I'm pleased to learn that John Archibald is having an awakening on the subject, via a column titled "This country is about to have a throwdown over abusive cops and courts." The piece apparently was inspired by the case of Sureshbhai Patel, the grandfather from India who was body slammed by an Alabama police officer and suffered a spinal injury requiring surgery.
A video of the Patel incident apparently went viral and made international news, causing Archibald and others at the former Birmingham News to sit up and take notice. But they are slightly late to the party, and I know from personal experience they have a history of ignoring court-related corruption--no matter how blatant it might be.
My wife and I have been dealing with corrupt judges and lawyers in Shelby County for 15 years--and I've been reporting on court corruption since starting this blog almost eight years ago. Our experience reached absurd and frightening levels when I was arrested on October 23, 2013, based on a dubious defamation lawsuit filed by Republican political honcho Rob Riley. For good measure, Riley also sought the arrest of my wife, even though she had nothing to do with Legal Schnauzer at the time.
Along the way, we have not been alone. I've written about numerous Alabamians--Sherry Rollins, Mark Hayden, Linda Upton, Angela Drees, Joe Blackburn, Bonnie Cahalane, and others--who have been victimized in Alabama courtrooms.
Where was al.com during all of this? Somewhere around 2004 I visited former editor Tom Scarritt at his office and offered documents and other details about court corruption in Shelby County. Scarritt showed zero interest in the subject and almost laughed me out of his office.
A year or two later, I met with Archibald at a coffee shop in downtown Birmingham. Archibald did listen to what I had to say, he asked some questions, and took some notes--but he never wrote anything about it.
What does Archibald say now, in the wake of the Patel case? This is from his most recent column:
I've been asked a lot lately, in the wake of the gay marriage debate, what the next great civil or human rights battleground will be. And I think this is it.
Justice. And all that means.
It is the use of force by police. It is the fairness of justice for the rich and the poor alike. The battle is simmering now, in places like Ferguson and Madison, and more quietly in courts like those in Childersburg and Clanton, where the smallest of traffic offenses can lead to jail time for those who cannot pay immediately.
What does this mean for all of us? Archibald provides perspective:
It is shaping up to be our next big fight. Which is sad, because we shouldn't have to fight at all.
For this is--as it must be--a nation of laws. For rich and for poor, for black and white and brown, for those who set out to do society harm, and for those with badges and guns--and gavels--who harm it in the name of protection. And revenue.
And law and order.
Are Archibald and Co. serious about taking on injustice? Here is one way we can tell: We've shown that, beyond doubt, the charge against Officer Eric Parker in the Patel case is incorrect--it's a misdemeanor, but the law calls for it to be a felony. Will al.com look into that? We'll see.
That is just the beginning. I would be glad to get with Archibald or another reporter and provide details about Judge Al Crowson's corrupt actions in the Sherry Rollins case (Shelby County), Judge Robert Vance Jr.'s actions in the Mark Hayden case (Jefferson County), Judge Sibley Reynolds' actions in the Bonnie Cahalane case (Chilton County), and Judge Gary Pate's actions in the Linda Upton case (Jefferson County). And that doesn't even count my own experience of being the only journalist to be arrested in the western hemisphere in 2013, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law.
Are you serious about injustice, Mr. Archibald? If you are, dive right in with the rest of us. You might be amazed at the kind of historic difference you can make.
The water is murky, and the undertow is nasty, but we've been swimming against the tide for a long time--and we're still here. You are more than welcome to join us.