Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dorothea Batiste Receives Three-Month Suspension At The Conclusion of Judicial Disciplinary Trial

Dorothea Batiste
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste has received a three-month suspension from the bench at the conclusion of a three-day disciplinary trial in Montgomery, a source tells Legal Schnauzer.

The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) charged Batiste with making improper use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases, and she faced possible removal from the bench. But the Court of Judiciary ruled this afternoon that Batiste should be suspended from the bench for three months.

Retired Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell led the effort to file complaints against Batiste, and her lawyers argued that she was the victim of a vindictive prosecution because of Vowell's anger that she had filed a complaint against him with the Alabama Attorney General's Office.

We reported this morning that the case against Batiste was driven largely by her decision to do away with a special masters program in her court. That decision proved to be highly unpopular with a number of domestic-relations lawyers who are close to Vowell.

We will update the story as more information becomes available.

Luther Strange Refuses To Take Reporter's Questions In The Wake Of News About AG's Extramarital Affair

Luther Strange and
 Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange recently refused to take questions from a reporter for one of the most widely read news Web sites in the state. Strange, it appears, was in a huff because the site had linked to our recent report about the AG's extramarital affair with a former campaign aide .

Strange spoke last week at the Dothan Rotary Club and the Houston County Bar Association, refusing to speak with reporters after both events. As Strange was leaving the bar association talk on Tuesday, a reporter for approached Strange with some questions, only to receive insults about his family in return. (See video at the end of this post.)

Rickey Stokes provides details in a post titled "Luther Strange Takes Digs At My Deceased Dad, My Mother With Alzheimer's, and Me." Here is how Stokes describes his encounter with our state's chief law-enforcement officer:

On Tuesday Strange spoke to the Houston County Bar Association breakfast at Dothan Country Club. Strange made sure he avoided me while he was there. As Strange started to leave I was between the door and the black Ford Expedition used to haul him around. As Strange passed me I asked for a interview and was persistent. After Strange sit down in the Ford Expedition used to haul him around in, he exited the vehicle to downgrade me and my parents.
Strange exited and said he did not interview with people who did not tell the truth, that his parents raised him to tell the truth and apparently I was not raised that way and he would be praying for me. With that said Strange returned to the Ford Expedition used to haul him around in with his Executive Security Agent closing the door. I told Strange he was a chicken for not interviewing and he drove off.

Strange had promised at some point to answer Stokes' questions, but something made him change his mind. What got under Luther Strange's skin? For one, Stokes had criticized Strange's response to the hostage/school bus standoff at Midland City in January. For another, Strange apparently is bothered by our reporting on his long-running affair with former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison and  . . . well, here is Rickey Stokes' perspective:

Second, Strange took offense to the fact I linked to the Legal Schnauzer article where it made reference to allegations that Luther Strange had an extramarital affair with one of his campaign staff persons.
Rickey Stokes did not make the accusation, nor did I find the article. The article was pointed out to me and it needed to be posted. So I linked the article.
I do not know if Strange had an affair, nor did I intend to ask him about it, well until he was avoiding me.

Stokes has other thoughts on why Strange wanted to avoid his questions:

If the information of the Legal Schnauzer is not true, then what is wrong with saying "that is an outright lie, not true at all". Or, are you afraid to answer because you will deny and are afraid of what proof there might be out there that someone might have?
So if you avoid the person out of fear of being asked the tough question, then you can use you Executive Security as a shield and not have to answer. The truth should be the truth, right?
So, Luther is hiding.

The irony of having an adulterer lecture you about honesty surely was not lost on Rickey Stokes. Neither, I'm sure, was the irony of having an adulterer offer you his prayers.

Rickey Stokes has Luther Strange figured out--and that's why the AG wants no part of his questions. Here is a video of their recent confrontation:

Here Is The Real Reason That Judge Dorothea Batiste Is Under Fire From The Alabama Legal Establishment

Dorothea Batiste
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste is on trial this week in Montgomery, supposedly for making excessive use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases. But the real reason for the Batiste trial is that she threatened the revenue streams of certain Birmingham law firms, a source tells Legal Schnauzer.

How did Batiste do that? Upon taking office in early 2011, Batiste discontinued her courtroom's "special masters" program, which had become a major factor in many Jefferson County divorce cases.

What is a special master? The Online Legal Dictionary describes a special master as "a representative of the court appointed to hear a case involving difficult or specialized issues." Certain members of the domestic-relations bar in Jefferson County had come to expect special-master appointments, and our source says this work can help pad a firm's bottom line.

For one thing, lawyers are compensated for their service as special masters. But perhaps more importantly, the part-time jobs allow lawyers to cut favors for each other, in ways that can greatly affect the outcomes of cases . . . and prove lucrative for law firms.

Batiste, apparently thinking a judge actually should do the job of overseeing divorce cases, decided to ax the special masters program in her court. When that happened, certain lawyers let out squeals that apparently could be heard throughout the Alabama legal community. Among the divorce lawyers to squawk the loudest were Steve Arnold, Randy Nichols, and Wendy Brooks Crew--although they hardly were alone.

The lawyers complained about Batiste to Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell (now retired), and that is what prompted him to lead the charge against her with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC), which suspended her with pay. The AJIC complaint led to this week's trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, where Batiste faces possible removal from the bench.

A special masters program, administered correctly, serves a valid purpose, our source says--especially on a domestic-relations docket where each judge has roughly 3,000 active files. In theory, a special master should rule on preliminary matters--issues related to insurance are common in divorce cases--while allowing the judge to focus on core issues. 

But the special masters program in Jefferson County had grown out of control, with masters often ruling on core matters such as custody and child support, while cutting each other favors and issuing orders that might not square with the facts and law of a case. In some instances, our source says, masters would conduct ex parte meetings on critical issues, outside the presence of one party and its counsel.

When Batiste took office, she saw a problem and decided to fix it. In the process, she stepped on some powerful toes, and the owners of those toes went to Scott Vowell.

Why would Vowell undermine a sitting judge at the behest of whining lawyers? It appears that Vowell has some unconventional issues in his personal life--issues that have been well known for years among members of the bar, but are to be kept from public scrutiny. During his years as presiding judge, Vowell and local lawyers reached a devilish agreement--lawyers would keep Vowell's secrets and provide him with power, and Vowell would let them have pretty much anything they wanted.

This arrangement served to significantly pad the bottom lines of divorce lawyers, and if some mothers, fathers, and children suffered because of tainted rulings . . . well, that was just too bad. Scott Vowell and members of the domestic-relations bar, it seems, did not care.

What, by the way, is unconventional about Scott Vowell's personal life? We will be taking a close look at that question in upcoming posts.

As for the Batiste case, AJIC prosecutor Griffin Sikes said in his opening statement on Monday, "This case is about due process of law."

In fact, the case is about lawyer fees, and it has nothing to do with due process, our source says. Did Dorothea Batiste go overboard on some of her contempt findings? Perhaps, but that's not the reason she is in trouble. Scott Vowell definitely knows it, presiding judge J. Michael Joiner almost certainly knows it, and Griffin Sikes probably knows it.

How bad is Jefferson County domestic-relations court? Our source puts it in perspective:

"It's like a doctor using his knowledge to kill people rather than to cure. What goes on in that court is contrary to everything you are taught in law school. You have lawyers using their knowledge of the law to harm people, even children." 

The Batiste trial is expected to continue through today.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bradley Arant Law Firm Nets 1,730 Percent Return On Its Investment With Attorney General's Office

The Bradley Arant law firm, of Birmingham, has contributed $21,000 to Attorney General Luther Strange during and after his 2010 campaign. In return, the firm has received $364,000 in public dollars to help Strange's office with gambling-related issues.

If my math is correct--and that's always a big "if"--Bradley Arant has experienced a 1,730 percent return on its investment with Luther Strange. By most any standard, that is a tidy profit--and it's about to get even better.

According to a recent report from Mary Sell, of The Decatur Daily, Bradley Arant is about to rake in even more taxpayer dollars. Earlier this month, the attorney general's office entered into another $100,000 contract with the downtown Birmingham firm. If that contract is paid in full without another donation, it would run Bradley Arant's return on investment up to about 2,200 percent.

How is this happening? A review of recent Alabama history probably explains it.

Before leaving office in early 2011, former Governor Bob Riley cut a deal with Luther Strange. Riley was to support Strange for governor and raise $2 million for his campaign, while Strange was to "protect" Riley's children and direct any business he could to them. The flow of public dollars from the AG's office to Bradley Arant appears to be one way Strange is holding up his end of the bargain. After all, Riley's daughter (Minda Riley Campbell) is married to Bradley Arant partner Rob Campbell--and Riley's son (Homewood lawyer Rob Riley) has strong ties to Bradley Arant, especially to partner Matthew Lembke.

Lembke and Michael Pennington are among the Bradley Arant lawyers to work on electronic-bingo issues. That reminds us of the federal Alabama bingo trial, for which Bob Riley managed to escape testifying, in part, by taking a curious motorcycle trip to Alaska. That trip, of course, concluded with Riley having a crash near Fairbanks, and we recently discovered that the accident report is available online. (See report at the end of this post.)

Who tried to ensure that Bob Riley was excused from testifying after his motorcycle crash? It was our friends from Bradley Arant, as we reported in June 2011:

Attorneys for Bob Riley did not waste any time in notifying a federal court that the former governor would be temporarily unavailable to testify in the ongoing Alabama electronic-bingo trial. . . .
Michael Pennington and Matthew Lembke, of the Birmingham firm Bradley Arant, represent Riley and filed the post-crash motion. Bradley Arant employs Rob Campbell, Riley's son-in-law, and received millions of dollars in taxpayer funds during the Riley governorship. Dave Stewart, Riley's former chief of staff who has been quoted in news reports about the motorcycle crash, now works at Bradley Arant.

The story of Bob Riley's motorcycle crash never has added up. But the story of Luther Strange's cash pipeline to Bradley Arant is crystal clear. That probably is why the law firm itself declined to take questions for The Decatur Daily's report. The chairman of the firm's Political Action Committee (PAC) did take questions and, not surprisingly, he found absolutely nothing wrong with Strange's former law firm raking in piles of taxpayer dollars.

How to summarize the PAC chairman's response? It was more or less this: "Hey, we've got great lawyers, so we must be worth it." Here are the specifics from Mary Sell's report:

The Birmingham law firm has been sought out to help the attorney general’s office represent the state in the ongoing “electronic gambling dispute.” That assistance has cost Alabama more than $364,000 since 2011.
A representative for the firm said it makes contributions to causes and candidates around the state and files the proper paperwork.
“We don’t see a conflict,” said Mike Denniston, partner and chairman of the firm’s PAC. “The attorney general’s office, like any other agency, has the ability to choose outside counsel.
“We feel like if we weren’t doing good work, they wouldn’t continue to hire us and keep us on.”

Are Bradley Arant lawyers really doing good work on the "electronic gambling dispute," from a taxpayer's perspective? Is the firm's sweetheart arrangement with Luther Strange unethical, maybe even criminal?

We will take a look at those questions in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile, let's check out the accident report from Bob Riley's infamous motorcycle dump in the Alaska wilderness:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Luther Strange And Ex Colleageus At Bradley Arant Have A Cash Pipeline For Fighting Electronic Bingo

Luther Strange
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has spent more than $660,000 on private lawyers since taking office in January 2011. More than half of that figure has gone to Bradley Arant, Strange's former law firm in Birmingham, for work on electronic bingo and other gambling-related issues.

Legal expenses for the AG's office have risen from $0 in Fiscal Year 2008 to more than $270,000 in FY 2013, which ends September 30. Most of that spending has gone to outside lawyers, according to a report by Mary Sell, Montgomery Bureau chief for The Decatur Daily.

No one has benefited more from Strange's crusade against gambling than Bradley Arant. From Mary Sell's report:

Alabama’s attorney general has paid private attorneys about $360,000 in the past two years to help in his fight against electronic bingo and illegal gambling in the state. 
It’s one of several cases for which the office has solicited help on the state’s behalf.
The amount the attorney general’s office has spent on outside legal services has risen in recent years, from $0 in fiscal 2008 to about $70,000 in 2009 and to about $271,000 this fiscal year, according to, a website run by the state comptroller’s office.
The expenses do not include those involving in-house attorneys.

Bradley Arant has a history of cashing in on the state's crusade against non-Indian gaming. Multiple press reports show that the firm sucked up more than $10 million in taxpayer dollars during the last two years of former Governor Bob Riley's administration, when gambling issues took center stage. Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, is a shareholder at Bradley Arant, and Luther Strange is a long-time Riley ally.

Mary Sell provides more details on Bradley Arant's tendency to feed at the public trough during Republican administrations that supposedly are morally opposed to gambling:

These are not the first gambling-related fees Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings has had with the state.
In 2010, The Associated Press reported then-Gov. Bob Riley’s administration paid the firm $536,115 to assist the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The firm also worked for King when he served as attorney general.
The firm declined last week to discuss its contracts with the state.

Imagine that . . . Bradley Arant is happy to take public money, but it declines to discuss its haul in a public forum. We've had experience with that here at Legal Schnauzer. We have sought interviews with multiple Bradley Arant lawyers about Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins and his connections to child abuse, perjury, and other unethical acts related to the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case in Shelby County. Bradley Arant is Rollins' chief corporate law firm and played a key role in preparing his company's Wall Street IPO, but the firm has steadfastly refused to respond to our interview requests.

One member of Luther Strange's staff would discuss the AG's private-lawyer expenditures with The Decatur Daily, and that was Chief Deputy Attorney General Kevin Turner. He holds a position that was intended for Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who managed Strange's 2010 campaign and has carried on a long-running affair with the AG.

Before joining Strange's staff, Turner worked at . . . Bradley Arant. From Mary Sell's report:

The attorney general’s office contends the numbers are misleading because they include fees for expert witnesses and money paid to other states during multi-state litigation. But much of that money in recent years has gone to attorneys working on cases such as the ongoing gambling litigation, defending the state’s redistricting plans, deferred compensation plans and defending the office from lawsuits filed by former employees, according to documents obtained by The Decatur Daily.
“In general, when we hire outside law firms, there are two possible reasons: One, for expertise and specialized skills, or there is a workload issue where we don’t have the manpower in the office to dedicate sufficient hours to that particular case,” said Kevin Turner, chief deputy attorney general. Turner sat down with the newspaper last week to discuss the expenditures.

Sell noted the irony of a former Bradley Arant lawyer serving as the AG's spokesperson on issues involving payments to Bradley Arant:

Turner explained when it comes to contracts with private attorneys, the attorney general has the decision-making power.
“There is no formal bid requirement on those contracts, so we determine who we think is best to handle the particular subject matter, and then the governor’s office approves the rate which they are paid,” Turner said. He’s a former associate at Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings, but said he has no interest in the firm now.
“Basically, we pick the lawyer and the governor’s office sets the rate,” he said.

Is Luther Strange proving to be a responsible steward of public dollars? At least one state official answers with a resounding no:

Some think expenses like the more than $364,000 for private attorneys to fight gambling in the state are unnecessary.
“This is a waste of taxpayer money,” Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said. “If the attorney general feels strongly about it, he should be handling the case himself, with staff attorneys that taxpayers are already paying for.”
Bedford, an attorney, said after years of legal fights and lost jobs, there still are electronic bingo casinos operating in the state. He said he recently saw several in Greene County.
“So, what’s the $300,000 going for?” said Bedford, who previously sponsored legislation to tax, expand and regulate electronic bingo casinos. It did not pass.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Has White Judicial Panel Already Stacked The Deck Against Black Alabama Judge Dorothea Batiste?

Dorothea Batiste
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary has ruled that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste will not be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment in her disciplinary trial, which starts next week.

Batiste claims that retired Jefferson County Circuit Judge J. Scott Vowell brought charges against her with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment against him to the Alabama Attorney General's Office. Those claims are central to Batiste's defense, but Chief Judge J. Michael Joiner has ruled that she cannot raise them.

"We are going into this with our hands tied," Batiste's lawyer, Julian McPhillips, said. (See link to video at the end of this post.)

That Mike Joiner presides over the Court of the Judiciary, and the Batiste case, should be a major concern to Alabama citizens. Before Governor Robert Bentley appointed him to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, Joiner served as a circuit judge in Shelby County. That's where my wife and I first encountered him and quickly learned that he is thoroughly corrupt.

Joiner was the original judge on a groundless lawsuit filed against me by our troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity. We would come to find out that McGarity has an extensive criminal record, with at least eight convictions on his record. McGarity somehow managed to get a job as a bar-code operator at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, even though the company is supposed to conduct stringent background checks because of its status as a federal Medicare contractor. How did Mike McGarity and his lengthy criminal history slip through the cracks? We intend to put that question to Koko Mackin, vice president for corporate communications and community relations at BC/BS of Alabama. 

We also discovered that McGarity has three older brothers who all have criminal records--although two of them, Marshall (suicide) and Bill (AIDS), have died. A third brother, Charles Alan McGarity, has the most "impressive" criminal history of all, with felony convictions for theft and grand larceny standing out on his record.

Mike McGarity's lawsuit against me, under black-letter Alabama law, had to be dismissed on a motion for summary judgment (MSJ) within roughly eight months time. On our first MSJ, McGarity filed no timely or relevant evidence in response to our sworn, material facts, which meant we had to prevail. (See Voyager  Guar. Ins. Co. v. Brown, 631 So. 2d 848, (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1993.) But Joiner ruled against us, violating his oath to uphold the law in the process.

On our second MSJ, McGarity filed no response at all--no answer to our MSJ (which raised issues that had not been raised on the first one); no evidence to counter our sworn, material facts; nothing. Summary judgment can't possibly be denied under search circumstances. Alabama law states that summary judgment is a nondiscretionary ruling. And when the nonmoving party presents no evidence to counter facts presented by the moving party, the facts on record are considered to be uncontroverted and summary judgment MUST be granted. We cited the relevant law in a previous post:

Rule 56(e) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure makes it clear. So does Alabama case law: When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing." Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993).

Law doesn't get more simple than that, but Mike Joiner couldn't get it right and denied our second MSJ. That's like having a college math professor who doesn't know that 2 + 2=4.

It's not that Joiner is confoundingly dense, of course. It's that he's corrupt. He ruled against us because McGarity's attorney was William E. Swatek, of Pelham. And as we have reported on numerous occasions, Swatek has a 30-year history of unethical behavior with the Alabama State Bar. He's been disciplined at least three times, including a suspension of his license, and he was tried for perjury in a criminal trial from the early 1980s. Public records show that Swatek unquestionably was guilty as charged, but an Alabama jury somehow voted to acquit.

Joiner stepped down from my case, upon my recusal motion, only after we discovered that he and Swatek are regular golf buddies. Under the law, Joiner was obligated to disclose that conflict at the outset, but he did not do it.

Alabama courtrooms are riddled with rogue judges, but none can be worse than Mike Joiner. And yet, he sits as chief judge of the Alabama Court of Judiciary, he will sit in judgment next week of Judge Dorothea Batiste--and he already has made evidentiary rulings that will keep her from raising key points in her defense.

That means Mike Joiner is a lapdog for the Alabama judicial establishment, led by Scott Vowell, and Judge Batiste almost certainly will be removed from the bench. Overwhelming evidence suggests Batiste is being railroaded and treated in a far more harsh fashion than her colleagues who are white or male--or perform according to Scott Vowell's bidding.

Officially, Batiste is in trouble for making excessive use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases. That almost certainly is not the real reason for the charges against her, and the mainstream Alabama press is showing signs of awakening to this unconscionable situation. Consider this from WSFA television station in Montgomery:

"I have known throughout all of this, people were going off into conference rooms, meeting together after hearings, coming up with strategies with how to remove me," Batiste said.
Batiste took office in 2011. She said it didn't take long for problems to arise with the presiding judge. She claims the judge harassed her racially and sexually. She also claims he tried to influence the outcome of certain cases.She said she complained to state officials.
"As that got back to the presiding judge, and the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, which we think we acting as his agent, then certainly the heat was turned up on her greatly," said Julian McPhillips, Batiste's attorney.The presiding judge has since retired. The court ruled those harassment claims will not be factor during the trial, which begins on Monday.

With Mike Joiner sitting as chief judge, and Scott Vowell likely pulling strings from a booth off stage, justice almost certainly will not be served in the case of Dorothea Batiste.

Video: WSFA report on Dorothea Batiste case

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Allegations of Bribery Are Flying In Alabama Case That Led To $25-Million Lawsuit Against Vance Jr.

Robert Vance Jr.
Public documents show that attempted bribery has been present in the Alabama case that led to a $25-million federal lawsuit against Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. Records also indicate that William B. Cashion, the octogenarian businessman at the heart of the controversy, has a history of bribing public officials.

Just when you think our "justice system" can't get any uglier, up pops a case like William B. Cashion and Western Steel Inc. v. Steven Mark Hayden, et al (Case No. CV-2012-209). After pondering some of the sordid details in this case, you might feel compelled to cleanse yourself with an industrial strength shower. (See key documents in Part 1 and Part 2 of a renewed motion for recusal, at the end of this post.)

Where to begin? Well, let's start with evidence of attempted bribery. From page 8 of Part 1 in the recusal motion:

At some point the office of Judge Robert Vance received cash from Western Steel and/or William Cashion. 
Defendant Steven Mark Hayden (“Hayden”) was asked about his knowledge of these funds. Hayden testified that he knew only what he was told by Defendant, Frankie Cashion (“Frankie”). . . . 
Hayden later filed a motion with the Court requesting disclosure regarding the bribe. . . . 
From the deposition it is clear that Plaintiffs’ counsel had information regarding the details of this bribe.

Vance admits in the record that cash came his way--and yet, he has resisted all requests for him to step down from the case. Exhibits 8-11 in Part 2 of the recusal motion provide key evidence. From the motion:

At a subsequent hearing Judge Vance was asked about the aforementioned cash. . . .  Judge Vance revealed that he had transmitted the funds to the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified as well.

Now we know that the bribery issue is serious enough for the FBI to be on alert--and the funds apparently came from the plaintiffs--but defendants are supposed to feel good about their chances of fair treatment in the case?

More details about the apparent bribe can be found in Exhibit 12. (See pages 31-33 of Exhibit 12 in Part 2 of the recusal motion below.) Vance says he received $500--five $100 bills--in an envelope that was sent to his home, apparently from Western Steel Inc. Vance described the envelope as "suspicious" and turned it over to authorities, who apparently have opened no case on the matter.

Plaintiff William B. Cashion is co-founder of Bessemer-based Western Steel Inc., and the record suggests he has a history of bribing public officials. Evidence includes an e-mail from Malcolm "Sandy" Wadsworth, one of Cashion's business associates, who says Cashion never has intended to use legitimate legal process in court cases that grew from his questionable investments in an Alabama gold mine.

The Wadsworth e-mail can be found as Exhibit A in Part 1 of the recusal motion below, and it says in part:

The Cashion team was completely against any peace discussions, they are happy with war, they are eager to fight and bent on destroying Mark Hayden in a Jefferson County Circuit Court. . . . (It was suggested that the deck is strongly stacked in Mr. Cashion’s favor in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. Mr. Cashion has bragged to the Wadsworths about how he has influenced Judges to rule in his favor during two previous court battles. He also told the Wadsworths that this is what you have to do if you desire to win in an Alabama Court.)

The Wadswoth e-mail goes on to state:

“The Cashion team is not playing fair and [is] bent on destruction … Mr. Cashion believes in the divine right of money and he believes because he has it he can do whatever he wants, no matter the cost to others.”

Consider some of the disturbing language in the Wadsworth e-mail:

* "Mr. Cashion believes in the divine right of money . . . "

* "[Cashion] also told the Wadsworths that this is what you have to do if you desire to win in an Alabama court case."

Is William B. Cashion trying to "buy justice" in Judge Robert Vance Jr.'s court room? It sure looks that way, but that is not the most disturbing aspect of this case. Mr. Cashion is well into his 80s, he is a private citizen, and court documents suggest he might not be of sound mind.

But that is not the case with Robert Vance Jr. He is an elected official who appears to be Cashion's enabler. Vance is using public resources to subvert the 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. 

William B. Cashion might be an old, mean-spirited, guy, but the public's main concern should be with the actions of Judge Robert Vance Jr.

(To be continued)

Previously in the series:

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. Faces Lawsuit Seeking $25 Million in Damages (May 20, 2013)

Federal Lawsuit Claims AL Judge Robert Vance Jr. Favors Large Law Firm That Backs Him Financially (May 30, 2013)

With $25 Million Federal Lawsuit As A Backdrop, Judge Robert Vance Jr. Resists Calls For His Recusal (June 20, 2013)

Federal Court Cites Immunity In Granting Dismissal Of A $25-Million Federal Lawsuit Against Judge Robert Vance (July 8, 2013)

Man Who Claimed To Have Ted Rollins' Cell Phone Wanted Hard Cash In Exchange For His "Treasure"

How did our storyline about an unknown caller and Ted Rollins' iPhone reach a conclusion? Let's just say the episode started in a strange fashion--and it ended that way.

The caller said he worked for a construction/renovation company, and Rollins' Campus Crest Communities is the firm's largest customer. Someone at Campus Crest caused the caller to be fired from his job, so when the man realized he was in possession of Ted Rollins' old cell phone . . . well, he did some searching on the Web, discovered my blog, and thought I might be interested in the phone.

While scrolling through information on the phone, the caller said he learned a lot about Campus Crest. He saw documents about a lawsuit in Alabama, apparently at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, about a girl whose apartment had been broken into--and her parents were alleging lax security and negligent supervision at the complex. (See video at the end of this post.)

The man gave me the impression that he felt the phone had journalistic value, because of Ted Rollins' status as CEO of a major Wall Street-supported company, and he wanted to send me the phone. I told him that I didn't see a problem with that, as long as the phone had, in fact, been given to him, and thus, was his property.

It turns out the man was interested in more than journalism--he wanted to turn a profit. In an e-mail, he offered to give me the phone in exchange for $750. I said, no thanks, and that was the end of it.

Who was the guy? I don't know. He used an e-mail apparently was designed to hide his identity.

What were his real motivations? I don't know, but my No. 1 guess is that he was trying to pull some sort of scam on me, perhaps at the instigation of someone connected to Ted Rollins. I notified Ted Rollins via e-mail about the episode, on the off chance that the man was trying to pull a scam on him. I received no reply, so that makes me think I was the likely target.

As for alleged pornographic images on the phone, referenced in an earlier post, I doubt that they existed. And if they did, I'm not sure they qualified as child pornography, based on the description I was given. The caller seemed to think that Ted Rollins was at risk of criminal prosecution because of the images, but I find that unlikely.

Was wrongdoing involved in all of this? I think it's possible. To make false representations, in an effort to sell a cell phone that probably does not exist or is not in your possession, might qualify as attempted wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1343

I intend to research that issue further before deciding what, if anything, I should do about this.

Previously in the series:

How Did An iPhone Belong To CEO Ted Rollins Come To Play Central Role In Curious Con Game? (July 9, 2013)

A Glimpse at Information on Ted Rollins' Cell Phone Raises Questions About Alabama Divorce Case (July 11, 2013)

Man Who Claims To Have CEO Ted Rollins' iPhone Describes Scheme To Deceive Stockholders (July 18, 2013)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Has Bonnie Cahalane's Lawyer Been Compromised By Allegations Of Infidelity In Her Own Divorce Case?

Angie Avery and Jamie Collins
The Alabama lawyer who failed to prevent Bonnie Cahalane's unlawful incarceration last year--and also has failed to prevent the unlawful sale of Cahalane's home--faces allegations of infidelity in her own divorce case.

Angie Avery Collins, of Clanton, is seeking a divorce from James Thomas "Jamie" Collins, but her estranged husband alleges in court documents that she engaged in an extramarital affair with a Chilton County sheriff's deputy named Shane Mayfield.

Jamie Collins states in a counterclaim that his wife's "course of conduct" created an "incompatibility of temperament" in the marriage. Jamie Collins goes on to state that the "bonds of trust have been severed."

This suggests that Angie Avery Collins is in a vulnerable position with her own pending divorce case. Does that explain, at least in part, Ms. Collins' weak representation of Bonnie Cahalane? Did Angie Avery Collins fail to fight for Bonnie Cahalane's personal freedom, and her property rights, because she wanted to gain favor with the Chilton County judicial establishment for her own divorce case.

I tried to arrange an interview with Ms. Collins to explore such issues, but she has refused to take questions on her divorce case and its possible impact on the Bonnie Cahalane matter.

A timeline of events raises serious questions about Angie Avery Collins' loyalty to her client in Wyatt v. Wyatt, where Bonnie Cahalane sought a divorce from Harold Jay Wyatt. The comment to Rule 1.7 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure states the following about a lawyer's duty to her client:

Loyalty is an essential element in the lawyer’s relationship to a client. An impermissible conflict of interest may exist before representation is undertaken, in which event the representation should be declined. . . .
If such a conflict arises after representation has been undertaken, the lawyer should withdraw from the representation.

Has Angie Avery Collins followed through on her professional obligations? Let's consider the following timeline:

* July 12, 2012--Angie and Jamie Collins are separated;
* July 26, 2012--Bonnie Cahalane Wyatt is incarcerated due to her failure to pay an alleged property-related debt in Wyatt v. Wyatt;
* September 11, 2012--Angie Collins files for divorce from Jamie Collins;
* September 28, 2012--Jamie Collins responds with a counterclaim for divorce;
* December 14, 2012--A court document is filed in which Jamie Collins raises specific issues of infidelity involving his wife and Shane Mayfield;
* December 18, 2012--Bonnie Cahalane is released from jail when she "agrees" to sell her house to helped settle an alleged debt to Harold Wyatt. This agreement was reached while Cahalane was under the duress of returning to jail if she did not give her OK. Under such conditions any agreement or contract is void.

The Collins divorce originally was assigned to Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds, 
the same judge who unlawfully threw Bonnie Cahalane in jail and coerced into an agreement for the sale of her house. The divorce case since has been assigned to a judge from Talladega County, upon Jamie Collins' motion to recuse all Chilton County judges because of their working relationships with Angie Collins.

Does Ms. Collins possess the wherewithal to stand up to Judge Reynolds, or anyone else in the Alabama judicial hierarchy, when she's in a weak position with her own divorce case? The answer appears to be no.

Black-letter Alabama law--perhaps best stated in a case styled Dolberry v. Dolberry, 920 So. 2d 573 (Ala. Civ. App., 2005) --holds that a party is not subject to contempt and incarceration because of a property-related debt from dissolution of a marriage. Did Angie Collins cite Dolberry, or similar cases, to help keep her client out of jail? We've studied the record and see no sign that she did.

Another fundamental legal concept--well stated in a case styled Claybrook v. Claybrook (Ala. Civ. App., 2010)--holds that a contract is void when it is reached under duress. Did Angie Collins cite Claybrook, or similar cases, to protect her client's property rights? Again, the answer appears to be no.

That brings us back to issues that Angie Collins' faces in her own divorce case. And that brings us to a Chilton County sheriff's deputy named Shane Mayfield.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

MS Federal Judge Henry Wingate Has An Ugly Habit Of Allowing Cases To Gather Dust On His Docket

Henry Wingate
The federal judge who presided over the Bush-era political prosecution of former Mississippi attorney Paul Minor has a history of letting cases sit for months, even years, with little or no action on them.

We have shown in a series of posts on the Minor criminal case that U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, based in Jackson, Mississippi, is breathtakingly corrupt.  That issue takes on added urgency now that Minor has been released from prison and is facing a lawsuit from insurance giant USF&G that grew out of the criminal prosecution--and Wingate is in the dubious position of presiding over that case, too.

A lack of ethics is not the only troubling feature of Henry Wingate's "judicial temperament." A recent report from the Jackson Free Press (JFP) indicates the judge is lazy, incompetent, or both. In a piece by R.L. Nave, JFP reports that it obtained a March 22, 2013, report showing Wingate has a backlog of cases that is far larger than those of other judges. 

The report shows Wingate had 49 cases on his docket, with 97 different motions pending longer than six months. Wingate's backlog far exceeds that of the judge with the second highest number of motions older than six months—Judge Carlton Reeves, with 17 six-month-old motions pending as of March. Judge Keith Starrett had six motions pending, while the other 11 federal judges had no cases older than six months, the report shows.

What does this mean for parties who come before Wingate? Nave spells it out in the JFP report:

On June 26, 2002, Roger Johnson was alone in a recreation room at the Hinds County Detention Center when a group of fellow prisoners attacked him. Johnson, who is serving a 30-year-sentence for armed robbery at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, filed a lawsuit in federal court against then-Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin and jail guard Delanio Sanders for failing to protect him from the assault.
That was May 2004.
Since Johnson filed his suit, Hinds County has a new sheriff, and Mississippi has a new governor, but one aspect of the lawsuit hasn't changed: It remains on the civil docket of U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate.

The judicial and legal establishment is well aware of Wingate's tendency to sit on cases.  In 2010, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals scolded Wingate for taking more than six years to enter a final judgment in a civil case. From a article about the Fifth Circuit's finding in the case:

In a footnote to its decision released earlier this month, the panel said, "the district court sat on the verdict for six and one half years before it entered a judgment. It is truly regrettable that the plaintiff has been denied his just recovery for these several years by the lack of judicial diligence."

If you live in the Southern District of Mississippi, Henry Wingate has the authority to take away your freedom--even if you committed no crime, as was the case with the Minor prosecution. He also has the authority to take away some, or all, of your assets--money and personal property that perhaps you have lawfully accumulated over your entire life.

We have put this sort of power in the hands of a man who cannot show the slightest hint of "judicial diligence"? That is a frightening proposition, and even lawyers in Wingate's district know it. From the JFP article:

The JFP contacted several attorneys who declined to speak on the record about Wingate's lack of urgency in dispensing with his cases, but the consensus among attorneys who practice in federal court seems to be that drawing Wingate is undesirable.
One attorney, who practices in federal court and did agree to speak but asked that we not use his or her name, said Wingate's delays "have a very harmful impact" on plaintiffs who are seeking relief through the courts.
"The old adage that 'justice delayed is justice denied' is very apt here," the attorney said.

Luther Strange's Mistress Sought To Modify Custody In Order To Take Top AG Position In Montgomery

Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange
Jessica Medeiros Garrison tried to modify the custody agreement in her divorce case so she could take a job in Montgomery with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. When Garrison's ex husband objected to the relocation, she took up residence in Birmingham and went to work for an organization that recently funneled $50,000 to the campaign of . . . Luther Strange.

Is this the sort of political back-scratching that grew from a longstanding extramarital affair between Strange and Garrison? Does their relationship go beyond questionable personal ethics to possible violations of campaign-finance laws? What kind of price has Jessica Medeiros Garrison been willing to pay in order to climb the ladder of high-level Republican politics in Alabama?

We sought to put those questions, and more, to both Garrison and Strange. But they did not respond to our requests for interviews.

Some insight, however, comes from a Verified Amended Petition for Modification of Custody filed on August 22, 2011, in Jessica Garrison's divorce from Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison. (See document at the end of this post.) The parties both lived in Tuscaloosa when the divorce was completed on October 21, 2009, and they reached a custody agreement for their son, Michael Lee Garrison (date of birth, 3/27/07).

Jessica Garrison managed Luther Strange's successful campaign in 2010 and was a partner at the Tuscaloosa law firm of Phelps Jenkins Gibson & Fowler when she accepted the position as Strange's chief counsel in January 2011. The new job, however, presented complications. From her petition for custody modification:

In January 2011, the Mother was offered a once-in-a-lifetime appointment as Chief Counsel and Deputy Attorney General at the Office of Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange. Her appointment followed her successful work as Luther Strange's Campaign Manager and required that she relocate to Montgomery, Alabama. The Mother duly notified the Father of her change in employment and intended relocation, expecting that given the short driving distance between Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, she and the Father would be able to work out an agreeable arrangement that would allow her to relocate with the child and still permit him generous time with their son. Instead, the Father objected to the relocation and communications between the parties deteriorated. Despite engaging in both therapeutic and formal mediation, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. The Mother never changed her principal residence to Montgomery.

What are the duties of the chief counsel for Luther Strange? The job intended for Jessica Garrison apparently went to former Bradley Arant lawyer Kevin L. Turner, and his LinkedIn profile describes the duties this way:

He serves as the principal adviser to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on all legal and administrative matters and is responsible for overseeing the operations of the office.

Turner only has been practicing law since September 2007, so it's hard to see how he is qualified to be principal adviser to the state's chief law-enforcement officer. The same might be said of Jessica Garrison, although she certainly is more experienced than Kevin Turner. Her only experience in a high-level state position came from working as an intern for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and working in public relations for former Attorney General William H. Pryor.

State law required Jessica Garrison to relocate within 60 miles of Tuscaloosa, and that forced a change in her career plans. From the petition for custody modification:

In an effort to minimize the conflict between the parties and to create a situation that might allow for the kind of compromise the Mother had initially envisioned, she secured alternate employment through the Republican Attorneys General Association [RAGA], effective July 27, 2011, that requires that she reside in Birmingham rather than Montgomery, and she has been hired to serve Of Counsel for the law firm of Balch & Bingham LLP in their Birmingham office. Birmingham, Alabama, is less than sixty miles from the Father's home in Tuscaloosa.

The change in job plans did not alter the close ties between Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange. RAGA is an affiliate of the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which has engaged in a number of curious financial maneuvers involving Indian gaming money, Luther Strange, and other high-level Republicans in Alabama. 

We already know about the personal hanky panky involving Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange. We soon will be taking a closer look at their financial connections.

(To be continued)

Monday, July 22, 2013

RealtySouth Agent Amber Darnell Tries to Squelch Reporting On Unlawful Sale Of Chilton Co. House

Amber Darnell
An Alabama real-estate agent has tried to put a halt to reporting on the unlawful sale of a house in Chilton County.

Amber Darnell, of RealtySouth, is listed in court documents as the agent for the sale of a house belonging to Clanton resident Bonnie Cahalane.

I contacted Darnell recently and informed her that Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds had unlawfully ordered Cahalane jailed for five months last year as part of the fallout from a divorce case styled Wyatt v. Wyatt. The judge then orchestrated an agreement for the sale of Ms. Cahalane's house while she was under threat of being returned to jail if she did not comply.

When I informed Darnell that both the incarceration and resulting sales agreement were contrary to black-letter Alabama law, she didn't much seem to care. "I'm just doing what the court has told me to do," she said.

Darnell, however, did seem to care about any unsightly publicity that might come from the sale. (See video at the end of this post.) Here is part of our exchange:

"There's nothing I've said that you would need to publish." 
"Well, that's for me to decide." 
"No, it's not because I'm the one who's verbally saying it. And there's not anything I've said or anything that you need to publish." 
"I will publish what I feel needs to be done."

Darnell then referenced a statement I had made earlier about Cahalane's right not to be unlawfully incarcerated or be the victim of court-ordered theft. Somehow, Darnell equated that to her own alleged right not to be quoted about the sale of a house for which she is the listed agent:

"You're so concerned about someone else's rights, but when it comes to my rights, you're not worried about mine?" 
"What rights of yours [have I violated]? I told you who I am and asked a few questions." 
"And I said what I need to say and said you don't need to publish anything at this point." 
"Well, you don't have that right, to tell me whether or not to publish. I make that decision."

Since that approach didn't seem to be working, Darnell decided to try insults:

"I've read your blog--it was brought to my attention by the ex husband (Harold Wyatt)--I know you are attacking RealtySouth and anyone you can attack." 
"I'm publishing information that is right from the court file. You are the listed agent, and that's fact."

It seemed Darnell could use a refresher course on some basics of the law. So I decided to give her one:

"A woman is about to lose her house, and I consider that kind of important. The law is what's written; it's not what Sibley Reynolds says it is. . . . This is a judge who throws someone in jail for five months on a supposed debt? You just can't do that. 
"Then you can't have a contract with the threat of the person going back to jail if she doesn't agree to it. That's Law School 101."

Darnell tried, without much success, to distance herself from inconvenient truths:

"I was not part of her being in jail. I don't know anything about that." 
"How did the house come to be listed with you?" 
"It was court ordered."
"I would encourage you to look beneath that court order because it's unlawful. I'm sure you wouldn't want to have your house taken from you unlawfully. I wouldn't want it done to me, and I don't want it done to Ms. [Cahalane]. We have lots of problems with judges who don't rule according to what the law says. That's what I'm trying to shine light on."