Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I am one of only three journalists in the past 115 years to be sent to jail related to a purely civil matter

Actress Judy Garland became
part of a historic defamation
We have shown that I am the only journalist in the 2000s to be incarcerated in a civil matter, a case that had nothing to do with an alleged crime. How many journalists were incarcerated over purely civil cases in the 1900s?

The answer shines disturbing light on events that led to me being thrown in the Shelby County, Alabama, jail from October 23, 2013, to March 26, 2014. It also might cause citizens to ask if Judge Claud Neilson, Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley, and lobbyist Liberty Duke--the three individuals most responsible for my incarceration--should be subject to a federal investigation.

As to our original question, only two journalists were jailed over civil matters in the 20th century--and both cases involved circumstances radically different from those in my case.

How extraordinary were the actions of Riley, Duke, and Neilson? For some perspective, I'm only the third journalist to be jailed in a civil matter in 115 years--since the days of the William McKinley presidency.

Actually, my incarceration was even more extraordinary than the previous paragraph suggests, but we will save details about that for an upcoming post.

For now, we know that a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case styled Branzburg v. Hayes allows for the imprisonment of journalists who refuse to turn over information related to a criminal case. According to a list compiled in April 2013 by Fox News, that has happened at least 28 times since 1900, five times in the 2000s.

What about the two civil cases where journalists were sent to jail in the 1900s? One of them involved an actress who played the lead role in one of the most beloved movies of all time. The other involved alleged political chicanery in a small Illinois town. Let's take a look:

* Garland v. Torre (1958)--Judy Garland, best known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, sued New York Herald Tribune writer Marie Torre, claiming quotes in a Torre column from an unnamed CBS executive defamed her. Torre reported that Garland was balking at a planned CBS special because, according to a network source, Garland thought she was "terribly fat" at the time. Garland claimed the statement was false and defamatory and harmed her professional reputation. Garland's lawyers took Torre's deposition, but she repeatedly refused to reveal the identity of her source. A federal judge sentenced Torre to 10 days in jail for contempt of court. This was the first case where a plaintiff faced a formal First Amendment challenge to a demand for information about sources.

* Costello v. Capital Cities Communications, et al (1984)--Richard Hargraves, an editorial writer for the Belleville (IL) News-Democrat, wrote an unflattering piece about Jerry Costello, chairman of the county board of supervisors. Hargraves wrote that Costello had lied regarding a campaign promise to oppose new taxes, and Costello sued for libel. During a deposition, Hargraves refused to name anyone in county government to whom he had spoken before writing the editorial, and a judge ordered him jailed for three days.

How do Garland and Costello differ from my case? Perhaps the biggest difference is that the plaintiffs in these cases did not seek unlawful preliminary injunctions. Also, the plaintiffs clearly sought trials because parties were subjected to depositions and cross-examination as part of trial preparation. There was nothing even resembling a trial in my case. Neilson conducted one hearing, to which I was escorted from the Shelby County Jail in shackles and chains, and that was it.

Lawyers for Garland and Costello apparently knew that the law does not allow for a preliminary injunction in a defamation case. Rob Riley and Liberty Duke apparently didn't know it or chose to ignore it. I lost five months of my freedom because of that.


Anonymous said...

Actually, you are not the first journalist to be sent to jail in the 2000s. Why? Because you are NOT a journalist. You are a blogger. Big difference. By your logic, any idiot with a computer is a "journalist." You, sir, are merely a guy with a computer and some opinions. And most importantly, you do not deserve to be thrown in jail for writing those opinions on this little blog you have created.

legalschnauzer said...

The Committee to Protect Journalists begs to differ with you. So does my journalism degree. So does my 30 plus years of experience with newspapers, magazines, and a university. So do the many heavily sourced and documented stories on this blog.

But I don't need to waste my time with a bomb thrower who shows his "courage" by posting as "Anonymous."

Anonymous said...

There was at least two hearings. One you chose not to attend. I've noticed a pattern of you not attending court.

Anonymous said...

Are you ever going to stop pretending that you were jailed for anything other than contempt of court? And that whatever the merits of your argument about prior restraint, you chose to ignore the process through which you could have presented those arguments?

Anonymous said...

During the Scooter Libby/Plame affair, did someone, maybe not a journalist, get in trouble for not identifying a source? I am overdrawn at the memory bank and can't remember.

Anonymous said...

You won't accept criticism from anonymous posters, but you're perfectly willing to fawn over anonymous posters who agree with you. Double standard?

legalschnauzer said...

Don't know if @9:36 and @10:00 are the same person, but I will address them as the same. Neither seems capable of grasping facts:

(1) We were never lawfully served with the lawsuit, so we had no obligation to attend the first court hearing. We received less than 24 hours notice of the first hearing, which is contrary to Alabama law. I'm not aware of any law that says you are required to attend a hearing when you haven't been lawfully served and you haven't been lawfully noticed. The standard is 30 days to answer any lawsuit, and we were not given that.

(2) We also did not ignore the process, as has been wrongfully reported at numerous Web sites. We filed a Motion to Quash Service, which was the first order of business in the case. I was awaiting a ruling on that--and was planning to address other issues such as unlawful contempt order, prior restraint, etc.--when I was basically kidnapped from my own home.

Those are the facts, and they are reflected in the court record, which I always wanted to be public--unlike the plaintiffs, who wanted it sealed.

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, a journalist did get in trouble in the Valerie Plame affair, @10:11. Judith Miller, of the NY Times, went to jail for failing to reveal her sources on that story. I wrote about the Plame/Miller story at the link below. That, however, involved a criminal matter, the apparent outing of a CIA operative.

Mine was a civil matter, and only two other journalists have been jailed in civil matters over the past 115 years--and neither of those involved an unlawful preliminary injunction, as mine did.

In other words, the actions against me have no precedent in U.S. history, at least dating back to 1900.

legalschnauzer said...

No, it's not a double standard, @10:20. We've had criticism in the comments here for years. But if the criticism is based on inaccurate information, I'm going to correct it. If praise is based on inaccurate information, I will point that out, too.

In recent days, I've allowed an anonymous poster to go on and on, with contentions that were inaccurate. But I'm not going to allow someone to hijack the accuracy of this blog without telling me who they are.

You can attempt to debate me. But at some point, I want to know who I'm debating and what his/her agenda might be, especially if they persist in presenting arguments that are flawed and based on inaccurate information.

It's a matter of simple fairness. You know who I am, and my background is out there for anyone to see. If you think you are up for a debate, one that carries on over multiple comments, I want to know who I'm talking to.

This is my blog, and I've worked hard to establish it as a place where information is accurate and credible--and everything has my name on it; I take responsibility for content of the posts here.

An anonymous poster is not going to undermine that mission. If you have the courage to identify yourself and try to back up your position, that's a different matter. But I will challenge you where I know you are off target.

Anonymous said...

Judy Garland was a babe!

Anonymous said...

I have a degree in philosophy, but that doesn't make me a philosopher. And just because you were once a legitimate journalist doesn't mean you are now. You run a blog. Anyone can have a blog. My 15 year old nephew has a blog. Does that make him a "journalist?" No. You are nothing more than a hack who likes to get uninformed people worked up over your causes. You weren't jailed for anything noble. You were jailed because a court ordered you to do something and you didn't do it. You're no more noble than Judge Roy Moore was for disobeying a court order to remove his 10 commandments monument.

Anonymous said...

You expect people to believe that you are some poor soul who people keep picking on. But you are the bully. You hide behind your computer screen and pretend you are some kind of "victim." At some point, you gotta look at the common denominator in all of these issues. YOU. You are a troublemaker. Oh but everyone is out to get you. You got fired from UAB because you were blogging on company time (taxpayer time). But its THEIR fault. You got sued by someone and in retaliation you made a joke and entertainment out of the untimely passing of their son. Yeah, that's "justice." You try to pass yourself off as some kind of hero for justice. But all you are is a crybaby with a blog. And your causes are no longer noble. You are a joke.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes. Another idiot with an overinflated sense of self-importance.

legalschnauzer said...

My, someone's panties are seriously bunched today. I wonder why. And what impressive courage we see from the anonymous name caller.

You seem to imply that I'm "self important," but you are the one who gets to decide who is and is not a journalist in the country? Try looking in the mirror, bub. Also, try looking up the thousands and thousands of articles I've written for newspapers and magazines (local and national).

I've never claimed anything I've done here is "noble." I was arrested contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law--that's fact. I will let others decide whether it's noble, ignoble, or whatever.

I have a service that tells me a great deal about my readership, and they are anything but uninformed. In fact, you are one of the few uninformed readers I've encountered on here. And you persist on digging your hole of ignorance even deeper.

As for a common denominator, that is corrupt judges who fail to follow black-letter law. Every case I've been involved in is public record, and anyone can go and check the documents, compare them against the actual law, and see what I'm talking about. Of course, that takes work, and you surely are too lazy to do it. Tossing around names, like a third grader, is easier. And you call me a bully? Hah. Mr. Pot meet Mr. Kettle.

Finally, your statement regarding someone suing me and me making a "joke or entertainment" about the untimely passing of their son . . . well, I'm baffled. I'm not aware that anyone who has sued me has lost a son, and I certainly haven't joked or made entertainment about it.

Your ability to grasp at straws now seems to include making up stuff from whole cloth. What a guy!

BTW, if you want any more of your name calling comments to see the light of day, contact me via private e-mail and ID yourself.

Otherwise, I have no more time to waste on an uninformed coward like you.

Anonymous said...

LS, I love it when some clueless lowlife tries to take you on, without having "enough bullets in his pistol." To use another cowboy metaphor, the person usually is "all hat and no cattle." It's a scream to watch you take them down several pegs. Very entertaining.

Anonymous said...

You're not a journalist. You're a blogger. Anyone with a computer can do what you do. It doesn't matter is you've managed to garner sympathy from people who don't know you and your back story.

legalschnauzer said...

Oh, you know me and my "back story"? I'm sure you're a real expert on that.
You're certainly not an expert on the law. Do you know much about anything?

If blogging is so easy and you know so much, why don't you start a blog about my "back story." I would love to see it.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to 2:42 --

You don't provide a single specific fact that you know anything about me or my "back story."

Let's see if you can send a comment with names, places, general dates, actual facts, etc.

I'm betting you can't do it. You like to throw bombs, but you aren't so good at facts and the law. You also appear to have zero courage.

Stupid and cowardly . . . tough way to go through life.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
legalschnauzer said...

Memo to 11:25 --

Sorry, but you missed again. Not a single word of truth in your comment. Still no names, dates, facts, etc.

And it would help if there was a grain of truth, too.

I think I've invited you before to contact me via e-mail at, identify yourself, and I would be happy to discuss.

Not sure why someone who claims to know so much never seems to take up that simple offer.

legalschnauzer said...

Congrats, @6:51, looks like you were able to look up court docs that a few UAB perjurers filed in my employment case.

These are the same brave perjurers who I am sure were thrilled when Judge William Acker violated procedural and case law to block discovery that would have shown why I was really fired. All you are doing is regurgitating the words of people who lied under oath. If that makes you feel good, have at it.

By the way, you can't even get the perjured stories straight, which is laughable. That's how it tends to work with liars--they get caught in their lies.

By the way, does your ability to track down lie-filled court docs indicate you are a lawyer--or connected to a lawyer? You don't seem smart enough to be a lawyer--you struggle to write a semi-coherent English sentence--but experience has taught me you don't have to be very smart to be a lawyer. Your buddy, Judge Acker, is proof of that.

Actually, I think I know exactly who you are, and why your panties are in a bunch these days. I'm pretty sure you and I have spoken several times, and you have a fake public image you wish to preserve, which is why you are afraid to contact me and reveal your true identity. You are a coward--always have been, always will be. You also are a very small, sick little man, which is why you hate someone who actually stands for something.

The truth is this: I know a whole lot about your real back story, that you are a huge phony. That's why you seek out the words of perjurers in a failed attempt to come up with something negative in my back story.

What a "profile in courage" you are!

But that isn't a concern here because "you're nothing to me." Does that line ring a bell? I'm sure it does.

I wonder why you are so agitated and bitter these days? Perhaps we will find out soon. Perhaps you and I will have a reckoning soon. Wouldn't that be fun?