|William E. Swatek|
The nation's attention has been riveted in recent days on video of a woman being stomped at a Rand Paul rally in Kentucky. The thuggish behavior of Paul's tea-party supporters was captured on tape for the entire nation to see.
Republican thuggery is not new for my wife and me. We've been dealing with it in Alabama for roughly 10 years, long before most people had heard of Rand Paul.
One of the more unusual moments in our legal travails came in May 2008 when Republican thugs in Alabama caused our house to be unlawfully auctioned. We still live in the house, but our full ownership rights were essentially stolen. My wife and I now are fighting to get them back.
We have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that attorney William E. Swatek and Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry led a conspiracy to violate our equal-protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Other named defendants include Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor; Sheriff Deputy Bubba Caudill; and Alabama Circuit Judge Hub Harrington. (See the complaint at the end of this post.)
Long-time readers might recall that we captured the bizarre sheriff's sale on video for our Legal Schnauzer audience. You can relive those memories here:
Showdown in Shelby County, Part II
What is the gist of the lawsuit? This section of the complaint pretty well sums it up:
The sale allegedly was for the purpose of satisfying a judgment against Roger Shuler in the amount of $1,525. The judgment had been entered in Shelby County Circuit Court in June 2004, in favor of Mike McGarity, who was represented by Attorney William E. Swatek.
Swatek made the only bid on the property, and he was awarded rights to the Shulers’ property. A sheriff’s deed was placed on the Shulers’ property in Swatek’s name, and the deed remains in place.
The sheriff’s sale was conducted without due process of law and violated Alabama statutory, procedural, and case law in multiple respects.
The "auction" was a legal fiasco, apparently designed to threaten me into discontinuing my blog. It took place on May 12, 2008 (while I was on administrative leave from my job at UAB), and I was fired on May 19. That strongly suggests that the sheriff's sale and my unlawful termination are connected.
Swatek's son, Dax Swatek, is a Montgomery-based political consultant for the Republican Party and was Gov. Bob Riley's campaign manager in 2006. Dax Swatek's mentor is Bill Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama and husband of corrupt U.S. Attorney Leura Canary (of Don Siegelman-case infamy). Bill Canary, of course, is a close associate of Tom Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove, Bush White House and GOP fund-raising strategist.
Bill and Dax Swatek are the Kevin Bacon characters in our Legal Schnauzer story, providing "six degrees" of connections to some of the sleaziest Republicans in American history. Does all of this suggest that my unlawful termination at UAB and the bogus auction of our house were driven, at least in part, by GOP political operatives? Does it suggest that our problems with debt collectors also might involve GOP politicos? We think the answer to both questions is yes.
(By the way, the photo of Bill Swatek above is not a gag. That's really him, and he really is an "officer of the court" in Alabama. Comforting isn't it? The photo is from the Web site swateklaw.com. If you have some time on your hands and want to have a little fun, try this: Check out the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct and then peruse the Swatek Web site. See how many violations of ethics rules you can find.)
How big a joke was the process leading up to the auction of our house--and why does it appear connected to my blog? The complaint states:
As of fall 2007, more than three years had passed, with McGarity making no effort to collect on the judgment. Neither Swatek nor McGarity ever sent a demand letter regarding the judgment. But roughly three months after Shuler started writing about the case on his blog—and also writing about debt collectors who had repeatedly violated federal law—McGarity and Swatek suddenly became interested in collecting the judgment.
In September 2007, Swatek applied for a writ of execution on McGarity’s behalf, threatening seizure of the Shulers’ cars and house. The writ was issued by Clerk Mary Harris on September 21, 2007. On February 8, 2008, the Shulers received a notice of levy, signed by Sheriff Chris Curry, stating that the house and property at 5204 Logan Drive would be advertised and sold. Over a period of several weeks, the Shulers received approximately 25 phone messages from Deputies Bubba Caudill and Eddie Moore. The tone of the calls was “we’re fixing to sell that property” and “have you worked something out with the other side?”
In a phone conversation with Bubba Caudill, Roger Shuler stated there was nothing to work out. The judgment itself was void, Shuler said, and he had filed a claim of exemption with the sheriff’s office—and McGarity had not contested it, meaning the property was exempt from levy and no sale could took place. Caudill told Shuler that Judge Harrington had ordered that the sale proceed, and the court file shows that Harrington indeed signed off on the sale. This occurred even though Alabama law holds that a sheriff’s sale is recognized by statute and does not require any action by a judge. (Ex Parte Arthur Lynn, Ala. Civ. App. 1999.) In fact, that court found that a sheriff’s sale is not a judicial sale, so Harrington acted outside his official capacity as a judge in causing the Shulers’ property rights to be unlawfully auctioned.
What has been the fallout?
As a result of the unlawful auction, a sheriff’s deed now is recorded in Shelby County Probate Court, falsely asserting that Bill Swatek has legal rights to the Shulers’ property. The Shulers now frequently receive mail at their home, addressed to William E. Swatek, as if he is the owner of the property.
Imagine that you are outside on a 90-degree summer day in Alabama, mowing your yard, pulling weeds, trimming shrubs--doing the kinds of things that homeowners do to try to keep their property looking nice. Imagine that sweat is pouring down your face, and your shirt is thoroughly soaked.
Then this thought comes into your head: Thanks to a neighbor with a long criminal record and his lawyer with a long history of ethical violations and corrupt public officials, you are working your ass off on property that you don't fully own.
Imagine how that would make you feel. Mrs. Schnauzer and I don't have to imagine it. We know how it makes you feel. It makes you so pissed off that you are tempted to take the bogus sheriff's deed and jam it up someone's orifice. It makes you want to take Bill Swatek's "hog" and drive it over a cliff--with him on it.
We try to be civilized folks, so we are going about things in the proper manner. But to say we are determined to get justice in this matter would be a vast understatement.