|Robert Vance Jr.|
Robert Vance Jr. is Democrats' last-minute choice to challenge Republican Roy Moore in next week's election for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. But one sentence in one ruling shows that Vance is a dishonest judge who does not deserve the support of Democrats--at least those who take justice issues seriously.
In fact, Vance's proven ethical shortcomings should disqualify him from the position he currently holds--circuit judge in Jefferson County. He certainly has no business serving as the top administrative official in Alabama's entire justice system.
Vance Jr. has a noble reputation because he is the son of the late Robert Vance Sr., a genuine civil-rights hero who was killed by a mail-bomb blast in 1989. But Democrats should not confuse this Vance with the one who proceeded him; they are not remotely alike.
How do I know? I filed a legal-malpractice lawsuit against Jesse P. Evans III and Michael B. Odom, the first two lawyers I hired to represent me in the bogus case filed by a criminally inclined neighbor named Mike McGarity. I could write a law-review article on the numerous ways that Evans and Odom cheated me--and how Vance Jr. unlawfully let them off the hook, proving that his No. 1 goal is to protect the interests of legal elites at all costs. But all we need to do is focus on one sentence from Vance's order granting the defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
We focused on the order in a recent post titled "Robert Vance Jr. Is Not Fit to Serve on the Alabama Supreme Court, And Here Is Why." My feelings about Vance are so strong that I have vowed to vote for Roy Moore, even though his tendency to mix religion and public service makes me extremely uncomfortable. I believe there is at least a chance that Moore will follow the rule of law and stand up for the rights of regular Alabamians against legal and corporate interests. I see no chance that Vance Jr. will take such an approach--and I come by that conviction through first-hand experience.
What about that one sentence from an order that proves Vance Jr. is crooked? Here is how it reads:
For the reasons stated in defendants' motions, the plaintiff's complaint, as amended, fails to state a cause of action for which relief may be granted.
What is wrong with that statement? We can find the first clue in my response to the defendants' Motion to Dismiss. I lay out the standard for review governing such a motion--often called a Rule 12(b)(6) motion--and you can read it on pages 1 and 2 of my opposition at the end of this post. (Vance's order denying my Motion to Amend also can be read at the end of this post; it pretty much regurgitates what he said in his original order.)
We already have quoted University of Alabama law professor Jerome Hoffman saying that "Rule 12(b)(6) motions will almost never be granted by trial courts. And those that are will almost always be reversed by appellate courts."
Law does not get much more simple than the governing standard for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Quoting from a case styled Nance v. Matthews, 622 So. 2d 297 (Ala, 1993), I pretty much tell you all you need to know in my opposition:
The appropriate standard of review under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether, when the allegations of the complaint are viewed most strongly in the pleader's favor, it appears that the pleader could prove any set of circumstances that would entitle [him] to relief.
This tells us two key points about review of a Motion to Dismiss:
(1) The review focuses on "the allegations of the complaint";
(2) Those allegations must be viewed most strongly "in the pleader's favor." The pleader is the plaintiff, and in this case, that was me.
A 2011 case Alabama Supreme Court case styled Scannelly v. Toxey lays it out in even more stark terms:
On a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the [trial] court's inquiry essentially is limited to the content of the complaint.
Ah, now we've caught Robert Vance Jr. red-handed. Recall that he dismissed my case "for reasons stated in the defendants' motions." But as clearly stated in Scannelly, Alabama law limits the inquiry on a 12(b)(6) motion to the content of the complaint. The contents of the Motion to Dismiss have almost nothing to do with it.
So Vance acted in a crooked fashion in both key components of his review: (1) He unlawfully went beyond the allegations in the complaint; and (2) He unlawfully failed to view the allegations most strongly in the pleader's favor.
We know from UA professor Hoffman that defendants can cite only about three legitimate grounds for a 12(b)(6) motion:
* The complaint fails to cite a recognized cause of action. (That didn't fly here; legal malpractice clearly is a recognized cause of action.)
* On the complaint's face, it falls outside the relevant statute of limitations. (That didn't fly either, and Evans/Odom didn't even try to argue the point.)
* On the complaint's face, the defendants are protected from suit by some form of immunity. (Again, that didn't fly, and Evans/Odom didn't even try to argue the point.)
What is the No. 1 characteristic that voters of all political stripes should remember about Robert Vance Jr. on election day next week? His inquiry on my case involved the simplest law imaginable; his failure to get it right is the equivalent of a math teacher who can't count to three.
Robert Vance Jr. earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton and his law degree at Virginia, so he isn't stupid. But his actions indicate that he is an elitist snob. He thinks people like you and me are so stupid that we won't realize it when he jams us up the rear end in open court.
If you are a Democrat who treasures the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, equal protection, due process, the rule of law, and other fundamental standards of justice . . . please take this from a liberal who has seen the real Robert Vance Jr. in action. He does not share your values, and he does not deserve your vote.
Evans Opp. to Dismiss