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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Alabama GOP thug Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke probably included my wife in lawsuit so they could enhance benefits from foreclosure on our home


Rob Riley
Alabama GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke likely included my wife, Carol, in their lawsuit against Legal Schnauzer because they also were planning to launch a wrongful foreclosure on our house.

How did we reach that conclusion? It comes from our recent in-depth research on Alabama law regarding judgment liens and real property. That yields some fairly complex legalese, but here is the simple explanation: Carol and I were joint owners of the property we called home in Birmingham for 25 years, and getting a judgment against me would not have helped Riley and Duke much.

If they knew, well in advance, that we were going to be the victims of a wrongful foreclosure and forced to flee Alabama -- while also helping Duke get her hands on more than $7,000 of our surplus foreclosure funds -- they needed something more. They needed a judgment against Carol also. And that's probably why they sued her and me, even though there was zero evidence that she was involved in any way with Legal Schnauzer at the time.

We've already shown that my reporting on the Riley/Duke relationship, the filing of their lawsuit, and a letter from a Huntsville law firm indicating our house was at risk of foreclosure, all came in the same time frame -- indicating my unlawful incarceration from the lawsuit, and the foreclosure on our house, were connected, with Rob Riley and Liberty Duke at the center of both.

Joint ownership presents a problem for those hoping to benefit from a judgment lien -- even though Duke's judgment was bogus and invalid on multiple grounds -- via a foreclosure. That is spelled out in Code of Alabama 6-9-85. Its language is murky, but we will present it first, and then try to clear the fog with language from an article on the subject:

Section 6-9-85

Levy and sale on undivided interest in property.

When a defendant in execution shall own, or be entitled to, an undivided interest in any property not exclusively in his own possession, such interest may be levied on and sold by the sheriff without taking the property into actual possession, and such sale shall vest in the purchaser all the interest of the defendant in such property.

Don't feel alone if that leaves you scratching your head. Law on liens, levies, foreclosures etc. often is hard to decipher for a couple of reasons; (1) The law itself is written in a form that hardly is a model of clarity; (2) Judges often do what they want anyway, so the actual law doesn't matter much.

This much does seem clear: It's hard to get a lien that is worth much on jointly owned property if you have a judgment against only one owner. That's probably why Riley and Duke included Carol in their lawsuit, even though they had zero grounds to sue her. They already were thinking ahead to a foreclosure and a judgment lien, and that points to the kind of ulterior motive that is at the heart of a wrongful foreclosure. Someone wanted Liberty Duke to get her money fairly quickly -- and that could only happen if Duke and Riley knew we were headed for a foreclosure and they had a judgment lien against both of us.

The legal issues involved are explained with some clarity in an article from the Fullerton and Knowles law firm of Clifton, Virginia. It appears the law of judgment liens in Virginia and Alabama are similar. From the article, titled "Enforcement of Judgment":

When property has multiple owners, there are various types of joint ownership. The deed conveying the property into the current owners will normally dictates the type of ownership. The deed or bill of sale will normally say "seller grants and conveys the described real estate to Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones as tenants in common," or "as tenants by the entirety," or "as joint tenants." The normal or default manner of multiple ownership is "tenancy in common." If two people own a property and no legal papers say how they hold title, then they are tenants in common.

Tenants in common each own one half of the property, unless the deed describes some other percentage of ownership or there is some type of outside agreement. Each tenant owns one half "undivided interest" in the property. If you obtain a judgment against just one of the property owners, your judgment will attach to the one half undivided interest of your judgment debtor. You could then foreclose on your judgment lien and sell the one half undivided interest at a foreclosure auction. The purchaser at the auction would then own a one half undivided interest in the property, together with the other non-debtor owner. If one tenant in common dies, then that one half undivided interest passes to their heirs. Those heirs are then tenants in common with the remaining non-deceased tenant in common.

A 2011 federal case from the Southern District of Alabama touches on the same principle. It involved $2,038.68 in non-exempt equity on the property. From the ruling:

Further, the Debtor’s portion of that nonexempt equity is $1,019.34 because the Debtor holds the property with his wife as a tenant in common with rights of survivorship. A tenancy in common with a right of survivorship is “a form of concurrent ownership in property as tenants in common during the respective lives of the grantees with cross-contingent remainders in fee to the survivor.” Durant v. Hamrick, 409 So. 2d 731, 738 (Ala. 1982). Under a typical two-person tenancy in common, each tenant would hold a 50% interest in the property with each having a right to possession of the whole.

A judgment against only one owner of jointly owned property, against only one "tenant in common," comes with limitations. That's almost certainly why Riley and Duke unlawfully added Carol to their lawsuit; they already were looking forward with an ulterior motive -- to run us out of our home, likely forcing an end to Legal Schnauzer and helping Liberty Duke unjustly enrich herself. That's a fancy way of saying, "She stole our money." You might call the whole scheme an "end around" against the First Amendment.

Liberty Duke
As you can see, it hasn't worked; Legal Schnauzer still is up and humming. But it has come at a huge price for us -- we have lost a home that we treasured, along with most of the personal belongings that once went with it, plus excess foreclosure funds to which Liberty Duke had no lawful claim.

Were Riley and Duke at the heart of a wrongful foreclosure, one driven not to collect a debt but by an ulterior motive? In my view, there is no doubt about it.

That issue is at the heart of federal lawsuit -- we call it "The House Case" -- which is pending in the Northern District of Alabama before Judge R. David Proctor.

My wife gets arrested for failing to appear at court date for which she received no notice, on assault charge involving Missouri deputy who broke HER arm


Carol Tovich Shuler: The face
of a "cop assaulter"
My wife, Carol, was arrested yesterday in Greene County, Missouri, for "failure to appear," even though the public record shows she never was notified that she had a court date.

We found out last Friday that Carol had been charged with "assaulting a law enforcement officer" and trespass, based on an incident where she was surrounded by three deputies, and one of them grabbed her, slammed her to the ground, and viciously yanked on her arms -- breaking her left arm so severely that it required trauma surgery. What are the take-home lessons from our experiences of yesterday?

(1) You can be arrested for failure to appear, even though the court admits it never notified you.

(2) The victim of an assault can be charged with assault, as long as the actual perpetrator is a "law-enforcement professional."

(3) Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who saw his deputies brutalize Carol from five feet away and then declared, "She assaulted a police officer," is a lying, cheating, crooked criminal son of a bitch, and we intend to prove it. (Oh, did we forget to mention that he's a bastard, too?)

(4) Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, who filed charges against Carol on the last possible day to do so, is just as bad as Arnott.

This is the state of America's "justice system" and a classic example of so-called fiscal conservatives (Arnott and Patterson both are Republicans) who waste taxpayer money on outrageous scams like this.

Carol spent about six hours in custody, but she never was actually incarcerated, and never changed into jail clothes etc. The fine folks at Hilton Bail Bonding arranged for her release, the cost was $100, and Carol received a court date -- yes, she actually was notified this time.

We soon will go into more details about the facts, law, and curious timing of this whole charade. But for now, let's focus on the official record at case.net. If you go to case number 1631-CR07731, you will find this notation on 9/21/2016:

09/21/2016 -- Returned Mail--Undeliverable

Document ID - 16-CRSU-6650; Served To - SHULER, CAROL T; Server - ; Served Date - 19-SEP-16; Served Time - 00:00:00; Service Type - First Class Mail; Reason Description - Other; Service Text - Attempted - not known; unable to forward./jar

Once you wade through the administrative gibberish, it's pretty clear what this says: The court -- apparently unable to afford a process server -- sent notice of the court date via first-class mail, and it came back as "undeliverable" and "unable to forward."

If you click on "Parties and Attorneys," it becomes clear why the notice was undeliverable. Her address is listed as:

SHULER , CAROL T , Defendant
4070 S FORT AVE
SPRINGFIELD, MO 65802

That was our address when we were unlawfully evicted on September 9, 2015, by . . . the Greene County Sheriff, with Jim Arnott (his own bastard self) on the scene. It's the place where one of Arnott's deputies broke Carol's arm. And yet, "justice officials" could not figure out that we likely did not live at a place where we, and our belongings, were thrown on the street -- and Carol was beaten up. We haven't lived at that address for roughly 16 months.

An X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm after
trauma surgery, showing multiple
fracture lines and hardware she will
live with for the rest of her life.
(X-ray from Cox South Medical Center, Springfield, MO,
from the staff of trauma surgeon Dr. Brian Buck.)
We are talking here about incompetence (and corruption) that is so gross it's almost comical. But let's drive home this serious point; Carol Tovich Shuler -- who does not even have a traffic ticket on her record, who has been about as close to a model citizen as you can be -- spent six hours yesterday being treated like a criminal. She was finger printed, had her mugshot taken, even had her eyes scanned.

This all was ordered, best we can tell, by white conservative Christians, mostly men. And yet, many Americans are concerned about the possibility of Syrian refugees coming  to our shores? Heck, refugees from anywhere could only help this cesspool of a country that no longer even merits being called a "democracy," where our supposedly cherished constitution means absolutely nothing in court rooms, law firms, and police/sheriff departments, from sea to shining sea.

By the way, the judge who actually issued the warrant is a woman, Margaret Holden-Palmietto, who apparently needs to be checked for any signs of brain-wave activity. Holden-Palmietto was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon, which means she probably is a Democrat. That means she will get her butt kicked when she runs for election someday against a Republican who presumably will have a pulse -- although a pulse is optional for a Republican candidate in southwest Missouri.

But this should be scary for anyone who cares about justice. As an avowed liberal, I tend to hold female Democrats in high regard. Heck, I married one. And you would think that Margaret Holden-Palmietto, who probably is no dummy, would be strong enough to stand up to the entrenched corruption in Missouri's third largest metro area. But she clearly is too weak, too timid, or too distracted to actually stand firm against the rot that is going on all around her.

Her job, I guess, is to protect the citizenry from the Carol Tovich Shulers of the world.


(To be continued)

Monday, January 30, 2017

"Luv Guv" Bentley takes his mistress to Trump inauguration in the latest installment of a sleazy and cringe-inducing story that we broke long before MSM


"Luv Guv" and Rebekah Mason, out
on the town.
Many Alabamians were stunned last week that Gov. Robert Bentley had taken his mistress -- and her husband -- aboard a state aircraft to the inauguration of Donald Trump. In the history of clod-headed moves by Alabama politicians, this one might be No. 1, with a bullet -- and there is a lot of competition for that "honor."

Does this cause you to do a "face palm"? Well, it's the latest in a story we broke here at Legal Schnauzer on August 31, 2015, way ahead of anyone else -- and roughly seven months before the mainstream media (MSM) took it seriously. Alabama's MSM, in fact, only stuck its feet in the water after repeatedly trashing me for breaking a story that was "only smoke," at a news site that had "dubious credibility."

When the press started asking last week about the passengers on Bentley's voyage to Washington, D.C., officials initially went into a four-corners stall. After much feet shuffling, the Bentley administration admitted that Rebekah Caldwell Mason and Jon Mason accompanied the governor on a state plane bound for the Trump ceremonies. Aside from the slightly kinky sound of things, how stupid is this?

Bentley already is under threat of impeachment, in part, for allegedly using state funds and property to facilitate his affair with Mason (Rebekah, not Jon, we think). He supposedly is under a federal investigation, headed by the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, on a similar set of allegations. He reportedly is under investigation for unlawfully using state and federal resources to target journalists -- including yours truly -- who reported early on the Mason affair. And he faces at least two lawsuits from former state employees who claim they were forced out of their jobs because they knew about the affair and tried to intervene. God only knows how many more lawsuits will surface in the future.

How did "Luv Guv" Bentley's latest surge of stupidity become public? From a report at al.com:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley released the names of four of the five people who accompanied him on state aircraft to last week's inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Those names include Jon Mason, director of Serve Alabama, and Mason's wife, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who was Bentley's suspected former mistress and an ex-adviser to the governor.

Also on the aircraft were legislative director Wesley Helton; Zach Lee, the governor's liaison to cities and counties; and an unnamed special guest, Bentley said.

What's this about an unidentified "special guest"? Can this story get more strange? Bentley called it a "working trip." If that's the case, why was Rebekah Caldwell Mason along? She officially resigned as his adviser months ago, so what "work" was she there to perform? Are Alabama taxpayers suppose to be on the hook for the governor's girlfriend and her air travel and other expenses? (According to an al.com report this morning, the state won't pay for Rebekah Mason's expenses.)

It's not clear how many, if any, ethics laws Bentley might have broken with this "charade" (to borrow a term from one of our favorite M*A*S*H characters, Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III, especially since his pronunciation rhymes, sort of, with "tripod."). But this much seems clear: The whole unseemly episode, which already has led to "Home Wrecky Becky's" ouster, and could lead to impeachment and even prison time for Bentley, likely would have never been known without our reporting at Legal Schnauzer.

I'm convinced the MSM never would have written about the story if our coverage had not broken it into the open. The only other "early arrival" on the scene was attorney Donald Watkins, via reports on his Facebook page. But Watkins, who wrote about Rebekah Mason after I reported her name, had spent weeks hinting that Bentley was having a homosexual affair with his security chief, Wendell Ray Lewis. In other words, Watkins did not even have his genders straight, so it's not clear if he had solid sources at the time or not.

This much seems clear: Bentley and one or more Masons have engaged in serious abuse of the public trust, the kind that should lead to prison time if our "justice mechanism" isn't broken beyond repair. That's powerful stuff, and the Bentley Gang almost surely would have gotten away, without any public knowledge, had our blog not latched onto the story -- accurately and forcefully -- long before anyone else did.

I've had two lawsuits filed against me -- neither of which proved, as a matter of law, that my reporting was false or defamatory -- I've been thrown in jail for five months because of my reporting; and my wife currently has an arrest warrant for "assault" on a deputy in Missouri (an incident which ended with HER arm being broken). We even lost our home of 25 years in Birmingham to a wrongful foreclosure that was an attempt to shut down my reporting.

Carol and I have paid one hell of a price for my accurate reporting on corruption in Alabama and elsewhere. We essentially stepped into a breech left by Alabama's lazy, timid, and ethically compromised MSM. The public knows about Robert Bentley's shenanigans because of this one-man blog, which has been ranked among the top 50 law blogs in North America. The public also knows about corrupt acts of Jeff Sessions, Bill Pryor, Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Bob Riley, Luther Strange -- to name just a few -- because of this blog.

No matter how goofy the Bentley story becomes, it is a serious matter. We hope the public remembers that. And we hope the public remembers who is responsible for the whole sordid mess becoming known.

Missouri prosecutor files criminal charges against my wife over incident where sheriff's deputy shattered her arm during an unlawful eviction in September 2015


X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm, broken
by a Missouri deputy, before
any repairs 
A Missouri prosecuting attorney has filed criminal charges against my wife, Carol, related to an incident where a deputy broke HER arm during an unlawful eviction in September 2015. At least four officers appeared on Friday evening at our residence in Springfield, Missouri, apparently seeking to arrest Carol, whose left arm was broken so severely that it required trauma surgery for repair, and she is expected to regain no more than 75 to 80 percent usage.

Greene County PA Dan Patterson has charged Carol with -- get this -- misdemeanor assault of a law-enforcement officer (RSMo: 565.083) and first-degree trespass (Misdemeanor B RSMo: 569.140). Carol failed to appear at an arraignment on October 28, 2016 -- that's because we received no notice -- and Greene County Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto issued a failure-to-appear warrant for her arrest five days later. No one acted on the warrant until last Friday night.

Why did we not receive notice of the arraignment? The county, in all its brilliance, sent the notice to the address where the sheriff conducted an unlawful eviction. We can only assume county officials were stunned to learn we no longer live at that address.

If anyone doubts we are living in a "post-truth world," seemingly ushered in by President Donald Trump and his followers, this case should resolve that. If anyone doubts the capacity of law enforcement to not only abuse citizens, but also lie and cheat to cover it up, this case should resolve that, too.

We had no clue about the criminal charges until we heard knocking on our door about 6:30 p.m. last Friday. At the pay-by-the-week hotel where we currently live, it's not unusual to have individuals mistakenly knock on your door, so we didn't think much of it. We looked out the peephole and didn't see anyone, so we figured it was a person who was extremely short or extremely drunk (or both) and decided to ignore it.

When the knocking persisted, off and on, for about 20 minutes, we looked outside and saw two sheriff's vehicles drive by.

If they, in fact, were looking for one (or both) of us, what had we done to warrant such a visit? The answer, under the law, was nothing. But we had consulted a lawyer in late November 2015 about the eviction and Carol's injuries, and he warned that Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott might pursue criminal charges against Carol.

We were stunned to think something so unethical and criminal actually could happen. But the lawyer said he had seen it before, especially in a case where a sheriff or police department was likely to be facing a lawsuit over civil-rights violations for which they had no defense.

Well, the lawyer proved to be right on target -- law-enforcement thugs really can stoop so low as to file charges they know are false, against a victim of police abuse.

When the knocking continued on Friday evening, Carol reminded me of the lawyer's words and wondered if she -- the victim of an assault -- had been charged with "assault" on a police officer. I guffawed when the words came out of her mouth and said, "That's impossible. Even here, they surely wouldn't do something that stupid."

X-rayof Carol Shuler's arm, showing
multiple fracture lines after trauma
surgery that required at least nine screws
and multiple titanium plates for repair.
Just in case, I called up the case.net site that includes information about Missouri court cases and . . . there were the charges against Carol. Even after all the court-related lying and cheating we have experienced, I almost fell off my chair.

We first reported on the eviction and Carol's injuries on September 15, 2015, in a post titled "Missouri deputies break my wife's arm and aim an assault rifle at me during violent, terrifying 'eviction'" From that post:

Sheriff deputies broke my wife's arm and aimed what appeared to be an assault weapon at me during an "eviction" last Wednesday at the apartment where we've been living for the past year in Springfield, Mo.

Doctors told my wife, Carol, that the large bone in her upper left arm was broken when Greene County deputies assaulted her as she tried to retrieve some of our belongings from inside the apartment. She is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning -- and we are told it will be a five- or six-hour procedure -- although it already has been postponed twice.

Damage to Carol's arm apparently is so severe that a trauma surgeon has been scheduled to operate. The procedure probably would have already been completed if doctors felt an orthopedic surgeon could handle it.

What was Carol's condition after the incident? From the post:

How severe are Carol's injuries? That's unclear at this point, but she was given oxygen, possibly because she was in danger of going into shock, and doctors treated her for possible blood clots. Her neck and shoulders are sore from apparent whiplash, and she shows signs of having a concussion from being thrown violently to the ground. At least three officers surrounded Carol during the assault, and I saw one officer yank both of her arms in an outward and upward motion. Her left arm, the broken one, is so badly bruised that doctors asked if she had been on blood thinners. Her right arm also is extensively bruised, and I'm still not sure how it wasn't broken, too.

Why was Sheriff Arnott on the premises? We don't know. Our understanding is the landlord's staff usually carries out an eviction, with maybe one officer on hand to make sure a potentially volatile situation does not ignite. Arnott's flagrant dishonesty -- it's really more than that; causing false charges to be brought against someone is a crime -- was apparent at the scene, as I reported in the post:

As officers mauled Carol on the ground, handcuffing her and breaking her arm, Arnott stood a few feet away and pointed at the violent scene and said, "She assaulted a police officer." That's a classic example of how far some law-enforcement officers will go to lie and cover up wrongdoing.

We're not aware of any charges filed against Carol, although she was taken to the Greene County Jail before someone finally realized that her complaints about soreness in her arm might be serious. She apparently was not booked into the jail, and she was transported to one hospital for X-rays that revealed the break and then to another, where the surgery is scheduled.

I witnessed the assault on Carol, and I feel certain none of the officers involved has a scratch on him (or her)--one of the officers was a woman. I was seated in our car in the driveway and could hear Carol say, "I'm trying to . . . . " I lost track of her words after that, but she told me that she was trying to get our cat's litter box. The notion that she assaulted anyone is preposterous.

To be clear, I saw the entire incident from about 15 feet away, and Carol did not assault, or initiate contact, with anyone. As three officers surrounded her -- one of them is named Scott Harrison, another was female -- an unknown male officer grabbed her, slammed her to the ground, and yanked viciously on her arms, breaking one of them. As noted above, I distinctly heard her say, "I'm trying to . . .," and I heard other less distinct statements from her. Carol says she yelled, "Do not touch me," and I believe I heard a garbled version of that. If that is confirmed, it would show that officers initiated contact with Carol, and not the other way around.

Regardless of what was said, Carol and I know (from what we saw with our own eyes) that she did not initiate contact with anyone. We also know the sheriff's department has violated its own policy by failing to interview us as witnesses -- and apparently failing to conduct any investigation at all.

What are some of the legal and factual issues surrounding this latest turn of events? There are quite a few, and we will address them shortly.

(Note: To see the charges against Carol click here for case.net, click on "Litigant Name Search," key in her last name and first name, and it is case number 1631-CR07731. She also is listed on the Greene County Sheriff's Office list of active warrants, under the letter "S.")


(To be continued)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Craig Lowell, attorney at Birmingham's Wiggins Childs employment-discrimination firm, appears at cheating Web site


Craig Lowell
An attorney at Alabama's largest employment-discrimination firm is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affairs Web site, records show.

Craig Lowell, of the Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb firm, appears on the Alabama list for AM. Lowell graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1990 and earned a law degree from Washington and Lee in 1993.

Wiggins Childs, probably the best-known firm in Alabama for representing plaintiffs in employment-discrimination case, was the firm for Gadsden resident Lilly Ledbetter in her historic case against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Gadsden. Evidence showed Ledbetter and other women at the plant consistently were paid less than their male counterparts.

Ledbetter won a $4-million judgment at the trial-court level, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision on a procedural issue, drawing outrage from many women's-rights and equal-pay advocates. Significant evidence indicates Ledbetter's lawyers from Wiggins Childs screwed up her case on appeal.

Ledbetter might have won in the end because her case led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2009. In fact, that was one of Obama's first acts as president.

While Wiggins Childs is known for employment-discrimination cases, its work is not limited to that area. Lowell's specialties include class-action cases, dangerous and defective products, environmental law, mass torts, personal injury/wrongful death, and whistleblower/qui tam.

Lowell's marital status is unclear, based on the records available to us. He lives at 930 31st St. South in Birmingham, and property records show he and Allison W. Lowell jointly owned that property from at least 2007 until 2013. Starting in 2014, her name disappears from the property records. The home has an appraised value of $426,300.

Were they married and got divorced in 2013-14? That appears to be the case, but we are not certain about it. Allison W. Lowell is an attorney, and information on the Web indicates she worked at one point for Maynard Cooper and Gale in Birmingham. She no longer appears as a member of the Alabama State Bar, and her whereabouts are unknown to us at the moment.

We sought comment from Craig Lowell for this article, but he has not responded.

Previously:

Article with links to 1-20 in Ashley Madison series

(21) Craig Oliver, attorney, Springfield, MO (1/24/17)

Jeff Sessions, in 1990s, made frequent late-night visits to Bill Pryor's residence in Montgomery, hinting at a homosexual relationship between two Trump favorites


Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. attorney general, engaged in late-night behavior that hinted at a homosexual relationship with current federal judge Bill Pryor, according to a former Alabama law-enforcement official.

The Senate Judiciary Committee possibly was to vote on Sessions' nomination at a meeting Tuesday. But Senate Democrats pushed for a delay, so they could have more time to review Sessions' responses on a questionnaire. The vote now is expected to come at the end of this month.

Pryor is among the favorites to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. A Los Angeles Times report Tuesday has Colorado federal judge Neil M. Gorsuch as perhaps the new leader for Scalia's seat. But it appears Pryor will be a strong candidate for any SCOTUS openings during the Trump years because of his close ties to Sessions.

How close are Sessions and Pryor, and what is the nature of their relationship? Agents for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (now the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, ALEA), observed Sessions making frequent late-night visits in the late 1990s to Pryor's apartment in Montgomery, Alabama, a former law-enforcement official said. (See video, with tape-recorded interview at the end of this post.)

Agents did not observe activity once Sessions was inside the apartment, but his frequent visits heightened officials' concerns that Pryor was laying the groundwork for a run at a federal judgeship and might be subject to blackmail if he obtained such a position.

Why were agents conducting surveillance on Pryor's residence? Sessions, after serving as Alabama's attorney general (1994-96), was elected to the U.S. Senate. That created an opening for a new AG, and Gov. Fob James appointed Pryor, whom Sessions had hired as his deputy. In early 1997, not long after Pryor took office, it was clear to many Alabama politicos that the young and ambitious AG was angling for a seat on the federal bench. That became a concern when law-enforcement officials, working on a tip from an informant, obtained copies of nude photographs of Pryor, taken when he was 18 to 20 years old and a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe).

Bill Pryor, nude and with robe
(Note: This nude image has been flipped, or reversed, from
the image we have previously run. Our research suggests this
is how the photo originally appeared before being flipped
on its way to badpuppy.com,)
The photos, taken in the early to mid 1980s, apparently had appeared in a number of print publications in the '80s. The pictures had a reawakening as the Internet took hold in the 1990s and appeared at a fledgling Web site called badpuppy.com. Based in Cocoa, Florida, Bad Puppy went on to become a "superstore of gay porn."

That the photos existed became widely known when we reported on them in September 2013, creating a flood of coverage on the Web largely because of Pryor's strident anti-gay positions. From our original report of September 17, 2013:

Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at badpuppy.com in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

Concerned that Pryor might be subject to blackmail, either as AG or a federal judge, state law-enforcement officials set out to learn more about his lifestyle. That led to surveillance that caught Jeff Sessions coming and going at Pryor's residence at unusually late hours. Says one official involved in the case:

I hadn't heard anything about Sessions being gay, but we did hear and one of my agents picked up on it -- when Pryor was in Montgomery running for the AG slot -- Sessions was AG at the time, we had heard rumors about [Pryor's] lifestyle. He was living in a little garage apartment, I don't remember where . . . The agent reported several late-night visits to Pryor's apartment by Sessions. Those might have been for . . planning. I don't know . . . still. I don't remember anything else that we came up with.

Since that interview, we have become aware of reports that Sessions is gay, and it is a poorly kept secret in political circles. In fact, we recently reported that the Obama administration was prepared to drop the "G bomb" on Sessions (and fellow U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham) if he threatened to block the SCOTUS nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. From that post:

Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. attorney general, is at risk of blackmail because he is a closeted homosexual, according to a published report from 2009.

The Obama administration, in fact, was aware of Sessions' "secret" and held it over his head to ensure he did not block the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a report at Wayne Madsen Report (WMR). The White House had similar information on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and was prepared to use it in a similar fashion.

Sessions and Graham had voiced strong opposition to Sotomayor's nomination, but that changed when the White House made it known that it was willing to unload the "G bomb" on both conservative senators if they sought to block her. From the WMR article, titled "The Democratic not-so-secret secret 'nuclear option' on Sotomayor nomination" and dated June 5-7, 2009. Sotomayor was confirmed on August 6, 2009, with only modest opposition from the GOP.

A picture is emerging of Sessions and Pryor as stridently anti-gay, apparently because they hope to mask their own closeted homosexuality. The picture also suggests that Sessions' devotion to Pryor -- he has pushed for his protege's elevation at seemingly every opportunity -- is based on more than Pryor's professional qualifications.

We sought comment from Sessions, via both the contact page on his Web site and his spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores. No one responded to our queries

Here is part of our interview with an Alabama law-enforcement official who was at the center of the Pryor/Sessions investigation:




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why did Birmingham lawyer David Gespass never raise the possibility of a habeas corpus petition to get me released from jail in Shelby County, Alabama?


David Gespass
The Dr. Mark Hayden case has much in common with my own five-month incarceration, "for blogging" in Shelby County, Alabama. But there is one major difference in the two cases: Hayden, with the help of his wife Angela, was able to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus; that resulted in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate John England, and Hayden was released (after 25 days in the Jefferson County Jail) that same day.

There was no habeas corpus petition in my case. There are several reasons for that: (1) I had heard of habeas corpus -- fellow inmates mentioned it often -- and I had a general idea of what it meant, but I wasn't sure it would apply to a totally civil matter, such as mine; (2) Carol would have had to file it at the federal courthouse in Birmingham, and she was fearful of going near any court facility for concern she would be arrested; her name was on the Rob Riley/Liberty Duke lawsuit that resulted in my arrest, and I heard deputies talking about trying to get her on the same night they "kidnapped" me (took me into custody without a warrant); (3) I agreed with Carol that she should go nowhere near a courthouse or law-enforcement facility; (4) Maybe I was just stupid about habeas corpus and how to proceed on that issue; Dr. Hayden probably was smarter than me about using that legal instrument. He might have had an advantage because I think he knew a writ of arrest had been issued on him for about a year. I had no idea an arrest was coming for me; I had filed a Motion to Quash Service and was waiting for a ruling on that when deputies burst into our garage, beat me up, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me to jail.

Here's where the story takes a curious legal turn. Birmingham attorney David Gespass met with me twice in jail, and between the two visits, sent me a letter dated October 31, 2013. (That was eight days after my arrest, and the letter is embedded at the end of this post.) Why did Gespass visit me in jail? I've never known for sure because he never told me who sent him. I have some memory that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent him, after Carol managed to escape capture and get word about my arrest out in the press.

If the CPJ sent Gespass, he certainly did nothing to protect this journalist. As the Hayden case shows, seeking a writ of habeas corpus seems to be a reasonable first step in a case of wrongful arrest. As an individual with a law degree and a bar card, Gespass should have known that. But he never mentioned habeas corpus in our conversations, and you can see there is no mention of it in the letter below. He should have at least raised the issue, and if he felt it was inappropriate for me, he should have explained why. He did none of that.

What exactly is habeas corpus? Here is an explanation from lectlaw.com:

A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another's detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error. Habeas corpus petitions are usually filed by persons serving prison sentences. In family law, a parent who has been denied custody of his child by a trial court may file a habeas corpus petition. Also, a party may file a habeas corpus petition if a judge declares her in contempt of court and jails or threatens to jail her.

Habeas corpus, it appears, would have been appropriate in my case: (1) We easily could have shown that Judge Claud Neilson made a factual error in ordering my arrest. Every legal analyst who has addressed the case -- and quite a few have, from both the left and the right -- has concluded that Neilson violated longstanding First Amendment principles; (2) Habeas is appropriate in the contempt-of-court context, such as my case and Mark Hayden.

If David Gespass had taken the appropriate action, I might have been out of jail in 10 days or less. And I could have challenged the constitutional issues, either with Gespass' help, with the help of another lawyer, or on my own.

So why didn't Gespass seek a writ of habeas corpus? I have only one answer -- he did not want me out of jail. CPJ might have sent him, but my guess is that he was working for someone contrary to my best interests, perhaps Rob Riley himself. In fact, I told Gespass that to his face as I ended our second meeting by telling him, in so many words, "to get the hell out." Could Doug Jones, a supposed Democrat with solid ties to Riley, have put a bug in Gespass' ear about screwing me over? Would not surprise me one bit.

Anyone who has met David Gespass knows he's a peculiar guy; he comes across as an aging hippie with the attention span of a second grader on speed. As you can see from his letter below, he offered no strategy for getting me out of jail, other than removing posts that never had been lawfully determined to be false or defamatory. (My reporting on Riley and Duke, as a matter of law, never has been proven to be false or defamatory, mainly because there was no trial and certainly no jury trial, as required under First Amendment law.)

Here's the tone of Gespass letter to me: I must hurry along, remain in a defensive position, remain incarcerated, and not do anything to seek justice for my wrongful arrest. In an interview at the time on the Peter B. Collins Show, Gespass' tone was wildly different -- sounding like a lawyer who actually wanted to help his client. Perhaps he was afraid to sound stupid by talking to the nation the way he talked to me.

Gespass actually was lucid and on point in the Collins interview. Here are some examples:

The public-figure standard -- "Rob Riley is a public figure, which means to prove defamation, you have to prove not only that the statement is false, but it was made with knowledge of its falsity. The idea of a preliminary injunction telling somebody they can’t publish defamatory statements in the future--and that's what this injunction does--is insane; it’s clearly unconstitutional."

An injunction pulled from thin air -- "Riley got an injunction issued without Roger appearing in court to respond, and that is unheard of. There is no legal justification that I know of to get an injunction without a full hearing on the merits—and that’s never taken place here." (Why did Carol and I not appear in court? Gespass' letter explains it. He says, after reviewing the sealed record, that we never were served in the case, and no summons was issued until long after Neilson had granted the preliminary injunction. In other words, we didn't go to court because we weren't lawfully summoned to court.) 
How was I supposed to get out of jail? -- "This is really bizarre. There are two kinds of contempt—civil and criminal. Civil usually is if you have to pay child support. It's coercive, as opposed to punishment. Once you do what you are supposed to do, you get out of jail. Criminal contempt is punishment, and there are limits to how long you can be placed in jail. I have no idea which it is, and [Roger] has been given no indication of what he has to do to purge the contempt -- and no idea how long he's going to be in there. . . . He's sitting there with no idea when he will get out and no idea what he has to do in order to get out. That doesn't make any sense."

Did Judge Neilson abuse his discretion? -- "The standard for criminal contempt is five days in jail, and with two counts, that conceivably could be 10 days. The standard for civil contempt is that the order must set out specifically what you must do to purge yourself of contempt. Since no one has seen the order, I'm not sure there is anything that says that. You can ask a judge to reconsider something that is, on its face, so completely contrary to principles of free speech. This is, after all, the First Amendment."

So, you have Gespass telling a national radio audience that: (1) The court's actions are "insane" and "clearly unconstitutional"; (2) "There is no legal justification that I know of to get an injunction without a full hearing on the merits; (3) The court's actions "make no sense" because I had no idea how long I would be in jail and no idea what I had to do to get out.; (4) Neilson's actions were "completely contrary to principles of free speech."

Gespass never said any of that to me, as you can see from his letter below. I can only guess that he knew a fair number of lawyers would be listening to Collins' show, and he could not throw the same bulls--t at them that he threw at me -- while I was incarcerated and shackled.

Consider this from the Collins show interview:

What were our legal options? -- "The first option probably would be a motion to set aside the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the grounds that they are unconstitutional-- and get his immediate release based on that. The other possible course of action would be some sort of extraordinary writ to the [Alabama] Supreme Court . . . , asking them to order the lower court to set aside the injunction and release him. Unfortunately, that will take some time to figure out, which is the best and the quickest way to do it. . . . It's not inconceivable that this would go into federal court, but federal courts don't like to involve themselves in state-court issues, so you would want to get as full a record as possible before going there. I would hope that would not be necessary."

The "extraordinary writ" that Gespass references here probably was a writ of mandamus or a writ of habeas corpus. My understanding is that it doesn't take all that long to seek habeas corpus because it specifically is about someone's freedom. But again, Gespass made no mention of such a course of action to me.

Why? As long as I was in jail, Rob Riley had the upper hand. And someone likely instructed Gespass that's the way things were supposed to stay for a while.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Missouri's PalmerOliver firm is consistent; both partners appear as paying customers at Ashley Madison Web site


Craig Oliver
A prominent two-man law firm in Springfield, Missouri, holds this distinction: Both of its partners are paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site. How does any work get done at the Law Offices of PalmerOliver? We're not sure, but the feelings of wives and children do not appear to be a high priority.

We've already shown that Robert M.N. Palmer, 2016 president of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, is an Ashley Madison devotee. Now we learn that Palmer's partner, Craig R. Oliver, is on there, too. Gotta love that kind of consistency.

Oliver has handled some big-time cases over the years. From his bio at the firm Web site:

Craig R. Oliver has represented clients in complex litigation matters for the past 30 years. He has tried more than 80 jury trials as lead attorney and has tried cases to verdict or judgment in 6 states. He has obtained jury verdicts for his clients in excess of $3 million and has obtained numerous settlements for his clients in excess of $1 million. He is an AV rated attorney by Martindale Hubbell and has been certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has been a frequent lecturer on civil trial topics and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

This is from a description of the PalmerOliver firm at 417 Magazine:

The Law Offices of PalmerOliver P.C. is a successful general litigation firm with more than 70 years experience in handling a broad spectrum of cases, including personal injury, interstate truck collisions, medical malpractice, commercial litigation, automobile collisions, product liability and wrongful death cases. Their attorneys have tried hundreds of cases in more than 30 states against some of the largest corporations in America. The firm has obtained millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for its clients and their families. In 2016, Robert Palmer will become President of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association. Craig Oliver is a member of the Board of Governors of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

Palmer is married to Brent Bothwell Palmer. She filed for divorce in 1994, but the parties reconciled, and the case was dismissed.

Oliver's personal situation is a little less clear. Public records available to us indicate he is (or was) married to Patricia L. Oliver. Both show an address of 2125 S CROSS TIMBERS CT, SPRINGFIELD MO 65809 3550. We have found no record of a divorce or a death, so it appears they still are husband and wife.

We twice contacted Craig Oliver, seeking comment for this post. He did not respond to our queries.

Jeff Sessions and R. David Proctor used unethical tactics against a black U.S. judge -- and what does that say about Proctor's fitness to preside over our cases?


R. David Proctor
Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. attorney general, resorted to unethical tactics to get a black federal judge removed from a case in the 1990s. That is big news, especially when you consider the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet today regarding the Sessions nomination and is expected to vote on it within a week.

Another element of the story is big news in the Schnauzer household, and it should be important to anyone who someday might have a federal case heard in the Northern District of Alabama. That's because R. David Proctor, who helped Sessions pull off his scheme against U.S. Circuit judge U.W. Clemon (now retired) while working in private practice, now sits on the federal bench in Birmingham. In fact, Proctor is overseeing both of our pending federal lawsuits -- one over my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County ("The Jail Case"), and the other over the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years ("The House Case").

Do we have an objective, disinterested jurist overseeing our cases, as we are guaranteed by the 14th Amendment and the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution? Not even close. Let's consider Proctor's cozy relationships with a number of individuals who clearly could be identified as enemies of my investigative reporting:

* GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison is the No. 1 defendant in "The House Case." She once worked in Sessions' office, and we now have discovered that Proctor and Sessions have a cozy relationship. Does that mean Garrison is likely to receive favorable treatment from Proctor? A reasonable person could answer in the affirmative -- and that is the legal standard for requiring Proctor's disqualification.

* U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor is a defendant in the "The Jail Case." Jessica Garrison also worked for Pryor, and Pryor's leading cheerleader long has been Jeff Sessions. In fact, it appears likely that Sessions will convince Trump to nominate Pryor to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late Antonin Scalia. For good measure, Jessica Garrison also worked for Pryor and considers him to be her "mentor" and "hero." Does that mean the two of them are likely to receive favorable treatment from Proctor? A reasonable person could answer in the affirmative.

* Cliff Sims, founder of the right-wing propaganda Web site Yellowhammer News, is a defendant (along with his Web site) in "The House Case." Sims recently resigned to take a communications job in the Trump White House? Did Jeff Sessions help Sims get that job, and are the two chummy? Well, a photo on Sims' Facebook page, of Sims and his wife, Megan, with a certain U.S. senator answers that question. Does that mean Sims is likely to receive favorable treatment from Proctor? Again, a reasonable person could answer in the affirmative.

* It's undisputed that I was cheated out of my job as an editor at UAB for my reporting here at Legal Schnauzer about the political prosecution of Don Siegelman -- on my own time, with my own resources. Sessions had a major hand in bringing the Siegelman travesty to life -- he supported "hanging judge" Mark Fuller for a spot on the federal bench; after being elected to the U.S. Senate, Sessions pressed for Bill Pryor to be his replacement as Alabama attorney general, and Pryor launched an investigation of Siegelman before the latter had gotten his seat warm as governor. Does that mean Proctor, because of his ties to Sessions, is likely to be prejudiced against me? A reasonable person could answer in the affirmative.

* Proctor already has shown in "The Jail Case" that he is prone to rule unlawfully against us. Specifically, he has repeatedly butchered the law regarding our in forma pauperis (indigent) status and forced us to appeal to the Eleventh Circuit in an effort to see that simple, black-letter law is applied correctly. That appeal is pending, and my guess is the Eleventh Circuit (which includes Pryor) has put our case in deep storage, wasting time to help cover Proctor's substantial ass.

* We've moved for Proctor's recusal once already, before his ties to Sessions came to light. Proctor, of course, refused to step down, but we likely will be forced to file a second recusal motion. If Proctor refuses to follow the law that requires his disqualification, and he continues to cheat us, we are going to make a noise about it that the judge will not soon forget.

Jeff Sessions, with Cliff and Megan Sims
We've spent roughly 17 years being cheated repeatedly by state and federal judges -- in both Missouri and Alabama -- and I am more than a little tired of it. In Proctor's case, he has refused to disclose his tendency to play footsy with enemies of this blog -- and that is particularly alarming because it points to possible corruption on a major scale.

Let's consider this question: Is it possible David Proctor is on the federal bench because of his 1990s ties to Jeff Sessions? Is it even possible that they engaged in an unlawful quid pro quo ("something for something") deal -- with Sessions agreeing to support Proctor as a federal judge in exchange for help getting U.W. Clemon off the USX Corp. v. Tieco Inc. case?

Could another quid pro quo be in place? If Proctor will screw me over -- removing Legal Schnauzer as a thorn in Bill Pryor's side (and Jessica Garrison's and Cliff Sims') because of our coverage of Pryor's gay-porn activities -- will Sessions push for Proctor's elevation to a circuit judge, maybe even SCOTUS someday?

Heck, Proctor could replace Pryor on the 11th Circuit and be in line for a Trump nomination to SCOTUS in a couple of years. What if such an agreement already is in place? If so, it would point to criminality of the highest order.

I would say at least one of the above scenarios  is extremely likely. That kind of corrupt deal-making should cause Jeff Sessions to be voted down as attorney general, and R. David Proctor should be investigated and possibly bounced from the federal bench.

It's entirely possible that both should wind up in federal prison. The smell emanating from USX v. Tieco -- and from our own two cases currently before Proctor -- indicates that is exactly where they belong. If the Trump Train soon implodes -- and there are enough investigations in progress to suggest that could happen -- we might find Sessions and Proctor in prison together. Perhaps a whole bunch of other Trumpistas will be there with them.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Row with Montgomery lawyer Tommy Gallion doesn't keep Thomas Mancuso from trolling for possible company


Thomas Mancuso
(From yelp.com)
One of Alabama's most prominent corporate-tax attorneys appears as a paying customer at Ashley Madison. Until now, Thomas Mancuso might have been best known to the general population for his near fight with another "senior" attorney at a Montgomery country club. Now, Mancuso might become best known as a client at a Web site notorious for facilitating extramarital affairs.

Mancuso has a rich legal pedigree, with stints at Haskell Slaughter and Maynard Cooper and Gale. He now is head of Thomas G. Mancuso P.C., which describes its practice as follows:

Practice Limited to Federal and State Taxation, Tax Controversies, State and Local Tax Incentives, Corporate and Business Law, Mergers and Acquisitions, Entity Selection, Partnerships, Shareholder and Member Disputes, Corporate Governance, Healthcare Regulatory and Compliance Matters, Project Financing, Securities (Private Placements), Capital Markets, Tax Exempt Organizations, Estates and Trusts, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Fiduciary Litigation.

Sounds like pretty dry stuff, to the point that the firm's Webmaster apparently must use lots of capital letters to liven things up a bit. But you can bet Mancuso is well compensated, and he has at least one feisty, unforgettable moment in his background.

Thomas and Judy Mancuso
(From Facebook)
That came about two years ago when Mancuso got into a row with fellow attorney Thomas T. Gallion III. Above the Law covered the incident in a story titled "Old Lawyers Fight At Country Club, Submit Dueling Membership Revocation Letters." Reporter Staci Zaretsky starts by telling us that lawyers of a certain age are quite unpopular. (I thought lawyers of any age were quite unpopular.):

Old lawyers have earned themselves a bad reputation, especially in light of the current legal economy. They’re reviled by some as the Boomers who refuse to retire and make way for the new generation of attorneys. They refuse to adopt new technologies, they always think they’re right, and they adamantly refuse to change. This may be an unfair characterization, but many people believe it to be true, as disrespectful as it may be.

Given the harsh way some view older lawyers, of course they would be amused to see two of them almost come to blows inside a genteel Alabama country club. Imagine an attorney in his 70s allegedly screaming “you motherf*cker” at the top of his lungs, and then you’ll get an idea of what reportedly went down.

Now, this sounds good, especially after putting ourselves in slumber land by reading about Mancuso's actual practice. At the heart of the spat were dueling membership-revocation letters to Montgomery Country Club. Such matters obviously are not be to taken lightly among the capital city's moneyed gentry.

Let's allow Zaretsky to tell the story:

The attorneys involved in the altercation were Thomas T. Gallion III and Thomas G. Mancuso. Here’s what Mancuso claims happened at the beginning of the country club confrontation:



Zaretsky then turns her attention to Gallion's version of events:

Gallion, on the other hand, claims Mancuso sent him a “defamatory letter” days before the incident at the club. Here’s Gallion’s description of what allegedly happened on the day of the fight:
Gallion 1


Then we get another section of Mancuso's letter, where he provides interesting personal information about himself:

Here’s another excerpt from Mancuso’s letter to the country club president that we suspect was meant to gin up some sympathy for him as he painted himself as the lawyer with the cooler head:
Mancuso 2


So we discover that Mancuso is married, and he apparently is in less than tip-top physical shape. But that has not kept him from attempting to gather a "little something on the side," via Ashley Madison. God, imagine how ugly this scene might have gotten if Gallion had known about Mancuso's Ashley Madison membership and used that as a verbal salvo.

As it was, Gallion could not resist another pot shot at his "esteemed colleague." Writes Zaretsky:

Here’s Gallion’s response to Mancuso’s “woe is me” narrative. This paragraph makes Gallion seem like… a very special kind of d-bag who must be a big hit at parties and social gatherings:
Gallion 2


We sought comment from Mancuso regarding his activities at Ashley Madison, but he has not responded to our queries. Public records indicate his wife's name is Judy Miller Mancuso.


Liberty Duke's judgment lien fails to meet statutory requirements under state law, indicating she had no right to more than $7,000 of excess foreclosure funds


Liberty Duke
Alabama law requires a person seeking  a judgment lien on real property to give notice of the lien to the property owner. Lobbyist Liberty Duke gave no notice after having a lien placed on our home of 25 years in Birmingham.

Alabama law states that the filing of a notice of appeal and appeal bond destroys any lien growing from the challenged judgment. My wife, Carol, and I had no opportunity to file an appeal and destroy Duke's judgment because Duke and GOP thug Rob "Uday" Riley had caused me to be unlawfully incarcerated for five months in Shelby County, during which the time for appeal ran. It's hard to imagine a more grotesque violation of due-process rights.

Alabama law requires a certificate of judgment, which helps produce a lien, to include certain information. A check on court records in Shelby County shows that Duke's certificate does not include much of the required information. Alabama law has held that the required information is necessary to create a lien; it is clear that merely filing a copy of the judgment does not meet statutory requirements. That means Duke's lien, which she used to abscond with $7,112 of surplus foreclosure funds that otherwise belonged to us, was invalid.

We've already shown that Duke's judgment lien contained a number of flaws, and Chase Mortgage (which held the mortgage on our home) had an obligation as our trustee to ensure that we were treated fairly and in good faith.

The flaws mentioned previously derive mainly from case law. The flaws mentioned above come from statutory law. The bottom line? Liberty Duke's judgment lien misses the mark on multiple legal platforms. (Documents embedded at the end of this post provide specifics on some of the numbers involved with Duke's lien and our efforts to save our house from foreclosure.)

Let's take a close look at the issues that indicate Liberty Duke had no legal right to more than $7,000 of our funds. The record suggests she tried to benefit financially from having me kidnapped (arrested with no apparent warrant) and thrown in jail for five months. In my book, it's hard for an alleged "human" to stoop much lower than that:

(1) We don't notice the receipt of notice

The requirement of notice can be found at Code of Alabama 6-9-82. Here is how it reads:

Section 6-9-82

Notice where levy on real estate.

When the levy is on real estate, personal notice thereof must be given to the defendant or a notice thereof in writing left at his residence, if resident in the county; if not resident in the county, then by putting up a written notice at the courthouse door, and the manner of giving notice must be stated in the return.

Notice that the law requires personal notice; you can't just stick it in the regular mail and hope it gets there. There is no question that Duke and her lawyer, Christina Crow of Union Springs, failed to meet this relatively simple requirement. Why did they drop the ball here? Our guess is that notice would have given us the opportunity to challenge both the lien and the judgment, and they knew both had no basis in law.


(2)  Jail is unappealing

If there is a way to file an appeal while in jail, I don't know what it would be. You likely would have a better chance if you were in a prison, which is designed to hold people for lengthy periods of time and generally includes access to some research materials and writing implements. Jails are holding facilities, for short-term stays, and I did not have even a functioning pencil or a decent sheet of paper while I was incarcerated. Filing an appeal is challenging under normal circumstances -- I know because I've filed several -- but it's darned near impossible to file one from jail. Even if it were possible, it's highly prejudicial (not to mention a violation of due process) for someone to be forced to file an appeal from jail.

Under Rule 4 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure (ARAP), I had 42 days to appeal Judge Claud Neilson's bogus "final order" in the Riley/Duke lawsuit. That time period elapsed while I was locked up, depriving Carol and me of an opportunity to extinguish Duke's lien. State law on this subject can be found at Code of Alabama 6-9-61:

Section 6-9-61

Destruction of lien upon execution of bond for appeal, etc.

The execution of a bond for an appeal by which the judgment is suspended or the execution of a bond by the defendant upon the proper officer granting an injunction, stay of execution, or restraining order destroys the lien created by the recording of the certificate of the judgment or the levy of the execution upon personal property. The clerk of the court in which such bond, injunction, stay, or restraining order is granted shall, at the request of the party filing such bond or obtaining such order, note such fact on the margin of the record where the certificate of judgment is recorded in the event such certificate has been filed in the probate office.

You never know what to expect from Alabama's hideously corrupt appellate courts. But assuming someone actually reviewed our appeal before stamping it "Affirmed, No Opinion," there is no way, under the law, that Judge Neilson's judgment could hold up -- and no way for Duke's lien to escape the trash bin.


(3) A certificate of judgment that comes up short

An article titled "Alabama Collection Law" spells out the information that must be present in a certificate of judgment in order to create a lien. From the article, which includes citation to Code of Alabama 6-9-210:

A Judicial Lien is created by filing a certificate of judgment with the Office of the Judge of Probate. Recording the certificate of judgment creates a lien on all the debtor's property in that county. The certificate of judgment should contain the following information: 1. style of the case including the name of the court entering judgment; 2. amount of judgment; 3. judgment date; 4. amount of cost; 5. name of parties; 6. name of plaintiff’s attorney; 7. address of each defendant or respondent as shown in the court proceedings; 8. clerk's signature. Ala. Code § 6-9-210 (1975)

Of the eight items that must be present for a certificate of judgment to create a lien, at least two are missing on Liberty Duke's certificate -- No. 5, name of parties, and No. 7, address of defendants. (A copy of the certificate of judgment is embedded at the end of this post. We invite readers to check it for missing items.)

In fact, the name of my wife, Carol, who was sued as a defendant (just like me) is nowhere to be found on the certificate of judgment. How can Carol be forced out of a house she jointly owned because of a certificate of judgment that does not name her? How can either of us be forced out of property that is not identified by address on the certificate of judgment?

Do these missing items matter? Consider this from the "Alabama Collection Law: article:

Prior case decisions indicated that all the statutory requirements must be met to create a lien. The most recent cases regarding this issue have held that the requirements must be viewed in relation to the purpose of the requirement, to impart notice of a judgment lien to title searchers. Bowman v. SouthTrust, 551 So. 2d 984 (Ala. 1989); John Deere Co. v. Blevins, 696 So. 2d 1080 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996), but see AmSouth Bank v. Holberg, 789 So.2d 833 (Ala. 2001) for the proposition that merely filing a copy of the judgment does not meet statutory requirements.

The law apparently is murky on this subject, but Liberty Duke's certificate of judgment clearly does not meet all statutory requirements. That means she likely never had a valid lien at all. Our guess is that our addresses were not included on the certificate because someone did not want us to have notice of the lien, as required by law.

-----------------------------

Speaking of surplus foreclosure funds, we recently discovered documents that show the exact amount involved, plus other correspondence leading up to the foreclosure on our home. Some of those documents are embedded below.

Christina Crow
The exact debt remaining on our Birmingham property was $64,793.18. It was sold at foreclosure for $74,358.00. By subtracting the first number from the second number, you get $9,615.82. That's the amount of excess foreclosure funds that were due to us.

If you check Liberty Duke's certificate of judgment below, the amount listed is $9,450. Isn't it interesting that the amount owed to us, and the amount "owed to her" would wind up being almost identical. It's almost as if Judge Claud Neilson, when he unlawfully awarded attorney fees for Duke (and against a pro se parties, Carol and me) knew the amount someone wanted Duke to receive -- no matter how unlawful it might be.

Why did the figure dip to $7,112 when it went to Liberty Duke. I can only assume that Chase and its lawyers subtracted more than $2,500 in "fees." Mortgage companies and their law firms seem to extract such fees throughout the foreclosure process. Had the money gone to us, as it should have by law, it's not clear if those fees would have been applicable. But I'm guessing Stephens Millirons would have found a way to attach them anyway.

How does the law firm justify those fees? They certainly did not exert any energy to fulfill their trustee obligations to us.











Friday, January 20, 2017

As Trump takes over "justice system," Obama denies Siegelman pardon and Alabama judge Mike Graffeo talks tough on Dr. Mark Hayden case. Egad!


Michael Graffeo
As Donald Trump is sworn in today as the most unqualified and dysfunctional president in American history, he inherits a justice system that has been allowed to rot into a frightening state of disrepair. It's like a car whose oil has not been changed in 16 years, with it spewing smoke and emitting gurgling sounds as it prepares to settle on the edge of a highway. With Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, taking charge, you can bet the car's condition only will get worse.

How bad is it now? Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman -- whose case involved no bribery, was overseen by a corrupt judge who now is off the bench, and was brought almost one year after the statute of limitations had expired -- was denied a commutation by outgoing President Barack Obama. If our first black president does not care about gross violations of Siegelman's civil rights . . . well, high-level officialdom can't get much more knuckle-headed than that.

As a matter of fact and law, Siegelman never should have been in prison in the first place -- and neither should his co-defendant Richard Scrushy. Without question, it's the most outrageous political prosecution in U.S. history, but our first black president can look such injustice straight in the eye and ignore it? To borrow a phrase from a great Alabamian, Charles Barkley, that's "pitiful . . . pitiful."

On a more micro level, consider the case of Wetumpka physician Mark Hayden and his wealthy, connected uncle William B. Cashion. It provides a classic example that certain Alabama judges are more interested in playing "tough guy" with bogus orders than they are in upholding the law. That's a lesson I received from firsthand experience, and the Hayden case is driving it home once again.

Let's examine the words of Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo, who re-issued a writ of arrest for Hayden on January 4, less than two weeks after Hayden's release from a 25-day stay in the Jeffco Jail, based on a wholly civil matter -- with no allegations of a crime. (The order is embedded at the end of this post.) In his order, Graffeo adopted the "tough guy" rhetoric that seems popular with quite a few Alabama judges:

The court makes absolutely clear that no one -- Hayden, his counsel, his family, Plaintiff Cashion, Plaintiff's counsel, or anyone reading this order -- should doubt in any way this court's resolve and determination to enforce each and every order in this litigation's long and tortured history. 

Graffeo sounds like Charles Bronson with a robe. He also sounds more than a little defensive about his orders. But notice what Graffeo does NOT say: He says absolutely nothing about upholding the law, making sure that his orders -- and orders issued by any other judge in the case -- reflect the actual law.

In the Hayden matter, we know Graffeo's most recent "tough guy" stance is built on a mountain of unlawful orders. In fact, the case has a "tortured history" largely because it has involved corrupt judges at every turn -- but Graffeo wants us to believe Hayden caused it.

Just a few peculiarities in the case:

* Original judge Robert Vance Jr. took the case when it was assigned to another judge and promptly made four key rulings in favor of Cashion. Those rulings, to a considerable degree, formed the basis for Hayden's arrest.

* Vance stayed on the case, even though he had accepted campaign donations from Cashion's law firm (Maynard Cooper and Gale) that far exceeded the limit set by Alabama law. In other words, Vance was required by law to recuse himself, but he refused to step down.

* Cashion's lawyers took steps to ensure the case would be heard in the Birmingham Division of the 10th Judicial Circuit, even though none of the parties lived or operated a business in the division. Proper venue almost certainly was Elmore County or Bessemer Division of the 10th Circuit, but Vance refused to let it go. Is that because his financial supporters at the Maynard Cooper firm wanted it under his control?

* Vance took the case under a Commercial Litigation Docket, which since has been discontinued and declared unconstitutional. Why is Hayden being held to orders that were issued under an unconstitutional legal scheme? I've yet to see any citations to law that explain that one.

The tendency of certain Alabama judges to adopt a tough-guy pose when issuing dubious orders is something I've seen before -- especially in the bogus defamation lawsuit that GOP thug Rob "Uday" Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke filed against Legal Schnauzer and me. Retired judge Claud Neilson, hand-picked to hear the case by the Alabama Supreme Court and Riley Inc., sounded then much the way Graffeo sounds now. Here are Neilson's words -- actually they almost certainly were written by "Uday" Riley or one of the underlings at his so-called law firm:

In entering this Preliminary Injunction, the court is mindful that (the Shulers) have, as of the date of the hearing on the respective Preliminary Injunctions, not complied with the TRO (temporary restraining order). The court also is mindful that (the Shulers) re-published the libelous and defamatory statements about (Riley and Duke) on October 1, 2013. (The Shulers) are forewarned that the court will not tolerate non-compliance with its orders. 

I'll be darned, there is that tough-guy language again, this time highlighted in yellow. But notice that Neilson (Riley?) says nothing about upholding the law. In fact, he indicates that he's so tough (corrupt?) that he's going to spit in the face of the law.

* Neilson mentions a TRO that is prohibited under roughly 200 years of First Amendment law;

* Neilson references a preliminary injunction that forms a "prior restraint," unlawful under 200 years or so of First Amendment law.

* Neilson indicates that he alone has determined statements in my blog are libelous and defamatory, even though decades of First Amendment law have held that such findings can only be made after a trial, before a jury. The law holds that a judge cannot act as a one-man censor, but that is exactly what Neilson did.

Are judges likely to resort to tough-guy language in a case where someone has been, or will be, unlawfully arrested? That's how it looks from here; both Hayden and I were arrested, with zero lawful justification for the contempt orders that led to our incarceration.

In both cases, the judges should have been warning the other party that the law and facts did not support what they were seeking -- and that they would be subject to sanctions for bringing baseless cases. But that would have meant standing up to white elites -- Rob Riley in my case; Cashion and his Maynard Cooper lawyers in Hayden's cases -- and Neilson and Graffeo don't have the "stones" to do that.

What's the lesson here: Our courts, all too often, serve the interests of the moneyed and the connected, with no consideration for justice or the written law. And that happens in Alabama's state and federal courts. I recently encountered a federal judge who does not even try to hide his corrupt actions. It's right there in plain site, as I soon will show in a series of posts. This guy should wind up in federal prison, but we operate in an "honor system" run by dishonorable people -- with a justice department that is wildly dysfunctional, and you can bet that will only get worse as Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions take charge today.

They probably don't see anything wrong with our justice because it works for them; it just doesn't work for you. And this is a bipartisan problem. Barack Obama accomplished a lot during his eight years in office, as Rachel Maddow eloquently outlined last night on her show. But he did almost nothing to improve the justice system. In fact, he's one of the guys who repeatedly forgot to "change the oil."

The Siegelman case cried out for presidential action. But Obama, inexplicably, denied Siegelman's application for pardon. That illustrates how bad the system has been under Obama, supposedly a constitutional scholar. One tries not to imagine how bad it will be under Trump, who is an admitted practitioner of federal-funds bribery.

If Alabama citizens are parties to a court case and receive tough-guy language about enforcement of orders, they can almost bet that the orders are not based on the actual law. Mike Graffeo is teaching us that lesson, just as Claud Neilson did earlier.