|U.S. Judge William Acker (right)
Anyone who thinks it is a good idea for federal judgeships to come with lifetime appointments, and almost no accountability, might want to examine the career of U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. in the Northern District of Alabama.
We've already shown, in a case involving workplace discrimination and First Amendment issues, that Acker tends to rule with utter disregard for the rule of law. And we are about to show, in a case involving allegations of Medicare fraud, that Acker butchers civil procedure in order to protect his conservative brethren--even those who appear to be stealing from taxpayers.
Now we discover that a bipartisan watchdog group has anointed Acker a "judicial misfit." The group, which bills itself as The Committee To Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Judges, Attorneys, and Public Officials, has a Web site at noethics.net.
We were delighted to learn that the folks at noethics.net have exposed William M. Acker Jr. as a "misfit." Our only concern is that such a designation will give misfits a bad name; "crook" might be the more appropriate term for Acker.
What drew the watchdog's attention to Acker? Well, it involves the judge's acts of breath-taking arrogance, dating back to the late 1980s. We will take a look at that in a moment, but first let's examine what we already know about William M. Acker Jr.
Consider his actions in my employment lawsuit against the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), granting summary judgment to defendants without giving the plaintiff (me) a chance to conduct any discovery and violating black-letter procedural law. We've presented powerful evidence that, in the process of denying my fundamental due-process rights, Acker might have engaged in a criminal conspiracy.
We soon will present evidence that Acker committed similar unlawful acts in dismissing a whistleblower complaint brought by Alabama resident Ingrid Awtrey Law under the U.S. False Claims Act. Law's complaint alleges rampant Medicare fraud and other misconduct against Performance Group LLC, a physical-therapy company partly owned by Homewood attorney Rob Riley, the son of former Republican Governor Bob Riley. Acker found some creative, and unlawful ways, to dismiss the complaint, protecting Rob Riley and his company from scrutiny.
That's curious because our research indicates Rob Riley, or someone connected to him, almost certainly was responsible for my unlawful termination at UAB. We have words directly from a university official's mouth, proving I was targeted because of my reporting on this blog about the political prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Given that Siegelman was Bob Riley's primary political rival, and my reporting helped show the prosecution was riddled with irregularities, it's easy to see why the Riley family might have wanted to shut me up.
The bottom line? Discovery in my lawsuit against UAB almost certainly would have unearthed damaging information about the Rileys, especially Rob Riley. And a genuine investigation into Ingrid Law's whistleblower complaint probably would have revealed criminal activity associated with one of Rob Riley's business enterprises. Both cases just happened to wind up with Judge Acker, and he acted contrary to simple procedural law in dismissing them both.
Is William Acker, an 85-year-old Reagan appointee, the designated protector for the Rileys and other GOP elites? It certainly looks that way from here.
None of us should be surprised at Acker's flagrant misconduct from the bench. As noethics.net reports, he has been exhibiting stunning arrogance for years--essentially claiming that the law does not apply to him. The Web site spells it out in a post titled "U.S. Judge William Acker of Alabama; tax scofflaw."
Jefferson County enacted an occupational tax in 1987, and Acker and fellow U.S. Judge U.W. Clemon decided they shouldn't have to pay it. The case, styled Jefferson County v. Acker, made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the judges lost on a 5-4 ruling in 1999.
What made the judges think a tax that applied to other citizens did not apply to them? The watchdogs at noethics.net address that question, at least in terms of Acker:
The state of Alabama presented William Marsh Acker, Jr. with a law license in 1952 after he graduated from Yale University Law School.
Former President Ronald Reagan was duped into nominating William Acker, Jr. as a District Court Judge for the Northern District of Alabama in 1982 when he was 53-years-old (DOB 1927).
For at least 14 years (ca. 1987-2001) Acker refused to pay the Jefferson County, Alabama, occupation tax. In refusing to pay the tax, Acker had the chutzpah to claim that the judiciary should be exempt from a tax that he believed was an effort to regulate judges.
Signs of Acker's arrogance can be seen throughout the occupational-tax case--and elsewhere. From the noethics.net report:
Acker’s asinine argument doesn’t pass the involuntary laugh test. Clearly, Acker missed his calling as a standup comedian. Eventually, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that the tax wasn’t unconstitutional as Acker had laughingly claimed it was in a lawsuit filed by Jefferson County to collect the taxes that Arrogant Acker owed.
After losing in the Court of Appeals, Acker the Comic filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which resulted in the Court upholding the ruling by the 11th Circuit. Put simply, the Supreme Court told Acker to take a hike.
After serving less than 14 years as a District Court judge, Acker assumed senior status. Senior status allowed Acker to work a mere 10 hours a week while collecting a full salary of $174,000 as of 2012. Is that a sweet deal or not?
So William Acker is paid $174,000 to work 10 hours a week--and he still can't get simple procedural matters correct from the bench. Is this a wise use of our tax dollars? Are lifetime appointments for federal judges a good idea? The folks at noethics.net have a blunt answer:
As we speak (ca. March 2012) Acker remains on the bench in Birmingham even though he’s 85-years-old. The only way Acker’s significant snout is going to be removed from the public trough is when he’s removed from the bench donning a wooden robe.
For Ingrid Law, myself, and others who have served as Acker's victims, that "wooden robe" cannot be applied quickly enough.