Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Judge Michael Putnam and Jones Walker Law Firm Try To Keep A Conflict Of Interest Under Wraps

Michael D. Waters Sr.
A clerk for the U.S. Magistrate overseeing my wife's employment lawsuit against Infinity Insurance is the son of a partner at a major corporate-defense law firm in downtown Birmingham. In fact, the father's law firm represents one of the primary defendants in the case.

Does that explain why U.S. Magistrate T. Michael Putnam has unlawfully dismissed that defendant from the case--along with three corporate entities who are affiliated with her?

We don't have a solid answer to that question yet. But Putnam and his office clearly have a conflict of interest, one that should have forced his recusal from the outset. Instead, he has presided over the case for almost 20 months--a period marked by curious delays, questionable record keeping, failure to notify the plaintiff (Mrs. Schnauzer) of key hearings, and dismissals of corporate defendants that are not supported by law.

Throughout that time, Putnam never has disclosed that one of his chief clerks, Michael David ("David") Waters Jr., is the son of a partner in a firm that represents a defendant who, according to allegations in my wife's complaint, started the process that led to her unlawful termination at Infinity.

How best to explain the glaring conflict of interest? You need a scorecard to keep up with the players in Carol Shuler v. Infinity Property & Casualty et al (2:11-cv-03443-TMP), so we will offer an explanation in "scorecardy" fashion. Here it is:

* David Waters Jr. is a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law. He is a chief clerk for Judge T. Michael Putnam in the Northern District of Alabama;

* David Waters' father is Michael David Waters Sr., a partner in the Birmingham office of the Jones Walker law firm, which has more than 375 attorneys in nine states and the District of Columbia. 

Kary Bryant Wolfe
* Kary Bryant Wolfe, special counsel in Jones Walker's Birmingham office, represents defendant Angie Ingram in my wife's lawsuit. Ingram is the principal at the Ingram & Associates debt-collection law firm, and my wife alleges that Ingram participated in a conspiracy to cause her unlawful termination at Infinity after we took steps to aggressively pursue discovery in a lawsuit against Ingram and other entities under the U.S. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). 

* Is it likely that David Waters' Sr. and Kary Bryant Wolfe are fairly close colleagues? Well, they both work at Jones Walker's Birmingham headquarters at One Federal Place downtown (also the home, by the way, of the august firm Bradley Arant, with its ties to Mexican drug cartels and other unsavory activities). Waters Sr. works in the firm's Banking and Financial Services Practice Group. Wolfe is in the Business and Commercial Litigation Practice Group. Is their quite a bit of overlap in those two groups, with lawyers from one often working with lawyers from the other? Certainly sounds like it.

Why does it matter that David Waters Sr.'s son works as a clerk for the judge who is overseeing a case in which the Jones Walker firm has a decided interest? Law clerks are glorified "gofers" aren't they, making sure primarily that the coffee pots are filled and the trash cans are emptied?

Well, it turns out that the term "law clerk" often is misunderstood by the public. That sounds like someone whose work duties don't go much beyond filing and such. But as we reported in a post last September, many orders and opinions in federal courts are written not by judges, but by their clerks. California lawyer William Domnarski shined light on the issue in an op-ed piece last year for The New York Times, calling the situation "embarrassing" for the legal profession. From our post on the subject:

Law clerks write the opinions for almost all federal appellate judges, Domnarski writes, and it stands to reason that the practice also is common in federal trial courts. Domnarski says members of the legal tribe rarely discuss the issue because it "raises too many embarrassing questions." Domnarski goes on to write: "We have become too comfortable with the troubling idea that judging does not require that judges do their own work."

Is David Waters Jr. writing the orders and opinions for Judge Putnam in my wife's employment case? You pretty much can count on it? Is that why the documents have tended to favor the Jones Walker law firm and various corporate-connected defendants? You probably can count on that. Is that why Angie Ingram, represented by David Waters Sr.'s colleague Kary Bryant Wolfe, has been dismissed from the case, even though black-letter law says that can't happen? You probably can count on that, too.

What is the black-letter law that governs Ingram's attempt to be dismissed? Details are available in a document that can be viewed at the end of this post. But here is the crux of the matter:

The simple issue is this: Ingram cannot be dismissed from this case because she submitted evidentiary matters requiring that her Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss be treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment—and Shuler is entitled under the law to conduct discovery in order to counter that evidentiary material. 
The Court cites some half dozen cases on this simple issue, but the controlling Eleventh Circuit case is Snook v. Trust Co. of Georgia Bank, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988).

What about the dismissal of corporate entities such as American Express, NCO, and JPMorgan Chase? Mrs. Schnauzer's complaint alleges--and the record will show--that they had an agency relationship with Ms. Ingram and her law firm. That means those companies, under the law, have vicarious liability for damages that Angie Ingram caused. 

The law on vicarious liability, at this stage of the case, could not be more simple. One court document sums it up this way:

The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has found: “Although the complaint need not expressly state that [Defendant] was vicariously liable to the Sprinkles, it must at least give notice of vicarious liability.” Category 5 Management Group v. National Casualty Insurance Company, (Eleventh Circuit, 2012). At this stage in the proceedings, Shuler is required only to give notice regarding vicarious liability, and she has met that standard.

If David Waters Jr.'s duty is to research and write Judge Putnam's orders and opinions so that they accurately reflect the law, he is doing a wretched job. If, on the other hand, his assignment is to ensure that his father's law firm and various corporate entities receive one unlawful favor after another . . . well, he's getting the job done.

This much is certain: Judge Putnam and his office have handled the case in such an inept fashion that my wife actually was forced recently to submit a document styled "Motion for Court Action." In it, she essentially begs the court to take action on matters that have been pending for several months and need resolution so that the parties can move forward with discovery. You can read the document below.

Have certain documents been gathering dust because David Waters Jr. has not been able to figure out a way to mold them so that they favor the Jones Walker law firm? I'm starting to think the answer is yes.


Anonymous said...

Our "Country" is a joke. The lawyers are from schools that can't teach real law, not one law school, not even Harvard or Yale, was-or-is officially an accredited legitimate law school blessed by the law from which it came, and that was England.

The only TRUE LAWYERS are like Robby Scott Hill who has actually studied the law as scholars do and then the law is an art form, as real maestros always prove in any 'discipline' of high practice, practice, practice.

Really think the English wanted America learning how to be lawyers in a majority?

No, the lawyer class was a very carefully constructed guild.

And Evil, in fact it's Vile.

How can a guild not be held accountable that lies, cheats, steals, kills and worse, the torture and other VileEvil that the guild inflicts is obvious.

America is a cesspool due to the Supreme Court at the top. Begin with that guild body as a class act criminal RICO.

Trickle Down?

All the way.

Roger and Carol Shuler prove every American needs to self represent and this has not only embarrassed the incredible guild of criminal fraud, these poor lost morons keep thinking the collapsed doesn't include them.

Judges to do their own work?!

This is just part of the big lie.

Anonymous said...

Just when you thought the legal world could not get any more incestuous . . .

Anonymous said...

The fact that David Waters Jr. works for Judge Putnam, and David Waters Sr. is a partner at Jones Walker law firm does not bother me. But the fact that Jones Walker represents a party in the case, and that has not been disclosed, is troublesome.

Anonymous said...

The schnauzer diggeth . . .

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many federal clerkships go to children of partners at big, pro-corporate law firms. Does a young person with a law degree, from a family not on the "inside," even have a chance at those positions?

Anonymous said...

Remember, folks . . . all of these shenanigans are being pulled with your federal tax dollars!

Anonymous said...


Gee, ya think? I would say troublesome isn't a strong enough word. It sounds like Jones Walker's client has received favorable treatment that is not supported by law. I would call that outrageous.

Anonymous said...


Quite a few clerkships go to young people with inside connections. Some are excellent students and deserving of the positions. Others . . . not so much. Either way, it's one way of keeping the club an exclusive organization.

Unknown said...


snipit ~ He was the 3d or 4th settler of the part of the country in which I live, which was about 1737. He died Aug. 17. 1757, leaving my mother a widow who lived till 1776, with 6 daurs & 2. sons, myself the elder.1 To my younger brother he left his estate on James river called Snowden after the supposed birth-place of the family. To myself the lands on which I was born & live. He placed me at the English school at 5. years of age and at the Latin at 9. where I continued until his death. My teacher Mr. Douglas2 a clergyman from Scotland was but a superficial Latinist, less instructed in Greek, but with the rudiments of these languages he taught me French, and on the death of my father I went to the revd. Mr. Maury3 a correct classical scholar, with whom I continued two years, and then went to Wm. and Mary college, to wit in the spring of 1760, where I continued 2. years. It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life that Dr. Wm. Small of Scotland was then professor of Mathematics, a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication correct and gentlemanly manners, & an enlarged & liberal mind. He, most happily for me, became soon attached to me & made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science & of the system of things in which we are placed. Fortunately the Philosophical chair became vacant soon after my arrival at college, and he was appointed to fill it per interim: and he was the first who ever gave in that college regular lectures in Ethics, Rhetoric & Belles lettres. He returned to Europe in 1762, having previously filled up the measure of his goodness to me, by procuring for me, from his most intimate friend G. Wythe, a reception as a student of law, under his direction, and introduced me to the acquaintance and familiar table of Governor Fauquier, the ablest man who had ever filled that office. With him, and at his table, Dr. Small & Mr. Wythe, his amici omnium horarum, & myself, formed a partie quarree, & to the habitual conversations on these occasions I owed much instruction. Mr. Wythe continued to be my faithful and beloved Mentor in youth, and my most affectionate friend through life. In 1767, he led me into the practice of the law at the bar of the General court, at which I continued until the revolution shut up the courts of justice. [For a sketch of the life & character of Mr. Wythe see my letter of Aug. 31. 20. to Mr. John Saunderson]


According to Jefferson, America was to be designed as small communities and only one day ride via horse to the county seat in each community. Every CITIZEN in America was to be highly well educated not just in the ideologies of fraud, but indeed an enlightened idea was the order.

Roger, Carol, the Shulers and Robby Scott Hill, and Sherry Rollins with her incredible spirit to stop the pedophilia of dark vile evil, are indeed Jeffersonians.

Jefferson was a slave trader, or because he was extremely broke due to making certain his common law wife Sarah Hemmings and all their children were also cared for, he called the domestic servant title? He was our first true liberal, too?

QUAKERS not Crackers. He was not impressed with the church pretending to be god of nature.

In that time, 1700s, to find a human being as enlightened as our tap root in the USA was, a great gift.

Anonymous said...

If federal judges don't write their orders and opinions, what do they do besides put on a robe and try to act interested every now and then?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like David Waters could be the "de facto" judge in Mrs. Schnauzer's case--and his daddy's law firm represents one of the defendants. Gee, can't imagine why Mrs. S would have a problem with that.

Anonymous said...

I take it your wife has moved for Putnam's recusal?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:52--

Putnam is a magistrate, so all parties have to consent to his continued jurisdiction over the case. My wife has filed notice that she does not consent--and this business with the law clerk is one of the reasons--so the case will have to be assigned to a district judge.

Anonymous said...

GOOD don't ever assign a case to a magistrate and should there be this, rescind when the magistrate proves this is the lowest shill in the cesspool of thieves.

Unknown said...

Sally Hemings. Correction, sorry.

The accounting in Jefferson's Autobiography about Sally Hemings and how in the time of his 'mind' decided to not ignorantly obey the teachings of 'religion', this was true liberalism.

Liberal didn't mean degradation then or now.

Liberal is to be of a mind, that is far greater than the court system manufactured as our so called 'higher educated'.

Not the fairie behavior of Rove and Bush and all the ivy league boys that never have and never will understand 'liberal mind'.

Everyday citizens, Roger and Carol Shuler, et al.

We are blessed to this day, Jefferson is celebrating the truth did get out and set enough of US free.

Thanks LS, and Murphy Schnauzer get that dark threat against your loved, in your great spirit too, get the robed vermin.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Schnauzer, I assume you weren't supposed to discover the ties between Judge Putnam's office and the Jones Walker law firm. How did it come to light.

legalschnauzer said...

I guess you could say I stumbled upon it. I knew Putnam's clerk was a guy named David Waters because my wife had spoken to him once or twice. I decided to call him for a post I was writing, and in looking up his number on the Alabama State Bar directory, noticed that he was a junior, to a Michael David Waters Sr. who works at Jones Walker. A light bulb went off, saying, "Doesn't Jones Walker represent someone in Mrs. S's case?" The record shows that, indeed, they do.

I never would have made the connection if the court had not screwed with my wife's case so much. She only called Waters because it became clear she consistently was not receiving notices from the court via U.S. mail. Without that, I never would have known the name of Putnam's clerk.

Anonymous said...

These people do think they are too smart and that everyone else are just shepeoples waiting to be fleeced... Arrogance at its finest.

Anonymous said...


When it appears we're getting somewhere, out of another part of the planet comes our next real true moment of the court system and its corruption beyond sick.

Courts retire on Wall Street's stocks. Wall Street has basically set the system up to be a primary weapons, wars, apartheid, holocausts, genocides investments under umbrellas such as "Vanguard".

Obama at the G8 has been true to the puppet masters that control him from Wall Street for the masters of the universe.

Looks like he says about Syria what Bush said about Iraq.

We know where these kind of desperate to keep trillionaires into the status of global empire builders ends up, the terror has not been missed on US.

Pay attention to the 'red line' jargon, could get very nasty.