Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alabama Is About to Re-Elect a Corrupt Appellate Judge

Several Alabama races are shaping up as doozies next Tuesday, particularly three for seats in Congress and one for a spot on the Alabama Supreme Court.

Democrats appear to have decent shots in all four races.

The same cannot be said for another important race, one that affects everyone in Alabama. And that's a shame because the Republican incumbent is corrupt.

We're talking about the race between Presiding Judge William C. "Bill" Thompson and Democratic challenger Kimberly Harbison Drake for a spot on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Thompson is bidding for his third term on the court. Drake, who worked as a registered nurse before becoming a lawyer, has barely put up a fight. According to a recent item in The Birmingham News, Drake has raised about $8,000, almost half of that from herself. Thompson has raised about $277,000.

Drake will definitely get my vote. But according to The Birmingham News, she has only four years of experience as a lawyer and relatively little financial clout. That means she has little chance of winning.

And that's too bad because Thompson doesn't deserve another term on the bench. What he deserves is a term in federal prison.

Why would I say such a thing about a fine Alabama jurist? Because it's fact. And Thompson is not even a clever crook. He leaves an ample paper trail, which I am holding in my hands at this moment (while I type with my nose).

How do I know Thompson is a crook? Because I had a case before him--an appeal of the lawsuit that is at the heart of this blog.

The case was styled Roger Shuler v. Mike McGarity, appeal from Shelby County Circuit Court (CV-00-1248). It was Appellate Court Docket Number 2040161, and the "decision" on it was released June 24, 2005.

Here's a brief summary of what led to the appeal. My next-door neighbor Mike McGarity (he of the eight criminal convictions) sued me for malicious prosecution and conversion after I filed a complaint against him for criminal trespass, third degree (which is a violation, not even a misdemeanor). During the criminal trial, McGarity unwittingly confessed to the crime, but District Judge Ron Jackson still found him not guilty. That unlawful acquittal allowed McGarity to turn around and sue me.

(Memo to future crime victims: If the person who victimizes you is acquitted, he can turn around and victimize you again--in civil court. The tort is called malicious prosecution, and most citizens have no idea this can happen to them if they are victims of a crime. What a country!)

McGarity's lawsuit would have needed to improve drastically to reach the level of frivolous. But his lawyer (William Swatek) has a son (Dax Swatek) who "consults" for a number of GOP politicos and has ties to Karl Rove. That means Bill Swatek, even though he has a 30-year record of corrupt and unethical activities in the legal profession, can get away with virtual murder in Alabama courts.

That's why Circuit Judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves made a boatload of unlawful rulings that caused the lawsuit to go to trial--when, by law, it could not possibly go to trial.

The trial resulted in an unlawful judgment against me in the amount of $1,525--an amount neither McGarity nor his lawyer ever tried to collect until I started writing this blog, outlining the corruption I had witnessed in the case.

Bill Swatek conspired with Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry to get a bogus writ of execution issued against me. First, they threatened to seize our cars. Then they threatened to seize our house--and did indeed get a bogus sheriff's deed placed on my share of our home.

But when neither of those threats caused me to quit blogging, someone went after my job. And that's why I was fired from UAB on May 19.

As you can see, bad judicial rulings have consequences.

What does all of this have to do with Judge Bill Thompson? Well, the appeal in my case was assigned to him. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that almost every ruling by the trial judges was wrong.

As a rough guess, I would say the trial judges probably made 25 to 30 unlawful rulings in the lawsuit against me. But really only two issues mattered; if Joiner or Reeves had gotten those correct, all of their other bogus rulings wouldn't have been necessary. The two issues involved summary judgment and McGarity's amendment adding a claim for conversion. We will briefly address those two issues in a bit.

But for now, let's just say you don't have to be a certified Legal Schnauzer like me to know that the trial judges butchered my case--and the judgment against me had to be overturned on appeal. Anyone with the ability to find a law library, ask for the pertinent material, and read simple declarative sentences could figure it out.

Heck, Chucky the Ground Squirrel, who spends his days joyously digging tunnels in our backyard, could have gotten this appeal right. But Judge Bill Thompson couldn't get it right.

And it's not because Thompson is stupid. I've seen decisions Thompson has written, and when he's so inclined, he can write serious, legitimate stuff.

But Thompson and his four Republican colleagues on the Court of Civil Appeals were not inclined to dispense justice in my case. They were inclined to protect a member of their "home team," Bill Swatek, from facing the consequences of having filed a fraudulent lawsuit.

So what did Thompson do? He took Rule 53 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure and used it in an abusive and unlawful fashion.

What is Rule 53? It allows justices on the Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals to issue no-opinion affirmances--but only under specific circumstances.

They can affirm a trial-court ruling, without issuing an opinion, only if "the court, after review of the record and the contentions of the parties, concludes that the judgment or order was entered without an error of law." (Rule 53 contains a number of other elements, but for our purposes, this is the one that applies.)

Well, as I stated earlier, my case was riddled with errors of law. And I will prove that here in a bit. Suffice to say that Judge Bill Thompson could not lawfully issue a no-opinion affirmance in my case. But he did it anyway.

And I'm hardly the only Alabamian to receive this kind of corrupt treatment. A prominent Montgomery lawyer tells me he hears from colleagues all the time who've seen their clients cheated by bogus no-opinion affirmances, effectively sweeping unlawful trial-court rulings under the rug.

I mentioned earlier that Thompson deserves a prison term. I wasn't joking about that. For a state judge to knowingly and repeatedly make unlawful rulings, and to use the U.S. mails or wires in the process, is a federal crime. It's called honest-services mail/wire fraud.

Under the Bush Justice Department, of course, Thompson wasn't remotely worried about being found out. Perhaps that will change if we get an Obama administration.

Regular readers of this blog know that I enjoy being an "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" of sorts. But you might not know that I also enjoy being a pseudo social scientist from time to time.

So let's conduct a little experiment. I will e-mail "Justice" Thompson, remind him briefly of the facts in appeal number 2040161, and ask him to explain (in writing) how he arrived at a no-opinion affirmance in my case.

I will publish my e-mail here at Legal Schnauzer and inform Judge Thompson that I will also publish his reply--word for word. Then we will wait to see what kind of reply, if any, I receive.

Can we smoke out a corrupt Alabama judge? Let's give it a shot.

No comments: