Thursday, May 16, 2013

Judge Dorothea Batiste Alleges In EEOC Complaint That Scott Vowell Unlawfully Changed Her Rulings

Dorothea Batiste
A retired Jefferson County presiding judge, who is white and male, routinely changed rulings of a black, female circuit judge, according to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste, who is under suspension from the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), makes the allegations against J. Scott Vowell, who served on the bench from 1995 until his retirement at the end of 2012. Batiste alleges that Vowell orchestrated JIC complaints against her in retaliation for rejecting his sexual advances, which started about three months after she took office in January 2011.

The JIC complaint against Batiste is based mainly on her alleged abuse of contempt powers in domestic-relations cases. But Batiste alleges in her EEOC complaint that Vowell took no action against a white female judge who made ample use of her contempt powers in the domestic-relations division. (The full EEOC complaint, with exhibits, can be viewed at the end of this post.)

In essence, Batiste alleges that Vowell unlawfully served in her cases as an appellate judge, a role that goes far beyond the duties of a presiding judge under Alabama law. If proven, Vowell's actions could make him the target of lawsuits for acting outside his jurisdiction. They might constitute criminal contempt of court and could even rise to the level of criminal acts under state and federal law.

How brazen was Vowell? Batiste spells it out on page 2 of her EEOC complaint:

Even back in 2011, but continuing on into 2012, Judge Vowell would make a point of upsetting me by finding cases where I had issued rulings and, without telling me in advance he was doing so, then would enter documentary paperwork to change my rulings. In addition, Judge Vowell took cases away from me, without my permission or knowledge, to favor certain litigants, some of whom were his friends. This included certain lawyers. When I found out about this, I was quite upset and told him he should not be doing this--that it was not right, nor ethical, and it had to stop. In reply, Judge Vowell said, "I don't care what you have to say."

The material in bold strongly suggests that Vowell was not just discriminating against Batiste--he also was acting to favor certain litigants and lawyers with whom he was friendly. If proven, this represents a gross obstruction of the justice process and indicates that Vowell probably has knowingly been involved in the hunting-club corruption that has infested Jefferson County divorce courts for years.

Multiple federal lawsuits have been filed over hunting-club issues, with Samford University law professor Joseph Blackburn playing a leading role for plaintiffs, but the cases have been dismissed on dubious grounds so far. In one federal case, Blackburn represented himself as a plaintiff, claiming his divorce from U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn was tainted with corruption. In another, Blackburn served as an attorney for a number of Jefferson County residents who alleged they were victims of a rigged divorce-court system.

We have written extensively about the hunting-club issue, noting the apparent efforts of federal judges to dismiss the cases and deny discovery, contrary to law. Here are three key posts we've written on the subject:

Courts Try to Sweep Hunting-Club Corruption Under the Rug in Alabama (May 8, 2012)

Here Is More Evidence That Federal Judges Are Trying to Hide Hunting-Club Corruption in Alabama (Aug. 13, 2012)

Why Were No Opinions Issued On Appeals of Alabama Hunting-Club Lawsuits? (Sept. 4, 2012)

The public record shows that, at the very least, Scott Vowell allowed hunting-club corruption to fester on his watch as presiding judge. But Batiste's allegations, if proven, indicate Vowell actively took part in the corruption.

Scott Vowell
Alabama law states that the primary role of a presiding judge is to supervise judges and court personnel to "see that they attend strictly to the prompt, diligent discharge of their duties." (See Code of Alabama 12-17-24.) Circuit courts serve an appellate function over matters that originate in district or municipal courts. (See Code of Alabama 12-11-30.) But the domestic-relations cases before Batiste originated in circuit court, so Vowell had no authority to act on those matters. Appellate authority rests solely with the Alabama Supreme Court, plus the courts of civil and criminal appeals. (See Code of Alabama 12-2-7.)

Batiste's EEOC complaint indicates Vowell undermined her authority at almost every turn:

What especially upset me, starting at the end of the summer of 2011 and continuing into 2012, was that Judge Vowell (as he himself later has admitted in a letter) started meeting with lawyers representing litigants in my courtroom. [See Judge Vowell's letter admitting to it. Exhibit 1.] However, it also later became obvious that Judge Vowell was stirring up lawyers unhappy with their client's rulings in my courtroom. Of course, in a divorce case, one side is always unhappy, and frequently both sides. Both sides are usually quite unhappy even before they get to the courtroom.

As for use of contempt powers, Batiste says Vowell seemed unconcerned when such powers were used by a white judge. Batiste points to Circuit Judge Suzanne Childers, who became known for carrying a gun on the bench:

There is another example of disparate treatment given by Judge Vowell to a white female judge, namely [Suzanne] Childers, of the Jefferson County Circuit, Domestic Relations Division. She sentenced litigant Keith Muhammad to 325 days . . . for non-payment of child support, and he actually served it from October 6, 2011, to January 5, 2012. In fact, this judge issued such orders on a routine basis (sometimes putting 2 to 3 people in jail in different cases on the same day). Scott Vowell never complained about Ms. Childers to the AJIC. Instead, when she asked for extra help, Scott Vowell gave it to her. [See Exhibit 7].


Anonymous said...

Karl Marx: "There will be a revolution when the women want one, even the ugly ones."

Judge Dorothea Batiste isn't ugly and she is real smart too, I know she knows the truth about how the law works, as a 'person of color' she endured a big time southern cracker's rude, crude and socially unacceptable racket.

I can well imagine she already knew the game was rigged, but she worked hard to get in the game and make a modern day difference.

Hope she lives up to: "Hell hath no fury as that of a woman scorned." Shakespeare.

What a great foundation for how to change Alabama's corrupt 'judiciary.'

Anonymous said...

LS, this does, indeed, sound like criminal activity on the part of Judge Vowell. If a regular citizen obstructed the court process in this way, it certainly would be treated as a crime. Why should Vowell be treated any differently.

Anonymous said...

Batiste v. Vowell is the talk of the B-ham legal community. Most lawyers I know did not see this coming--her fighting back and the story becoming public--and they are concerned about it. Those of us in the "underling" class find it all quite amusing.

Anonymous said...

We need Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton--stat!

Anonymous said...

That squishy sound you hear is Scott Vowell stepping in doo-doo.

Anonymous said...

Scott Vowell deserves any headaches that might be coming his way. The chickens have come home to roost, I hope.

Anonymous said...

@7:50, would Jesse and Al come to the aid of a "colored Republican"?

Unknown said...

... Lest we confuse justice with jurisprudence. The Romans had the same word for both*; I think that's where the mixup started.

*Condoleeza Rice speaking about torture and Bush.


*ius, iura, among others:

from the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law [1953]

excellent law discovery LS

Anonymous said...

Scott Vowell built his power base by allowing corporate and divorce lawyers to have their way in Jefferson County. They've made a ton of money from Vowell's willingness to look the other day. Now, that revenue stream is threatened, and the spoiled lawyers don't like it.

Sharon said...

Sounds like you have to "go along to get along" in our courthouses. I don't think that's what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Anonymous said...

In reference to comment by Anon 10:12, Vowell didn't build a power base by "looking the other day" (which I assume you meant to be "way". The judges in Family Court don't look the other way! They actively and knowingly participate! The corruption couldn't and wouldn't be going on without their knowledge! They are the orchestrators! All documents and invoices have their names and initials on them....meaning, they know! They only ones who may be "looking the other way" are those cutting the checks and handling court docs! Even Big Luther knows! His office contracts with and protects them. Funny thing about his involvement is seeing his extracurricular family life ie; love child and just how hypocritical his involvement really is as is with most everything he's involved with! With that said, I find it disturbing that there may be a sympathetic tone towards Batiste. She is as much a criminal as Vowell! If the hunting club crowd are trying to protect their racketeering ring, they were stupid to target this judge. They should have stuck with targeting the white female judges.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 11:18--

I should note that, in her complaint, Batiste states that she took her concerns about Vowell to the attorney general's office, and she received no indication that anything would be done about it. Your point is well taken that Luther Strange is involved in providing cover for judicial corruption.

Anonymous said...

LS, that Batiste took her concerns to AG office to no avail is interesting and smells a bit of karma. I think it's funny that she is now getting a dose of what she dished to the people in her court. Very fitting! Thanks for sharing that.

Anonymous said...

This is big talk among the legal community in Montgomery as well. There are attorneys here that are latching on to the fact that she called out Reynolds in her complaint. The Montgomery crowd knows that the 19th Circuit is rigged and they smell blood in the water.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Anonymous said...

MSM still asleep at the switch on this story?

Anonymous said...

Any American that chooses to be a 'Judge' is definitely into the system of how to be top dog as a junk yard terror.

Breed Batiste is simply the best hammer to get the Crackers.

The system of "JUDICIAL" oh ha ha ha ha ha ha god can we all laugh out loud until we pass out!

Justice is served in America as the gulag of digital dust.

Got the SMART MASTERCARD, the judges did, where all their needs are met via fast action swipes.

Mad Dogs are what controls the system of truth and Batiste was doing what had to be done, except that she refused the Cracker.

Is she guilty? Of course, she is a family court judge-lawyer and this system is nothing but a gulag to steal families' wealth, all, children especially.

SMART-MC = Digital All Powerful

e.a.f. said...

Forget about Sharpton or Jackson, they are as much a part of the system as Vowell.

The system in Alabama works for those in power and they aren't going to do anything to change it. No more than Holder or Obama will do anything about it. Everybody makes deals to get to where they are and stay there.

Every once in awhile some one comes along and disrupts things. To make it worse, its a woman of colour.

The American justice system looks a lot like China's. The wealth get what they want and the rest just scramble. If Americans cared as much about the rest of the constituion as they do about their second ammendment rights, the constitution and the justice system would be in much better shape.

The U.S.A. used to be a great country. Now it is just full of poverty, injustice, high crime rates, full jails, the infrastructure falling apart, the 1%ers holding the majority of the wealth.

Anonymous said...

e.a.f., I tell ya, sometimes you have some very insightful comments that I enjoy reading and then others you sound like a foreigner who really doesn't completely know what you are talking about. Mean no disrespect but you just don't paint a realistic picture of it here. We aren't quite 3rd world yet. After the past week we should all be somewhat hopeful in the US.

Anonymous said...

To all of you that are even implying that Judge Vowell acted wrongfully, I would suggest you withhold your accusations at least until you have more actual information. Anyone accusing Judge Vowell of siding with corporations or being a part of "hunting club" favoritism obviously don't know anything about the man or the kind of fair, honest and impartial judge he always strived to be, and was. If you were to talk to every lawyer in Birmingham, regardless of color, political affiliation or legal position taken in representing clients, 99.9% of them will tell you he is always fair and honest. He also never had to put multiple lawyers and litigants in jail just to maintain order in his courtroom. Wait on more credible information to come out on this before making a knee jerk reaction to disparage this good man.

Anonymous said...

Judge Vowell's duty was to protect the the public and litigants if questionable incarceration was being ordered by Judge Batiste. Nobody questions a judge's authority to hold someone in contempt. The issue is whether or not she allowed for due process of law and otherwise followed proper procedures for those incarcerated. The EEOC complaint appears to be retaliation for her suspension.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:19--

I have a lot of information. LS provided quite a bit of it in Judge Batiste's EEOC complaint, which includes copies of documents from Judge Vowell.

I'm sure LS would be happy to sit down for an interview with Judge Vowell. Do you think Vowell would be up for that?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:43--

Where was Judge Vowell when citizens were being abused and procedure trashed for years by Judge Ferguson and Judge Calhoun? Vowell did look the other way when hunting-club corruption was going on, and I see no signs that he is "a good man."

Will "good man Vowell" sit down for an interview with LS? I feel certain LS is up for it.

Anonymous said...

This is a tough situation. Who to believe? Neither of them would be my guess. Although if what anon Is correct about Batiste frivolously jailing folks as Reynolds did, I'm going to have to agree with Vowell. Too bad Bonnie Wyatt didn't have someone help her in that way. Batiste seems pathetic and power drunk. Maybe an ax to grind. There are other ways to handle your court ie, fines! If she's been throwing attorneys in jail in the same way then I'd say she screwed up. I'm not buying her story! No fan of Vowell either.

legalschnauzer said...

Perhaps I should step in here and say I am more than willing to interview Scott Vowell. In fact, I am planning to seek an interview with him.

Anonymous said...

Dorothea Batiste was in over her head before she ever sat her first case. These charges seem to me like a misdirection ploy. I hope she gets what she deserves, which would be to be relieved of her duties and asked to never darken the doors of a courtroom again.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article happened upon. Could explain some of why Babtiste is a threat to the money train.....

"Judge Katrina Ross, Judicial Candidate Dorothea Babtiste Sued Over Money!", September 1, 2010.

Anonymous said...

And LS, as for the above article, the accusation of fraud sounds completely believable seeing as that is a typical way attorneys milk system and our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

If this Dorthea Babtiste is the same Dorthea Babtiste who was sued by United States of America for failure to pay a 5k student loan then I can see why it was hard for people to respect her. She appears lazy and irresponsible and doesn't pay her bills. Kinda sick that a person of this caliber has such power over families and children! What a joke! To pull the race cards seems rather typical of someone like her.

Anonymous said...

At anon 2:02, she probably deserves more than that such as the same punishment she inflicted on others. Yes, JAIL TIME! But then again I'd bet Vowell deserves the same as does most AL judges. I like watching the scum eat their own.

Anonymous said...

Judge Batiste has accused more than one man of sexually harassing her. That is her standard MO for getting back at anyone who makes her mad. She is very fixated on her appearance and believes most men want to sleep with her.

Anonymous said...

The last two posts specifying Judge Battiste's name, misspelled it.... My attorney and I had differences with the way my case was handled. It doesn't mean that Battiste - or Vowell -are bad or corrupt; if anyone knows from personal experience or awareness that either one of them is, those people should step up and issue a statement, bring charges, or administer written statement to opposing counsel. I pray that our Judges administer fairly, without prejudice, and most of all, that the defendants in their courtrooms have received fair and impartial verdicts; if not, that our Judicial System is able to efficiently and accurately identify and correct (and through any available means minimize future risks of) any miscarriages of justice.

legalschnauzer said...

In both the charge of discrimination and affidavit that are embedded in this post, Judge Batiste spells her last name "Batiste." Her lawyer spells it "Batiste" and Alabama State Bar spells it "Batiste."

I suspect she knows best how to spell her last name--along with these other sources.