When you've been in the blogging/citizen journalism "business" for awhile, you develop a sense for topics that are likely to strike a nerve--and draw a heated response.
Such was the case with our recent post about apparent corruption in domestic-relations court in Jefferson County, Alabama. As we noted in the post, domestic-relations cases tend to generate high emotions, even when a court is handling them properly. And I know from firsthand experience that shining light on the questionable actions of a judge is a surefire way to draw heat from certain quarters in the legal community--not to mention certain parties who are receiving favorable treatment that might not be justified by law or facts.
So I was not surprised when our post drew a strong response. After all, we were writing about attorney Angela Turner Drees and her federal lawsuit against Jefferson County Circuit Judge Ralph A. "Sonny" Ferguson, alleging that the judge had engaged in criminal misconduct and violated her constitutional rights in a child-custody case.
But even I was taken aback by the level of vitriol directed at Ms. Turner in several comments to our post. I moderate comments on Legal Schnauzer, and I normally reject comments that question someone's mental health or trash their character. But I let these comments go through, thinking they might be instructive about how sensitive this topic is in the Birmingham legal community.
You can check all of the comments on the post by going to this link and clicking on the comments link at the bottom. But here are a few unedited "highlights":
* "Angela Drees is the one who is in the wrong here. Her constant harassment and abuse of these poor children, her ex husband, all of the lawyers involved and the Judge will end soon enough. Mark my words that at some point soon not only will see be without her children, but she will also lose her law license and will likely be spending time in jail."
* "There simply isn't a lower form of life than a woman who does these types of things to her children. They are better off without her until she checks into a mental health facility and starts accepting blame for her own actions and takes medication for her mental illness."
* "A closer look at Ms. Drees and her unfounded allegations would reveal her insanity. She continues to make slanderous allegations at nearly every Judge she appears before, simply because they see through her fallacies and rule against her. That type of behavior isn't justice, it's ludicrous. She should've lost her bar license years ago, which would've prevented her from filing these types of ridiculous and frivolous matters that waste public funds and everyone's time."
For good measure, one or two commenters decided to take shots at your humble blogger:
* "LS, Sometimes fully researching the facts of your case would make your opinions on this blog carry a lot more weight . . . luckily, a brief run-through of your postings provides strong evidence that the items posted here are nothing more than one man's ill-informed positions on a variety of topics the general public cares absolutely nothing about. Posting this type of comment about a domestic relations matter that has been going on for years, which you know absolutely NOTHING about, only makes you look like a fool."
* "Seriously, do you spend all day long dreaming up conspiracy theories about how everyone in government is corrupt? Maybe you should find a new hobby."
And then we had this:
* "Your facts below regarding the "skit" that occurred are also incorrect, and I would suggest to you that you refrain from making those types of allegations against the law firm where the President of the Bar currently practices."
The skit and its aftermath were addressed in a recent article by The Birmingham News. The Birmingham firm of White Arnold & Dowd, home to Alabama State Bar President J. Mark White, was mentioned in the article.
One of our readers seems to think that Mr. White isn't capable of taking care of himself or is somehow above scrutiny. Perhaps Mr. White would like to answer questions about why one of the lawyers in his firm, Steve Arnold, helped prepare a sophomoric skit that led to the forced recusal of a domestic-relations judge.
Is that the kind of activity that the Alabama State Bar endorses?
We have only begun to scratch the surface of issues connected to Jefferson County Domestic Relations Court. Much more is coming. And the nasty response to our first post makes me think we are onto an important story.