Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Little Crime Hides a Big Crime

A sad and ironic story in today's Birmingham News.

Kimberly Jean Snow, a 27-year-old assistant prosecutor in the Shelby County District Attorney's Office, has resigned her position after being arrested for stealing $70 worth of nutrition bars from a Wal-Mart on U.S. 280 in Birmingham.

Snow is charged with third-degree theft, a misdemeanor, and could face up to a year in jail. But her boss, Shelby County DA Robert Owens, said there usually is no jail time on a first offense.

Snow self-reported the incident to the Alabama State Bar, which could take disciplinary action regarding her license to practice law if she is convicted.

The Legal Schnauzer has had many unpleasant encounters in the Shelby County Courthouse in general, and the DA's office in particular, so this story hits close to home for me. A few thoughts:

* I hope Ms. Snow gets her personal and professional life back on track. Would be a shame if this incident caused permanent damage to her career.

* When I signed a complaint against my Neighbor From Hell (NFH) for criminal trespass, third degree back in 1999, Ms. Snow probably was just getting out of high school or entering college. I've never met her, but I'm familiar with the challenges assistant DAs face in Shelby County District Court. Shelby County is the fastest growing county in Alabama, and that has an effect on the courthouse. The young attorney on my case was Jeff Hester (now in private practice), and he was swamped with cases and could barely give my little trespass case any attention. He also had to deal with, I know now, judges who are corrupt and DA superiors who also like to play fast and loose with the law. My guess is that Ms. Snow faced tremendous stress on her job, and that might have contributed to this shoplifting incident.

* Any crime that Ms. Snow might have committed is the least of the problems in the Shelby County DA's office. As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I was assaulted by NFH back in October 2006. He hit me in the back with a roadside sign and left a bloody welt on my back. The law in Alabama is abundantly clear: You hit someone with a dangerous instrument (can be anything from a pencil to a club, depending on how it's used) and you cause an injury, it's a felony. (If NFH had hit me with his fist, causing the same injury, it would have been a misdemeanor; but the law strongly discourages hitting people with objects.) Bill Bostick, Owens' chief assistant in the DA's office, told me on the phone that my case was a misdemeanor. When I cited to him what the law actually says, he wasn't swayed. Because it's a misdemeanor, he said, I would have to sign a complaint myself and the case would be heard in district court before Judge Ron Jackson. (I've been down that road before, on the criminal trespass case. Have no desire to go there again. I suspect the braintrust at the courthouse wants a case like this in district court because you have bench trials there. No jury involved, so it's much easier for them. Felony cases involve juries, as I understand it.)

* A brief word about Judge Jackson. He's the "jurist" who found NFH not guilty of criminal trespass, which led to the lawsuit against me. What kind of judge is Jackson? Well, in my NFH case, he acquitted a defendant who actually confessed to the crime during the trial. (I'm not making this up, I have the trial transcript!) NFH, of course, did not mean to confess. But he evidently had no clue what the law actually says about criminal trespass--and neither did the judge. Jackson created law, pulling it from some dark crevice beneath his robe, to justify NFH's acquittal. So much for Republicans not legislating from the bench. (Many more details coming on this in future posts.)

* After being told by Bostick that the assault against me was a misdemeanor, I sent a letter to Owens, the DA. I outlined the facts and the actual law, and I noted that I had an eye witness who saw the incident. I even sent him pictures of the bloody welt on my back. I asked Owens to contact me so that the case could be prosecuted for the felony that it is. I'm still waiting for his call.

* The Birmingham News put the story of Ms. Snow on the front page. That's great isn't it? A 27-year-old junior prosecutor makes a mistake, and it winds up on the front page. I have undeniable evidence that circuit judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves have repeatedly committed honest services mail fraud, a federal crime, and the News won't even look into it. The paper certainly has its priorities in order.

* I worked for several years with Nancy Wilstach, the reporter who wrote the article on Ms. Snow. I know Nancy to be a hard-working, conscientious reporter. In fact, she was on hand when I argued my third motion for summary judgment before Judge Reeves. I had presented my properly supported motion, and NFH's attorney (Bill Swatek) had presented nothing--no response, no evidence, nada. I told Reeves that, under those circumstances, the law required him to grant summary judgment. It became obvious that Reeves was not going to act as he was required to act under the law, so I again said summary judgment had to be granted. Reeves then threatened to hold me in contempt and throw me in jail. For good measure, he said, "Mr. Shuler, you don't have an attorney, and that's why all the rulings keep going against you." Nancy Wilstach sat right there for the whole thing and never wrote a word. I'm sure she knew her superiors at the News wouldn't allow it.

* One final thought: Reeves and Joiner told me on probably a half dozen occasions that I needed to get an attorney. Of course, I had already hired two different attorneys, and neither was able to get a bogus case dismissed. It wasn't until later that I realized why the judges wanted me to have a lawyer, as opposed to representing myself. They would use my own lawyer against me, continuing to unlawfully deny summary judgment and applying financial pressure until I caved in to some kind of bad agreement. And I'm convinced they were doing that all along with my attorneys. (I bet many attorneys have experienced this kind of extortion from judges, and they can't say anything about it to their clients. The Alabama Code of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to report wrongdoing by other lawyers and judges. But if a lawyer did report this kind of stuff, he could kiss his career goodbye. He would be blackballed by judges and could not represent any clients effectively. It's the dirty little secret of the legal business, and most clients have no idea that it happens. They write their monthly checks to pay their lawyers, and meanwhile their lawyers are being forced by judges to work against them.)

* Nothing like a schnauzer to pull the mask off this dirty little charade. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the club. It may or may not (probably) comfort you to know that this is the case nationwide, not just in Dixie.
I myself was involved in an incident where a Judge in PA issued an order on nothing but hearsay, which was proven patently false.
According to my attorney, the judge committed an error in doing this.
"Go after him, then",
said naive lil' me.
"Are you kidding?",
was the only response I got.
Other attorney-imparted wisdom from the Commonwealth:
"Whoever lies first wins."
It's a big club out there. Justice doesn't exist. Forgiveness exists, if you can afford it. Otherwise, get a hobby - hopefully not making license plates.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm going to address judicial wrongdoing in other states in upcoming posts. Are you familiar with the group J.A.I.L. for Judges? Might want to check them out on the Web. Their main goal is to do away with judicial immunity, which protects judges from being sued for unlawful rulings. Not sure I agree with everything that comes out of J.A.I.L, but in general, think they address some important issues.