Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Neighbor From Hell Has a History of Criminality That Goes Back Many Years

Mike McGarity
Homewood High School

We've established that Mike McGarity, the troublesome neighbor who launched our legal travails, has a criminal record. We've provided a summary of McGarity's criminal history, courtesy of documents from various courts in the Birmingham area. And we've provided insight into the dysfunctional family environment that produced McGarity.

For good measure, we've noted the irony of McGarity being a long-time employee at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, a company that serves as a Medicare contractor and is supposed to follow stringent federal guidelines for employee screening. Koko Mackin, a spokeswoman for BC/BS of Alabama, has been quoted about the company's commitment to ensuring the integrity of member health information by, presumably, weeding out questionable characters among its staff. One can only wonder how a guy with McGarity's criminal record slipped through the cracks.

Let's take a closer look at a couple of incidents from McGarity's past, one involving a sex-related offense and one involving a violence-related offense. These are classified as misdemeanors, but they show that McGarity's law-breaking tendencies are deep-seated and ugly; they go beyond the kind of offenses for which one might receive a citation or pay a small fine. These offenses show a disrespect for other people, and they go a long way toward explaining why Mrs. Schnauzer and I found it impossible to deal with McGarity, almost from the moment he moved in next door to us in December 1998.

Our experiences, we hope, will serve as a cautionary tale for others. In the almost 10 years we had owned our house before McGarity moved in, we'd never had a significant problem with a neighbor. But our peaceful existence was showing signs of changing radically within hours of his arrival.

Here's a Schnauzer suggestion: If you ever encounter a neighbor who seems extraordinarily difficult, unreasonable, and belligerent, check your local courthouses and law-enforcement agencies. You are likely to find the individual has a criminal record, and it might help you deal with the situation. At the very least, it will let you know that the problem isn't just in your head.

What was the most troubling information we uncovered about Mike McGarity? First, we will look at a sex-related offense. The second truly disturbing incident also involved sex, in a roundabout way, but it was more about violence. We will look at that one in an upcoming post.

Court records show that on November 11, 1977, a vice unit from the Birmingham Police Department arrested McGarity, then 18, for soliciting prostitution. He also was charged with a narcotics offense on the same episode.

An incident report indicates McGarity got nabbed as part of an undercover prostitution sting. (See full report at the end of this post.) The report states:

Def. arrested after he gave a B'ham Police Dept. employee a marijuana cigarette.

The PD employee apparently was posing as a prostitute. The drug charge wound up being nol prossed (not prosecuted).

As for the prostitution charge, records from Birmingham Municipal Court show that McGarity was convicted of an offense called indecent proposal. Here is how the incident report describes the offense. (Language alert: Some readers might find the following passage offensive.)

Def. arrested after he approached a B'ham Police Dept. employee and asked her several times how much it would cost and that he wanted to fuck. Def. gave the Police Dept. employee a marijuana cigarette when she got into the car.

Having seen McGarity in action for about 12 years now, a couple of items in the police report jump out at me:

* The narrative doesn't say a lot, but it appears that the female decoy was doing her best to let McGarity go. Perhaps the operation was trying to nab older guys, those who likely had been violating the solicitation law for some time. But McGarity was persistent, and the report says he asked the decoy several times "how much it would cost." If the price she quoted was beyond his means, you would think a normal guy would just go on and leave her alone. But I've seen numerous signs that McGarity enjoys bullying people. And it appears he just would not leave the decoy alone.

* McGarity's use of harsh, foul language, and his general rudeness, got him in trouble. I'm guessing that McGarity easily could have avoided this arrest, but he made it clear that he "wanted to fuck." That kind of stupidity and ugliness sounds an awful lot like the Mike McGarity I know.

* McGarity exhibits a disrespect toward women, something Mrs. Schnauzer picked up on early in our dealings with him. In fact, when I was defending myself against our "neighbor's" bogus lawsuit, McGarity's thuggish attorney, William E. Swatek, spent much of the trial trying to bash my wife on the stand. Mrs. S. was not even a party to the case, but they spent far more time attacking her than they did going after me. (I'm proud to say that Mrs. S. handled the assault well, and I suspect the strategy wound up backfiring on Swatek and McGarity.)

As for the second disturbing offense, it shows that McGarity has a history of disrespect not only to women but toward anyone he perceives as perhaps different from him. It also shows that he either is hiding something--or he has a tendency to go out of his way to find trouble.

(To be continued)

Mike McGarity Prostitution

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

William M. Acker Jr.: Federal Judge In Alabama Takes Corruption To A Whole New Level

How do you know that a corrupt organization has reached rock bottom? One way, I would submit, is when the crooks no longer make any attempt to hide their unlawfulness. Another way comes when those at the top of the organization turn a blind eye toward the rogues down below, making excuses for them or ignoring them altogether.

That is the sorry state of affairs in our federal courts. How do I know? I've seen it with my own eyes, most prominently in my lawsuit over my wrongful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  Not only did U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. rule in a blatantly unlawful fashion, he told me in open court that he was going to cheat me. He also made statements indicating he had engaged in improper communications, outside my presence, with someone connected to the opposing party.

All of this was captured on an official court transcript, so it's not a matter of my word against Acker's. There is no doubt what he said, and what he meant.

Did Joel Dubina, chief judge of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit, take it seriously when I filed a complaint against Acker under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980? Of course not. In his order, Dubina made excuses for Acker and indicated he saw no problem with a trial-court judge telling a party in open court that he intends to cheat the party--and then does exactly that.

That's what citizens can expect from a system where judges oversee other judges. It's a form of tribalism, the very thing that has made countries like Afghanistan and Iraq so dysfunctional. One member of the legal tribe will not hold another member accountable, and that's largely why our courts--at both the federal and state levels--are cesspools.

What can we do about it? The first step is for citizens to pay attention. The following video is intended to be a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Orkin Pest Control Is Notorious For Cheating An Elderly Black Woman In Alabama

Termites on wood

Perhaps it's time for members of the ultra-rich Rollins family to decide that it's a bad idea to screw around with people in Alabama.

Ted Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest Communities, has drawn a wave of unflattering news coverage here, thanks to the bogus divorce lawsuit he brought in Alabama that caused his ex wife and two daughters to wind up on food stamps.

Ted should have learned a lesson from the experience of his cousins, Randall and Gary Rollins, who almost saw their business empire take a massive hit about 12 years ago in Alabama. Randall and Gary Rollins head Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., which is the parent company for Orkin Pest Control.

A Macon County jury found in 2000 that Orkin had breached a long-term termite contract and committed fraud against a customer named Artie Mae Jeter. A poor, elderly black woman who lived near Tuskegee, Jeter bought an Orkin contract in 1977 that was supposed to provide "lifetime" protection against termite damage. Over the next 20 years or so, termites had a feast on Ms. Jeter's house, but Orkin kept telling her everything was fine. In fact, Orkin engaged in blatant fraud by propping her house up on cinder blocks and jacks to conceal the damage, according to court documents.

An Alabama jury was so repulsed by the actions of Orkin and Rollins Inc. that it awarded $80.8 million in damages to Ms. Jeter's children, who took over the lawsuit after she died in 1999. The Alabama Supreme Court in 2001 reduced the total verdict to $2.3 million. But the case still is seen as a landmark against the best-known name in the highly profitable pest-control business.

Here is how John F. Sugg summed up the Jeter case in an investigative report at Creative Loafing:

One of those customers' names has become the "remember the Alamo" in Orkin litigation. In 1977, a poor, largely uneducated Alabama woman named Artie Mae Jeter purchased a "lifetime" contract that provided for up to $100,000 in termite repairs for damage that occurred after the agreement was signed. Orkin repeatedly inspected Jeter's modest home and just as repeatedly told her there was no damage. 
As Alabama Supreme Court documents state: "Orkin had in place a policy pursuant to which an inspector could not inform a homeowner of any termite damage to the home." Which, of course, meant the company could avoid paying repairs. 
The termites, meanwhile, were having a feast. One Orkin inspector determined repairs would cost between $16,800 and $28,826. The company told Jeter the damage was caused by moisture, but being a good sport offered her $400.

Rollins Inc. stated in an SEC filing that it fulfilled its contractual obligations to Ms. Jeter and did not try to conceal damage. Even the companies own employees did not believe that one. From the Creative Loafing article:

An Orkin manager's memo that became the linchpin in the case states: "Ms. Jeter is 78 years old, black, in poor health, no money. ... Her house was improperly treated, we sold her twice with no documentation of existing conditions, home is badly eaten up by termites to the point of breaking apart. ... [W]e can spend $5,000 now and have her put in small claims over the years until she dies and her children sell the house, or if any attorney get[s] involved, we will probably buy her a new house, thousands in punitive damages and attorneys fees."

Rather than, as Gary and R. Randall Rollins told their shareholders, acting with "honesty and integrity as an integral part of the way we do business," Orkin offered Jeter $4,660 -- but still didn't disclose the extent of damage.

Notice that Gary and Randall Rollins had access to a manager's memo that showed the company acted in a flagrantly dishonest fashion, but they still claimed that "honesty and integrity" were part of Orkin's business model.

As for Ted Rollins, we've shown that honesty and integrity have nothing to do with the way he conducts either his personal or business affairs. When it comes to cheating the citizens of Alabama, he is continuing a "proud family tradition."

(To be continued)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Biased "Reporting," Not Technology, Led to the Steep Decline of The Birmingham News

The Birmingham News building

I've been pretty much a lifelong fan of newspapers, and it always pains me when one goes under. But if a newspaper ever deserved to go out of business, it's The Birmingham News. And that's where it appears to be headed--along with its sister Advance Media publications, The Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register.

Actually, it's premature to say the three Alabama newspapers are going out of business. But yesterday's announcement that this fall they will begin printing three days a week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) means their days as print entities are numbered. Birmingham-based author and blogger Don Keith predicts that the papers no longer will be printing at all within two years, and my guess is that he's right on target.

Why would anyone subscribe to a "daily" newspaper that comes out three days a week? It's one of the dumbest business strategies I've ever heard of. I would suggest that the papers cease print operations immediately if they can't function as true dailies.

Do the News, Times, and P-R have futures as strictly digital news organizations? It's possible. But with the infrastructure of print operations in place--and the burden of their associated costs--it looks like they face a rocky ride.

The Advance Media spin machine is playing this as a reaction to changing technology. But I would submit it's more about bias, backward thinking, and old-fashioned incompetence. You might call yesterday's announcement Don Siegelman's Revenge.

Throughout the 2000s, one of our nation's most important stories was the decay of the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush. It was a coast-to-coast story, but several of its most compelling chapters unfolded in Alabama, led by the prosecution of Siegelman, a popular former Democratic governor, and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

Coverage in the Advance Media newspapers consisted mostly of cheerleading pieces for Bush-era prosecutors Alice Martin and Leura Canary. The papers made almost no serious effort to address compelling evidence that the cases were driven for political reasons by Bush strategist Karl Rove and his associates.

At the same time, the papers provided fawning coverage of Republican Governor Bob Riley, in spite of powerful evidence that Riley might have been running one of the most corrupt regimes in state history.

In essence, the News and its brethren became house organs for the Alabama Republican Party. The papers were blatantly geared toward white, suburban elites--of whatever political stripe. The papers ignored a huge portion of their possible audience--those of color, those who are liberal, progressive, middle class, poor, forward thinking.

In the midst of the "Information Age," when the need for real journalism is stronger than ever, The Birmingham News failed to provide information and analysis that addresses serious issues.

Businesses that ignore huge chunks of the market, in competitive and tight economic times, usually suffer the consequences. That's what happened to the Advance newspapers in Alabama.

They aren't dead yet, but their breathing is labored. And it's not likely to get smoother any time soon.

Another Rogue Judge Bites the Dust in Georgia

Our courthouses here in Alabama are infested with corrupt judges, and nothing ever seems to happen to them. That is not the case in Georgia.

Five Georgia judges have stepped down in the past three months amid investigations into alleged misconduct. The latest, according to reporter Bill Rankin at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is Superior Court Judge John Lee Parrott, who notified Governor Nathan Deal that he was resigning.

Georgia has a judicial-oversight board that must have some teeth. In Alabama, we have a Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) that might as well not exist, for all of the "good" it does. From Rankin's article at the AJC:

In a court filing Monday, the state Judicial Qualifications Commission said it had been investigating allegations that Parrott "allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests." 
The court filing did not provide any further details, and the agency's director, Jeff Davis, declined to comment.

Translation: Parrott is a crooked judge, he knows it, he got caught, and he's bailing out to mitigate his damages. This scenario almost never unfolds in Alabama. When our judges start stealing from the public, they keep right on doing it. That's a big reason our courts have to rank among the sleaziest in the country.

Parrott served in the Ocmulgee Circuit, but not any more. Rogue judges in Georgia have reason to be looking over their robed shoulders. Reports Rankin:

Parrott, 63, served as a judge in the eight-county circuit in central Georgia for 24 years. He was appointed to the bench in 1987 by Gov. Joe Frank Harris and handily won re-election four years ago. 
Over the past few years, some of the most prominent members of the state's judiciary, including seven chief Superior Court judges, have stepped down while facing allegations of misconduct, bringing disorder to the courts. Because of the number of high-profile resignations, more people are filing complaints with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to agency records.

A judge who has been handily winning re-election for 24 years suddenly resigns? You can bet someone has got some serious goods on his robed butt. And at least one Georgia lawyer has the cojones to say this is a good thing:

The Judicial Qualifications Commission is bringing more transparency to the judiciary, which is good for litigants and the public, Atlanta lawyer Bruce Harvey said. "Judges have the ability to rule their little fiefdoms, whatever the jurisdiction might be, to their own personal satisfaction," Harvey said. "They think they're bullet-proof. But now we're finding that some judges have no robes."

What are the chances of an Alabama lawyer making such a brutally honest statement about judges in our state? You are more likely to see Sheryl Crow bear Karl Rove's love child. That's a disturbing image, to be sure. But it's not nearly as disturbing as what takes place in Alabama courtrooms every day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Federal Judges Knowingly Cheated Plaintiffs In Lawsuits About Corruption At Alabama Hunting Club

Hunting-club land in
Lowndes County, Alabama

Federal judges knew they were ruling unlawfully when they dismissed federal lawsuits alleging a hunting club was used to fix Alabama divorce cases.

How do we know that? One of the judges own words, in public documents, prove it.

We already have shown that U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield dismissed one case in a fashion that is contrary to clear, simple law--and U.S. Magistrate Robert Armstrong dismissed a second case by parroting Edenfield's faulty ruling.

Joseph W. Blackburn, a professor of taxation at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, was at the heart of both lawsuits. Blackburn was the plaintiff in the first case, claiming that Jefferson County judges and lawyers conspired to corrupt the judicial process in his divorce from U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn. Joe Blackburn acted as an attorney in the second case, representing other plaintiffs who claimed they were the victims of corruption in Jefferson County Domestic Relations Court.

Both lawsuits revolved around alleged misconduct at a hunting club in Lowndes County, Alabama, frequented by certain lawyers and judges. Defendants in the lawsuits included former Jefferson County Circuit Judges John C. Calhoun and Ralph A. "Sonny" Ferguson; plus Birmingham attorneys Charles Gorham, George Richard Fernambucq, and L. Stephen Wright.

The defendants filed motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), and Edenfield granted them--in the face of clear law that says he could not. Here's how we explained it in an earlier post:

How did (Edenfield) do it? By conveniently ignoring Rule 12(d) FRCP, which states as follows: (d) Result of Presenting Matters Outside the Pleadings. If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion. What are "matters outside the pleadings"? They are evidence, usually in the form of an affidavit or a document that is entered by either party. When such matters are entered, and the court does not exclude them, Rule 12(d) plainly states that the motion to dismiss must be converted to a motion for summary judgment and governed by Rule 56 FRCP.

Both Rule 56 and Eleventh Circuit case law state that summary judgment cannot be granted when the nonmoving party (in this case, Blackburn and the other plaintiffs) have been given no opportunity to conduct discovery. As we explained previously, this is all laid out in a case styled Snook v. Trust Company Bank of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988). From our earlier post:

Snook states, in pertinent part: "This court has often noted that summary judgment should not be granted until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity for discovery. . . . The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a right to challenge the affidavits and other factual materials submitted in support of the motion by conducting sufficient discovery so as to enable him to determine whether he can furnish opposing affidavits."

Sounds simple, doesn't it? So how could federal judges get it wrong? Well, Edenfield's own words show he intentionally cheated the plaintiffs in the first case. And as noted earlier, Armstrong simply copied Edenfield's ruling on the second case.

Here is how we can tie this all up: The record shows that Blackburn and the other plaintiffs asked for an opportunity to conduct discovery, and they were denied. The record also shows that Edenfield considered at least two "matters outside the pleadings." As we've already shown, that means the motions to dismiss had to be treated under the rules for summary judgment--and discovery had to be conducted. So we've established that Edenfield got it wrong. Now, let's establish that he got it wrong on purpose. To do that, we visit page 24 of Edenfield's ruling. (See the ruling at the end of this post.) In footnote 17, Edenfield writes:

In that the Court is relying on evidence outside the pleadings, it will apply the summary judgment standards set forth in Part II(C) supra.

That sounds dandy, but here's the problem: Edenfield knew the standard, but he didn't apply it. If we check Part II(C), on page 4, of the ruling, it states in pertinent part:

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."

Edenfield granted the defendants a judgment as a matter of law, but he gave the plaintiffs no opportunity to conduct depositions or seek answers to interrogatories. In short, he gave the plaintiffs no chance to show there were genuine issues of material fact, which would have required the denial of summary judgment, with the case set for trial. Here is the simplest way to look at it: Edenfield admitted he was using the summary judgment standard, and under Eleventh Circuit precedent in Snook, that requires a judge to give nonmoving parties a chance to conduct discovery.

If I know what Snook and Rule 56 FRCP say, and I don't have the first day of law school, it stands to reason that a federal judge knows. And Edenfield's own words indicate he did know--he just intentionally chose not to follow the law.

What does this say to you? Here's what it says to me:

* Joe Blackburn and the other plaintiffs are right on target about their allegations regarding hunting-club corruption in Alabama;

* The truth about the hunting club probably is way worse than it is portrayed in the lawsuit allegations;

* That's why Edenfield and Armstrong felt compelled to cover it up; the legal tribe must ensure that the public never knows that our courts truly are cesspools of corruption.

And how is this for irony? The Blackburn lawsuits were civil actions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), essentially alleging that Alabama divorce courts are infested with organized crime.

Judge Edenfield's own words indicate that "your Honor" himself engaged in organized crime in an effort to cover up hunting-club corruption.

Blackburn Calhoun Opinion

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alabama Attorney Chace Swatek Apparently Died From the Effects of "Huffing"

Chace Swatek and his
sister, Barret Swatek 

Investigators at the scene saw evidence that Alabama attorney Chace Swatek died from the effects of inhalant abuse, a source tells Legal Schnauzer.

The abuse of inhalants, known in street lingo as "huffing," involves the sniffing of volatile vapors for their intoxicating effects. Chemical vapors that are inhaled for recreational purposes can be found in more than 1,000 common household products.

Swatek came from a family with strong ties to Republican Party politics and a history of unethical behavior in the legal profession. His father, William E. Swatek, has a 30-year history of ethical violations with the Alabama State Bar. His older brother, Dax Swatek, is a well-known Republican Party consultant with ties to Bill Canary and Karl Rove--and a history of threatening actions toward political foes. His sister, Barret Swatek, is an actress perhaps best known for a minor role in The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Chace Swatek was 35 years old when his body was found on February 15 behind a stack of metal pipes across from a Shell station at the intersection of Shelby County 35 and 52 in Pelham. Law-enforcement officials quickly ruled out foul play but said they will not know the cause of death until a toxicology report is completed--and that is expected to take six months to a year.

According to Pelham Police Cpt. Larry Palmer, Swatek was in the midst of a two-mile, round-trip walk from a house he was renting in the Mallard Pointe subdivision to a CVS Pharmacy when he apparently collapsed behind the pipes near the Shelby County Services Building.

Investigators found a CVS bag, containing several items and a receipt, near the body. Palmer said he could not identify the items that Swatek purchased because the investigation is ongoing.

A source close to the Pelham Police Department tells Legal Schnauzer that officers on the scene found evidence that suggests Swatek died from the effects of huffing.

Cardiac arrest is a common cause of death in cases of inhalant abuse. From a report by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC):

Death from inhalant abuse can occur after a single use or after prolonged use. Sudden sniffing death (SSD) may result within minutes of inhalant abuse from irregular heart rhythm leading to heart failure. Other causes of death include asphyxiation, aspiration, or suffocation. A user who is suffering from impaired judgment may also experience fatal injuries from motor vehicle accidents or sudden falls.

According to the NDIC, inhalants come in four groups:

* Volatile solvents--gasoline, nail polish, paint thinner, glue;

* Aerosols--spray paint, deodorant, hair products;

* Gases--butane, propane, nitrous oxide, ether; and

* Nitrites--amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and similar chemicals that are used mainly to enhance sexual experiences, rather than to produce euphoria.

In the months leading to Swatek's death, the Pelham Police Department received a number of calls about odd behavior in and around Swatek's office building, our source says. Palmer denied that the department had received such calls, but did so without checking records.

I contacted Swatek's mother, Lana Daniel Swatek, to give her an opportunity to comment on this story. She denied that huffing had anything to do with her son's death and warned me to be "very careful" in reporting on the subject.

J.D. and the Janitor Provide a Moment of Sublime Silliness

We could use some silliness in these parts. And when comedy in any form is needed, we usually turn to Scrubs.

Much of the comedy on Scrubs is splendidly creative, coming with a certain depth and ingenuity. The following clip is just silly--but it's still delicious.

It involves J.D. and the Janitor, played by Zach Braff and Neil Flynn. We've already given these guys credit for perhaps the funniest moment in television history. They don't reach those heights with this clip, but they provide the kind of goofy wordplay that never fails to tickle.

What has this scene meant to me? Well, whenever I see a movie involving M. Night Shyamalan, C. Thomas Howell, or F. Murray Abraham--no matter how serious it might be--I always have to smile.

We leave you with the final scene involving J.D. and the Janitor, where we learn the Janitor's actual name--or do we?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Truth About Ted Rollins: He Isn't Fit To Be CEO Of Campus Crest Communities

Certain CEOs have come under white-hot scrutiny in recent weeks. We know of at least one other corporate titan who deserves similar scrutiny.

Some experts have said that Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, should be fired in the wake of a $2-billion gamble gone awry.

A parliamentary committee in the U.K. found that Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp, was not fit to run a major international company, following the review of a phone-hacking scandal.

Closer to home, we have examined the actions of Ted Rollins, CEO of Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities. We have shown in a series of posts that Rollins has a habit of abusing court processes, starting with a dubious divorce case that left his ex wife and two daughters on food stamps in Alabama.

More alarming, however, is Rollins' physical abuse of a human being, a child under his care. Investors helped Campus Crest Communities complete a $380-million Wall Street IPO in late 2010, which indicates they have confidence in Ted Rollins' ability to lead a major company.

But what kind of due diligence, if any, did investors conduct before the deal was completed? Our research indicates investors, and the public, should be asking: "Is Ted Rollins fit to be CEO of Campus Crest Communities, or any company?"

We address that question in the following video:

Court File Is Sealed In The Wake Of Press Reports About The Mark Fuller Divorce Case

Judge Mark Fuller

The court file in the divorce case of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller has been sealed, multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

It's not clear when the case was sealed, but it appears to have happened since news reports broke last Thursday, outlining allegations of extramarital affairs, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and other misconduct against Fuller. The judge is best known for his role in presiding over the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in 2006.

Fuller filed a motion to seal on April 20, citing security concerns related to his status as a federal judge. Attorneys for his wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, filed an objection on April 25, arguing that certain sensitive information  (financial matters, addresses, etc.) could be redacted but that the overall file should not be sealed. (See the Motion to Seal and Objection to Complete Sealing of File at the end of this post.)

No ruling had apparently been made as of last Thursday, and Fuller made no mention of press coverage as grounds for sealing in his motion. But now the file has been sealed completely in the wake of press coverage.

Potential embarrassment for one of the parties, via press coverage, almost never presents valid grounds for sealing a divorce case. Is Mark Fuller being protected in a way that a regular citizen would not be? It sure looks that way.

The sealing, or unsealing, of divorce files involving public figures has been in the news before. Divorce records from John Kerry's first marriage were an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. The unsealing of divorce records helped torpedo the U.S. Senate campaign of Illinois Republican Jack Ryan in 2004. A Democrat named Barack Obama wound up winning that seat and using it as a springboard to the White House.

An article at outlines the general rules for sealing a divorce case:

Generally, court proceedings are public matters. In the vast majority of jurisdictions, this includes divorce proceedings. This means that unless the court agrees to file divorce records under seal, filings in divorce proceedings become matters of public record. 
Exceptions to open court records exist including the identification of children and victims of sexual abuse, amongst others. In most places, however, to protect divorce records from being open to the public, one or both participants must ask the court to file records in the case under seal. When a court files divorce records under seal, confidential or sensitive information within those records remains private and does not become a matter of public record. Courts can order entire records or portions of them to be filed under seal. . . . 
Commonly cited reasons to file divorce records under seal include: 
* the need to protect children from identification in divorce records; 
* the need to protect victims of domestic violence; 
* the need to keep sensitive information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers private; and 
* the need to protect proprietary business information.

Is press coverage a valid reason for sealing a divorce file? It doesn't look like it. Are Alabamians wrongfully being denied access to public records? The answer appears to be yes.

(Photo: Phil Fleming)

  Mark Fuller Divorce--Motion to Seal
Mark Fuller Divorce--Wife's Objection to Seal

Monday, May 21, 2012

Drug Addiction Might Be The Central Issue In Divorce Case Against Siegelman Judge

Judge Mark Fuller

The divorce complaint filed against U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller raises a number of troubling issues. But drug addiction might be No. 1 on the list.

Lisa Boyd Fuller's complaint includes no shortage of titillating issues, including extramarital affairs and domestic abuse. But those go primarily to Mark Fuller's character outside the courtroom. Drug addiction, however, goes to Fuller's fitness to serve on the federal bench.

It also raises these troubling questions: Has Fuller's mind been clouded by illicit drug use while serving as a judge? Have civil cases been unlawfully decided because the judge was more or less high? Have some citizens, including former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, been wrongfully sent to federal prison in part because Mark Fuller was on uppers, downers, painkillers, mind numbers--or some combination of them all.

One fundamental of the American justice system is that a citizen has a right to have his case heard by a judge who does not present even the "appearance of impropriety." A citizen certainly has a right to have his case heard by a judge who isn't impaired. Lisa Boyd Fuller's complaint presents a truckload of apparent impropriety, plus signs that Mark Fuller might qualify as the Keith Richards of the federal bench.

Floyd Minor, Mrs. Fuller's attorney, has filed documents indicating that he intends to subpoena at least six drug stores in the Montgomery area for information about Mark Fuller and prescription drugs. (See Notice of Intent to Serve Subpoenas and Subpoenas at the end of this post.)

If Mark Fuller has been getting prescription drugs from six different pharmacies, what does that mean? My impression is that most Americans, for the sake of convenience, have their prescriptions filled at one or two drug stores. Has Mark Fuller been getting prescriptions filled far and wide for a reason?

All of this hints that parties who've come before Fuller have grounds to file complaints under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, which is codified at 28 U.S. Code 351-364. What is the purpose of the law, and how does it work? Here is a summary:

Any person may file a complaint against a federal judge that has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or alleging that such judge is unable to discharge all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical disability. The person files the complaint with the Clerk of the nearest Federal Court of Appeals with a written complaint containing a brief statement of the facts constituting such misconduct of disability.

The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta would be the proper venue for complaints against Fuller. I suspect such complaints will be arriving in the clerk's office soon.

(Photo: Phil Fleming)

 Mark Fuller Divorce--Subpoena List Re: Drugs

Mark Fuller Divorce: Third-Party Subpoenas

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sex, Drugs, and Violence Are At The Heart Of Divorce Case Against Siegelman Judge Mark Fuller

Judge Mark Fuller

A request for admissions can be one of the most entertaining documents in a lawsuit. The requesting party, in so many words, is saying, "We all know the following statements are true, so why don't you admit to them so we can haggle about something else?"

It can be a rare moment of clarity in a legal action, where one party is trying to cut through the many layers of BS and establish facts. That doesn't mean the receiving party is going to admit to everything--or anything--in the request. But the effort to get at what one party considers to be the clear truth can be most enlightening.

From that standpoint, a request for admissions in a divorce case involving U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller certainly does not disappoint. Fuller is a George W. Bush appointee who is best known for presiding over the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy, the former CEO of HealthSouth Corporation.

Lisa Boyd Fuller is suing the judge for divorce. If even half of the items in her request for admissions are true, it's a wonder Judge Fuller could even pay attention during the Siegelman case--much less rule correctly on key matters of law, with the freedom of two men at stake. (You can read the Fuller request for admissions at the end of this post.)

Lisa Fuller's request is filled with sex, drugs, and violence--but no rock and roll (so far). The 18 items hint at a judge with a clouded mind, a nasty temperament, a lust for women other than his wife, and a monumental sense of entitlement.

The process for a request for admissions here in my state is governed by Rule 36 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure. It's one of my favorite rules because it essentially says, "Let's dispense with all the posing and posturing and get on the record what we all know to be the case--that these statements are true." A savvy defense lawyer, of course, can take steps to ensure that the truth is clouded--and Mark Fuller's lawyer is likely to do just that. But you at least have to admire the thought behind Rule 36.

Here is how the committee comments to the Alabama rule sum things up:
The purpose of this rule is to expedite the trial and to relieve the parties of the cost of proving facts which will not be disputed at the trial and the truth of which can be ascertained by reasonable inquiry. The rule is self-sufficient, and clearly defines its purpose and limits its effect, and it should be liberally construed.

Lisa Fuller's request for admissions can be broken down into four categories--and they are doozies. Let's take a look:

Extramarital Affairs

1. Admit or deny that you have had an extramarital affair with a person or persons during the course of your marriage to the Plaintiff.

2. Admit or deny that you are continuing to have an extramarital affair.

3. Admit or deny that you have stayed overnight and had sexual intercourse with a person or persons other than your spouse during the course of your marriage.

4. Admit or deny that you have had sexual intercourse with a person or persons other than your spouse during the course of your marriage.

5. Admit or deny that you have admitted to your spouse that you have had sexual intercourse with a person or persons other than your spouse during the course of your marriage.

As you can see, Lisa Fuller and her attorney, Floyd Minor, are not pussyfooting around. On to category No. 2:

Driving Under the Influence

7. Admit or deny that you have driven a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol during the course of your marriage.

8. Admit or deny that you have driven a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and with one or more of your children in the vehicle as passengers, during the course of your marriage.

Domestic Abuse

12. Admit or deny that you have cursed your spouse or directed abusive language to your spouse.

13. Admit or deny that you have hit, kicked, struck, or otherwise physically abused your spouse during the course of your marriage.

14. Admit or deny that you have hit, kicked, struck, or otherwise physically abused your children during the course of your marriage to Plaintiff.

Drug addiction

16. Admit or deny that you are addicted to prescription medication.

Whew, that's a lot to digest. What can we take from this? Mark Fuller might be called "Your Honor" within the four walls of his courtroom, but it doesn't sound like he's behaved in an honorable fashion during his marriage. And it certainly sounds like he has no business judging the actions of others.

(Photo: Phil Fleming)

Mark Fuller Divorce--Admissions

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Siegelman Judge Faces Divorce Complaint That Hints At Extramarital Affairs, Drug Use

Judge Mark Fuller

Mark Fuller, the federal judge who presided over the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, faces a divorce complaint that strongly hints at extramarital affairs, illicit drug use, driving under the influence, and other misconduct.

Lisa Boyd Fuller filed for divorce on May 10, 2012, and court filings since then point to serious allegations against her husband. (See the divorce complaint at the end of this post.) Will the divorce case raise questions about Mark Fuller's fitness to be a U.S. district judge? Will it provide an avenue for Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy to have their convictions overturned?

It's too early to know the answers to those questions. But Bob Martin, editor of the Montgomery Independent, shows in an article published yesterday that the divorce case might raise significant trouble for Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee who oversaw what has been described as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.

At the heart of the Fuller divorce case is an alleged affair between the judge and a female court deputy. From Bob Martin's article:

Divorce can be triggered by many reasons but it is usually initiated, not by a single event, but a long-term abuse of trust. The long term abuse of trust by Judge Fuller, described to me from sources inside the United States Courthouse in Montgomery and others continues today, and has lasted at least four-to-five years. It involves a former female courtroom deputy in her late thirties with children ages 9 and 14. Her husband obtained a divorce several months ago. Fuller and his wife separated last August. They have two grown children and one teenager. 

During most of the time this “not-so-secret affair" was going on, Fuller was the presiding judge of the U. S. District Court based in Montgomery. He rotated into that position the third year after he was appointed by President George W. Bush, and completed his seven-year term a year-and-a-half ago. He presided in the trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy.

In a companion piece to his column, Martin identifies Fuller's mistress as a woman named Kelli Gregg. From the Martin report:

Those in a position to know, report that the affair by Judge Fuller, conducted with his former Courtroom Deputy Clerk and bailiff, Kelli Gregg, has been ongoing for four or five years and is basically an “open secret” in the building. Ms. Gregg, who has two children, was divorced by her husband about six months ago. 
Sources in a position to know tell the newspaper that Fuller and Gregg have traveled together extensively, including trips to Dothan, New York, Tallahassee and perhaps Las Vegas.

Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor at Harper's, has written extensively about the Siegelman case and Fuller's apparent conflicts of interest. What might the allegations of an affair mean for Fuller? Martin put that question to Horton and received this answer:

“When a judge uses his position to extract sexual favors from a court officer under his authority, such conduct could easily be viewed as predatory and possibly even criminal but it doesn’t necessarily follow that because a sexual liaison has arisen that the person in a senior position used his office to advantage. The facts would have to be studied more carefully. But even if the relationship were purely innocent, one would have to be worried about the unwholesome appearance of a federal judge engaging in a sexual tryst with his court officer."

Issues raised in Lisa Boyd Fuller's court filings go well beyond an affair. (See Ms. Fuller's interrogatories for her husband at the end of this post.) Writes Martin:

In her complaint Lisa Fuller asks for the following admissions by her husband. They include these topics: extramarital affairs, parenting, driving under the influence of alcohol, withholding documents, payment of expenses for persons with whom he was having sex, spousal abuse, receipt of psychological care or counseling, and addiction to prescription drugs. To my knowledge the answers to those questions had not been filed at the time this column was written.

All of this could raise profound questions for parties who came before Fuller--and for those who worked with and around him in Montgomery's federal courthouse. From Scott Horton, via Bob Martin's piece:

The current allegations of abuse of office and subpoenas for prescription drugs at numerous pharmacies could possibly bring into question every judgment he has issued and every trial over which he has presided. Keep in mind, of course, that these are yet only allegations which may not ultimately bear out. 
Another issue would be whether others close to the court knew of his indiscretions and used them to extort favorable court decisions. There are several prior cases, including one still under investigation involving a federal judge in Florida, in which a judge had a secret liaison with a court officer and other parties, which was apparently used to extort favorable rulings. In the Fuller matter it would be hard to see how the U. S. Attorney’s office would not know about the affair. If the U. S. Attorney knew and did nothing, holding this as a sort of a sword over the judge’s head, such would undermine the legitimacy of all the criminal matters and some civil matters involving government interests that came before Fuller.

The U.S. attorney in question, of course, is notorious Bush appointee Leura Canary, who served for more than two years of the Obama administration and took a job with the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) earlier this year under curious circumstances.

The Fuller divorce case also might shine light on the judge's ownership interest in Doss Aviation, a Colorado-based company that has received numerous lucrative government contracts. Under the law, Doss Aviation is likely to be seen as a marital asset that is to be divided equitably--and Lisa Boyd Fuller, understandably, will want her share. That might shine unwelcome light on Fuller's ties to a company that has benefited greatly from federal dollars, calling into question the judge's objectivity on many cases that come before him. Again from Horton, via Bob Martin:

Aside from this we have to take into account the unprecedented circumstance of Fuller’s ownership in Doss Aviation, a major source of his income, perhaps more so than his judicial salary. Doss Aviation appears to benefit from a steady stream of Department of Defense and other federal contracts some awarded on no-bid contracts under highly suspicious circumstances. 
These ethics issues surrounding a single judge, Mark Everett Fuller, are to my knowledge, without any equal on the federal bench.

Is Mark Fuller a compromised judge of epic proportions? That's what Scott Horton seems to be saying. And Lisa Boyd Fuller's divorce case might help prove it.

What does all of this mean? For an excellent overview of the Fuller divorce story and its many implications, I strongly recommend the most recent piece by Andrew Kreig, at the Justice-Integrity Project. You can check it out at the following link:

Andrew Kreig: Alabama Judicial Scandal Could Taint Many Cases, Not Just Siegelman's

(Photo: Phil Fleming)

  Mark Fuller Divorce Complaint
Mark Fuller Divorce Interrogatories

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why Was A Document Altered In The Assault Case Against Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins?

Ted Rollins

Evidence indicates someone altered a key document in the 1995 assault case against Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins. Was the alteration a not-so-subtle attempt to help Rollins avoid jail time in the vicious beating of Zac Parrish, his 16-year-old stepson at the time? Based on our research of pertinent North Carolina law, the answer appears to be yes.

If we are correct, that means someone in authority took steps to protect Rollins, probably because he belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families and headed a major employer (American Textile Services in Franklin County, North Carolina) when the assault occurred.

Is this a case where a member of the "1 Percent" received favorable treatment that would not be offered to regular folks? It sure looks that way.

And what about the tendency of doctored papers to appear whenever members of the Rollins family are around? We know that employees of Orkin Pest Control held pizza parties to forge customer signatures on termite contracts that had not been fulfilled. Orkin's parent company, Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., is headed by Randall and Gary Rollins, Ted's billionaire cousins. Are the altered documents in North Carolina another example of the Rollins family playing fast and loose with official papers? Does Sidley Austin, the powerful Chicago law firm that has long defended Orkin in all kinds of chicanery, have the clout to get Ted Rollins out of a criminal pickle in North Carolina?

This much is clear: Ted Rollins picked the right state to beat up his stepson. Under North Carolina law, Rollins' actions meet the definition for domestic violence, but that state has weak criminal provisions for enforcing the law. Even in a state as backward as Alabama, Rollins would have faced much more serious repercussions for an act of domestic violence than he did in North Carolina.

The alteration in the Rollins criminal-court file is significant because, under North Carolina law, hospitalization of the victim is a key consideration in an assault charge that could result in jail time. And the alteration involves someone marking out a reference to the fact that Zac Parrish was hospitalized.

That change apparently is the reason Ted Rollins was charged and convicted for a "simple assault," with a sentence of probation and restitution/fines totaling $415. Because Zac Parrish was hospitalized--and also because he suffered significant blood loss and had a broken nose and numerous lacerations and abrasions--Rollins should have been charged with "assault inflicting serious injury."

And that could have meant jail time for the man who now is CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a company that builds and manages student-housing developments at 33 universities around the country.

So how did Ted Rollins manage to be charged for a relatively minor offense instead of the much more serious crime he actually committed. The answer can be found in the warrant for arrest and criminal bill of costs in the court file. (Both documents appear at the end of this post.)

Come along with us for a brief guided tour, showing how a Wall Street titan catches a huge break in a criminal case. Do you believe that we have a justice system that applies the law equally across socioeconomic boundaries? If so, you probably will no longer believe that when you have finished our tour.

We start in the upper right-hand corner of the warrant for arrest. That's where someone has written a description of events in the beating of Zac Parrish. The description is written next to the words "Simple Assault [G.S. 14-33(a)] and strike." Not all of the narrative is legible, and the grammar is cringe inducing, but here is what we can make out:

Jack [sic] Parrish by hit him about face and mouth where Mr. . . . 

At that point, someone has marked out the following words:

Parrish was taken to the hospital to seek medical treatment . . . 

On the top line of the "Simple Assault" section, two or three illegible words have not been marked out. Our best guess is that they say "in shocking status." If that is correct, it appears to be a reference to the fact that Zac Parrish was in danger of going into shock after the assault. And that narrative fits with the words of Sherry Carroll Rollins (Zac Parrish's mother and Ted Rollins' ex wife) in our interview about the beating.

Ms. Rollins stated that she and her daughter, Sarah Rollins, rode in an ambulance with Zac Parrish to the emergency room at Franklin Regional Medical Center in Louisburg, North Carolina. Ms. Rollins also stated that she believes her son was given oxygen during transport. Our research indicates that emergency-medical personnel often administer oxygen to patients who appear to be at risk for going into shock, perhaps from blood loss. That might explain why a word that looks like "shocking" or "shock" appears on the arrest warrant.

What kind of con man (or woman) marked out the words about Zac Parrish's trip to the hospital? It apparently was not a very smart one. In another court document (see page 2 of the second document below), a criminal bill of costs for Ted Rollins includes restitution to Franklin Regional Medical Center. It's obvious that Zac Parrish was, in fact, hospitalized--even though that improperly was not considered in the charge and punishment against Ted Rollins.

What about the possibility of a domestic-violence charge against Ted Rollins? Over the past 10 years or so, all states have adopted laws to address domestic violence. Some laws, however, have more teeth than others. Under North Carolina law, Ted Rollins' beating of Zac Parrish matched the description of domestic violence, outlined at General Statute 50B. Here is the definition, in pertinent part. (The full definition can be read here.)

(a) Domestic violence means the commission of one or more of the following acts upon an aggrieved party or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of the aggrieved party by a person with whom the aggrieved party has or has had a personal relationship, but does not include acts of self‑defense: 
(1) Attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury . . .

Unfortunately for Zac Parrish, remedies under North Carolina law focus on civil actions, such as restraining orders. There are no special criminal provisions for domestic violence; such acts are covered under regular criminal statutes. That is not the case in Alabama. In fact, I'm pleased to say this is a rare instance where our state actually looks progressive on an issue.

If Ted Rollins had committed such a beating in Alabama--where Zac Parrish, age 33, now lives--he would have been at risk for losing his freedom, assuming the law was applied correctly. A summary of Alabama domestic-violence law is available here. In Alabama, as in North Carolina, a domestic-violence relationship includes a child. But the Alabama law has real criminal teeth. Ted Rollins' actions, as described to us, would constitute a second-degree assault, which is a Class C felony. Under Code of Alabama 13A-6-131, that would be second-degree domestic violence, which is treated as a serious crime:

Domestic violence in the second degree is a Class B felony, except the defendant shall serve a minimum term of imprisonment of six months without consideration of probation, parole, good time credits, or any reduction in time for any second or subsequent conviction under this subsection.

Translation: Ted Rollins would have been looking at six months in the slammer if he had been convicted of beating his stepson in Alabama, instead of North Carolina. Even under the lenient criminal statutes of North Carolina, Rollins probably would have been subject to jail time if someone had not altered court documents in his case.

  Ted Rollins Arrested for Assault
Ted Rollins Sentence for Assault

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Orkin Pest Control Employees Hosted Pizza Parties To Forge Customer Signatures

The Orkin Man

We've reported on a lot of outrages in the almost five years that we've been writing a blog on justice issues. But perhaps our most outrageous post came last week when we reported that employees for Orkin Pest Control had hosted pizza parties to forge customer signatures on termite inspections that had not been performed.

Why is this so appalling? Well, for one, termite control is a pretty important topic for most homeowners. If an inspection is not performed properly, your house can be eaten out from underneath you--and you are blissfully unaware of a problem until it's too late. Two, it takes some grotesquely cynical minds to turn an act of blatant fraud into the theme for a party.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise when you consider that the parent company for Orkin is Atlanta-based Rollins Inc. That firm is run by the family that produced Ted Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities and a central figure in a dubious Alabama divorce case that left his ex wife and two daughters on food stamps.

We've already shown that Ted Rollins and his company have a proclivity for falsifying documents. Now we learn that the company headed by his billionaire cousins, Randall and Gary Rollins, engages in similar behavior. Is this some sort of nasty family trait that is passed down through the generations? Let's consider what we know about Ted Rollins:

* In his divorce from Sherry Rollins, he signed a child-support affidavit, under penalty of perjury, stating that he made roughly $50,000 a year. That was listed as his only income, even though he was a principal in at least two major business ventures and had the use of three private jet craft;

* In a discrimination lawsuit, former Campus Crest employee Heather McCormack said a company executive asked her to falsify an apartment-occupancy report in connection with the sale of the property to a major investor, Harrison Street Real Estate of Chicago. In other words, Ted Rollins' company tried to defraud one of its own investors.

That leads us to the Orkin pizza parties, which would be a funny story--if it wasn't so sad. Here is how a Florida man named Jack Cox described the parties for a series of articles about Orkin by John F. Sugg, of the Atlanta alternative weekly Creative Loafing:

Cox, a former Orkin inspector in Tampa, was asked during a deposition in 2001 if he had ever forged customers' signatures to re-inspection tickets, meaning the homes hadn't been scoped for termites and were vulnerable -- or, perhaps, were about ready to collapse from termite damage. 
Cox pondered the number of forgeries he had committed, and concluded that "if you do a hundred a month, that's 1,200 a year. So it might be over 1,000. ... In fact, we've had parties, kind of like a party, sat down, and all of us sat down in a room and did them." Often, according to court documents, pizzas were served as Orkin employees industriously forged their trusting clients' signatures to stacks of documents, giving a special and well-known meaning to the term "pizza party" within the company.

No wonder Randall and Gary Rollins are billionaires. It must be easy to rake in big bucks when you charge customers for work that is not performed. It looks like Ted Rollins is employing a similar business "strategy" with Campus Crest Communities.

GOP Politico In Florida Resigns for Behavior That Would Have Been A-OK In Alabama

Florida Governor Rick Scott

The chief of staff for Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott has stepped down amid allegations that he steered no-bid contracts to friends.

Steve MacNamara must have been in the wrong place, at the wrong time. If MacNamara had served under Bob Riley, Alabama's GOP governor from 2003-2011, he would have been promoted.

The Riley administration, according to a January 2009 report in the Montgomery Independent, funneled roughly $4.4 million in state funds to the Birmingham law firm of Bradley Arant, which just happens to employ the governor's son-in-law, Rob Campbell.

Was that a problem for Riley's chief of staff? Heck, no. Dave Stewart went to work for Bradley Arant when Riley's term was up. What about Riley's policy director? No problemo for him, either. Bryan  Taylor worked for Bradley Arant before joining the Riley staff in 2006 and went on to be elected a state senator in 2010, amid claims that he had helped ship state cash to Bradley Arant. Taylor now is a lawyer at the Montgomery firm of Capell and Howard, which is famed as Karl Rove's headquarters when he visits Alabama.

There was enough incest between the Riley administration and Bradley Arant to make Jerry Sandusky blush.  But did citizens seem to care? Not much. Did Alabama's somnolent, right-wing press pay attention? Are you kidding?

Actually, one citizen did care quite a bit. Former Riley cabinet member Bill Johnson filed a complaint against the governor with then-Attorney General Troy King, including a 500-page dossier of alleged wrongdoing in the administration. We outlined Johnson's allegations in a post titled "Alabama's First Family Believes in Self-Enrichment," but we've seen no sign that anyone in authority took action.

Steve MacNamara was not so fortunate in Florida. How did he step in doo-doo? Here is how the Tampa Bay Times summed it up:

Supporters, from tea party officials to former staff members, told the Times/Herald they feared that Scott was squandering his conservative credentials and his outsider brand by engaging in dealmaking with special interests who have connections to MacNamara. 
In the Senate, MacNamara steered a $5.5 million contract with Spider Data Systems for a software platform to improve public access to state budgets. The developer of the patented system, Anna Mattson, was a partner of lobbyist Jim Eaton, also a close friend of MacNamara's. He also handed over a project to shift the Senate's computer system from mainframe computers to another longtime acquaintance, Abe Uccello, at a cost of $380,000. 
In the governor's office, MacNamara overruled an agency head and allowed the film commissioner, whom he previously had helped get a job in the state Senate, to travel to the Sundance Film Festival. He was also accused of attempting to influence contracting outcomes and a controversial decision to allow barrel-racing to be considered a parimutuel sport.

That would have been business as usual in the Riley administration. But in Florida, a citizen filed an ethics complaint against MacNamara, and that set off a week of intense media scrutiny. On Saturday, the governor's aide decided to pack it in.

If MacNamara wants to get away with those kinds of stunts, he needs to move to Alabama and join our GOP circus.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chief Judge Joel Dubina Provides Cover For His Crooked Crony On The Bench In Alabama

Joel Dubina

The chief judge of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit is ignoring overwhelming evidence that one of his trial-court brethren is acting corruptly in my employment lawsuit against the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

This will not come as a surprise to regular Legal Schnauzer readers. In both the Don Siegelman and Paul Minor criminal prosecutions, we've shown that appellate judges often are more interested in protecting rogues on the trial bench than in making sure that justice is served. Now I'm seeing the same sort of behavior in my civil case.

U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. has made statements from the bench that can only be interpreted in one way--that he intended from the outset to rule unlawfully in favor of UAB and against me. In essence, Acker stated in open court that he was going to cheat me, and he  proceeded to do exactly that, by granting summary judgment to UAB even though no discovery had been conducted in the case. All sorts of procedural and case law says that simply cannot be done--at least if a judge is making any effort to follow the law.

But Acker, an 84-year-old Reagan appointee, isn't concerned with appearances. He doesn't care who knows that he's crooked--and apparently Joel F. Dubina does not care either.

Dubina is the chief U.S. circuit judge in Atlanta, and he reviewed my complaint against Acker under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 (28 U.S.C. 351-364). Most Americans probably are not aware we have a procedure for filing a complaint against a federal judge. (Here is a link to a Ninth Circuit overview of the procedure for filing such a complaint.) That's just as well because a process that involves judges reviewing complaints against other judges is almost always going to be a sham anyway.

Dubina's handling of my complaint against Acker is a case in point. It's instructive to note that Dubina, like Acker, is a Reagan appointee from Alabama. God only knows how long the two right wingers have been buddies. What were the chances of my complaint against Acker being taken seriously? I would say the word "zero" pretty well sums it up.

Here is a "big picture" view of Joel Dubina: He was appointed a U.S. magistrate judge by Ronald Reagan in 1986 and elevated to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, rising to chief judge (based on his seniority) in 2009. Dubina took the appellate seat that was vacated when Robert Vance Sr. was killed by a mail bomb in 1989. Vance, a Democrat and Jimmy Carter appointee, was widely known as a supporter of civil rights and was a mentor to future Alabama governor Don Siegelman. When you consider that Siegelman's 2006 convictions have unlawfully been upheld by the Eleventh Circuit--and the political prosecution was brought by the George W. Bush Department of Justice--this question comes to the forefront: Was Joel Dubina's appointment to the Eleventh Circuit, replacing Robert Vance, an early sign that the Bush family was going to sully our federal justice system by appointing political hacks to key positions?

Let's consider Dubina's response to my complaint that Acker had warned me multiple times in a hearing to look up the rule for a writ of mandamus. As I explained in a previous post, Acker's words can be interpreted only one way--at least by anyone who is serious about notions of due process and equal protection under the law:

To fully grasp what Acker is doing here, you have to understand the purpose of a writ of mandamus. The filing of a petition for such a writ is governed by Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP). It is a form of appeal while the case still is in the trial court. That's why it is called an "extraordinary writ"; the process is designed to address close questions of law or fact, not to serve as a pinch hitter for a trial judge who is too crooked to rule correctly on simple procedural issues. 
The transcript, read in full, shows there was no legitimate reason for Acker to warn me twice that I would need to learn about the mandamus process. But Acker knew two things about mandamus petitions: (1) They are time consuming; and (2) They are expensive, with an appellate docketing fee of $450 every time you file one. 
In so many words, Acker was telling me: "I'm going to screw you on every little detail of this case, and you are going to have to spend months of your time and thousands of your dollars just to make the simplest step forward in your case. I will drain you of your resources simply because I can--and no one can stop me."

Did Dubina take Acker's threats seriously? Of course not. Here is how he brushed them off. (You can read Dubina's full ruling at the end of this post.)

Mr. Shuler provides no credible facts or evidence to substantiate his claim that Judge Acker committed misconduct with respect to this issue. Judge Acker's statements--that Mr. Shuler would need to "study up" on the procedure for filing a writ of mandamus--do not support Mr. Shuler's allegation that Judge Acker was going to "cheat" Mr. Shuler, did not know the law, intending to intentionally misapply the law, or was going to force Mr. Shuler to waste resources by filing multiple appeals. It appears that the statements were made in an effort to inform Mr. Shuler of a process for redress in the event that Judge Acker made any erroneous rulings. Furthermore, the fact that Judge Acker made the alleged statements only to Mr. Shuler, and not to counsel for the defendants, does not support Mr. Shuler's claim that Judge Acker was biased against him, given that Mr. Shuler was representing himself pro se. In this context, the statements appear to be Judge Acker's explanation of the different options available to a pro se litigant, as opposed to an indication of bias against Mr. Shuler.

First, it should be noted that these weren't "alleged statements" from Acker. An official court transcript shows they were exactly as my wife and I reported them in affidavits to support my complaint. Second, Acker's own words show that Dubina's explanation is a pile of horse feces. On page 6 of the hearing transcript, Judge Acker commented on my apparent knowledge of the law:

Mr. Shuler, you, in representing yourself, demonstrated to me that you are more cognizant of and aware of the Rules of Civil Procedure and some of the statutory causes of action you present, or attempt to present, than some of the lawyers that come in here . . .

Acker knew I didn't need to "study up" on the mandamus rule. He simply was making it clear that he was intentionally going to rule against me. He's a cheat and a bully, and he thought I wouldn't have the cojones to file a complaint against him. He was wrong about that one.

Let's also examine Dubina's response to my complaint about Acker stating in open court that he knew that "UAB and the people over there are anxious about this." What did that mean? Here is how I explained it:

How could Acker know that UAB is anxious about the case? It could only be because someone connected to the university told him--and this is the kind of prejudicial communication that is strictly prohibited by judicial ethics rules.

Did Dubina see the obvious? Not a chance. Here is how he brushed this one off:

Mr. Shuler provides no credible facts or evidence to substantiate this claim, as the alleged statement does not support that Judge Acker had inappropriate conversations with someone external to the case. Given that UAB was the defendant in a lawsuit, Judge Acker could assume or perceive that UAB was anxious about the case, without having been informed of that information by someone.

This is laughable, and it shows that Dubina either is a blatant apologist for corrupt judges or he lives in an impenetrable bubble--or both. I'm the one who has been subjected to a career assassination. I'm the one who has been stripped of my livelihood in the midst of an epic recession. If anyone should have been anxious about this case, it was me. But did Acker "assume or perceive" that? Of course not.

In fact, Acker did not "assume or perceive" anything. The transcript shows that he said "I know" that UAB and the people over there are anxious. He was making a statement of fact, based on what someone had told him.

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, Joel Dubina's handling of my complaint against Judge Acker shows that we need major reform of our justice system. A system of lawyers monitoring lawyers, and judges monitoring judges, is failing horribly--and this is just one more piece of evidence that helps prove it.

Acker Misconduct Ruling