post about Andy Schroeder. Please see attached Cease and Desist Letter requesting the immediate removal of the posting and further assurance that you will cease further defamation.

Please email me with any questions and for further information on how to supply the written assurance.


Kind regards,

Tommy B. Majors IV


As you can see, I was instructed to address questions to attorney Majors; so, I did:

Mr. Majors:

You allege my blog post re: Andy Schroeder contains false and defamatory statements, but you provide no specifics. What specifically do you claim to be false in the post? Are you claiming that Mr. Schroeder's name does not appear on the list of paying customers at Ashley Madison?

You might think that would be an easy question for a lawyer to answer. But you would be wrong, and it prompted Majors to take the e-conversation in a peculiar direction:

Roger,

In all sincerity, I assure you that Mr. Schroeder was not nor was ever a paying or otherwise subscribed member to Ashley Madison. Mr. Schroeder is a good man, a loving husband and father. Whatever information you based the post on, it is not true.

In the kindest way possible, please remove the post. We ask with kind regards, but if we are forced to we will take the appropriate action to clear his good name.

Wow, a lawyer wants me to take his claim "in all sincerity." Good thing I didn't have a mouthful of food when I read that. Mr. Taylor probably would be surprised to learn that when a lawyer "assures" me of something . . . it's not all that assuring. When a lawyer asks me to do something with "kind regards," accompanied by a threat, I don't take it so kindly. So, I tried to clarify things:

Tommy;

You didn't answer my question, which is this: Are you claiming that Andrew R. Schroeder's name does not appear on the list of paying Ashley Madison customers in Alabama?

How did Majors reply to that? He didn't. But I still had questions, so as instructed, I directed them to him -- and I decided that two can play the threat game:

Tommy Majors
Tommy:
I have another question: Are you saying you have checked the list of Ashley Madison paying customers in Alabama, which is widely available, and the name Andrew R. Schroeder isn't on there? As an attorney, I'm sure you are aware of your Rule 11 obligations to investigate claims before filing suit. You likely are aware that an Alabama lawyer recently was disciplined for failing to adequately investigate a client's claims before filing suit. You should have completed an investigation before dashing off a threatening letter to me. That you apparently didn't suggests you and your client know you have no case, and your letter was sent only for purposes of intimidation and harassment. Such reckless acts can have serious consequences for you and Mr. Schroeder.

Bottom line: If you haven't investigated your client's claims, I would suggest you do so. If you have checked the Ashley Madison list and can't find the name of Andrew R. Schroeder, with an address in Greystone, I would suggest you look a little harder.

You should know that I have 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, and I don't take kindly to threatening letters from lawyers, who don't know what they are talking about. I take my rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment seriously, and any baseless lawsuit filed against me will be met with counterclaims, motions for sanctions, bar complaints, and any other appropriate actions.

My post re: Mr. Schroeder is 100 percent factual and is not defamatory in the slightest. It will not be removed. I attempted to reach him via Facebook before publication, giving him every opportunity to comment or answer questions, and he did not respond. Contrary to allegations in your letter, I did my due diligence. Unlike you, I did the research necessary to know that Mr. Schroeder's name is on the list.

If you proceed with a baseless lawsuit, you should know that you will have a fight on your hands. If your client has a problem with his name appearing at Ashley Madison, I would suggest he contact Ashley Madison.


Kind regards,


Roger

What was Majors' response? Nothing, crickets. Apparently, you can ask him questions, but that doesn't mean he's going to answer them. That last e-mail was dated Aug. 9, and I've heard nothing since then from Schroeder or his lawyer. The lawsuit that was promised within three days has not materialized.

What were Majors and Schroeder trying to pull with their threatening letter? I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing they knew they had no defamation case, but they thought I might be an easy mark and would remove the post anyway. It apparently never occurred to them that I might have a spine, I might know a thing or two about communications law, and I might have thoroughly researched my article before posting it.

Will they still take some sort of action? Too early to say, but we will keep you posted.





Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My nephew got legal help from Missouri lawyer David Shuler with a drug-possession case, and the record suggests Blake got what he probably paid for -- nothing


Blake Shuler
Quite a few young people probably think, "It would be great to have an uncle who is a lawyer, so he could get me out of tight spots, and I wouldn't have to pay anything." Blake M. Shuler, my 25-year-old nephew who had a traffic- and drug-related encounter last year with police in Clever, Missouri, probably isn't among them. Public records indicate he should not be among them.

Blake has an uncle who is a lawyer -- my brother, David Shuler, of Springfield, Missouri. David stepped into the breach to provide representation after Blake pleaded guilty, on his own, to possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after a highly questionable search of his vehicle.

According to court records, David wanted to get Blake's guilty plea withdrawn and the judgment set aside out of concern that the plea would have a negative effect on Blake's future employment prospects. David's plan worked, to an extent, because the court did dismiss Blake's guilty plea on the drug-related charges. But if part of the plan was to ensure that Blake did not come away with a criminal record . . . well, that didn't work so well.

Instead of a guilty plea for drug possession, Blake now has a guilty plea on his record for "peace disturbance" -- and the incident report in the case indicates Blake did not remotely disturb the peace. There is no indication that he was loud, rude, or disrespectful to the police or that he caused alarm to anyone else.

(Note: The incident report, plus David's Entry of Appearance and Motion to Withdraw Plea of Guilty, are embedded at the end of this post.)

It appears David negotiated with Municipal Judge Matthew B. Owen to get the plea down from drug possession to peace disturbance, perhaps thinking it's better to have the latter on your record than the former. But Blake winds up with a blotch on his record for something he did not do. Some potential employers might see this "peace disturbance" on Blake's record and think, "This guy must be a disrespectful, belligerent hothead, and we don't want anything to do with him."

Here is the big question about Blake's case, and it's one David apparently did not want to deal with: Did officers have lawful grounds to search Blake's vehicle? Officers stopped Blake after they observed him drive over the center line twice while in Clever city limits. An officer reported smelling alcohol on Blake, and Blake admitted to drinking one beer. The officer conducted field-sobriety tests, which Blake agreed to take, and claimed on the incident report that Blake failed three portions of the test.

Based on that, the officer placed Blake under arrest for "suspicion of driving while impaired." (Note: The incident report does not say under what statute Blake was arrested. Was it a state law, a municipal ordinance? We don't know. Did David try to find out? We don't know that either. He has chosen not to answer any of our questions.)

Blake was taken to city hall, where he was administered a breathalyzer test, which came back negative for alcohol. (Hark! Blake might be the first driver in history who actually told the truth about the "one beer" bit.) Blake was returned to his vehicle and his passenger/girlfriend Chelsea Cox, where the pair likely thought they would be sent on their way with no charges -- and perhaps an apology from cops for the inconvenience they had caused. (Snort! Cops don't apologize for anything do they? They certainly haven't apologized for breaking my wife Carol's arm during an unlawful eviction in September 2015. In fact, they've lied their asses off in various narratives to make it sound like Carol must have broken her own arm.)

Upon returning to his car, Blake got some disconcerting news -- the kind cops seem to specialize in delivering. A second cop had been called to the scene -- and while Blake was away proving his innocence on DUI -- Cop No. 2 took it upon himself to search the vehicle, apparently without consent. That search turned up the marijuana and paraphernalia, leading to the drug-related charges to which Blake pleaded guilty while representing himself.

David Shuler
My research has not turned up any case law that is exactly on point with the alleged facts in this case -- although I'm still researching it. But let's consider what happened: Blake was taken away from his vehicle, to city hall, where he proved that he was innocent of the charge for which he was arrested. While that was taking place, a newbie officer to the scene decided to search the car -- with Blake not present -- and found material that he believed to be marijuana and paraphernalia. leading to new charges. A skeptic might be tempted to say, "How convenient!"

Does that scenario smell funny to you? It sure smells funny to me. David Shuler, Blake's lawyer, apparently thought it smelled fine. I see no sign that David questioned either the field-sobriety tests -- which often are administered improperly and produce false results -- or the vehicle search. Those are the two key events that caused Blake's arrest, and David apparently did not question either one.

Why? David is part of the legal/law-enforcement tribe, and perhaps his main objective was to keep them happy -- even if it meant his client wound up with a criminal record he doesn't deserve. For the record, David and Clever Municipal Judge Matthew B. Owen are Facebook friends. What does that tell us? We're not certain, but it suggests Judge Owen did David a favor by withdrawing the drug-related guilty plea, and David did the judge a favor by not making noise about a search that likely was unlawful, violating the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Perhaps David charged Blake nothing -- or very little -- and decided, "I don't have much invested in this case, so I'm not going to put in much work." If his nephew gets a bogus criminal conviction on his record -- for something he did not do -- well, so be it.

The record is clear that there were grounds to challenge the field-sobriety tests and the vehicle search -- but David Shuler apparently did neither, and he has shown no inclination to respond to our questions on the subject.


(To be continued)








Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Andy Schroeder, president of South Central Steel in Harpersville, threatens defamation lawsuit over our reports about his presence on Ashley Madison list


Andy and Monica Johnson Schroeder
(From facebook.com)
The president and owner of a Birmingham-area steel company is threatening to sue Legal Schnauzer and me for our reporting about his presence on the Alabama list of paying customers for the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site. Andy Schroeder, however, has a slight problem: His lawyer seems unable to point to a single piece of information in our report that is false.

In a post dated July 12, 2017, we reported that Schroeder -- a graduate of Briarwood Christian High School and Auburn University, and now president/owner of South Central Steel Inc. (SCS) in Harpersville -- appears on the list of paying customers at Ashley Madison. He is married to Monica Johnson Schroeder, a vice president at Capital One who has held several positions in real-estate finance. The couple has two sons -- Chase, who played football at Briarwood and is president of Mountain Top Events in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Drew, who is a current Briarwood student (class of 2019) and a member of the golf team.

All of that is undeniably true, but attorney Tommy B. Majors -- of the Majors Law Firm in Eagle Point -- fired off a "cease and desist" letter (dated August 7, 2017), instructing me that I was about to face a lawsuit if I did not take corrective action regarding defamatory reports about Andy Schroeder. Did Majors point to any specific information in my reports that was false? Nope, but I was to remove it anyway.

Majors invited me, or my attorney, to direct questions to him. When I took him up on that, he provided one of the strangest replies I've ever seen. Here is a portion of the "cease and desist" letter. (The full letter is embedded at the end of this post.)

Andy Schroeder is an accomplished and respected professional in the community who leads South Central Steel Inc., with integrity and hard work. Mr. Schroeder has spent years in the community building his and the company's reputation.

It has come to our attention that you have engaged in spreading false, damaging, insensitive, and defamatory rumors about Mr. Schroeder on your Legal Schnauzer blog. . . . .

The false and defamatory statements published in your blog post on 12 July 2017 and resulting harm to Mr. Schroeder and his family is a perfect example of defamation under Alabama law. Further, the absolute failure to make any attempt to substantiate or verify your allegations in the published blog post indicates a wanton and reckless disregard in posting such false, damaging statements. Due to the extreme nature of your publication, we demand that you:

Tommy Majors
(From themajorslawfirm.com)
 (1) Immediately remove any and all postings, specifically the posting on 12 July 2017, containing information about Andy Schroeder or South Central Steel Inc.;
(2) Immediately cease and desist your unlawful defamation of Mr. Andy Schroeder; and

(3) Provide us with proper written assurance within three (3) days.

Failure to comply with the cease and desist demand within 3 days shall result in the filing of a complaint against you and any other interested parties. Such a suit shall be seeking equitable relief from your defamation, including permanent injunctive relief and appropriate restraining orders, monetary damages, court costs, and attorney fees.

I recommend that you consult with an attorney regarding this matter. If you or your attorney have any questions, please contact me directly.

When I did contact Majors directly, as instructed, the result was . . . well, peculiar, to say the least.


(To be continued)








Monday, August 21, 2017

Newly discovered court document indicates that David Shuler, my attorney/brother in Missouri, has decent knowledge of the law, but sadly, he's an evil prick


David Shuler
The actions over the past two to three years of my lawyer/brother, David Shuler, raise a perplexing question: Is he (A) A marginal or buffoonish lawyer; or (B) An evil prick?

We recently discovered a document that suggests the answer is (B). That's disturbing, especially when you consider that I once held David in brotherly, high esteem. But 17 years of legal travails have taught me that sometimes you have to reach harsh conclusions in life, ones you would rather not reach. This seems to be one of those occasions, where truth can't be ignored.

Ever since Carol and I made the mistake of moving to Springfield, Missouri, under duress in summer 2014, David has uttered numerous comments that made me wonder if he knew squat about the law. (See here, here, and here.) Heck, at times, it seemed as if I was the lawyer in the family.

Via multiple communiques in summer 2015, David essentially sent me this message: "You are about to be evicted, and I see nothing unlawful about it." Given that I, a non-lawyer, knew of at least four grounds upon which it was unlawful, I was left to think, "Gee, my brother's dumb as a stump when it comes to knowledge of tenant-landlord law."

Consider the following portion of an e-mail from David, dated 8/11/15, involving a guy named Daniel Smith, who apparently was a housing specialist with some state or local agency:

Just FYI, your landlord has posted notice on your door because you will not answer the door. They are also serving Mom and suing her because she was willing to be a co-signor on your lease. It is my understanding that you have a court date on 8/25. If you aren't able to pay the rent, your landlord can have you forcibly removed from the premises. I don't want to see that happen.

Roger, I am asking you to speak with Dan Smith. I think he can prevent all of the ugliness and upsetting things that are about to happen to you and Carol. Please call him or talk to him if he comes to your door.

I'm not sure if Dan Smith ever came to our door. But I was more interested in the information in yellow above. David says that he knew "ugliness and upsetting things" were about to happen to Carol and me, and he gave no indication he saw anything improper about that. That told me that he considered the impending "ugliness" to be lawful.

Well, we now know that David knew the planned eviction was unlawful, and he chose to do nothing about it -- he didn't even have the decency to mention a key provision of Missouri tenant/landlord law, an item with which I was unfamiliar at the time.

We're talking about RSMo 535.120, which reads as follows:

Whenever one month's rent or more is in arrears from a tenant, the landlord, if he has a subsisting right by law to reenter for the nonpayment of such rent, may bring an action to recover the possession of the demised premises.

Let's back up for a moment and consider this e-mail from David, dated 6/2/15:

Mom asked me to contact you regarding the lease on your duplex. She said she tried to talk to you about it when she recently stopped by to visit, but was unable to do so. She talked to the people at Cowherd Construction and they are willing to extend your lease without a co-signor in that the rent has always been paid in full and on time. The lady suggested that you meet Mom at their office on 6/29 and they would allow you to execute a new lease. This lease would be in your name and would be your responsibility. I do not know if they would require Carol to be on the lease. I would think that they would also want her to sign since she would be living there. I also do not know how they would handle the deposit and pet deposit since those were paid by Mom.

Mom will make the last rent payment on 6/29 which will cover the month of July. You have the option to renew and stay there or of course, you could vacate and pick some place else to live.

This provides two key pieces of information, highlighted in yellow. In the first, David seems to be playing dumb, taking sides with a corrupt landlord over his own brother and sister-in-law. In the second, David confirms key information that helps show he knows the impending eviction is unlawful.

Regarding the first item, David conveniently ignores that I already had a lease in my name, it was due to go month to month, and it was to be the responsibility of Carol and me. There was nothing in the rental agreement that even hinted that we were due to execute a new lease, which would have tied us to Missouri for at least another 13 months.

As for the second item, David confirms that our rent had been paid through July 2015, so we were due to pick up payments on August 1, as the lease went month-to-month.

Now, back to RSMo 535.120. At the time, I thought maybe David was ignorant of its holding that eviction proceedings cannot begin until a tenant is behind on rent by at least one month. But it's now clear that's not the case. How do I know?

On May 19, 2017, David and his wife, Gina Hayes Shuler, filed a Rent and Possession Petition (R and P) against William Earl Snow Jr., a tenant in property they own at 2001 N. Boonville in Springfield. (See case.net, No. 1731-AC03525.) The petition seeks payment of back rent and possession of the premises -- and here is revelatory language from the document:

3. Defendant [Snow] entered into a rent agreement with Plaintiffs in which Defendant was to pay rent in the amount of Three Hundred Fifty Dollars and no/100 ($350.00) per month from approximately February 7, 2013, payable the third day of each month. 
4. Defendant has failed to make said monthly rental payments in the full amount due and owing in a timely period since March 2017, as agreed upon by the Plaintiffs and Defendant. Plaintiffs have made due demand of the Defendant to pay said sum on a timely basis, and Defendant has wholly failed, refused, and neglected to do same.

This claims Mr. Snow had not paid rent -- at least in the full amount, on a timely basis -- since March 3, 2017. That David and Gina Shuler waited until May 19, 2017, to initiate eviction proceedings indicates they know Missouri law on the matter -- that a tenant must be in arrears by at least one month before a landlord can seek to recover possession of the premises. (The petition is embedded at the end of this post.)

What does this say about my communications with David regarding our rental situation. It means he knew that eviction proceedings begun on August 5, 2015 -- when our rent was only five days late -- were unlawful. He knew all the "ugliness and upsetting things" that were about to happen to Carol and me could not happen, under the law. But he said nothing.

Someone with a modicum of integrity might have said, "Roger, I don't know about some of the grounds upon which you think this planned eviction is unlawful. But I can tell you for sure that the landlord, Cowherd, is violating Missouri law by initiating these proceedings while your rent is not even close to being one month late. I'm not in a position to handle a case such as yours, but I can refer you to RSMo 535.120, which will tell you all you need to know. You can contest the eviction yourself, or I might be able to refer you to a local attorney who works in that area of the law."

How hard would that have been? It would have been easy, but David Shuler lacks that kind of integrity. Most evil pricks do.





Friday, August 18, 2017

With left-leaning activists outing white supremacists from Charlottesville rally -- costing some their jobs -- Americans are learning First Amendment has limits


Ted Von Nukem (left), from southwest Missouri
(From usatoday.com)
A social-media campaign to identify and shame participants in a bloody right-wing rally at Charlottesville, VA, has caused at least three individuals to lose their jobs. That raises these questions: Is it legal to "out" protesters at a public gathering, and is it OK for employers to fire those who appear to support white-supremacist views in their free time?

The answer to both questions is "yes." And it's a sign that the First Amendment does not provide the kind of expansive free-speech coverage that many Americans think it does.

Gillian B. White. of The Atlantic, addressed the issue in an article titled "Is Being a White Supremacist Grounds for Firing?" White explains how activists on the left got the outing movement rolling:

After white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, a Twitter account with the handle @YesYoureRacist began soliciting the identities of rally goers based on photographs. “If you recognize any of the Nazis marching in #Charlottesville, send me their names/profiles and I'll make them famous,” the account tweeted. And by famous, the user of course meant infamous.

The strategy of exposing the faces of rally attendees to hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter worked, and many were identified. By Sunday, one of those whose name and place of residence had been revealed had reportedly been fired from his job at Top Dog, a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, California, according to Berkleyside. (A call to Top Dog went unanswered.)

The strategy that ultimately got Cole White, the man who lost his job after being identified via social media, fired directed a mix of public shaming and economic pressure not at him, per se, but toward his employer. It took only a few hours for internet users to come up with an identification, where he was from, and where he worked and then to start calling on Top Dog to let him go. That’s certainly not a brand new tactic, but it’s a variety of vigilantism to which social media is particularly well suited, finding and disseminating information and amplifying calls to action far beyond what would be possible within a single geographic community. After the news broke that White had been fired, many who had participated tweeted delighted responses. ”Awesome! We must shame them into oblivion,” wrote one user.

The left-leaning folks might not find it so awesome if such tactics are used against them someday. For example, what if a pro choice counter-protester at an abortion clinic were photographed, and the picture made its way to his boss, who happens to be pro life? It might not end well for the pro-choicer, as The Atlantic's White explains:

Of course, the consequence of this dynamic is that taboo political ideas of all stripes can lead to workplace sanctions. While many on the political left are now lauding firings as a way to hold white supremacists accountable, it’s also worth remembering that pressuring employers to sever ties based on political activities, or social and racial beliefs, has historically been targeted in the other direction. McCarthyism involved reporting Communists and Communist sympathizers and pushing them out of the workforce, and Hollywood in particular. And as Walter Greason, a historian and professor at Monmouth University said in an interview, “Historically it's more dangerous as an employee to be associated with racial justice and the NAACP, than it was to be affiliated with the KKK.”


What about the First Amendment, what about free-speech protections? Well, White writes, they aren't all that strong, especially when it comes to protecting jobs:

In many cases, firing someone for their political ideas raises few legal issues. Though public-sector workers can’t be terminated for their political views, and many union contracts require that an employer demonstrate “just cause” for firing someone, federal law doesn’t offer any protections for expressing political views or participating in political activities for those who work in the private sector and don’t have a contract stating otherwise, according to Katherine Stone, a law professor at UCLA who focuses on labor law. (There are a few caveats for those in states or municipalities with laws that go beyond the federal mandate.) But more to the point, Stone says, it’s not at all uncommon—or illegal—for private-sector workers to get fired for what they do in their free time if it reflects poorly on their employer. In cases such as this, an employer in the private sector simply isn’t required to employ someone who exercises their right to free speech, Stone says.

Tom Spiggle, of The Spiggle Law Firm in Arlington, VA, drives home a similar point:

First Amendment protections only apply to government workers. So, if you work for the federal government, or, for instance, a sheriff's office, you have First Amendment rights. If you work in the private sector, you don't have any constitutional free-speech rights. In many, perhaps most, instances, a private employer can legally fire an employee for his or her speech, no matter the content. It is, however, a double-edged sword. In most states, you can be legally fired for attending a white supremacist rally or for attending a civil rights march. Four states, California, Colorado, North Dakota and New York, have laws that disallow employers from firing employees for lawful off-duty conduct. Arguably these laws would not protect an employer from participating in a violent rally. Another national and broad protection is speech that involves "concerted workplace activity," for instance, speech about pay or workplace conditions. This includes speech outside of the workplace and on social media. This protection is fairly broad and has been held by the National Labor Relations Board to protect even profane speech as long as it involves a commentary about workplace conditions.

Here are the far-right rally participants known to have lost their jobs:

* Cole White -- worked at Top Dog, a hot-dog eatery in Berkeley, CA;

* Ryan Roy -- worked at Uno Pizzeria and Grill in Burlington, VT;

* Nigel Krofta -- worked as a welder and mechanic at Limehouse and Sons Inc. in Ridgeville, SC.

For the record, a man from my current neck of the woods (southwest Missouri) has been identified as a white-nationalist participant at Charlottesville. His name is Ted Von Nukem, who reportedly lives "somewhere between Springfield and Joplin." No word yet that he has lost a job. A video of Von Nukem can be viewed at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, best-selling author and former Sports Illustrated reporter Jeff Pearlman is contributing to the outing effort. From a Pearlman blog post titled "Dear White Supremacist Marchers . . . ," which references the photo, below left:


… it’s me—John Stevens. I’m the boss at the feed warehouse where that guy on the left works.

… and it’s me—Randy Ott. I’m the boss at the accounting firm where that guy in the middle works.

 … and it’s me—Malik Lewis. I’m the boss at the pharmacy where that guy on the right works.
… and it’s me—Candace Cohen. I’m the boss at the AT and T store where that guy with the mustache works.

… and it’s me—Hillary Chen. I’m the dean at the college where that kid in the plaid shirt attends.

Yup, it’s us. And, as a group, we’d like to say: You’re fired. Expelled. Dumped. Kicked to the curb, like a bunch of low-level racist asswipes.

Did you not think we’d recognize your faces? Did you not think this would get out? You know we have black customers, right? Oh, and Jewish ones, too. A couple of Asians even. Soooo … you’d probably have to agree they don’t really want to frequent businesses staffed by white supremacists. It’s funny how that works.

Say what you want about the pre-Donald Trump KKK—at least they were smart enough to wear hoods. You guys … look at you, marching around like you’re living in 1928 Virginia. You know we have iPhones, right? And TVs? Your faces are everywhere. You’re embarrassments to the world.

So, again, you’re fired.

Go sell your bullshit elsewhere.





Thursday, August 17, 2017

How long has the Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal been brewing, and how big a threat could it pose for Luther Strange and his elitist supporters?


Birmingham Superfund cleanup
(From al.com)
Luther Strange made it into a runoff with Roy Moore in Tuesday's GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama. That might seem like a positive for Strange, but it could heat up a spotlight that has been shining for some time on his mounting ethical baggage.

The No. 1 sign of that baggage is the deal Strange made with Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley, the state's ousted and disgraced governor who temporarily appointed Strange to Jeff Sessions' seat, apparently in exchange for soft treatment from the Strange attorney general's office on an investigation into Bentley's sex- and finance-related misadventures.

But the No. 2 sign of ethical baggage might prove to be even more troublesome for Big Lutha, whether he gets past Roy Moore or not. That would involve Strange's apparent ties to the Superfund scandal on Birmingham's Northside. Federal investigators reportedly are sniffing in several directions, including Strange's, and the case already has yielded one indictment and guilty plea.

If I have my way, Strange also will be facing deposition questions from me or my attorneys in two pending federal lawsuits -- "The Jail Case" and "The House Case" -- involving my unlawful arrest and five-month incarceration in the Shelby County Jail, plus the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham that forced us to move to Missouri. Strange already is a defendant in "The House Case," and he likely will be added as a defendant to "The Jail Case," assuming the U.S. Eleventh Circuit actually follows the law and reinstates both cases, which were wrongfully dismissed by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, a Jeff Sessions acolyte. Proctor has recused himself after admitting he had a conflict in "The House Case," and we are moving to have him forced off "The Jail Case" as well.

If the cases are re-assigned to a real judge -- assuming their is one in the Northern District of Alabama -- Luther Strange could be looking at deposition questions on a host of issues that he almost certainly would rather avoid. Those issues would include his personal and financial relationship with former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

How does all of this tie into the Birmingham Superfund scandal? Let's take a look:

Many citizens might understandably think the Superfund scandal started with the indictment and guilty plea of former State Rep. Oliver Robinson on bribery, fraud, and conspiracy charges. Many might also understandably think the scandal -- involving five industrial companies that might be forced to pay $20 million to clean up pollution on the city's north side -- shouldn't be all that big a deal. After all, $20 million, divided by five, is $4 million -- a relatively paltry sum for outfits like Drummond Company, U.S. Pipe, Walter Energy, KMAC, and Alabama Gas.

As it turns out, the Superfund controversy has been going on longer than many of us (including me) realize. And for reasons that are not fully understood yet, it appears to be a much bigger threat to Birmingham's corporate interests -- read that, "Luther Strange supporters" -- than one might think.

That raises this question, which hits pretty close to home: Did the Superfund issue reach a boiling point that made it a factor in my false arrest and incarceration in October 2013 and the wrongful foreclosure that forced Carol and me to leave our Birmingham home of 25 years and flee to Springfield, Missouri, where we still (to our chagrin) reside? To what degree might Luther Strange have been involved in both of those events?

It's been clear to me for some time that Carol and I were attacked -- literally, I was beaten up and doused with pepper spray inside my own home; Carol eventually was beaten by Missouri deputies and left with a shattered left arm that required trauma surgery -- because of (a) something I had written on this blog, or (b) something powerful interests feared I would write on this blog.

Under category (a), several stories could have prompted retaliation -- my coverage of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography; my coverage of an extramarital affair involving GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke; my coverage of an extramarital affair involving Luther Strange and former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison; my coverage of the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case and related skulduggery involving the family behind Orkin Pest Control; and my coverage of the Upton v. Upton divorce case and related skulduggery involving the family behind Alabama Threaded Products.

Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison
That's a lot of possibilities under category (a). Possibilities in category (b) are more fuzzy because, well, I hadn't written about them yet at the time of my arrest and our foreclosure. Two factors, however, might have made me a threat to the corporate and legal interests who wanted to keep the Superfund story corralled: (1) The corporate/legal types know I have good sources. Both Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison sued me for defamation, but neither made any effort, under the law, to show my reporting was false and defamatory. That's because it wasn't, and their own actions suggest they knew it wasn't. In the end, my reporting in both instances, was found, as a matter of law, NOT to be false or defamatory (see here and here); (2) Unlike the mainstream media, I can't be controlled by yelling at my editors or threatening my advertisers; I don't have editors or advertisers.

With that as a backdrop, let's look at a timeline of the Superfund story -- and we will find it produces some curious results. This information is taken mostly from a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release about Oliver Robinson's indictment and guilty plea and from an al.com article titled "North Birmingham's 35th Ave EPA Superfund site explained":


(A) 2011

From al.com: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrives on scene in 2011, responding to testing results conducted the previous year by Walter Energy that showed contamination in the neighborhoods around the Walter Coke plant. Some early EPA documents refer to the area as the Walter Coke Site, though it was renamed the 35th Avenue Site to indicate that multiple parties likely contributed to the pollution."


(B) 2013

From the DOJ: "In September 2013, EPA notified five companies, including ABC Coke, a division of Drummond Company, that they could potentially be responsible for the pollution. A company determined to be responsible for pollution within the site, known as the 35th Avenue Superfund Site, “could have faced tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs and fines,” the information states."


(C) 2014

From the DOJ: "In July 2014, EPA began considering the petition of a Birmingham environmental advocacy group, GASP, to expand the Superfund site to the Tarrant and Inglenook neighborhoods. EPA granted that petition in October 2014 and contracted with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to perform the preliminary assessment."


(D) 2014

From the DOJ: "In September 2014, EPA proposed adding the Superfund site to its National Priorities List, signaling that it required priority attention. Placement on the priorities list would allow EPA to use the federal Superfund Trust Fund to conduct long-term cleanup at the site, provided the State of Alabama agreed to pay 10 percent of the costs, which could equal millions of dollars, according to the charges. EPA’s decision on priority listing for the site remained pending throughout the scheme.


(E) 2014

From al.com: "The pollution in the north Birmingham neighborhoods of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont has been around for more than 100 years. The controversy surrounding the cleanup of that pollution is much newer. . . . Sandwiched between two coking plants, and surrounded by other industrial facilities and heavy rail lines, these neighborhoods have long borne the environmental brunt of the city's steel-making success, but since 2014, a legal battle is being waged between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Alabama and the five nearby industries identified as "potentially responsible parties" to the pollution over who should pay to clean up 100 years of industrial residue."


Why is this timeline curious? Well, let's look first at item (B). September 2013 was a key moment in the Superfund controversy, as the EPA notified five Birmingham companies that they could be held responsible for the pollution, to the tune of "tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs and fines." What happened in October 2013? Deputies from Shelby County entered our home -- without showing a warrant or stating their reasons for being there -- and beat me up and hauled me to jail for a five-month incarceration that had zero basis in law. Landing in jail makes it difficult to report on a certain subject, any subject. Hmmm . . .

Now, let's look at item (C). It says that July 2014 was another "hot point" in the Superfund controversy, as EPA received a petition to expand the Superfund site to the Inglenook and Tarrant neighborhoods, a request the agency eventually approved. What else happened in July 2014? Carol and I were forced from our home via a wrongful foreclosure and wound up fleeing to Missouri, where it was less likely that I would be able to cover the Superfund story -- or any Alabama story.

One of our pending federal lawsuits, "The House Case," alleges Luther Strange, then Alabama attorney general, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, his former campaign manager, were part of a coordinated effort to force us out of Alabama. Garrison worked in an "of counsel" role at Balch and Bingham, the Birmingham law firm at the heart of the Superfund scandal, but she mysteriously left that position in May 2017, and her Facebook and Twitter accounts recently went dark.

Strange has opposed the EPA's actions in North Birmingham, as described by al.com:

The state of Alabama also opposed the NPL listing. Then-Attorney General Luther Strange wrote a letter in 2014 to the EPA's regional administrator stating that Alabama did not agree with the proposal to list the site on the NPL and that "no State money will be expended to assist in any cleanup effort at the 35th Avenue Superfund site."

Alabama Political Reporter since has reported that Strange was present when a Drummond representative offered a bribe to State Rep. John Rogers. Al.com has reported that Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions is closely aligned with Balch and Bingham and could be part of efforts to thwart the EPA investigation.

Do we have ironclad proof that my arrest and our wrongful foreclosure were tied to the Superfund controversy? Not yet. Does the timing of the controversy suggest we were attacked to help ensure that I would not report on the subject? Absolutely.