|William M. Acker Jr.|
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it's debatable whether Fuller is the worst federal judge in Alabama. There is a lot of competition for that "honor," but it might have to go to William M. Acker Jr., an 87-year-old Reagan appointee who has the charming habit of telling parties to their faces, in open court, that he is going to cheat them--and then he does it.
During my employment case against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and a number of individuals at UAB--where I was fired after almost 20 years on the job for reporting accurately on this blog about Judge Fuller's unlawful actions in the Don Siegelman case (see here and here)--Acker cheated me in a variety of ways.
But No. 1 on the list was his denial of discovery--and failure to set a discovery schedule--even after he had converted the university's motions to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. Black-letter law shows that Acker corruptly denied discovery, but his actions in other cases prove that he knows his obligations under the law, but intentionally failed to abide by them in the UAB case.
Why is that? For one, discovery probably would have unearthed a treasure trove of e-mails, text messages, and other communications that would have proven I was the victim of discrimination--and I was fired in violation of my First Amendment rights. Two, my termination clearly was driven by someone connected to the administration of then Governor Bob Riley--probably former "first son" Rob Riley--and we've seen evidence that Acker has a history of protecting Rob Riley against allegations of fraud and other malfeasance. (See here and here.)
It's not as if Acker was dealing with complicated law in my UAB case. Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) requires that discovery be conducted before summary judgment is considered. Controlling case law in the Eleventh Circuit--via a case styled Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988)--makes the same holding. Snook nicely sums up the law as follows:
This court has often noted that summary judgment should not be granted until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity for discovery. . . . The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a right to challenge the affidavits and other factual materials submitted in support of the motion by conducting sufficient discovery so as to enable him to determine whether he can furnish opposing affidavits. . . . Generally summary judgment is inappropriate when the party opposing the motion has been unable to obtain responses to his discovery requests.
How blatant were Acker's actions in granting the university summary judgment without allowing discovery? Rule 26(f) FRCP requires the parties to conduct a discovery-scheduling conference, submitting a written report to the court. Under Rule 16(b) FRCP, the trial judge must issue a scheduling order, setting dates when discovery is to begin and end.
Acker admitted in open court that the case was at summary-judgment stage, and there had been no discovery schedule and no discovery. (Anyone can call up PACER or check the file on public computers at the Hugo Black Courthouse in Birmingham and see that no discovery took place.) This is straight from a court transcript, which can be viewed at the end of this post, as Acker addresses university lawyer Lisa Huggins, on pages 15 and 16:
THE COURT: In your case, I'm going to convert it to a motion for summary judgment and put a submission order out, which would require him to controvert anything that you say in your motion for summary judgment that is dispositive in the way of present condition. He is right that there has been no scheduling order, there has been no discovery.
In the same transcript, Acker admits that I had a right to conduct discovery--in fact, the law says the court is required to grant discovery:
I think he has a point, that the alternative motion to dismiss should be converted to a motion for summary judgment, which might occasion some right by him to invoke Rule 56(f)--I don't know whether he is familiar with that or not; I think maybe he is--which would allow him to poke around into your people to some degree before we get to that.
These two exchanges show that Huggins is as corrupt as Acker. She's acting like it's a debatable point that the law requires discovery, when it isn't. Even Acker, at that point in the proceedings, more or less tells her that she's full of feces. But this gives you a sense of how desperate Huggins and university officials were to make sure I was not allowed "to poke around into (their) people."
Acker made statements in open court that indicate he had communications with individuals connected to UAB. Someone must have convinced him, at some point, it was best to violate the law and deny me discovery--probably because depositions and requests for production of documents would have shown that Rob Riley, or someone connected to him, was responsible for my termination.
How serious is this? The evidence points to obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and perhaps enough criminality to justify an investigation under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. In other words, this gives off a strong whiff of organized crime.
Acker ultimately granted summary judgment to the university, without discovery, and tried to justify it with an order that is shameless and absurd to the point that it would be comical--if it weren't so corrupt. I replied with a Motion to Alter, Amend or Vacate Judgment, citing the exact law that Acker had butchered. (Both documents can be viewed at the end of this post, along with the hearing transcript.) Acker, of course, ignored my efforts to get him to follow the law.
But here is something fascinating: We've examined documents related to other cases Acker has handled, even employment cases similar to mine, and he has consistently ordered and allowed discovery. This provides clear evidence that he knowingly violated the law in my case, and we will spell it out in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)