Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Federal Law Clerk Says, "This Conversation Is Over" When Confronted With Evidence of Glaring Conflict
How does the clerk for a federal judge respond when he's confronted with glaring evidence about a conflict of interest? Does he thank the citizen who pointed out the conflict and pledge that he will take steps to rectify the situation, ensuring that justice is done and the law is followed? Does he close the conversation by saying, "Thank you, come again"?
If the clerk in question is Michael David ("David") Waters Jr., who works for U.S. magistrate T. Michael Putnam in the Northern District of Alabama, he says, "This conversation is over" and hangs up on the citizen . . . twice. (View video at the end of this post.)
That's the response I got recently when I confronted Waters with evidence that he and Putnam had a clear conflict of interest in a case styled Carol Shuler v. Infinity Property & Casualty et al (2:11-cv-03443-TMP). That's the case where my wife--we know her here as Mrs. Schnauzer--is suing her former employer for discrimination, wrongful termination, and other torts.
So far, Putnam has overseen the case, but Mrs. S has filed a document stating that she does not consent to his jurisdiction as a magistrate. That means the case will have to be assigned to a district judge, although that has not happened yet.
Why would my wife have concerns about Putnam's office handling her case? Reason No. 1 involves Putnam's clerk, David Waters Jr. Young Mr. Waters, a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama law school, happens to be the son of Michael David Waters Sr., a partner in the Birmingham office of the national Jones Walker law firm. Kary Bryant Wolfe, one of Waters Sr.'s associates at Jones Walker, is representing Birmingham debt-collection attorney Angie Ingram, one of the primary defendants in my wife's case.
Under 28 U.S. Code 455, a federal judge or magistrate must disqualify himself "in any proceeding where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Could Putnam's impartiality "reasonably be questioned" in my wife's lawsuit? Perhaps a better question: How could it not be?
Putnam's clerk is the son of a partner at a law firm that represents a key defendant in the case. As we noted in a recent post, the term "law clerk" might sound like it applies to someone who fetches coffee and does filing. But in reality, law clerks often write orders and opinions for federal judges; one of the legal professions' dirty secrets is that many judges don't do their own work, handing it over for clerks to write.
Is it possible that Michael David Waters Jr. is writing orders and opinions in my wife's lawsuit that benefit a client of his father's law firm? It sure as heck is. Even if that isn't happening, the possibility that it could be, requires Putnam's recusal--and he has not stepped down after presiding over the case for about 20 months.
When I contacted Waters Jr. by phone recently and confronted him with evidence of a conflict that clearly violates federal law, he was none too pleased. You can hear the exchange in the video below.
He admits that his father works at Jones Walker, which represents a defendant in the case, but he says there is no conflict and he had nothing to do with orders in the case. All of that, of course, is irrelevant under the law. As I try to explain that to Waters, and note that the conflict never was disclosed to my wife, he says, "This conversation is over" and hangs up.
(To be continued)
Previously in the series:
Judge Michael Putnam and Jones Walker Law Firm Try To Keep A Conflict Of Interest Under Wraps (June 18, 2013)
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Looks like you got him LS. Money well spent at UAB for Mr. Waters. Doesn't know anymore about the law than when he started attending. But what can you expect from a bunch of inbred lawyers and judges?
Gotcha, Mr. Waters!
Gotcha, Judge Putnam!
Gotcha, Jones Walker!
You've been exposed, and we, the public, see you for who you really are.
That pregnant pause when you ask Waters if his father works as Jones Walker is . . . priceless. You can tell he knows he's been had, the scam has been uncovered.
LS, I know you didn't prepare this post for comedic effects, but I can't stop laughing. As a member of the 99 percent, I can't stop smiling at the thought of this 1 percenter being put on the spot, his corrupt little kingdom exposed.
"This conversation's over"?
Not exactly, Mr. Waters. Now the public knows all about it. We are involved, too. Not over, by a long shot.
Anon at 8:23--
Appreciate your comment. For the record, Mr. Waters went to law school at U of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (UAT). He did not go to UAB; it doesn't have a law school.
Props to you, LS. This is real legal journalism. You had your ducks in a row, you asked him some serious questions, and he couldn't handle them. That's why he hung up on you--he had no answer for the questions you were asking.
God, this guy probably is only in his mid 20s, and he's already an arrogant prick. You can tell he isn't used to being questioned, being put on the spot. What an ass! Love the way you nailed him!
I agree with Spasmoda. This is a hoot.
What a dumb douchebag! I bet his mother stays drunk just to deal with her son and husband! Sure she's proud!
Long-time reader, first-time commenter.
For my money, this is one of your best Schnauzer posts. It's on an important subject--judicial corruption, conflicts with big law firms--and you make great use of audio, video, research, hard-nosed reporting, writing . . . the works.
Excellent work, and most importantly, you've educated the public. Now, if we will just pay attention.
Holding my breath for al.com to jump on this story.
Please let us know when you start to turn blue. Will send for an ambulance.
Long-time reader, first-time commenter.
A. about time you stepped in, great comment for LS who you say has been point on or you would not have taken so long to report back.
See that's the trouble with America during this time, not enough with the courage to step up and really support the BLOGGERS that are willing to do the real job for revolution.
Hugh Caperton, appellant v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., 556 U.S. ___ (2009), due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires a judge to recuse himself not only when actual bias has been demonstrated or when the judge has an economic interest in the outcome of the case, but also when "extreme facts" create a "probability of bias" ...
Live and in color . . . corruption at a federal courthouse . . . film at 11!
Advantage Publications, aka news in most all cities that have been real dumb in the information stream, is not going to publish the truth because then they'd be out of biz ...
Else, how do "Roaches In Robes" and all their TRIBE LEGAL insects crawl down dirty into the fabric of lying, cheating, murder INC global, AND continue to get away with the fleecing of Mr & Mrs Schnauzer and Don Siegelman as though these innocents have committed the crimes ...
LS, I notice your blog, many, too many sometimes, readers that comment are often filled with words of how you are finally on point with a topic, or this-that rather nudge to make sure you don't expand your topics and this would have been in the day of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, absurd.
I wonder what these two great American writers would have, could have, and we should then, have done in the time of our advanced technology.
You too prove the writer is our genuine hero, past-present-future.
Hawthorne .. at seventeen is quoted already knowing his vocation, “I do not want to be a doctor and live by men's diseases, nor a minister to live by their sins, nor a lawyer and live by their quarrels. So, I don't see that there is anything left for me but to be and author" .. Hawthorne's writing of encountering those aspects of humanity (diseases, sins and quarrels) through a lens which would bring them into a focus highlighting their ambiguities and the conflict of man within their paradoxes....
America has been taken down and your blog LS, shows-proves Alabama and the SOUTH, just how real the vileEvil is. Yet, today one reader that has a great post for all, sat on the sidelines for all this time.
RESERVE CURRENCY GLOBAL.
Americans just don't get what has happened because the technology appears to some, not LEGAL SCHNAUZER though, to be too daunting a task.
Americans are intentionally beaten down into a Palestinian level of psychosis.
NO WILL POWER TO STAND AGAINST A KILLER WHILE OPENLY BEING STABBED TO DEATH.
Listen and watch the COURT behave as though this is pre Magna Carta.
I love this, and love that there are some lawyers in Al. who both know the law and how to expose the many corrupt good ol' boys that cover for each other. conflict of interest? Who cares? Thank you.
an old alabama girl in Boston.
Thanks for your comment. Hope you will join the discussion on other issues. Also, hope life is good for you in Beantown.
Will this be printed on the front page of the Birmingham News? Why do I doubt it? How about the editorial page?
The big downtown Birmingham law firms--Bradley Arant, Maynard Cooper, Balch Bingham--have the Bham News in their collective hip pocket. No way this story hits the mainstream press, at least here in Alabama.
ole alabama girl in Boston, wow, bet you are 'experienced' now! Bombing there was a false flag that maybe caused another Tea Party moment, the big Boston one, not the new TP who the IRS discriminates against.
don't know quite yet what happened there on 'Patriot's Day?!'
do law firms there also lag like in the south, appearing to be the level of steamy in the humidity, lots of hot air and that's all.
tragic how bad the collective of criminals have designed 'law'.
Boston doesn't appear on top of that bombing and wonder just how the lawyers in good ole Harvardville ?? intentions with respect to this corruption, at critical mass .. civil rights in the south used to draw dozens of Ivy Leagues, geeze
Dirty bastards, huh? :)
I want to be in the back of that ride & you better hope Jesus is there with me.
This is a non-story. It is not just unremarkable but in fact fairly normal for a judge's clerk to have a relative who works at a firm. And it only represents a conflict of interest in extremely narrow circumstances that relate to that relative DIRECTLY REPRESENTING a party to litigation before that judge. You can't impute a conflict through some kind of six degrees of separation game. So, no: al.com isn't going to cover this non-story, nor is any other news outlet. That's because they will do the due diligence to confirm that what is happening is an actual conflict as opposed to an irresponsible suggestion that a conflict exists.
Just because something happens quite often within the legal system does not mean it isn't contrary to law. If you check 28 U.S.C 455--and I notice you didn't reference any actual law in your comment--this case clearly does present a conflict. If you listen to David Waters Jr. gulp when he's caught red-handed on this audio, you know it's a conflict. If you listen to Waters Jr. hang up on me when questioned about this, you know it's a conflict. If you check Judge Putnam's unlawful orders dismissing Jones Walker's client and her associated defendants, you know it's a conflict.
The law isn't based on what people connected to the legal community think. It's whether a judge's impartiality MIGHT REASONABLY BE QUESTIONED. In this case, the conflict could not be more clear.
And it's not just a conflict in theory, it's a conflict in fact because Putnam repeatedly has ruled contrary to law in favor of Jones Walker's client. That's why David Waters Jr. didn't want to discuss it.
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