Sunday, May 31, 2009

Do Republican Judges Cheat Discrimination Victims?

We recently discussed the challenges that plaintiffs face in bringing employment lawsuits. But we left out perhaps the biggest hurdle facing victims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and the like.

For 28 of the past 40-plus years, Republican presidents have been appointing federal judges. That means the federal bench is populated with GOP appointees who tend to favor management over workers.

Two Birmingham attorneys recently pointed out to me that we have a federal judge in our fair city who is particularly unfriendly to plaintiffs in discrimination cases. In fact, he seems to take special delight in dismissing employment cases, even when the facts and the law dictate that they should move forward.

The judge's name is James H. Hancock, a Richard Nixon appointee. "He just doesn't like discrimination cases," one of my sources says. "He will toss them out for no reason."

"I'm sure there are some bad employment cases that deserve to be kicked," I said.

"Oh, there are, but he dismisses good cases," my source said. "I know one firm that tells clients, if they get Hancock for the judge, that they are just wasting their time by moving forward."

So a federal judge could cheat victims of discrimination, based on his personal whims and not the law? Oh yes, say my sources.

"Hancock really hates it when a woman lawyer brings a case," one source says. "Particularly when the woman is taller than him--which includes just about all women."

So much for the hallowed scales of justice.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Did Former Siegelman Lawyer Have a Glaring Conflict?

Let's return to our storyline about Birmingham attorney and prominent Democrat Doug Jones.

We have a number of questions for Mr. Jones. They are based partly on his rather hostile response to our reporting about a massive federal lawsuit involving Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corp. And they are based partly on our own research about a fine ethical line Jones and fellow attorney Rob Riley seem to be walking between the HealthSouth civil case and the criminal case involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

So, on to our questions for Mr. Jones:

* Re: Your representation of Don Siegelman in his criminal case--You state in your critique of my reporting that you have been liaison counsel in the HealthSouth securities-fraud lawsuit since its inception in August 2002. A key figure in that case, of course, has been former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. In your testimony before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in October 2007, you state that you became lead counsel on Siegelman's defense team in January 2003, not long after the former governor's lawyer, David Cromwell Johnson, died. In your role as Siegelman's lead counsel, you learned in July 2004 that Richard Scrushy was to be a central figure in the government's case against Siegelman. Didn't this present a clear conflict of interest for you? You are serving in a lawsuit against Richard Scrushy and others connected to HealthSouth. Then you learn that Scrushy is to be an integral part of the government's case against your client, Don Siegelman. Why didn't you remove yourself from the Siegelman case immediately? Did you tell the former governor and Mr. Scrushy about your apparent conflict, especially considering that they were being tried together? Why did you remain on the Siegelman case until early 2006, and then withdraw not long before it went to trial?

* Re: The statute of limitations in the Siegelman case--Public documents indicate the prosecution was tardy in bringing the case against Siegelman and Scrushy. Corrupt federal judges have allowed the government to get away with bringing a case that falls outside the statute of limitations. But it appears you didn't help matters any. In your Congressional testimony you stated:

There was a concern from the prosecutors that the five year statute of limitations was about to expire with regard to the appointment of Mr. Scrushy to the CON Board, which had occurred in late July, 1999. The Government wanted more time to try and fill in the evidentiary holes in the case and asked us if Governor Siegelman would sign a tolling agreement extending the statute of limitations for an additional 30 days.

Because we were convinced from our conversations that the other matters had either been written off and/or were such that we did not believe any crime had occurred, we agreed to have the Governor sign the tolling agreement.

As a layperson, I find this mind blowing. The government had almost five full years to build a case, they admit to you that they have failed to do it, and you convince your client to give them more time? What on earth were you thinking? Has it occurred to you that Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy wound up in prison largely because of this bone-headed decision? And you question whether I know what I'm doing in my field, journalism? Seems to me that Siegelman would have pretty strong grounds for a legal-malpractice case against you.

* Re: Your motives and alliances in the HealthSouth lawsuit--More than $500 million worth of settlements have been announced in this case, with you representing plaintiffs against Richard Scrushy and others. Sounds like things are going pretty well for the plaintiffs--and the plaintiffs lawyers. By continuing to represent Siegelman after you learned of Scrushy's involvement in the criminal case, did you learn anything that has proved useful in the civil case? Have you and your clients profited from your involvement in the Siegelman defense? How important was the HealthSouth lawsuit to the future of your former firm, Whatley Drake & Kallas?

* Re: Your alliance with Rob Riley--You state in your response to my reporting, that you have no knowledge of Riley's involvement in a health-care company, Performance Group LLC. Actually, you do. You've admitted you read my post about it, which references public documents that are easily available to you. (In fact, I would be glad to send them to you.) Rule 8.3 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct states that a lawyer possessing unprivileged knowledge of misconduct "shall report such knowledge to a tribunal or other authority empowered to investigate or act upon such violation." Public documents, which you are aware of, indicate that Rob Riley owns a company that has engaged in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation." It is your duty to report this information to an appropriate authority. Do you intend to fulfill your duty?

* Re: Your alliances with UAB--How many times have you represented UAB, or people affiliated with UAB, in legal matters? Public records indicate you represented six UAB administrators in the Brittany Benefield case, which might be the ugliest chapter in UAB history. Benefield was 14 years old when she enrolled at UAB and moved into a campus dorm. She allegedly became a sexual plaything for several UAB football and basketball players and wound up suing the university.

I ask about your ties to UAB administrators because here is something I find interesting: I wrote about Rob Riley's involvement in the HealthSouth litigation on March 13, 2008. Thanks to your comments a few weeks ago on an Alabama-based listserv, we know that is a sensitive topic for you. We also know that two of Riley's partners in Performance Group LLC are on the staff at UAB. On April 16, 2008--a little more than a month after I wrote the Riley/HealthSouth piece--the harassment from my boss at UAB got so bad that I wound up complaining to her superior about age discrimination and filed a formal grievance in UAB Employee Relations. Roughly three weeks after I filed the grievance, I was fired, contrary to multiple university policies.

Follow me on this timeline: Write about Riley/HealthSouth in March, get harassed unmercifully by supervisor in April, get fired in May. Call me paranoid, but I see a possible cause and effect going on there.

You admit in your response that you tried to squash Sam Stein's original report at Huffington Post about Riley and HealthSouth. Having failed in that effort, is it safe to say that you, Riley, and perhaps UAB officials weren't happy to see a Birmingham blogger (me) pick up on it?

Here's the bottom-line question: Given your ties to Rob Riley and UAB, do you know anything about who is behind my unlawful termination?

Anyone who has followed my blog for a period of time knows that I've studied and written about honest-services mail/wire fraud extensively. I strongly suspect that honest-services fraud, and perhaps other federal crimes, are present in my firing.

As a former federal prosecutor, you surely are concerned about such matters. And as a private attorney, you are pursuing a fraud case involving HealthSouth. What about UAB? Are you concerned about fraud that has gone on there? Do you have firsthand knowledge of such fraud?

Here is one final question: In your critique of my post on an Alabama listserv, you actually don't criticize my original reporting at all. Rather, you seem irked about issues that first were raised in Sam Stein's report at Huffington Post.

In fact, you state that anyone familiar with the appointment of lead and liaison counsel in the HealthSouth lawsuit would laugh at the notion that Rob Riley's entry into the case was connected to Siegelman or the result of "legal-political insider trading."

Stein, however, quotes an anonymous source who says that Riley entered the case specifically because of his political connections. And a key source in Stein's case was Scott Horton, a New York attorney, Columbia University law professor, and legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine.

Horton, by the way, did not seem to find Riley's role to be a laughing matter. Stein reports:

"[Riley] very aggressively thrust himself into that suit as a late comer," said Scott Horton, a law professor at Columbia University who has written extensively on these issues for Harper's magazine. "He knew that Fuller had made statements suggesting that he felt he had once been a target of a politically motivated attack by Siegelman. He knew that this would make someone predisposed against Siegelman and perfect hanging judge. And he would reap the benefit of the class action suit on the side."

Stein went on to discuss connections between Riley's knowledge of the criminal case and his role in the civil case. Again, Stein quoted Horton. And Horton wasn't laughing:

"Rob Riley approved of the strategy of dragging Scrushy into the [criminal] case because it would have benefits for him in the class action suit," said Horton. "It was clear that he was intently following what was going on in Fuller's court and knew that the conviction of Scrushy in that case would have strong benefits in the class action suit."

Are you saying that Scott Horton doesn't know what he's talking about?

And here's an even better question: If a Scrushy conviction would pay dividends for Rob Riley in the civil case, it also would pay dividends for you, wouldn't it? After all, you were even more directly involved in the Siegelman/Scrushy criminal case than was Rob Riley. And unlike Rob Riley, you were involved in the HealthSouth lawsuit from the beginning.

The questions Scott Horton raises about Rob Riley would also apply to you, wouldn't they?

Is that why you were so interested in quashing Sam Stein's reporting on the subject? Is that why you were so irritated by my reporting on the subject?

Does all of this have something to do with why I currently find myself out of a job?

Songs For Murphy

Regular readers know that our blog is inspired by, and dedicated to, the memory of Murphy Abigail Shuler (1993-2004), our wonderful miniature schnauzer who helped keep us more-or-less functional during the worst of our legal travails.

I never sit down to write a post without thinking of Murphy. Sometimes that makes me sad because we still miss her terribly. But mostly it makes me grateful for the 11 years we had her. And it almost always makes me smile, thinking about the funny things she did--and the goofy things she inspired us to do.

Take singing, for example. I couldn't carry a tune in a wheel barrel--and Mrs. Schnauzer isn't a whole lot better. Murphy seemed to take so much joy in simple things--a trip to the Sonic drive-in, a game of hide-and-seek. She even seemed to get a great kick out of us singing to her, no matter how off key we were. (Schnauzers are a forgiving audience, one of their many great traits.)

One of our first "Murphy songs" came when we noticed how much she loved to go for walks. Our neighborhood has five streets, and on a steamy Alabama summer day (think 95 degrees, with 85 percent humidity), "The Murph" was content to go up and down just our street. Then she would happily go back in the house and plop down next to one of the air conditioning vents.

But on a cold day, and especially on a wintry night, it was a different story. She would want to walk the entire neighborhood, and it wasn't unusual for us to take her on walks of two miles or more. And if it was major cold for Alabama--say, in the middle teens, with frost coming off every breath--we almost had to drag her back in the house.

Schnauzers are native to Germany, and this paragraph from an article about the history of the breed, probably explains why Murphy loved cold Alabama nights:

All Schnauzers had their origin in the neighboring kingdoms of Wurttemberg and Bavaria. These are agricultural sections where the raising of sheep, cattle, and other livestock has been a major occupation for years. Since railroads were not known, sheep and cattle had to be driven to market, which meant that dogs were necessary to help the shepherds.

Like most Americans, I'm somewhat geographically challenged. But I'm pretty sure Bavaria is a cold place, so I guess that explains why the Murph liked frosty weather in Alabama.

Anyway, on one cold night when we could barely keep up as Murphy scurried around the neighborhood, one of us said, "Murph, it's like you could walk 500 miles." That led us to include this classic '80s hit from The Proclaimers in our repertoire for the Girl:

Another song was inspired by the fact that Murphy always seemed to feel so darned good. She was like a female, canine version of Jack Lalanne. If she had been human, she would have been one of these people who can't wait to get out of bed so they can do jumping jacks and pushups and squat thrusts and junk like that. Murphy's zest for life prompted us to think of a classic from James Brown. The notion of a guy as white as me trying to channel the Godfather of Soul is absurd, I'll admit. But Murphy inspired us to try the impossible:

As Murphy became more and more central to our lives, we couldn't imagine not having her around. That made us think of a Bee Gees classic from the 1960s--although we altered the lyrics to "lonely days, lonely nights, where would I be without my schnauzer:"

Maybe our favorite "Murphy Song," appropriately enough, came from a band whose roots are firmly planted in Tuskegee, Alabama. It was inspired by the Girl's solid little build. We've read that some miniature schnauzers weigh in the 10- to 12-pound range. But that wasn't our girl. She was 18 to 20 pounds of solid muscle. "Murph, you're built like a brick s--thouse," one of us said one day. That prompted us to try our version of this Commodores classic: (On the video, notice future solo star Lionel Richie playing saxophone in the background. That's Walter Orange on lead vocals.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Key Figure in Siegelman Case Walking An Ethical Tightrope?

We recently posted about Birmingham attorney Doug Jones and his curious response to one of our posts here at Legal Schnauzer.

On the surface, it would appear that Jones and I are on the same political "team." He served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama under President Bill Clinton. He was lead counsel for three-plus years on the criminal defense team for former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

But Jones has taken exception to my recent reporting on a massive federal lawsuit against a number of entities and people connected to Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corp. Maybe that's because Jones appears to be straddling some uncomfortable ethical fences. And maybe my reporting is hitting close to home because Jones, while a Democrat on one hand, has a huge financial stake in the HealthSouth lawsuit on the other.

Based on our review of some of the 1,600-plus documents in the HealthSouth case file, it looks like one of the biggest money grabs in the history of Birmingham lawyering. In fact, I'm told that some area firms and lawyers have pretty much staked their futures on the case.

And Doug Jones is right in the middle of it. That's quite a turn of events for the former U.S. attorney who looked so righteous in successfully prosecuting the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Jones is one of the chief plantiffs' lawyers in the HealthSouth case, and one of his colleagues is Rob Riley, the son of current Alabama Governor Bob Riley and a long-time political adversary of Don Siegelman. One of the key defendants in the HealthSouth lawsuit is former CEO Richard Scrushy, who was Siegelman's codefendant in the criminal case that landed them in federal prison.

Jones' main beef with my post about the HealthSouth lawsuit seems to be that it spotlighted the ethical tightrope that Rob Riley seems to be walking between the Siegelman/Scrushy criminal case and the HealthSouth civil case. Perhaps Jones didn't like my reporting because he is walking the same ethical tightrope that Rob Riley is walking.

Actually, there are probably several hundred million reasons my reporting struck a nerve with Doug Jones. The HealthSouth lawsuit already has produced more than $500 million in settlements, with more likely to come. You don't have to be a math whiz to see that massive amounts of attorney fees are at stake these days on the Birmingham legal scene. And it comes at a time, I'm told, when many lawyers and firms are hurting in a down economy.

You might say that Me and Mr. Jones "have a thing going on." But it's hardly the lovey-dovey kind of thing. Mr. Jones evidently didn't care for my reporting, and I didn't much care for Mr. Jones' statements that I had jumped to "absurd conclusions based on what appears to be purely political motivations."

What political motivations are you talking about, Mr. Jones? In case you haven't heard, someone cheated me out of my job at UAB (where I worked for 19 years), and evidence shows it was because of my blog content supportive of Don Siegelman, your former client. And you, of all people, are questioning my "political motivations"?

Here's a tip, Mr. Jones. My motivations here at Legal Schnauzer are not political. They are part personal and part related to justice, simple right and wrong. For eight-plus years, I've witnessed gross corruption in our justice system--the kind that landed Don Siegelman, your former client and an innocent man, in federal prison. I've witnessed multiple federal crimes committed by lawyers and state judges in the Northern District of Alabama. As a former prosecutor in this district, you should be concerned about the kind of sleaze that exists in an area you once presided over.

If one of your goals as U.S. attorney was to discourage public corruption, it looks like you failed miserably. Shelby County is well-known as a legal cesspool, and I'm hearing a growing number of reports that Jefferson County isn't much better.

When I decided to write a blog about the corruption I had witnessed, I received numerous anonymous threats, including one that specifically threatened my job. About a month after receiving that threat, I was fired at UAB. The university's administration upheld my firing, even after its own grievance committee found I had been wrongfully terminated.

As a quick-thinking attorney, you might have guessed that I'm not real happy about that turn of events, particularly since we recently passed the first anniversary of my "firing." And you would be right.

But I'm starting to wonder if you might know something about my firing at UAB. The chances are extremely strong that your new chum, Rob Riley, knows something about it.

Beyond my personal situation, your response to my reporting on the HealthSouth lawsuit raised questions in my mind about a number of subjects:

* Your actions in defense of Don Siegelman;

* Your motives and alliances regarding the HealthSouth lawsuit;

* Your motives and alliances regarding Rob Riley, particularly in light of the fact that Riley is an owner of Performance Group LLC, a physical-therapy company that allegedly has a serious problem with health-care fraud;

* Your motives and alliances regarding UAB, my former employer. This is of particular interest since your represented several UAB administrators in at least one very ugly, high-profile case.

So hold on, Mr. Jones. We've got some questions coming on.

(To be continued)

Are Crimes of the Bush Administration "Prosecutable"?

If I had to pick my favorite syndicated newspaper columnist, Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald certainly would be in the five finalists.

Pitts is a strong, reasoned, progressive voice in the South--if you consider Florida the South. And as an African-American male, he has a finely tuned ear on matters of injustice.

So imagine my astonishment when I read a recent Pitts column, essentially saying that we should give Bush officials a free pass on their apparent crimes.

Pitts states that the Bush administration's primary offenses were incompetence and arrogance, which are not illegal. He goes on to write:

Still, most of the signature sins of the Bush gang--Katrina, Iraq, torture, politicizing the Justice Department--are not so much violations of law as defilement of the public trust.

That is not--obviously--a small failing. But that doesn't make it prosecutable.

Pitts seems to be saying that violating the constitution is not prosecutable. That's an argument I've never heard before. And it doesn't seem to square with "The People v. Dick Cheney," a recent piece by Karen Greenberg at Mother Jones.

Greenberg reports:

The list of potential legal breaches is, of course, enormous; by one count, the administration has broken 269 laws, both domestic and international. It begins with illegal wiretapping and surveillance (which in the view of many experts violated the Fourth Amendment, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for starters), the politicization of the Justice Department and the firing of nine US attorneys, and numerous instances of obstruction of justice—from the destruction of cia interrogation tapes to the willful misleading of Congress and the public. Perhaps the paramount charge that legal experts have zeroed in on is the state-approved torture that violated not just the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture but also the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the 1996 War Crimes Act, which prohibits humiliating and degrading treatment and other "outrages upon personal dignity."

The administration has broken 269 laws? That sounds pretty prosecutable to me.

Such noted legal experts as Jonathan Turley of Georgetown University and Scott Horton of Columbia have said that Bush officials must be held accountable for their actions. Horton compares the Bush administration to a criminal enterprise, so he appears to see its actions as prosecutable.

At times, Pitts doesn't seem to believe his own argument. He wonders if America has the stomach for holding the Bush crowd accountable, and that is a legitimate concern. He even notes that certain right-wing voices would go apoplectic in the face of accountability for the Bushies, and then notes:

You might reasonably say we should not forestall justice just because people threaten temper tantrums. Good point.

Yes, it is a good point. And here's another one: Real people--who bleed and breathe and laugh and cry--have been victims of the Bush Justice Department, or people associated with it. I know, because I am one of those victims.

And I've just been on the periphery. I know of at least four people--Paul Minor, Wes Teel, John Whitfield, and Richard Scrushy--who are being held political prisoner in the United States right now. And former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman might be headed back to prison because the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unlawfully upheld his conviction.

Leonard Pitts is a smart guy, so I wonder if he really believes what he wrote about Bush officials and their apparent crimes. It also makes me wonder if the Obama administration, which apparently wants to "look forward and not backward," is sending out this message to certain media outlets.

Alabama whistleblower Jill Simpson has repeatedly raised questions about White House Counsel Greg Craig and his former law firm, Williams & Connolly, which represents numerous Bush luminaries--Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Dubya himself. Simpson has raised concerns that Craig is more interested in protecting his old firm's clients than in achieving justice. And the Pitts column makes me wonder if the White House has launched a media offensive to help convince the public that we should let bygones be bygones.

How is this for irony? Barack Obama rode into the White House on a trail that was blazed by people like Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and many more. Does Obama think those civil-rights pioneers turned this country in a better direction by turning a blind eye to the sins of the past? How sad it would be if our first black president acted in a manner that is contrary to the lessons of America's civil-rights movement.

Pitts concludes by making an important point. He says that we, the people, largely are responsible for the mess Bush created:

Yes, the Supreme Court put Bush in office the first time, but 51 percent of us returned him there four years later, by which time we should have known better. But the Bush gang played our fears as old men in the park play chess, i.e., obsessively and with skill, a brilliant game of half truths, dire warnings, moral incoherence. And we--most of us--fell for it.

Pitts is right about that. A frightening number of Americans were duped by the Bush crowd. So the public must shoulder a large chunk of the blame.

But that doesn't mean our current representatives should not hold Bush officials accountable. The evidence is powerful that they did commit crimes. And those crimes are prosecutable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Siegelman and Scrushy Should Have Testified in Their Own Defense

The testimony of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in a state-court civil case has been big news in Birmingham.

Accounts of Scrushy's performance on the stand has taught us at least one thing here at Legal Schnauzer: Scrushy and former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman should have testified in their own defense in the Montgomery criminal case that resulted in their convictions.

According to press reports, Scrushy did not crack under intense cross examination from shareholders' attorney John Haley, described by The Birmingham News as one of Alabama's "shrewdest litigators."

The civil case marked the first time that Scrushy had testified about the massive accounting fraud that nearly sank HealthSouth. In the end, it appears that Haley barely laid a glove on Scrushy.

The former CEO did not back down under stiff questioning, making a compelling case that he was one of the largest losers in the HealthSouth fraud.

Perhaps the strongest part of Scrushy's testimony came when he discussed his plans for mergers during the fraud period:

There were big plans for HealthSouth mergers during the fraud period, and Scrushy never objected to showing the books to outsiders.

In 1999, he said, he was deeply involved in merger talks with an Ohio-based nursing home company. Scrushy lawyer Jim Parkman produced a 20-page memo from Scrushy to the other firm's chief that contained detailed financial and operational notes on HealthSouth.

"Why would a CEO involved in fraud produce this document?" Parkman asked.

"You wouldn't do it," Scrushy said.

No one that I'm aware of ever has disputed that Scrushy is a bright, tough individual. Now we know that he also is a strong witness when questioned under fire. We also know that Don Siegelman is a pretty sharp fellow, one who almost certainly would make a strong impression on a witness stand.

All of which makes us think lawyers in the criminal case made a huge mistake by not having their clients take the stand in their own defense.

If Scrushy can fight off John Haley, he surely would have had little trouble against the ding dongs prosecuting the government's case for U.S. Attorney Leura Canary in Montgomery. If Siegelman can mount the kind of effective public offensive he has shown after his conviction, he surely would have made a strong case on the stand--probably preventing the conviction in the first place, even with a corrupt judge like Mark Fuller in charge.

I'm sure the Scrushy/Siegelman lawyers had valid reasons for not having their clients testify, and we have speculated about what some of those were. It seems clear the government had not proven its case, so declining to testify probably made sense at the time. Also, defense testimony would have dragged the trial out and possibly tested the patience of jurors.

From where I sit, having a defendant decline to testify makes sense when you have a client who maybe isn't terribly articulate, has a criminal history, or is likely to make a negative impression on a jury. But with smart, articulate clients like Scrushy and Siegelman, I'm thinking it was a huge mistake to not have them testify.

Former Auburn football coach Pat Dye used to say that "hindsight is 50-50, " and that's what I am using here. But think how easily the prosecution's key points could have been countered.

Nick Baily said he asked Siegelman, "What's (Scrushy) going to want for (his check)?" and the governor replied, "The CON board"?

Siegelman could testify, truthfully I presume, "I never was asked that, and I never gave that response."

The prosecution claims the Siegelman-Scrushy meeting involved a discussion of a something-for-something deal?

Siegelman could testify, truthfully I presume, "I wanted Richard to serve on the CON board because he had done so under three previous governors, and he was the most high-profile healthcare executive in our state. It would look bad not to have him on the board. Our discussion about the donation to the lottery campaign was a separate matter. One was not contingent on the other."

Prosecutors claim Scrushy badly wanted to serve on the CON board? Scrushy could back the testimony of former Alabama Power CEO Elmer Harris and say, "I'd been on the board a long time and was tired of being on it. I really didn't want to do it. I only agreed because our new governor asked me to do it."

Even with a corrupt judge and a goofy jury, it seems that kind of testimony would have resulted in an acquittal.

As for the current civil case, it continues in Birmingham this week. But from what I can tell, Scrushy acquitted himself pretty darn well on the stand.

That's not to say Scrushy will prevail in the case. It's a bench trial before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Allwin Horn, and I know from firsthand experience that Horn is a sorry excuse for a judge.

Horn already has ruled against Scrushy once, ordering him in 2006 to repay $47.8 million in bonuses, plus interest. My guess is that Horn already had determined how he was going to rule in the trial before testimony ever began.

I look for Horn to find in favor of the plaintiffs, in an amount that is roughly half of the $2.6 billion they are asking for. That sounds like a nice comfortable thing for the judge to do, and it should make the Birmingham legal community happy. If there is anything I've learned about Jefferson County judges, they want to keep the local lawyers happy.

Why did the Scrushy side agree to have Horn hear the case as a bench trial? My best guess is that they thought it would be easier to appeal under those circumstances than if a jury had heard the case.

Was Richard Scrushy really in the dark about the fraud going on at HealthSouth? Before I read his testimony from the current civil case, I found that pretty hard to believe. But now I'm not so sure. I think it's certainly possible that Scrushy was in the dark.

Either way, with Allwin Horn in charge, don't look for justice to be served. I imagine Scrushy's lawyers already are planning their appeal.

As for the criminal case in Montgomery, I think Scrushy's recent testimony shows that he and Siegelman easily could have beaten those flimsy charges if they had taken the stand.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Is Obama Going on a Crime Spree?

Is President Barack Obama, in making his choices for ambassadorships, engaging in a criminal enterprise?

If you take the findings in the Don Siegelman case as legitimate, the answer apparently is yes.

That answer, of course, would be ridiculous. But it illustrates the ridiculous nature of the Siegelman prosecution.

Benjamin Sarlin, of The Daily Beast, reports that Obama plans to appoint Chicago investment banker Louis Susman as an ambassador in London:

Susman, like previous presidential friends posted to places like London and Paris, has one major thing to recommend him: money. The Democratic fundraising legend got behind Obama's candidacy early and later bundled some $300,000 in donations toward his inauguration. As John Kerry's national finance chairman, Susman raised a staggering $247 million for that campaign in 2004 and he has worked on several presidential campaigns in the past as well.

Obama is hardly alone in appointing money men (and women) to ambassadorships. It's become a presidential tradition:

Recent examples of the ambassador-as-money-man include Robert Tuttle, one of George W. Bush’s ambassadors to the Court of St. James, a California auto dealer who raised $100,000 for Bush's 2004 campaign and an additional $100,000 for his inauguration. St. Louis businessman Sam Fox, Bush’s ambassador to Belgium, donated $50,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 and raised more than $200,000 for Republicans. Ronald P. Spogli, the ambassador to Italy, who raised more than $100,000 for Bush's re-election. There are many, many others like them with similar totals next to their names.

So the George W. Bush administration was awash in pay-to-play schemes--and Obama apparently is following suit--and Siegelman could get a 20-year prison sentence for his appointment of campaign supporter Richard Scrushy to a health-care board?

What's the difference between the Siegelman transaction and those that have been practiced by numerous presidents, including the current one? None that I can see, except this: Don Siegelman was governor of Alabama, a state where Karl Rove had deep ties and the connections to make sure it stayed in the "red" column.

Justice in America. Ain't it great?

Hey, Morley Safer: If You Want to Trash Somebody, Try These Folks

Veteran CBS news man Morley Safer recently trashed blogging and other forms of "new media." In our view, Safer was way off base.

If Safer wanted to trash something that probably deserves trashing, he should scrutinize what we call the "citizen journalism movement."

What is the citizen journalism movement? It consists of folks like Dan Gilmour, Jeff Jarvis, and Amy Gahran, who have blogs that purport to discuss and promote citizen journalism.

But when the "rubber meets the road" in citizen journalism, these folks seem to be missing in action.

What do I mean? Well, consider this scenario: Someone practices citizen journalism and exposes corruption that has statewide, regional, even national implications. The citizen journalist then is cheated out of his job at a public university by political forces that want to shut him up.

It's hard to imagine a more compelling issue in citizen journalism. And it just happens to describe exactly what has happened to me.

And yet when I contacted Gilmour, Jarvis, and Gahran to let them know about my experiences, I didn't receive as much as a courtesy brushoff.

Why is that? I suspect it's because they see my site as "partisan" and me as a "liberal." And just like their brethren in the mainstream press, they are terrified of being labeled as the "liberal media."

Of course, if these so-called experts on citizen journalism actually looked at my site, they would see it's not partisan at all. It started because of corruption I had witnessed, not from any desire to promote one party or another.

Any partisan tone comes from the fact that the wrongdoers in my personal story, with one or two exceptions, have been Republicans. Those are just the facts, and they dovetail with the corruption we've seen on the national stage from the George W. Bush administration.

I don't expect Gilmour & Co. to "solve" the problems I've encountered from practicing citizen journalism. But if they aren't going to report on such cases, at least a little bit, what is their purpose?

From reading their work, it appears Gilmour & Co. attend a lot of conferences and scratch their chins quite a bit about various heady issues. But if they aren't going to address the challenges real-life citizen journalists can face, what are they really trying to accomplish?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hey, Morley Safer: Bite Me

I've long been a fan of Morley Safer. But the veteran CBS newsman got up my Schnauzer fanny with his recent trashing of citizen journalism.

Safer, a longtime correspondent on 60 Minutes, started by voicing valid concerns about the decline of newspapers and what it could mean for our "right to know." But then he proceeded to diss various forms of "new media," including blogging:

“The blogosphere is no alternative, crammed as it is with the ravings and manipulations of every nut with a keyboard. Good journalism is structured and structure means responsibility,” he said. He added later, " . . . I would trust citizen journalism as much as I would trust citizen surgery.”

Safer proves he's good with a sound bite, as you might expect from a television guy. The line comparing citizen journalism to citizen surgery sounds sharp and insightful.

But if you get beyond the catchiness of Safer's statement, you realize that he is way off base.

Comparing journalism to surgery is ridiculous and points to Safer's arrogance. Surgery is a complex field that only a tiny percentage of people can master. Journalism ain't surgery. I know; I've got a degree in journalism, so it can't be all that hard.

A better comparison for journalism might be to "citizen construction." I have known people who earn their livings doing one thing, but also are capable of tackling impressive building projects.

My late father, for example, could build gorgeous grandfather clocks, probably far superior to the ones you find in department stores.

A neighbor who used to live on one side of us--not the moron who lives on the other side and has caused us legal headaches--built the deck on the back of his house. Not long after he finished it, we had a professional come to look at storm damage we'd had on our deck. The pro noticed the deck next door and said, "Who in the world built that deck?"

"The guy who lives there," I said.

"Wow, I couldn't begin to build a deck of that quality," the pro said. "It would cost me way too much to do it."

Citizen journalism, like any field, can have its abusive practitioners. It's up to the public to sort those out. But Safer, of all people, should understand the vital role new forms of journalism already play.

Consider the piece 60 Minutes did on the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama. That piece never would have gotten off the ground without the reporting of Scott Horton at his blog No Comment on the Harper's magazine Web site. And the story picked up critical momentum, leading to the 60 Minutes piece, thanks to the work of "new media" journalists such as Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story and Glynn Wilson at Locust Fork News-Journal.

Horton, a Columbia University law professor, probably is not who Safer had in mind when he talked about the nuts in the blogosphere. But Horton produced his groundbreaking work on a blog, generating material that Harper's probably would not have run in its magazine, at least not in such a timely fashion.

Alexandrovna and Wilson have strong journalism credentials--again, they probably are not the kind of people Safer had in mind. But as in most fields, citizen journalism produces both wheat and chaff. And I suspect there is more wheat out there than Safer would care to admit.

Safer apparently failed to discuss the myriad ways the modern mainstream press has failed to do its job. Consider the story of judicial corruption in Alabama that launched Legal Schnauzer:

I witnessed the sleaze in Shelby County first hand and mentioned it to several mainstream journalists in the Birmingham area. "Oh yeah, I've heard stuff like that goes on down there Columbiana," they would say, or words to that effect. Did they do anything about it? Nope.

It was left to me to tell the story, and I wound up losing my job because of it. Has the mainstream press picked up on that story? Not really. Raw Story, No Comment, and OpEd News--all forms of new media--have covered it. The Chronicle of Higher Education, a mainstream outlet, did a brief item about it, only because it could pick up on Raw Story's investigative work.

Meanwhile, I've uncovered all kinds of wrongdoing at UAB--some of which I've written about already, with much more to come. Has the mainstream media shown any interest, even though this is an institution that receives massive amounts of public funds? Nope.

So you see, Mr. Safer, there are large and expanding gaps in coverage provided by the mainstream press. Various forms of "new media" are helping to fill those gaps.

You should be grateful for that trend. Your news organization already is relying on it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Retired Federal Judge Urges Investigation of Siegelman Case

A retired federal judge is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an investigation of the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama.

U.W. Clemon, who served as a U.S. District Judge in Birmingham for almost 30 years, made his request in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. Clemon now is in private practice with the firm White Arnold & Dowd.

Clemon presided over a federal case against Siegelman in Birmingham, which involved charges of Medicaid fraud. It ended with the judge throwing out a conspiracy charge due to lack of evidence, leading prosecutors to drop the charges.

But the Bush Justice Department was not finished with Siegelman. Prosecutors then brought bribery and honest-services fraud charges in Montgomery. With Bush-appointed judge Mark Fuller at the controls, that case resulted in a conviction.

In his letter, Clemon calls the Birmingham case against Siegelman "the most unfounded criminal case" he ever presided over.

Andrew Kreig, a veteran attorney and investigative reporter, has a detailed report at Huffington Post, with the latest on the Siegelman case:

One of the most experienced federal judges in recent Alabama history is denouncing the U.S. Justice Department prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Retired Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon of Birmingham calls for a probe of misconduct by federal prosecutors ─ including their alleged "judge-shopping," jury-pool "poisoning" and "unfounded" criminal charges in an effort to imprison Siegelman.

The full Clemon letter has not been released, but Kreig provides key details:

Clemon's letter last week to the Justice Department said that U.S. Attorney's office "undertook considerable judge-shopping" in its attempt to steer the Siegelman case away from him in what he called "a baseless and futile effort to have me disqualified." Clemon, who introduced his letter by saying that he was writing as "a private citizen," continued as follows:

"Two of the AUSAs [Assistant U.S. Attorneys] rather blatantly attempted to poison the jury pool. After the Defendants moved that any alleged [Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] 404(b) materials be filed under seal, and with full knowledge that the motion was under submission, the AUSAs on the very next business day filed the materials as a matter of public record. The predictable poisonous publicity ensued. Although both AUSAs were subsequently sanctioned, the success of their efforts necessitated my decision to sequester the jury."

Clemon continued:

"The testimony of the witnesses called by the Government at the James conspiracy hearing [one that is requested under the 1979 federal appeals court case U.S. v. James] conclusively established that there was absolutely no basis for a conspiracy charge. When I granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss the conspiracy count, the AUSA forthwith moved to dismiss the remaining case against Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Hamrick [Paul Hamrick was a former aide to Siegelman. In 2006, the jury acquitted Hamrick of all charges in his second trial with Siegelman]. The motion was granted, and the case was dismissed with prejudice against those Defendants."

In a footnote in his letter, Clemon cited testimony by the former Siegelman aide Bailey, a key government witness in both the first and second federal prosecutions against the former governor. In that 2004 court testimony, Bailey denied that he knew about "an unlawful conspiracy of any kind," a story that Bailey would change in his later testimony before Fuller.

"I have no personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Siegelman's subsequent prosecution and conviction in the Middle District of Alabama," Clemon continued in his letter last week. "But given my experience with his unwarranted prosecution in the Northern District, and in the interest of ensuring that Justice Department cases are handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice, I strongly support a thorough investigation by your office of allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in Mr. Siegelman's prosecution in the Middle District."

In related matters, Kreig reveals that Siegelman codefendant Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth Corp., has hired an investigative firm:

Siegelman's co-defendant Scrushy hired Investigative Group International, a politically well-connected private detective agency, to explore new grounds to win his freedom from prison. Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth, Inc., has said he was the innocent victim of a political "vendetta" against Siegelman. In 2007, Scrushy mounted a major but unsuccessful effort to show that Fuller's Doss Aviation holdings created the appearance of bias by the judge toward federal authorities who are the contractor's major customers. Doss Aviation services include training Air Force pilots and refueling Air Force planes, including the President's Air Force One.

On the subject of Doss Aviation, Alabama attorney and whistleblower Jill Simpson has provided key information:

Dana Jill Simpson distributed today on an Alabama email list for Siegelman and Scrushy supporters an overview from the Doss Aviation website of its global activities in 2007. Beginning in February of that year, Simpson volunteered to help Scrushy avoid what she regarded as wrongful imprisonment.

In April 2007, Fuller rejected the Simpson-assisted Scrushy arguments of judicial bias. Simpson, a longtime volunteer for Republicans in opposition research, then swore out an affidavit in May 2007 alleging to Fuller that prominent Alabama Republicans had sought as early as November 2002 to frame Siegelman. In September 2007, Simpson amplified her statement with 143 pages of sworn testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's staff. She swore, among other things, that she heard from a Republican colleague in early 2005 that Fuller "hated" Siegelman, and would be appointed as judge in his case to "hang" him. Those charges have been denied in affidavits or media interviews by Republicans. Simpson says she has no recollection of meeting Fuller, although he was a contemporary at the University of Alabama.

In her informal email today commenting on Doss Aviation's importance to others concerned about the case, Simpson wrote (with punctuations and capitalizations here formalized):

"This company was doing more than anyone could imagine....They, my friends, really do appear to be almost a wing of the Air Force....In fact, the $178 million, 10-year Doss In-Flight Screening Program was awarded right during the middle of the Siegelman case....It is time our government starts answering questions about how one company has been allowed to have so much power providing fuel to our military and training our Air Force."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Justice Doesn't Come Easily for Victims of Discrimination

Several federal juries, even in conservative Alabama, have sent clear messages to wayward employers: "If you discriminate, harass, and retaliate, we will hold you accountable--and we will make you pay."

In spite of that encouraging trend, plaintiffs in employment cases still face a hard road. A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that several studies show discrimination cases tend to fare worse in court than other kinds of civil cases. And that is likely to remain the case, even though the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act--which has its roots in Alabama--has been passed.

One study showed that federal plaintiffs in discrimination cases won in court 15 percent of the time, compared to 51 percent in other kinds of civil cases. Reports the Journal:

The odds against winning discrimination cases have some employee lawyers reluctant even to try. "We will no longer take individual employment-discrimination cases, because there's such a high likelihood of losing," New York plaintiffs' attorney Joe Whatley Jr. says. Job-discrimination case filings declined by 40% from 1999 to 2007, federal court records show.

Whatley has practiced in Alabama and is a principal in Whatley, Drake & Kallas, which has an office in Birmingham.

One concern is that quite a few employment cases now are dismissed before they even get started:

Equally troubling to critics, though, is that federal judges also now routinely terminate employment-discrimination cases through motions to dismiss, meaning that the plaintiffs aren't allowed to conduct fact finding to support their claims, according to a law-review study due to be published in August by the University of Illinois College of Law.

The study analyzed the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, which authorized federal judges to dismiss cases unless plaintiffs can detail enough facts in their initial complaints to state a "plausible" claim--a higher standard than previously existed. Although the Twombly case involved an antitrust dispute, it has since been applied broadly to discrimination cases, says Joseph Seiner, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, who wrote the study.

The news is not all dreary for plaintiffs. In fact, some experts say the poor win rate in court is not necessarily a bad sign. Strong employment cases, they say, tend to settle before ever reaching the courtroom. "If it's a real case, they settle," one defense lawyer says. "Employers aren't dumb."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Had a Facebook Impostor!

I had resisted the temptation of Facebook, and it hadn't seemed all that hard--or so I thought.

Then I got an e-mail from Greg Smith. And that changed everything.

Now I'm immersed (somewhat) in the Facebook culture--I even had a Facebook impostor--and I don't know what to make of it.

I had resisted the pull of Facebook for a couple of reasons. One, it seemed like it would be a major time gobbler--and hey, even we unemployed guys have to watch our schedules. Two, I just didn't "get" it. If someone is your friend, you know it, right? So what's the point of Facebook? (There I go being all practical again.)

But that began to change when I got an e-mail from Greg Smith, asking me to be his friend on Facebook. There was only one catch: I didn't know anyone named Greg Smith.

My first reaction was to blow it off. But I kept thinking: "Who in the heck is this guy?" And the only way to find out was--you guessed it--to join Facebook. (The folks behind the site must have ties to the tobacco industry. They clearly understand addiction.)

When I signed up to Facebook and checked out Greg Smith's profile, I discovered that he's an incredibly cool guy. He's a publisher. He lives in London. He's involved in several edgy sounding businesses. He's in an "open relationship." And he seems to be friends with an impressive number of certified babes.

Even Mrs. Schnauzer was intrigued.

"Look how cool this guy is," I said. "And he lives in London."

"Wow," Mrs. Schnauzer said.

"And look at all the babes he's friends with."

"Gosh, they are babes. Certified, too."

"He wants to be my friend."

"Well, what are you waiting for? Sign up. Quick!"

So now I'm on Facebook. And for a while, I even had a Facebook impostor, which was the most exciting thing to happen to me since I discovered chocolate raspberry truffle in a waffle cone at Bruster's.

After learning how cool Greg Smith is, I quickly discovered that someone else was claiming to be Roger Alan Shuler in Birmingham, Alabama. And this person was claiming to be an alumnus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), my former employer.

Well, I'm pretty sure I'm the only Roger Alan Shuler in Birmingham, and I'm not a UAB alum. (I'm a University of Missouri guy--hurray, hurrah, Mizzou, Mizzou! Bully for Old Mizzou, rah, rah, rah rah! Mizzou-rah, Mizzou-rah, Mizzou-rah! Tigers!) So I figured someone was pulling a fast one. I suspect it was a UAB sports fan who didn't like my criticism of UAB's current administration. When you clicked on the "UAB alum" section, it said, "Roger Shuler has no friends at UAB."

Hah, hah. I got the joke. Pretty good.

I contacted Facebook about the impostor, and assuming their customer service is as dreadful as Google's, I figured it would be two or three years before the problem was solved. But a nice fellow named Brett took care of it in a matter of days. Turns out Facebook has a lot of impostor problems, so I guess they take it seriously.

Anyway, I am back to being the Elvis, the original, of Roger Alan Shulers in Birmingham. (First time I've ever been compared to Elvis; naturally, I had to do it myself.)

Once I was on Facebook, I was curious if anybody I knew was out there. If any of my friends were going to be on there, I figured it would be Doug Gillett, my old coworker from the UAB Publications Office. Doug is a "leading-edge" kind of guy and was the first blogger I ever knew.

Sure enough, Doug is a big-time Facebooker, with 450 or so friends! His friends include University of Georgia football icons Vince Dooley and Herschel Walker. And I think he has one or two supermodels among his friends. Doug's cubicle at work is a shrine to French broadcasting babe Melissa Theuriau. If he gets her to be a friend, I will truly be knocked out.

Doug's Facebook page is pretty much a Who's Who of folks I used to work with at UAB. Scrolling through it kind of made me homesick for my old job. After all, the overwhelming majority of people I worked with are great folks. Then I saw the faces of several manager types, and I wasn't quite so homesick anymore.

Now that I'm a Facebookie, I really don't know what to do with it. Friends put a lot of stuff up on my "wall," and I enjoy checking that out. I guess I'm supposed to occasionally put up a deep thought, but anything that comes close to a deep thought usually goes on my blog. As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, my deep thoughts this time of year usually range from "Yippee, the Cardinals won" to "Dammit, the Cardinals lost."

The other issue is: How many friends should you have? For several days I had two or three friends, and that was embarrassing. My goal became to reach double figures. Once I passed 10, I thought, "Hey, 20 friends would be pretty cool."

I'm a little over 20 now, and 30 is starting to look good. (You see what I mean about addiction?)

I've decided that 50 would be a nice round number to get to. Then I'll stop trying to add friends--"I swerz," as they say on LOL Cats.

It's pretty cool the way people from all over can "find" you on Facebook. Several of my old buddies from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri--Mark Harrell, Mark Ellis, Bill Doran--found me. (Still waiting for Kickapoo's most famous alum, Brad Pitt, to find me.) My niece, Erin Simkins Gerhardt, who lives in Detroit, Michigan, found me. I found Joe Rassenfoss, a buddy from the Birmingham Post-Herald and Mizzou, who now lives in Colorado.

Who knows what lies ahead on Facebook. But I can always say that I'm friends with Greg Smith--and his impressive band of certified babes.

U.S. Attorney Nominee Draws Mixed Reviews in Schnauzer World

The Obama administration finally is moving toward replacing our godawful U.S. attorneys, with the announcement that Joyce White Vance is the nominee for the Northern District of Alabama.

That means Alice Martin is on her way out the door, and that can only be seen as good news.

But we have mixed feelings about the Obama nominee. And it's clear that she will be under considerable pressure from our local newspaper, which has gone to comic lengths to praise the abominable Ms. Martin.

Why would I have concerns about Joyce White Vance? Well, I probably wouldn't if her name was Joyce White. It's that last name that bothers me.

Joyce White married into one of Alabama's best-known judicial families. Her late father-in-law, Robert Vance, was a U.S. circuit judge until he was killed by a mail bomb in 1989. Her husband, Robert Vance Jr., is a Jefferson County circuit judge.

I've heard nothing but good things about Joyce White Vance as an individual. Someone who used to work in the Northern District office told me she has the highest regard, both personally and professionally, for Ms. Vance. For good measure, my source said Alice Martin dislikes Vance because the latter is respected and liked among the staff. If Alice Martin doesn't like someone, that's a good sign to me.

The bad sign, in my view, is that I'm not sure we need a U.S. attorney who is part of Alabama's "judicial royalty." Martin has focused on alleged corruption in the political and business worlds. But from where I sit, some of Alabama's worst corruption rests in the judicial and legal worlds.

Is Joyce White Vance going to take a serious look at the corruption that permeates the courthouses and law firms in her district? I doubt it.

It's particularly unlikely when you consider that Robert Vance Jr. is one sorry excuse for a judge. I know because I've seen him operate in an up-close way. And he's a Democrat, by the way.

Vance was assigned to a legal-malpractice claim I filed against the first attorneys I hired to defend me against a bogus lawsuit from my criminally inclined neighbor. The attorneys were Jesse P. Evans III and Michael B. Odom, and at the time, they were with the Birmingham firm of Adams & Reese/Lange Simpson. They since have shuffled on over to Haskell & Slaughter.

To put it in a short and not-so-sweet way, Robert Vance Jr. screwed me to the wall. He dismissed my lawsuit when, by law, it could not be dismissed. I will go into details in a future post, but it's elemental stuff. Anyone who knows a thing about Rule 12(b)(6) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, and checked the public file, would readily see how Vance cheated me. (By the way, I'm pretty sure that Rule 12(b)(6) is standard in all jurisdictions, federal and state. It deals with motions to dismiss, which are supposed to be granted only in rare circumstances, none of which existed in my case.)

I've had some people explain it by saying, "Oh well, some judges just don't like legal malpractice cases."

My response? If you don't like certain kinds of legal cases, don't become a judge. No one forced Robert Vance Jr. to accept his appointment to the bench--from Don Siegelman, of all people.

Based on my experience, Robert Vance Jr. is more interested in protecting corrupt lawyers and law firms than he is in providing justice for citizens who have been victimized by lawyers.

That makes me think Vance's wife has cushy relations with the local legal community, as well. Heck, if she wants to go after a corrupt judge, she won't have to look far--just across the supper table.

Vance already is facing political heat from our local fishwrapper, and she hasn't even taken office yet. The latest comes from columnist John Archibald at The Birmingham News.

Archibald says it is critical that Vance continue the crime-fighting efforts started by the estimable Ms. Martin. Archibald says that Vance, like Martin, must "stand for the people."

I used to have some respect for John Archibald. I thought he seemed fairly broad-minded for a Birmingham News columnist. In fact, I even met with him a few months back when he showed signs in print that he was interested in looking into wrongdoing in Shelby County. When I checked back with Archibald a few weeks later, he said he couldn't work on the stuff I had spoon fed him because he was working on a much bigger Shelby County story--about really bad corruption. Great, I said, I look forward to reading it.

That was several months ago. Has the story about really bad corruption in Shelby County appeared in the paper? Nope. Will it appear? I suspect Sheryl Crow will produce Karl Rove's love child first.

It's becoming increasingly clear that John Archibald is little more than a toady for the white, over-the-mountain, evangelical, Briarwood Christian crowd the News is concerned about.

What else can explain the following garbage about the challenges Joyce White Vance will face?

She will have tough decisions to make, a tough job to do and--yeah, I'm going to say it--a tough act to follow.

Say what you will about Martin, but she has pursued corrupt officials in a way few prosecutors in this state's history have done. Black ones and white ones, Democrats and Republicans, those elected to local and statewide offices.

I believe Vance will continue the people's work. She better. For all our sakes.

The crimes will not go away with Alice Martin, and neither can the will to pursue them.

I don't know whether to laugh or hurl when I read delusional junk like that. I'm almost embarrassed for John Archibald that he would pucker up and kiss Alice Martin right on the fanny in such a public way.

Archibald says Martin has gone after white Republicans in the Northern District? Can he name one besides former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White? And court documents indicate White was targeted only because he refused to provide false evidence against former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

Evidently Archibald has never heard of Alex Latifi. And Archibald & Co. persist in ignoring the mountains of evidence that Alice Martin is far more corrupt than anyone she has ever prosecuted.

Archibald's most recent handiwork must mark at least the sixth time since Obama was elected that the News has pushed for Alice Martin's crime-fighting crusade to continue. It's almost as if the newspaper has a personal stake in keeping the Martin philosophy in place.

And maybe it does. I've heard whispers that if the Obama Justice Department takes a serious look at political prosecutions in Alabama, it could focus on the curiously cozy relationships between prosecutors and the newspapers in Birmingham and Mobile.

Now that would be an interesting fight for Joyce White Vance to tackle. Is she up to the task?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Is There a New Judge in Pennsylvania Case, But Not for Don Siegelman?

We learned in recent days that the Cyril Wecht prosecution in Pennsylvania is falling apart. Why? Because a biased trial-court judge was forced off the case.

You heard that right. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last September that District Judge Arthur J. Schwab must step down and be replaced by a judge who could be impartial in the case.

If you have been following the Don Siegelman case, this news might cause you to have (borrowing a phrase from Keith Olbermann) a "WTF Moment."
Just yesterday, we wrote in detail about Alabama U.S. Judge Mark Fuller and the myriad grounds that he has shown bias in handling the Siegelman case. Our report even raised allegations that Fuller had committed fraud on the court in the Siegelman matter.

Yet Fuller remains on the Siegelman case while Schwab, also a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, gets the boot in Pennsylvania.

The issue of recusal has been raised in the Siegelman case, but Fuller has refused to step down, and the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has done nothing to force him.

Did a new judge make a difference in the Wecht case? Oh, just a little. The new judge, Sean J. McLaughlin, threw out key evidence, crippling the government's chances of retrying Wecht, who is a renowed forensic pathologist.

And get this. The new judge actually wanted to force the government to prove its case within the framework of this document we call the U.S. Constitution. Reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

McLaughlin said his ruling should not be viewed as a "legal technicality."

"These rulings are grounded in well-established Fourth Amendment principles which serve as a bulwark against unwarranted governmental intrusion into the private affairs of every citizen, not just this defendant," McLaughlin wrote. "The importance of these principles transcends this particular case."

I'll be damned. A judge who thinks a defendant's right to a fair trial is a serious matter. Who could have guessed that such a judge existed?

No such judges apparently sit on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, the one that recently upheld most of the convictions against Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy.

Which raises these troubling questions? Does justice in America depend largely on where you live? Is it a matter of residing in the right judicial circuit? And is the 11th Circuit, which oversees Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, controlled by serious jurists or political hacks?

We will be taking a serious look at these question in the next few days.

The First Anniversary of My Unlawful Termination at UAB

Today marks the first anniversary of being cheated out of my job at UAB.

Last May 19 I walked into a meeting with Dale Turnbough (associate vice president for public relations and marketing) and Anita Bonasera (director of employee relations) and was handed a termination letter, telling me I was being relieved of my duties after 19 years on the job. This was after I had been placed on administrative for 12 days.

I recently showed the termination letter to someone who is intimately familiar with labor and employment matters. "You can tell they didn't have grounds for firing you," she said. "The letter is filled with generalities, but there is nothing about a specific reason for the termination."

My favorite part is how the letter makes two or three references to policy violations, but never says what the policies are. That's because I didn't violate any policies. But that's a small matter to UAB when it is trying to do someone's political bidding.

So what do you do on the first anniversary of being cheated out of your job? I'd never considered that question before. Do you "celebrate"? Do you hold a vigil of some sort.

Here in Schnauzer world, we plan to "keep on keepin' on" with the same activity we've been doing: blogging about our broken justice system; investigating the people and entities who, evidence suggests, played a role in my unlawful termination; laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against UAB (actually the University of Alabama Board of Trustees) and the individuals responsible for my firing.

Actually, I don't like to use terms like "firing" and "termination" because they suggest that this was about employment issues. And I'm convinced it wasn't; it was about politics.

UAB pretty much admits that. Its own grievance committee found that I was wrongfully terminated. And how did UAB react to that? By trying to force two more adverse job actions on me--saying I could only return to work with two written warnings in my file and to a job other than the one I had before.

I sat through the entire grievance hearing and knew that UAB had no grounds to support discipline of any kind, much less two written warnings, so I wasn't about to take that deal. Plus, with three written warnings in an 18-month period of time you are automatically fired. Clearly, UAB was trying to set it up to fire me all over again.

Why would a university act in such a nutty, malicious, and deceitful fashion? UAB itself had no motivation to act that way. So someone external to the university clearly is pulling the strings. My guess is that something I had written on my blog had threatened someone either politically or financially, and they decided I needed to be unemployed.

But here's what is so stupid about that strategy: If someone is writing a citizen-journalism blog that you don't like, the last thing you want to do is cost him his job. That only gives him more time to conduct research on relevant subjects.

When I was working full time, I threw Legal Schnauzer together on the fly, in my spare time. (Contrary to Dale Turnbough's allegations, I wasn't doing it at work; UAB's own investigation by an IT guy showed that.)

Since being fired, I've uncovered all sorts of interesting information about sleazy GOP-style politics in Alabama. Some of it appears to be connected to my termination; some of it isn't. I've already written about some of it; much of it is coming in future posts.

We've uncovered important information about such political/business/legal figures as Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Alice Martin, Dax Swatek, William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, Mark Fuller, Doug Jones, and more. We are following numerous leads about rampant wrongdoing at UAB, which points to the wretched "leadership" of President Carol Garrison. We also are working on a series of posts about Garrison's personal misconduct, which probably should have resulted in her dismissal early in her tenure.

We also are working on a story about a company owned by a member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. This company was implicated several years ago in a massive reinsurance-fraud case in Pennsylvania, but federal prosecutors failed to follow up on the Alabama aspects of the case. Is someone who runs a criminal enterprise serving on the UA Board of Trustees? Certainly looks that way, and we will be reporting on it here at Legal Schnauzer.

We are intrigued by the recent exit at UAB of Cheryl E.H. Locke, the human-resources director who made the bad-faith offer for me to return under improper conditions. She since has taken what appears to be a lesser job at Wake Forest. Why? My guess is that Cheryl Locke actually has a conscience, and she was tired of doing the bidding of a corrupt UAB administration. UAB still has a lot of great qualities as an institution, but someone with a conscience is likely to be uncomfortable under the current regime.

What have we learned in the past year? Well, we've received a high-level education in how to fight corruption. Actually, Mrs. Schnauzer and I have been doing that for eight or nine years when it comes to the corrupt courts in Shelby County, where we live. But the ante gets raised considerably when someone goes after your job.

It's been heartening to see the attention my case has received in the press. Lindsay Beyerstein at Raw Story, Robin Wilson at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Horton at Harper's, and Joan Brunwasser at OpEd News (Part One and Part Two) all have covered issues raised by the case.

I've always believed in the idea that knowledge is power, and that's what Legal Schnauzer strives to be about. We try to gain knowledge about matters you aren't likely to find in the mainstream press and share it with readers, letting them know how the justice system in our country really "works."

I'm often asked about the status of my legal case against UAB. There isn't much new to report on that. Employment cases have to go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and I filed a discrimination complaint--called a charge--on November 6, 2008. The EEOC has 180 days to conduct an investigation of the matter, which means I should receive notice any day that the investigation has been concluded.

Unfortunately, I'm told that, as a government bureaucracy with a heavy caseload, the EEOC is noted for running over the 180-day time frame. I'm also told that sometimes the EEOC does a useful investigation and sometimes it doesn't do much of anything, other than sending a right-to-sue letter. A lawsuit cannot proceed until the EEOC has completed its work, so it may be a few more weeks before I hear anything.

I'm not a lawyer, but I play one on the Web, and the legal issues seem clear. Age discrimination, gender discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, and defamation certainly are present. The key concept on most employment issues is "disparate treatment," and there is ample evidence of that.

My case goes beyond standard employment issues, to First Amendment violations. That is likely to be front and center. The case against UAB is overwhelming, but I (of all people) am aware of how judges can cheat parties and deny justice. I'm also aware that I'm the "little guy" going against an institution with a huge advantage in resources. Nothing will be certain in the days ahead.

With an honest justice system, UAB has serious problems--both in my case and in several others. But we don't have an honest justice system; that's the whole reason I started this blog. So who knows what will happen.

Thorough discovery in my case probably would lead in all kinds of interesting political directions. It probably would reveal civil fraud and perhaps even criminal activity.

Under federal law, the public has an "intangible right" to the honest-services of UAB officials. That right clearly was violated in my case--and that goes beyond any wrongs committed against me. That's a wrong against the public, and that's why it's a crime.

Would a federal prosecutor, even in the age of Obama, have the guts to bring such a case? Probably not. But the public should know that the people who currently lead UAB have established an environment where criminal activity can, and almost surely does, take place.

While this will start off, I suspect, as a standard employment case, it really is about a "political hit." Will we be able to determine who actually was responsible for it? I'm sure as heck going to try.

Year one of my post-UAB life has been interesting. Year two is likely to be even more so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Siegelman Judge Committed Fraud on the Court

Mark Fuller, the federal judge who oversaw the Don Siegelman trial, committed fraud on the court by failing to disclose his bias against the former Alabama governor. That means the judgment against Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy should be vacated, says an attorney who has conducted extensive research on Fuller's legal and business activities.

"The evidence is clear to me that Judge Fuller failed to disclose his bias in the Siegelman case and committed fraud on the court," said Paul Benton Weeks, an attorney in Springfield, Missouri. "It is an example of what the Supreme Court has called an 'inexcusable' failure of a judge to remove himself from a case."

Weeks spoke at a media teleconference this morning as a follow up to an investigative report by veteran attorney and journalist Andrew Kreig that was published last Friday at Huffington Post. Kreig reports that Weeks is initiating a renewed call for impeachment amid allegations that Fuller tried to defraud Alabama's state-employee pension system and earned millions of dollars from military contracts during the Bush administration.

Weeks said he uncovered Fuller's misconduct with the assistance of Gary McAliley, a Siegelman appointee who took over as district attorney for two south Alabama counties after Fuller was named to the federal bench by George W. Bush.

"Fuller was deeply concerned that McAliley was going to indict him," Weeks said. "When that concern passed, Fuller became determined to stay on the Siegelman case because he wanted revenge."

Weeks compared Fuller's actions in the Siegelman case to those of a Louisiana judge in Liljeberg v. Health Svcs. Acq. Corp, 486 U.S. 847 (1988). Liljeberg involved ownership of St. Jude Hospital in Kenner, Lousiana. Loyola University had an interest in the hospital, and the judge who heard the case was a Loyola trustee. The judge failed to disclose his relationship to Loyola, and the Supreme Court ruled that was grounds for vacating the judgment in the case.

"If a judge knows something that others in the case don't know, and it would cause an appearance of bias, he has an obligation to identify it and get out of the case," Weeks said. "The Supreme Court said in Liljeberg that the judge's failure to do this was inexcusable."

Weeks said Fuller's actions also raise issues that were addressed in Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238 (1944). That case involved a fraud on the court that was discovered years after the judgment had been entered. The Supreme Court found that such a fraud required the judgment to be set aside.

Fuller's actions in the Siegelman case rise to the level of a fraud on the court, Weeks said. What is fraud on the court? Here is how one court described it:

Fraud on the court is fraud which seriously affects the integrity of the normal process of adjudication. Gleason v. Jandrucko, 860 F.2d 556, 559 (2nd Cir. 1988). It involves far more than an injury to an individual litigant or a case of a judgment obtained [simply] with the aid of a witness who, on the basis of after-discovered evidence, is believed to possibly to have been guilty of perjury. Id. (citations omitted) (alteration in original). The concept embraces that species of fraud which does or attempts to, defile the Court itself, or is a fraud perpetrated by officers of the court so that the judicial machinery cannot perform in the usual manner its impartial task of adjudging cases presented for adjudication. Kupferman v. Consolidated Research & Mfg. Corp., 459 F.2d 1072, 1078 (2nd Cir. 1972) (quoting 7 MOORES FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶60.33, at 515 (1971 ed.).26

The court goes on to describe the elements of a fraud on the court:

The Sixth Circuit has ruled that the elements of fraud upon the Court consists of conduct:

1. On the part of an officer of the Court;

2. That is directed to the judicial machinery itself;

3. That is intentionally false, willfully blind to the truth, or is in reckless disregard for the truth;

4. That is a positive averment or is concealment when one is under a duty to disclose;

5. That deceives the court.

Fuller was an officer of the court in the Siegelman case and concealed a bias that he was under duty to disclose. That, Weeks said, constitutes a fraud on the court.

Weeks first became interested in Fuller when the newly confirmed judge was assigned in 2002 to Murray v. Scott, a class-action lawsuit in which Weeks represented a plaintiff.

Weeks said his investigation showed that, while a district attorney in south Alabama, Fuller had attempted to defraud the Retirement Systems of Alabama out of approximately $330,000 on behalf of one of his employees. The fraud, Weeks said, was an attempt to reward the employee for handling many of the DA's duties while Fuller was in Colorado overseeing Doss Aviation, a company of which he is majority owner.

The investigation, Weeks said, convinced him that Fuller "should not be on the federal bench--or any bench."

Weeks compiled a lengthy affidavit, which included a sworn statement from Siegelman appointee McAliley, and that quickly led to Fuller's recusal from the Murray case.

But Weeks did not forget about the Alabama judge. In fall 2007, he read about the Siegelman case and saw that Fuller was handling it. That set off alarms in Weeks mind.

"When word got out about Fuller's misconduct as DA, he said they were coming after him for political reasons," Weeks said. "Well, he was referring to Gary McAliley, a Siegelman appointee.

"It was not humanly possible for Fuller to then preside over the Siegelman case in a fair and objective way."

Weeks' concerns led him to make his affidavit publicly available in fall 2007. And they have led him to speak out now.

"After the investigation, I was convinced that Fuller was a danger to the federal judiciary," Weeks said. "He had no sense of right and wrong, no respect for the public, and certainly no respect for the law."

Flashing Brassieres and Other Hazards in the Workplace

Why do we have so many employment lawsuits in the United States? I'm starting to think it's simply a reflection of who we are: We have quite a few knuckleheads in the population, which means we have knuckleheads in the workplace. And knuckleheads lead to workplace problems.

Just ask Melissa Blessing, a Perryville, Missouri, woman who worked at a chain of hardware and building-supply stores in southern Missouri and Illinois. Her brassiere, and a number of knuckleheads, helped land her in the middle of a court case.

Blessing, the only woman in a lumberyard, was the target of regular pranks from her male coworkers. One day, the fellas put up a sign that read "Show me your boobies, please."

When they made a special point to show Blessing the sign, she tried to walk away. But the taunting continued, and she finally flashed a glimpse of her bra in an effort to make it stop.

That got her fired, while the men involved were not disciplined. For good measure, a man replaced her.

After a lengthy court battle, Blessing prevailed on discrimination and sexual harassment claims. But you can only shake your head at how such a situation ever was allowed to develop--and that the company defended its handling of the matter, probably spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Makes me think it was a miracle that I worked at UAB for 19 years before coming across a subset of knuckleheads who were corrupt enough to cheat me out of my job.

Here is a summary of the court's finding in the Blessing case:

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County. Buchheit, Inc., Appellant, v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights, Respondent, No. 65985 (Mo. App. W.D., February 20, 2007, Breckenridge, J.

Buchheit terminated Melissa Blessing after an incident in which she briefly showed her brassiere to male co-workers after they encouraged her to do so. Blessing filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (“MCHR”) claiming she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender. MCHR agreed with her, finding she had established a prima facie case of gender discrimination and that the reasons Buchheit put forth for terminating her were pretextual. Having found in her favor, MCHR awarded her $1,644.00 in lost wages and $4,000.00 in non-economic damages.

Held: Affirmed. After establishing that Buchheit had appealed from a final judgment, the court of appeals went about affirming MCHR's findings and conclusions. The facts of the underlying case are rather involved, but ultimately, the court of appeals, in a long opinion, emphasized Buchheit had not been entirely consistent in its testimony about handling and disciplining Blessing. Basically, a spirited incident occurred, in which Blessing was the only female employee. She was the only one who exposed herself, as Buchheit maintained, in that she briefly showed a part of her brassiere. Buchheit claimed the other male employees were not similarly situated to her because they had not exposed themselves. The court of appeals agreed with MCHR that all the employees who participated in this incident were similarly situated, so MCHR was justified in finding Blessing had been treated differently because of her gender. None of the male employees were terminated over this incident.

Was justice served in this case? Not from this Schnauzer's perspective. I'm amazed that Blessing didn't receive far more than roughly $5,600 in damages. Makes me think the company got off way too easily. Also makes me think the Missouri Commission on Human Rights is a worthless bureaucracy that is high-minded in name only.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Judge in Siegelman Case Faces Renewed Impeachment Effort

Mark Fuller, the Alabama federal judge who oversaw the Don Siegelman case, is facing a renewed impeachment effort amid allegations that he tried to defraud a state pension system and earned millions of dollars from military contracts during the Bush administration.

Missouri attorney Paul Benton Weeks said Fuller punished Siegelman in retaliation for an investigation Weeks conducted in 2003 that revealed extensive financial wrongdoing in two Alabama counties where Fuller had served as district attorney. A Siegelman appointee assisted in the investigation, which showed that Fuller engaged in criminal behavior before being appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, Weeks said.

Meanwhile, a new investigation shows that Doss Aviation, with Fuller as majority owner, has been awarded more than $300 million in federal contracts since Fuller began presiding over the Siegelman case in 2005.

The latest on the Siegelman case comes from an investigative report at Huffington Post by veteran attorney and journalist Andrew Kreig, who currently is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.

Weeks and Kreig will conduct a media teleconference at 10 a.m., Eastern time, on Monday (5/18). A Department of Justice spokesman and Judge Fuller have been invited to participate in the teleconference. Kreig sent interview requests to Fuller via U.S. mail and telephone. He has received no response.

Reports Kreig:

The Alabama federal judge who presided over the 2006 corruption trial of the state's former governor holds a grudge against the defendant for helping to expose the judge's own alleged corruption six years ago. Former Gov. Don Siegelman therefore deserves a new trial with an unbiased judge─not one whose privately owned company, Doss Aviation, has been enriched by the Bush administration's award of $300 million in contracts since 2006, making the judge millions in non-judicial income.

These are the opinions of Missouri attorney Paul B. Weeks, who is speaking out publicly for the first time since his effort in 2003 to obtain the impeachment of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery on Doss Aviation-related allegations.

Kreig's report comes at a critical time in the Siegelman case. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld most of the convictions against Siegelman. Federal prosecutors are asking that the former governor receive a 20-year sentence, almost triple his original sentence. With the 11th Circuit refusing last week to grant a review by the entire court, the case stands to return to Fuller for resentencing.

That's a frightening prospect, Weeks says, because Fuller clearly is not impartial toward the former governor. Fuller's grudge originated with the financial impropriety that Weeks uncovered with the help of Gary McAliley, a Siegelman appointee who succeeded Fuller as district attorney over two south Alabama counties:

"Siegelman deserved a fair judge, and what he got is one who holds a grudge against him for my impeachment effort," says Weeks. "If Fuller had a trace of honor he would have recused himself immediately. Instead, he's part of the machine that pounded down the defendant. It makes a huge difference to a defendant whether the judge is protecting your rights, or letting prosecutors stifle them. All Siegelman needs to do to win a new trial is to put my 2003 affidavit on the table as Exhibit A."

Weeks practices law in Springfield, Missouri, and decided to conduct a routine investigation after the newly confirmed Fuller was assigned in 2002 to Murray v. Scott, a class-action lawsuit in which Weeks represented a plaintiff.

What was supposed to be a routine background check on a judge turned up information that was anything but routine. The initial check uncovered enough troubling information that Weeks traveled to Alabama to conduct a thorough investigation. He wound up with a sworn statement from McAliley, outlining corruption in the district attorney's office where Fuller had presided:

Weeks put his evidence into a comprehensive filing to Fuller on July 25, 2003. The filing alleged "clear evidence of criminal misconduct" by Fuller both before and after he became a federal judge. Weeks wrote, "The evidence of criminal wrongdoing identified in this affidavit implicates lying and perjury; criminal conspiracy and criminal attempt to defraud the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) of approximately $330,000; and, misuse of the office of district attorney and federal judge in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy and criminal attempt to defraud."

What was at the heart of Fuller's corrupt activities? Kreig reports:

According to Weeks's statement, the problem was Fuller's cozy arrangement with his state staff that enabled him to lead Doss Aviation in Colorado Springs while also drawing a full-time salary as state district attorney in Alabama. Weeks suggested that the pay raise and pension fight for the investigator were, in effect, hush money.

The affidavit prompted Fuller's recusal from the Murray case. But Weeks' call for impeachment went nowhere in Washington, D.C. Weeks drove from Missouri to Washington to hand deliver his evidence to every member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds initial jurisdiction over impeachment actions. Weeks also delivered copies to judicial, justice, and legal oversight groups. He never heard back from anyone, and the matter died.

Meanwhile, new evidence shows how much Fuller and Doss Aviation have gained financially during the Bush years. Reports Kreig:

Recent additional research by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University found that Doss Aviation has been awarded more than $300 million in federal awards since Fuller began presiding over the Siegelman case in 2005. The scope of Doss Aviation's work is illustrated by the company's website, Among other things, it displays a photo of Doss Aviation refueling the presidential plane Air Force One as part of its extensive refueling work for the Air Force. The website also describes the company's vital role in training Air Force pilots, and in manufacturing uniforms for federal military and civilian employees.

Fuller never should have been assigned to the Siegelman case, Weeks says:

"I just wish I had known about Siegelman's case before his trial so they [defendants and attorneys] could have been able to understand the kind of animus Fuller has to have for Siegelman," Weeks says. "I guarantee that Fuller blames Siegelman for my affidavit. If you look at how Fuller treated Siegelman, he clearly hates him."

"What's remarkable is that Siegelman has never been given a real chance to show why it's not appropriate for Fuller to be his judge," Weeks says. "The material I produced was never available. I think it was put into a separate file to keep it hidden."

Why has new Attorney General Eric Holder been reluctant to review the Siegelman case, even after asking that charges be dropped against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK)? Kreig provides some insight:

Weeks believes that Attorney General Holder finds it politically indelicate so far to step into Siegelman's case, especially so soon after he condemned the prosecution of former Sen. Stevens. "If it's one case of misconduct, authorities can look like heroes for investigating it. If it's two, they're opening the floodgates for reviews of all their questionable conduct."

Kreig notes that the 11th Circuit's ruling upholding most of the Siegelman conviction has not quieted critics who say the prosecution was politically driven and unlawfully conducted. The real problem, Weeks says, started in the trial court with Judge Mark Fuller. And Weeks does not intend to let that issue rest:

"There needs to be oversight beyond that appeals court," Weeks concludes. "They really contained the problem pretty well up to now. But there's no statute of limitations for impeachment, and this case shouldn't end with a new judge and new trial, or dropped charges against Siegelman and Scrushy," he says.

"I've been a fan of good judges for my entire 28 years as a lawyer," he says. "But when you get a bad one, with all the power that they hold, that's about as close to the devil here on earth as you can find."