A lawyer threatened me with a lawsuit recently for portraying his firm and one of its partners in "a false light."
Does the lawyer, Tom Kendrick of the Birmingham firm Norman Wood Kendrick and Turner (NWKT), have a legitimate claim? Not a chance--and I possess three public documents to prove it.
Kendrick apparently was flapping his gums while they were disengaged from his brain--a common affliction among lawyers. More specifically, he likely was spewing warm, foul air in my direction, in hopes of coming across as intimidating. He failed.
This raises five of our favorite Legal Schnauzer lessons: (1) Never assume that a lawyer knows the law, particularly if you are talking about an area in which he does not specialize; (2) Never assume a lawyer knows the relevant facts, particularly in a case that does not involve him; (3) If a lawyer tries the intimidation routine, either verbally or with a letter, there's a pretty fair chance he can't back it up; (4) Consult your local law librarian if a lawyer's behavior causes you alarm. Based on my experience, law librarians are far and away the most honest and capable people connected to the legal field. And they can be incredibly helpful; (5) Learn how to look up public records; they are your friend.
All of this is not to say that Tom Kendrick won't file a lawsuit against me. After all, this is America where you can sue almost anybody (except judges) for almost anything. For instance, our criminally inclined neighbor started our legal headaches by filing a lawsuit that claimed I had maliciously prosecuted him after swearing out a criminal trespass complaint against him--even though he admitted trespassing in the underlying trial. In other words, the guy confessed to the crime as charged, an Alabama judge found him not guilty anyway, and that allowed him to sue me for a disfavored tort that, by law, almost never gets very far.
Having to hire multiple lawyers to defend that case, before corrupt Alabama judges, cost us tens of thousands of dollars, wiped out our savings, and ultimately cost both my wife and me our jobs when I started writing about the case--and other hot-button issues--on this blog.
If Kendrick does sue me, he'd better be prepared for a counter assault--and this Schnauzer will be going for the jugular, against Kendrick or anyone else that tries to screw with me on the legal stage. Ten years of battling corrupt a--holes in court has taught me how to find the jugular and go for it. And you might say my patience has worn thin with individuals who use public resources to cheat others.
Why would my patience be running thin? Oh, I don't know . . . I had cause the other day to review several affidavits filed by various individuals from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in my ongoing employment lawsuit. Affidavits, of course, are sworn statements, signed under penalty of perjury. But at least three UAB types signed documents that are demonstrably false. And thanks to the corrupt federal judge overseeing the case--an 83-year-old Reagan appointee--they have gotten away with it so far.
My tax dollars go to support UAB and the federal courts--and yours probably do, too, whether you live in Alabama or not--and they are being used to screw me. Trust me when I say that kind of thing can make you mildly ticked off. To borrow a phrase from Scrubs' Dr. Perry Cox, it can almost induce a case of "ga-vomiting," a combination of gagging and vomiting that doesn't sound terribly pleasant.
But back to matters at hand. The Beasley Allen firm of Montgomery recently taught us, with its complaint against Taco Bell, there is a big difference between filing a lawsuit and having a case. That's a lesson that Tom Kendrick would be wise to learn.
After all, public records from Turner v. Turner--the domestic-relations/custody case that has Kendrick in a lather--show there is nothing remotely false or defamatory about my coverage.
Turner v. Turner involves Kile Turner, the Turner in the title of Tom Kendrick's law firm, and Angela Turner Drees, who is also a lawyer and used to practice at the Birmingham firm Haskell Slaughter. The Turners were married and had triplets together before getting a divorce.
They initially had a shared-custody agreement, but that changed when Kile Turner stated under oath that Dr. Hajo Drees, Angela Turner Drees' current husband, had been convicted on two felony counts of domestic violence--one involving his ex wife and one involving his son. Richard Vincent, Kile Turner's attorney, seconded those statements in court proceedings, and that apparently played a key role in Turner receiving custody of the triplets, who are now 10 years old and have not seen their mother in two-plus years.
Are the charges that Kile Turner and his lawyer made against Hajo Drees true? Three public documents indicate they are not--and that Turner and Vincent now have acknowledged, in a proceeding before the Alabama State Bar, that they are not true.
How can a litigant get away with making admittedly false statements in a court proceeding? Apparently it helps to be a lawyer, with connections to influential law firms in downtown Birmingham. (As we noted earlier, it also must help to work at UAB.) Among those connections in Turner v. Turner is this: Kile Turner's current wife, Sara M. Turner, is a lawyer with the firm of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell and Berkowitz.
What about those three documents we mentioned? One is from the Alabama State Bar and one is from an appeal of a State Bar decision to the Alabama Supreme Court. We will examine those documents, and the Alabama State Bar's mind-blowing actions related to Turner v. Turner, in upcoming posts.
But for now, we will focus on a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus that Angela Turner Drees filed, seeking three things: (1) An order for mediation in the case; (2) An order to allow the children counseling and reunification with their mother; (3) An order dealing with admitted misconduct by Kile Turner and Richard Vincent, in making misstatements of material fact on multiple issues in the case.
What kind of impact did those misstatements have in the custody case? In her petition, Angela Turner Drees states:
In the original agreement, the mother was the primary caregiver, as she had been prior to the divorce. Custody was then changed by Judge (R.A.) Ferguson, giving sole legal and physical custody to the father and new stepmother (the Intervenor) when the father presented false evidence of a criminal conviction against the mother's new husband, Dr. Hajo Drees.
The order also relieved the father of his obligation to pay the back child support owed (as a result of his misstating his income), as well as terminated any child support obligations for him for the future. This result represented a significant financial windfall for Mr. Turner and the Intervenor. As is now admitted by the Defendant, Kile Turner, as well as his lawyer Richard Vincent, the defendant and his attorney did not state the truth to Judge Ferguson at this custody trial. (See hearing ASB08-176(A) December 14, 2010.)
ASB08-176(A) is an Alabama State Bar document, and we will be looking at that soon. But for now, we have one court document, which is a public record, stating that Kile Turner made false statements in an official proceeding--and I have based my reporting on that document and two others.
You can read Angela Turner Drees' full Petition for a Writ of Mandamus below. It tells you that Tom Kendrick has no grounds for a lawsuit against a reporter who has based his coverage on public court documents. It also tells you that Mr. Kendrick is making an underhanded effort to shut down reporting on a case that is making his firm uneasy.
(To be continued)
Angela Drees Writ of Mandamus