Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Letter and The Birmingham News

OK, back to the topic of Alabama's largest newspaper.

You probably will not be surprised to learn that The Birmingham News did not run the letter to the editor that I wrote, outlining the corruption I'd witnessed from Republican judges in Alabama. Surely the newspaper at least contacted me in an effort to learn more about these serious allegations regarding one of the three branches of Alabama government? Nope. (And to quote the immortal Airplane!, "Don't call me Shirley.")

Leave it to Legal Schnauzer to print letters The Birmingham News does not deem worthy.

Here it is:

In a recent editorial, you stated that Alabama needs to change the way it selects judges because Alabamians should have confidence that the judiciary is fair and impartial. "Under the current system (partisan elections), that's too often not the perception and sometimes not the reality," you wrote.

As someone with firsthand experience in our courts, I can tell you for sure that's not the reality. I had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a fraudulent lawsuit, and I watched as multiple unlawful rulings by judges in Shelby County caused the case to drag on for five years. This cost me and Alabama taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Interestingly, public records show that the opposing party has an extensive criminal record and the opposing attorney has a long history of ethical violations with the State Bar. But that did not keep them from receiving improper favorable treatment from multiple Alabama judges.

This is the reality that many everyday Alabamians face in our courts. And I suspect many of them don't even know they are being cheated. How did I figure it out? After months of curious rulings, I finally went to the Jefferson County Law Library to look up the applicable law. It took many hours of research, but I finally figured out what was happening, and my own attorney was covering up the judge's misdeeds.

Did our Judicial Inquiry Commission discipline these rogue judges? Not a chance. Did our appellate courts reverse the unlawful rulings? Not on your life. Has the State Bar done anything about these rogue attorneys? Nope.

And I'm hardly the only victim of this system. In 2006, Ray Vaughan of Montgomery ran for a seat on the Court of Civil Appeals. A key part of Vaughan's platform was to do away with the rule that allows the court to issue "no-opinion affirmances," which uphold trial-court rulings without offering any explanation for the decision. In his campaign material, Vaughan said such rulings are a common practice and are a way "for judges to play politics and rule against 'unimportant' people or rule for their buddies and corporate friends without leaving a trail that can be used against them in the press or during their next election."

Unfortunately, Mr. Vaughan lost in his bid for the court. And our courts go on unchanged.

I welcome your editorial. But I urge you to go further. Some aggressive reporting could show your readers just how ugly our courts truly are.

Roger Shuler

North Shelby

Now I feel better. My little missive has finally seen the light of day.

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