The No. 1 legal blog in the country yesterday picked up on our reports about photographs of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor that appeared in the 1990s at a gay porn Web site.
Above the Law (ATL), founded by Yale Law grad David Lat and based in New York City, helped unmask Pryor with a post titled, "Underneath His Robes: Nude Photos of a Federal Judge?"
ATL's piece didn't do much to advance journalism on the story--in fact, its reporting on the Pryor matter borders on pathetic. But journalism is not ATL's primary purpose. The blog is renowned for its snarky, gossipy take on inside legal news--and its audience of mostly lawyers, judges, legal analysts, and reporters eats it up. The Chicago-based social media/marketing firm Cision ranked Above the Law No. 1 on its 2012 list of the Top 50 Independent Law Blogs in North America.
(Legal Schnauzer ranked No. 37 on that list; best I can tell, we are the only entry not connected to a law firm, university, publishing firm, or interest group.)
Because of ATL's wide reach in legal circles, Bill Pryor must have found the site's coverage particularly painful. Has the Pryor story become the subject of much discussion at law firms, big and small, around the country? Above the Law indicates the answer is yes:
Circles around the water coolers in offices of the federal judiciary are very busy today. It seems that a rumor is circulating about a prominent conservative judge who allegedly posed for nude photographs before heading to law school. The photos, which made their way to badpuppy.com, one of the largest gay pornography sites on the worldwide web, depict a handsome young man staring into the camera, expressionless, his genitalia fully exposed.
Before zeroing in on Pryor, ATL notes that he is not the first judge to face scrutiny because of sex-related missteps:
If true, this would not be the first time that a respected jurist has inadvertently revealed what lies underneath their robes. Judge Wade McCree of Michigan bared it all when one of his sext messages was leaked to the public. Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas blushed red as a Canadian maple leaf when nude photographs of Her Honor engaging in bondage acts surfaced online.
On the other hand, if the gossip that is making the rounds is true, it would likely be the first time that a federal judge seated on one of the United States circuit courts has been caught with his pants around his ankles — or in this case, with no pants at all . . .
Who is this pantless judge? That would be Bill Pryor, the conservative boy wonder from Mobile, Alabama, who now makes his home in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills--and has his federal duty station at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse downtown:
The judge implicated in this affair is William Holcombe Pryor Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit, who also serves on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Though we have no way to confirm if the accusations are true, we can’t help but notice a resemblance between Judge Pryor and the attractive young man in the pictures (meaning that Judge Pryor is quite the judicial superhottie).
David Lat, by the way, is gay, so that explains ATL's funky approach to the Pryor story, describing him as "quite the judicial superhottie." I would beg to differ with that description of Pryor, but then my perspective is quite different from that of David Lat and his staff.
ATL notes that the story originated with Legal Schnauzer (and yours truly, Roger Shuler), even running one of the photos that we unearthed, providing a discreet black screen over Pryor's genital region. ATL repeats Pryor's assertion to us that the photos are not of him, and then invites readers to decide for themselves.
I get a kick out of ATL's off-center take on legal affairs, and its attention to the Pryor story has got to be a major embarrassment to more than just the featured judge--it's a huge black mark on the entire federal judiciary. I was, however, disappointed with--though not surprised by--the poor journalism on display in the ATL story.
|Bill Pryor at ATL|
Zaretsky also claims I might have an "axe to grind" because I've "lost" a couple of lawsuits in the Eleventh Circuit, Pryor's court.
Here is exactly how ATL addressed these issues:
It’s worth noting that Shuler may have an axe to grind against the judiciary. Other posts on his website refer to federal judges as corrupt, and he’s filed and lost lawsuits in Judge Pryor’s court, the Eleventh Circuit (see here and here). There’s a website dedicated to exposing the supposed truth behind some of Shuler’s scurrilous tales, which notes that he has been sued for defamation and accuses him of being a “Wannabe Journalist, Pseudo Court Commentator and Cyber Bully.”
If Zaretsky had bothered to do the slightest bit of legwork--like picking up the phone and calling me, or sending an e-mail--she would have discovered that, in fact, it's not "worth noting" these issues. And here is why:
(1) Zaretsky's notion that I "may have an axe to grind" should be offensive to anyone, of either gender, who has been victimized and chosen to fight back. Let's apply Zaretsky's thinking to one of the ugliest subjects of all--rape. Imagine a victim who fights back against a rapist with everything she's got--and even proceeds to identify him in court, with all of the stress and blow back that often entails. Does that victim have "an axe to grind" with the man who raped her? Is her axe particularly sharp because she had the audacity to unmask him in a public forum?
(2) Zaretsky provides links to documents from two lawsuits that I've "lost" in the Eleventh Circuit. One was a lawsuit my wife and I filed against debt collectors who violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The other was my First Amendment/age discrimination lawsuit against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and other defendants connected to UAB, where I worked for almost 20 years before being unlawfully terminated because of my reporting on this blog.
(As regular readers know, that last sentence is not a guess on my part; I have tape-recorded statements from UAB human-resources official Anita Bonasera admitting I was targeted because of my work here about the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. See video at the end of this post.)
Zaretsky tries to make hay over my characterization of several federal judges as "corrupt." But had she bothered to check the case files and relevant law on the two cases cited, she would have found that the judges on those matters did act in a "corrupt" fashion. U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon butchered the FDCPA case, and as I've reported in a number of posts, that is a matter of public record--it's not just my opinion. The same applies to U.S. District Judge William Acker Jr. and his hatchet job on my UAB case.
Had Zaretsky researched my blog a little bit, she would have found that I've accurately reported the corrupt actions of federal judges on cases that have nothing to do with me. (In fact, only a small percentage of our posts here are about cases involving my wife or me.) Perhaps the best-known examples involve Judge Mark Fuller (Middle District of Alabama) in the Siegelman case and Judge Henry Wingate (Southern District of Mississippi) in the Paul Minor.
Am I a lone whack job, a "disgruntled litigant," howling at the moon by myself about corrupt federal judges? Not exactly. Scott Horton, a Harper's columnist and Columbia University law professor, has written extensively about the unlawful actions of Fuller and Wingate. (See here and here.) Andrew Kreig, a University of Chicago law graduate who is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Justice-Integrity Project, has written numerous reports about Fuller and other corrupt federal judges. (See here and here.) My reports about the Minor case were cited in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's 2007 investigation on Bush-era political prosecutions.
(3) Zaretsky's reference to a Web site that claims it's dedicated to "exposing the truth" about my reporting is an example of lazy, shallow journalism, of the lowest order.
A 30-second glance at the Web site in question would have revealed that its author is so "dedicated" that he doesn't reveal his identity. It also would have shown that the site offers not one citation to fact or law that counters any of my reporting. Most importantly, Zaretsky easily could have found out that the site is sponsored by someone connected to Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins, and it started in response to my accurate reporting about Rollins' ties to child abuse, perjury, failure to pay child support, and more. That doesn't even include my reporting about a state investigation in North Carolina based on a citizen's complaint about Rollins' possible child sexual abuse of his stepson--the same stepson who was the complainant when Rollins was convicted for assault.
(4) Finally, Zaretsky claims I have been sued for defamation, without bothering to learn that I haven't been served with any such lawsuit. Given that a court takes jurisdiction only when a defendant has been lawfully served, it's difficult for a complaint to get very far without service--and it's a matter of fact that service has not taken place in the alleged legal action against me.
Did Zaretsky make an effort to research any of that? I guess not, apparently because she was too busy referring to Bill Pryor as a "judicial superhottie."
I give Above the Law high marks for building a substantial audience and bringing attention to the Bill Pryor scandal. As for journalism . . . well, the site's performance is dismal in that regard.
Here is just one example of facts ATL chose to ignore in its hurry to appear "fair and balanced" by attacking the reporter who broke the Bill Pryor story: