Monday, February 29, 2016

"Spotlight's" Oscar win inspires, but it's a reminder that investigative journalism is on life support, reporters face danger, and scandals go unreported

Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo
from "Spotlight"
Mrs. Schnauzer and I wanted to stand and cheer as the final credits rolled at a screening of Spotlight several weeks back. We felt the same inclination last night when the little movie about investigative journalism was named Best Picture at the Academy Awards--an upset, given that The Revenant widely was seen as the favorite.

Was the win for Spotlight, and its story of the Boston Globe's efforts to uncover child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a victory for hard-nosed reporting on important subjects? It might be seen as such; several presenters and award recipients said last night that the film largely is about the power of journalism to expose corruption and affect change.

But amidst the joy felt in many quarters from Spotlight's win, the public should not ignore grim signs that the kind of reporting that inspired the film might soon become a thing of the past.

In an age of hemorrhaging budgets, many newspapers are cutting staffs to the bare bones--and beyond. Harried reporters must focus on the simplest stories of the moment--fires, car crashes, police chases--with no time to research stories that might take months (or years) to unravel. With many print editions either disappearing or being cut back, newsroom excellence often is measured in digital terms--on the number of "clicks" certain "trending" stories receive.

The Catholic Church scandal in Boston began to unfold in the early 1990s, and most of the stories at the heart of Spotlight were published in 2002. Would such stories be published today, as a weakened mainstream press seems more interested in protecting establishment interests than in unmasking them? I would say it's unlikely.

If the mainstream press won't do it, that leaves the heavy lifting to non-traditional, Web-based reporters, who often have limited funding (if they have funding at all) and face life-altering blow back from powerful forces who do not appreciate being exposed.

Consider my own experience here at Legal Schnauzer, reporting on legal, judicial, and political corruption--in Alabama and beyond. And keep in mind that I have an unusual dual role--as both a victim of, and reporter about, corruption.

Why did Mrs. Schnauzer and I feel we could not stand and cheer Spotlight's victory last night? For one, I was so convinced that The Revenant, with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio's star power, would win that I was only semi paying attention as Morgan Freeman opened the envelope and made the announcement. But even when it registered that our favorite movie of the year had pulled off a shocker, we felt compelled to remain quiet.

Why? Thanks to attacks from the legal and political conservatives who rule Alabama, we lost our home of 25 years in Birmingham to a dubious foreclosure. That came just as I was being released from a five-month stay in jail because of an unlawful contempt-of-court order that lawyer Rob Riley (son of former GOP governor Bob Riley) sought.

Before that, Carol and I had been cheated out of our jobs--her at Infinity Insurance, me at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked for almost 20 years. Tape-recorded evidence shows conclusively that I was targeted at work because of my reporting on the political prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Evidence strongly suggests that Carol was targeted because she is married to me.

When we challenged our bogus firings in federal court, we got cheated there, too. (See here and here.)

With our home in Alabama being swiped from underneath us, we were forced to move to Springfield, Missouri, where I grew up. Last September 9, we were subjected to an unlawful eviction at the apartment we were renting. In the course of throwing us and our possessions to the street, a Greene County deputy grabbed Carol, slammed her to the ground, and yanked on her arms in a vicious upward and backward motion. That broke her left arm so severely that it required trauma surgery for repair--and even then, she is expected to regain no more than 75 percent usage of her arm.

The real-world cost
 of practicing investigative journalism:
An X-ray of my wife's shattered arm

In the eviction's wake, we wound up living at a pay-by-the-week motel--the kind of establishment some might charitably call a "fleabag motel." Carol and I have come to calling it "The Shiftless Drifters' Motel." That's why we had a subdued reaction to Spotlight's win. We didn't want our whooping and hollering to disturb our neighbors. After all, we no longer live in a stand-alone house.

What price have I paid for reporting accurately on court-related corruption in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and several other states? What price has Carol paid for supporting my efforts in investigative journalist?

Well, we've lost our jobs, our careers, our life savings, our reputations, and our once-stellar credit rating,  During the eviction, the landlord's crew was seen stealing many of our possessions--including almost all of my shoes, pants, shirts, coats, underwear, hats, and much more. Our wedding rings were stolen, and many irreplaceable items of sentimental value were lost or pilfered.

Because of a bogus resisting-arrest conviction in Alabama, I now have a criminal record that makes me virtually unemployable.

What is the cost of investigative journalism for one reporter and his wife? Well, we are almost homeless--and public records indicate even my own family members (and maybe one friend of long standing) have been working against us. Why? My best guess is that it's because one of my brothers is a lawyer, which makes him part of the establishment that doesn't much appreciate my reporting--no matter how accurate it is.

Spotlight is a wonderful movie, and it got two thumbs up here at Legal Schnauzer. If you haven't seen it--and it's not the kind of blockbuster that draws huge crowds--we strongly recommend
a trip to your local cinema to catch it.

But the movie does not touch on the many modern threats to investigative journalism--and the dangers reporters can face when they take on powerful interests.

Do we want to see movies like Spotlight in the future? Do we want to see the kind of journalism that can inspire such a movie?

We are in danger of losing both.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reports about Antonin Scalia's excursion with secret hunting society show his disdain for ethics--and his love for hanging out with Republican elites

Members of the International Order of St. Hubertus
Reports about Antonin Scalia's death among members of a secretive hunting society have focused largely on the group's history and strange customs. Some focused on unusual circumstances surrounding Scalia's death itself. But the real story is this: It reveals that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court had zero respect for basic legal ethics. And it shows that Scalia specifically never met a conflict of interest he did not embrace, especially when it meant he could hob-nob with big-money Republicans.

The story raises serious questions about the integrity of the nation's highest court. And this might be the most serious question of all: If SCOTUS tolerates, even flaunts, such conflicts of interest, how rampant and brazen must ethical violations be on lower courts, at both the federal and state levels?

It's intriguing, even amusing, that Scalia was hanging out with members of a hunting fraternity that dates to the 1600s in Austrian. But here is the troubling part: The friend with whom Scalia traveled to Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas was prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer C. Allen Foster--and he's had business before the Supreme Court.

Ranch owner John B. Poindexter had declined to identify Scalia's companion, but the information came from an incident report by Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez. Ironically, Yahoo! News reports, Poindexter had told Dominguez that he had no jurisdiction over the case. That must have been surprising news to the sheriff. Ranch owners make these kinds of determinations in Texas?

Dominguez' incident report provides all sorts of intriguing information about the events surrounding Scalia's death. In fact, it's the sheriff's report that identifies C. Allen Foster as Scalia's traveling companion. From Yahoo! News:

Poindexter has previously said Scalia traveled to the ranch with a friend but declined to name the companion. Dominguez's report identifies him as Allen Foster.

The report provides no details on Foster's background, but C. Allen Foster is a Washington, D.C., lawyer who has previously represented clients in cases before the Supreme Court. When contacted Wednesday at his law firm, a secretary said he was traveling out of the country and unavailable until his return on Thursday. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

C. Allen Foster
In 1993, Foster argued a case before the Supreme Court in which he represented Hispanic Republicans challenging Florida's state redistricting plan.
According to his firm's website, Foster has served as special litigation counsel to the Republican Party.
Here is Scalia, who took an oath to uphold the law in an objective way, hanging out with special counsel for the Republican Party. Gee, I wonder if Foster was involved in the Bush v. Gore free-for-all of 2000.

That's not all. Here's this from The Post:

Planes owned by Wallace “Happy” Rogers III and the company of A.J. Lewis III left from San Antonio and arrived at the ranch just after noon Feb. 12. The planes departed the ranch about 30 minutes apart Feb. 14, according to flight records provided to The Post by FlightAware.

Rogers owns the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in San Antonio. He has donated $65,000 to Republican candidates since 2008. Lewis is the owner of a restaurant supplier company, also based in San Antonio. He has given $3,500 to GOP candidates since 2007.

Rogers and Lewis have both served as prior officers in the Texas chapter of the International Order of St. Hubertus, according to Texas business records. Rogers spoke to a Post reporter briefly on the phone and confirmed that he was at the ranch the weekend of Scalia’s death. He declined to comment further.
Lewis did not respond to several attempts for comment.

Again, you have Scalia hanging out with big-money GOP donors. Most first-year law students probably know that the general standard for judges is to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety." Why didn't Scalia know that--or why did he not practice it? Was Scalia so arrogant that he didn't think ethical considerations applied to him?

In death, Scalia might have done the country the kind of favor he hardly ever did in life--he's helped to show that our nation's "justice system" is a sleaze pit from top to bottom.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Scalia touted originalism when it was convenient for him, but he ignored it on a critical case that allowed cops to make traffic stops under false pretenses

Antonin Scalia
Conservatives tend to lionize the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia because he championed the notion of "originalism," as applied to the Constitution. Originalism holds that the Constitution's meaning is the same today as it was when it was adopted in 1788. Liberals tend to see the Constitution as a "living and breathing document" that should evolve with the society it governs, while Scalia and many conservatives see it as an "enduring document," one that should remain grounded in the nation's earliest days.

Bush v. Gore, probably the most controversial case in which Scalia participated, shows that the justice believed in originalism as a theory but did not practice it in real life. Scalia frequently cited Roe v. Wade, decided before he joined the court, as a case that violated the precepts of originalism. Here's what The Washington Post wrote about a 2012 Scalia speech:

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t have the right to an abortion,” said Scalia, who has previously spoken out against Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established a woman’s right to an abortion. “But don’t tell me the American people demand that you have it and wrote it in the Constitution, because that’s not true.

In other words, if an issue was not addressed in the Constitution of 1788, federal courts should not deal with it now--leaving it to voters in individual states. "The Constitution does not say anything about (abortion) . . . ," Scalia told CNN's Piers Morgan in a 2012 interview. "Roe v. Wade said no state can prohibit it; that simply is not in the constitution." (See interview at the end of this post.)

Did Scalia consistently apply this principle? Not even close, and I'm not the only observer who holds that opinion.

But I do have first-hand experience with the repercussions of Scalia's phony originalism, and it involves a subject that almost all Americans are likely to experience at some point--traffic stops.

That's a sensitive subject in this space because my wife and I were victims of two unlawful traffic stops in the days leading to my unlawful arrest that led to a five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama. In fact, my arrest--which really was a state-sanctioned kidnapping since no warrant ever has been presented, at the scene or in court--was the result of a bogus traffic stop.

You might say that Antonin Scalia was responsible for both incidents, the first by Shelby County Lt. Mike DeHart, the second by Officer Chris Blevins. Why? Scalia wrote the opinion in a SCOTUS case styled Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), which essentially made it lawful for law-enforcement officers to conduct traffic stops under false pretenses--all in the name of the "war on drugs."

Specifically, Whren made pretext stops legal. What is a pretext stop? Here's how we describe it in a post from May 2015:

A "pretext" or "pretextual" stop is a stop in which the officer detains the citizen for a minor crime (i.e. traffic offense) because the officer actually suspects the person of involvement in another, more significant crime (i.e. drug possession).

Here was the situation in Whren:

Whren, which involved an officer who stopped a vehicle, on the surface, for a traffic violation--but the real reason for the stop was suspicion of illegal drug activity. In fact, a search subsequent to the traffic stop turned up crack cocaine, and SCOTUS found the pretext stop was legal because it's real purpose was to seek information about a suspected crime, the illegal distribution of drugs.

In other words, the officers initiated the stop under false pretenses, with ulterior motives. And Antonin Scalia ("The Originalist") said such actions, with cops acting in fraudulent and deceitful ways toward the public, was perfectly fine, Gee, can't imagine why we've had a string of cases where cops were caught lying and covering up evidence of misconduct.

The petitioners in Whren argued that they had been subjected to an unreasonable search that violated the Fourth Amendment. Many legal experts, I suspect, would agree with them. But the court--surprise, surprise--sided with the cops.

How did Scalia justify the court's finding. It's hard to tell because Whren is a poorly written mess, which doesn't even define a pretext stop. Those who call Scalia an "intellectual giant" and a "brilliant writer" likely have not read his work. Here is the gist of his opinion in Whren:

We think these cases foreclose any argument that the constitutional reasonableness of traffic stops depends on the actual motivations of the individual officers involved. We of course agree with petitioners that the Constitution prohibits selective enforcement of the law based on considerations such as race. But the constitutional basis for objecting to intentionally discriminatory application of laws is the Equal Protection Clause, not the Fourth Amendment. Subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.

Scalia's words even have left police officers confused. For example, in our first traffic-stop encounter, Lt. DeHart said in sheriff department's notes that he conducted a "pretext stop" in order to "serve" Carol and me with papers in Rob Riley's defamation lawsuit. DeHart, however, never said or did anything to indicate he suspected our vehicle had been involved with a "more significant crime." In fact, there was no suspicion that we had been involved with any crime. That means DeHart's actions did not constitute a pretext stop, and they were not legal--a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Let's look at the Whren finding in the context of originalism. Are traffic stops mentioned in the U.S. Constitution of 1788? Of course not. Are drug busts and traffic stops mentioned in the Constitution? Not a word.

So according to Scalia's own words, he should have found for the petitioners and stated this was a decision for each individual state to address--just as in the issue of abortion, which also is not mentioned in the Constitution.

Whren shows, with simple clarity, that Scalia was, in the words of Salon's Paul Campos, an "intellectual phony."

Here is Scalia's real world view: If an issue (the right to an abortion) is not mentioned in the Constitution, but it might be of help to a minority group (women), Scalia was against it. If an issue (traffic stops) is not mentioned in the Constitution, but it might help an establishment group (police officers), Scalia was for it.

That pretty much sums up his "brilliance."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Missouri Republican legislator Don Gosen, who resigned last week after reports of an extramarital affair, was a customer at the Ashley Madison Web site

Former Missouri Rep. Don Gosen
A Missouri Republican legislator, who resigned last week after reports surfaced about an extramarital affair, also was a customer of the Ashley Madison Web site.

Don Gosen (R-Ballwin) was serving his third term in the House of Representatives, but abruptly resigned his position last Wednesday. Tony Messenger, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported two days later that Gosen stepped down because rumors were swirling around the state capitol in Jefferson City about an extramarital affair. Gosen admitted to the affair in Messenger's column last Friday, but the former legislator denied published reports of multiple other affairs.

Should the public take Gosen's word about that? It seems iffy, given that his name appears on a list of Missouri customers for Ashley Madison, the Web site with the motto: "Life is short, have an affair."

Gosen, who has a conservative "family values" voting record, apparently took that suggestion literally. A State Farm insurance agent in Wildwood, Missouri, Gosen said the affair started in 2014. From Tony Messenger's report at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The day of his fall, former state Rep. Don Gosen sat in his empty insurance office in the Wildwood Town Center and had a good cry. . . .

Starting in 2014, Gosen says, he had an affair. He betrayed his wife and three daughters. He betrayed his faith. Now he’s paying the price. Gosen blames only himself for his bad behavior. On Thursday, Gosen said that on the advice of his attorney, he wouldn’t publicly outline the events that led to his resignation.

Gosen is tight-lipped about details of the affair, but reports have surfaced that racy text messages, and maybe even a video, are part of the picture. Reports Messenger:

Two sources with knowledge of Gosen’s actions, including one whom the former state representative confided to before he resigned, say the downfall started with an event outside the Capitol in 2014.

Gosen met the woman, who is from southeastern Missouri, and they hit it off. She is not a Capitol employee and hasn’t ever worked there. At some point, the sources say, the relationship became sexual. Gosen, following the path made famous by former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner and to a lesser extent former Missouri Speaker of the House John Diehl, sent the woman at least one text that included a photo of a sexual nature. The Post-Dispatch has obtained one of these texts. The couple also made a video of some sort, the sources confirmed.

Gosen lied to the woman, sources say, about many things, including his ultimate intentions, and that led to a bad breakup. It’s unclear when that breakup took place.

It’s the sexts and video — or at least the rumor of their existence — that led to his rapid fall from grace. Those rumors made their way to Speaker of the House Todd Richardson on Monday. He called Gosen into his office and asked for his resignation.

Gosen said he had already made that decision, after telling his wife and daughters what had happened.

Yes, Gosen and his wife have three daughters, but multiple reports say the legislator's actions might be far worse than has been reported so far in the mainstream press. Reports Danny Wicentowski at the Riverfront Times:
Additional details of Gosen's wandering libido can be found in a newsletter published today from former reporter/cop/ John Hoffmann. Citing several anonymous sources, Hoffmann claims that Gosen has juggled "multiple girlfriends" since he joined the legislature in 2010, and that one of those girlfriends was an unnamed "elected state representative."

Just how seedy was Gosen's behavior? Consider these details from a post at

The story begins to unfold, that Gosen, 53, who lives in Ballwin on Clayton Road west of Kehrs Mill Road has multiple girlfriends. He is married and has been married for some time. He has been a State Farm Insurance agent for a long time with an office on Taylor Road in Wildwood. He was elected to the 101st District of Missouri House of Representatives in 2010. He apparently quickly joined the Jefferson City Legislature fraternity party club.

We have been told by several sources that in the last two years Gosen has had affairs with several women. One source names an elected state representative. At least two of the relationships were over by 2016 when Gosen was in another relationship with a younger woman described as "twentyish" and from Jefferson City. During that relationship Gosen is reported to have claimed he was divorced. Much like former Missouri Speaker of the House John Diehl (who like Gosen represented part of Chesterfield) and Anthony Weiner Gosen was sex texting. We were told that he was sending photos of him "Donald Ducking" which would have him like Donald wearing just a shirt and nothing else. . . .
We were also told by two independent sources that there was a video of Gosen having sex inside the capital.

Wow, a legislator engaging in sex inside the capital, with video running? You can't get much more "conservative" than that. And Gosen's record at indicates he voted like a staunch "values" conservative. Gosen describes himself as "pro life" and says that marriage should between "one man and one woman." He is against state funding for stem-cell research, against affirmative action, and against including sexual orientation under Missouri's anti-discrimination laws.

What about Ashley Madison's role in Gosen's seamy story? Did any of his affairs start via the AM Web site? Is he still an active user of the site? How much money did he spend there?

Answers to those questions remain unknown, but we are seeking comment from Gosen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Scalia's hunting trip to Texas was a "gift" from a businessman who received a favorable ruling from SCOTUS last year, raising questions about criminality

Cibolo Creek Ranch
Antonin Scalia's hunting trip to a remote Texas ranch was a "gift" from a businessman who received a favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) late last year, according to multiple reports yesterday. Scalia visited the ranch with "a friend," but that friend has not been identified.

Scalia died Saturday at Cibolo Creek Ranch, and revelations about ranch owner John B. Poindexter and his apparent favors to a Supreme Court justice should prompt a criminal investigation, not only of Scalia but of other members of the high court and the federal judiciary.

Why? The facts surrounding Scalia's vacation to Texas, as we know them now, strongly suggest bribery or a kickback--and maybe obstruction of justice, or some combination of the three. If Scalia so baldly accepted gifts from a businessman whose company had appeared before the high court, did other justices behave in a similar manner? And if such corruption was common at America's "citadel of justice," was it also present in the 11 judicial circuits around the country?

How ugly could this story get? The original report, from reporters Mark Berman and Jerry Markon at The Washington Post, suggests it could get pretty darned ugly. From the report:

Who pays for a Supreme Court justice to make this kind of trip?

Not Scalia, it turns out. Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia was not charged for his stay, something he described as a policy for all guests at the ranch.

“I did not pay for the Justice’s trip to Cibolo Creek Ranch,” Poindexter wrote in a brief email Tuesday. “He was an invited guest, along with a friend, just like 35 others.”

Poindexter added: “The Justice was treated no differently by me, as no one was charged for activities, room and board, beverages, etc. That is a 22-year policy.’’

Poindexter's policy toward guests at his ranch is irrelevant, of course. But any relationship Poindexter and his subordinates might have had with Scalia--and how it might have affected a case before SCOTUS--is extremely relevant. Was an agreement in place that Scalia would treat Poindexter's case favorably in exchange for a "vacation hunting trip" and perhaps a rendezvous with a "friend"? Did Scalia receive other types of favors that perhaps have not reached public attention yet?

These questions require a serious investigation, one that should be wide-ranging, way beyond Scalia. Personal experience tells me that federal courts are a cesspool, especially for plaintiffs and non-corporate parties. Scalia's death could be an occasion to shine a much-needed spotlight on the courts. If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, it raises the specter of federal crimes.

Houston headquarters of
J.P. Poindexter and Co.
The hunting ranch is in the west Texas town of Shafter, which is about 30 miles from the Mexican border and home to John B. Poindexter. Who is Poindexter? He owns the Houston-based manufacturing firm J.B. Poindexter and Co.

Poindexter's firm has several subsidiaries, one of which was involved in an age-discrimination case, and the employee-plaintiff appealed last year to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here is how Gawker explains it:

Justice Antonin Scalia was taking a free vacation at the exclusive Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas when he was found dead inside a guest room Saturday. The trip, the Washington Post reports, was a gift from the ranch’s owner, who just last year obtained a favorable result from the Supreme Court.

The 30,000-acre hunting ranch, located around 30 miles from the Mexican border in the West Texas town of Shafter, is also the home of owner John B. Poindexter, who owns the Houston-based manufacturing firm J.B. Poindexter and Co.

The two men already had a tenuous connection outside of the ranch. Last year, an age discrimination suit filed against the Mic Group, a subsidiary of J.B. Poindexter and Co., reached the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

The high court's refusal to hear the case meant circuit and district court rulings favoring Mic Group would stand--a nice outcome, indeed, for ranch owner J.B. Poindexter.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Poindexter insisted he treated Scalia just like his other guests. But that is beside the point. His other guests likely had not taken oaths to uphold the nation's laws, including the guarantees of due process and equal protection--to which the plaintiff in the Mic Group case was entitled. From the Post report:

Poindexter, who would not identify Scalia’s friend, is a Texas native and decorated Vietnam veteran who owns Houston-based J.B. Poindexter and Co., a manufacturing firm.

The company has seven subsidiaries, with combined annual revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to information on its website. Among the items it manufacturers are delivery vans for UPS and FedEx and machine components for limousines and hearses. The company has 5,000 employees, the site said.

One of Poindexter’s companies was involved in a case that made it to the high court. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving an age discrimination lawsuit filed against one of these companies, court records show.

Could the age-discrimination case have cost Poindexter and his company a bunch of money? Not much is known about the case at the moment, but the answer possibly is yes. It's also possible that the case would not have hurt the company much, but Poindexter might just like to use his access to Scalia--sort of a way to show off for his corporate friends. The case is styled James Hinga v. Mic Group LLC.

According to The Post, many more unknowns are out there:

The nature of Poindexter’s relationship with Scalia remained unclear Tuesday, one of several lingering questions about his visit. It was not known whether Scalia had paid for his own ticket to fly to the ranch or if someone else picked up the tab, just as it was not immediately clear if Scalia had visited before.

It is also still not known who else was at the Texas ranch for the weekend, and unless that is revealed, there could be concerns about who could have tried to raise an issue around Scalia, said Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal and judicial ethics at the New York University School of Law. He compared it to unease that arises when judges and officials from major companies are invited to seminars or educational events that bring them together for periods of time.

Was there something about the Hinga case that made Poindexter and Co. officials nervous? Did that cause the company owner to make arrangements with Scalia for a favorable verdict? Or did Poindexter seek access to SCOTUS just because he could?

These questions should not be pushed aside. They go to the very heart of our justice system, and they demand a thorough investigation.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bush v. Gore proves Antonin Scalia's "originalism" doctrine is a fraud, so karma dictates that President Obama should nominate Al Gore to Supreme Court

Antonin Scalia
Bush v. Gore, as much as any other case, reveals that Antonin Scalia's legal doctrine of "originalism" is a fraud. That tells us Scalia had no legal basis for supporting the decision that ushered in the disastrous George W. Bush presidency. And that means Scalia supported the ruling, and maybe even engineered it, for political or personal reasons--perhaps because his son, Eugene Scalia, had been promised a job in a Bush administration. On top of that, Eugene Scalia, worked for Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, a Los Angeles-based law firm that helped represent Bush in the 2000 post-election controversy.

Both of those factors likely required Antonin Scalia to recuse himself from Bush v. Gore. But he didn't, and his one vote made the difference in turning the presidency over to George W. Bush, a man many historians and experts already call "the worst president in American history." What words did Scalia have for the American public about such skulduggery--"Get over it." (See video at the end of this post.)

That's the kind of arrogance and sleaze, and borderline criminality, that requires payback--not just for Democrats, but for any American who cares about democracy. Antonin Scalia died on Saturday, under peculiar circumstances at a remote ranch in Texas, and that provided some measure of karma for those who have not "gotten over" Bush v. Gore. But a deeper sense of karma dictates that President Barack Obama take it a step further--and he should do so by nominating Al Gore to fill Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Does Gore make sense as a Supreme Court nominee? More on that in a moment. But first, let's see how Antonin Scalia trampled his own notion of originalism by supporting the majority opinion that put George W. Bush in the White House, where he did untold damage to our country--via 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for torture, erosion of privacy rights, false intelligence on critical international matters, outing of a CIA agent, firing of U.S. attorneys, use of the justice system as a political weapon, rampant greed and malfeasance on Wall Street, and installation of perhaps the most devious and destructive political operative in American history (Karl Rove).

None of that would have happened without Antonin Scalia. Now we know that Scalia's own phantom legal doctine--originalism--did not support the finding in Bush v. Gore. In fact, originalism would have required Scalia to vote against the finding in the case--to side with the minority. Had Scalia stuck to his own stated beliefs, his vote would have turned the minority into a majority--and the election would have been decided in Florida, which (by law) was the proper venue, and Gore would have been the likely winner. Here's how Scott Lemieux, of American Prospect, described it:

Scalia is inadvertently right about one thing: It's not a "hard question" whether this case should have been resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or by the United States Supreme Court. Since the case was an issue of state law that did not present anything remotely resembling a substantial federal constitutional question, it should have been decided by the former.

In essence, Scalia betrayed his country and himself. How do we know? We have Scalia's own words.

In a January 2011 interview with California Lawyer magazine, Scalia made it clear that, in his originalist view, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment--which the court cited to hand the presidency to George W. Bush--only applied to black males. From Robert Parry's report at Consortium News:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unintentionally revealed the hypocrisy of the Right’s rhetoric about “originalist” interpretations of the U.S. Constitution with his comments about how the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection under the law” doesn’t mean equal rights for women.

“In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don't think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation,” Scalia said in a recent interview with the legal magazine California Lawyer.

“So does that mean that we've gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both? Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that.”

Was Scalia full of horse manure with this? Absolutely, as Robert Parry proved by comparing the justice's words with his actions in Bush v. Gore:

However, if the “original intent” of the amendment’s drafters was so determinative – that the 14th Amendment supposedly was only meant to apply to black men at the end of slavery – it might be safe to assume that the drafters weren’t thinking about protecting a white man like George W. Bush from possibly losing an election in Florida in 2000.

Yet, the 14th Amendment was precisely what Scalia and four other partisan Republicans on the Supreme Court cited to justify shutting down the Florida recount and handing the White House to Bush, despite the fact that he lost the national popular vote and apparently would have come out on the short end of the Florida recount if all legally cast ballots were counted.

To justify their ruling, the five Republican justices cited the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause in claiming that Florida’s electoral precincts had failed to apply common standards for counting votes. Then, rather than giving the state time to rectify the situation, the justices set a deadline of two hours, effectively assuring Bush’s “victory.”

Are Scalia and his like-minded brethren actually guided by originalism? Of course not, Parry says, unless it serves their political agenda:

In other words, Scalia and other right-wing justices operate with a situational ethic when it comes to “originalism” and “strict construction.” If their partisan and ideological interests require the abandoning of those precepts, the principles are dumped overboard.

That is what most of us would call hypocrisy or dishonesty. But Scalia, like many on the Right, operates with a curious sense of false righteousness, at least when his “principles” match up with his ideology and partisan interests.

Scalia's "curious sense of false righteousness" probably was the No. 1 reason Al Gore was cheated out of the presidency. But President Obama has a way now to fix that (at least a little bit)--by nominating Al Gore to replace Scalia on the nation's highest court.

Al Gore
Has this idea occurred to Obama or his staff members? I have no idea. Would Gore consider such a nomination, if it was put to him? I don't know. Is Al Gore qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, would he be a good justice, and would he be a wise nominee at a time of heightened controversy regarding the GOP senators' stated plans to block any Obama nominee?

The answers, in my view, are "without question," "yes," and "absolutely.

Just consider Gore's biography: He is a former vice president of the United States, a former U.S. representative, and U.S. senator. He served in Vietnam and has received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, He has written books and articles on some of the most important issues of our times--climate change, American family life, capitalism, and efficient government. His intellectual output far surpasses that of the supposedly brainy Scalia and probably everyone else on the current Supreme Court.

Americans, in general, already have shown that they approve of the way Al Gore conducts his business. It's undisputed that he won the popular vote in the 2000 election over George W. Bush. That election probably was close only because President Bill Clinton (whom Gore served as vice president) had engaged in an unseemly Oval Office dalliance with an intern named Monica Lewinsky. Gore decided that he needed to separate himself from Clinton's personal missteps--which was unfortunate because Gore also separated himself from the Clinton administration's many successes. Gore went so far as to pick Clinton critic Joe Lieberman as his running mate, which proved disastrous because Lieberman probably did not help carry a single state.

Bottom line? If ignorant white voters in Gore's home state (Tennessee) and Clinton's home state (Arkansas) pulled their heads out of their behinds and voted to continue the peace and prosperity and competence of the Clinton years, the Florida controversy would not have mattered--Gore would have won the election without needing Florida. If an NRA-funded scare campaign had not convinced white voters in normally Democratic West Virginia that a Gore administration would come for their guns, Gore would not have even needed Arkansas and Tennessee.

Gore's public life is the very definition of "mainstream"--and even Jeb Bush, George W.'s brother and a current GOP presidential candidate--has said that is the kind of nominee Obama should make.

Al Gore is one of the most distinguished Americans of his time, and he likely would be both a breath of fresh air and an effective jurist on the Supreme Court.

For those of us who like a little karma with our public affairs, an Al Gore nomination to replace Antonin Scalia would be delicious indeed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Would Donald Trump nominate Bill Pryor to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite Pryor's ties to 1990s gay pornography via the Web site?

An edited version of Bill Pryor's photo
at the gay "super store"
Web site.

Donald Trump is known for hiring and firing people on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. He often brags that he surrounds himself with the best and brightest people, suggesting he and his staff are adept at conducting background checks.

That might apply to Donald Trump, businessman and reality-TV star. But it apparently does not apply to Donald Trump, presidential candidate.

At Saturday night's Republican debate, Trump mentioned U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor as someone he might nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court. Pryor's duty station is the Hugo Black Courthouse in downtown Birmingham, he lives in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills, and he is a former attorney general of Alabama.

Many people who closely follow politics and legal issues in Alabama know Bill Pryor has enough skeletons in his closet to outfit a haunted house. This apparently is unknown to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump
Pryor's most glaring skeleton involves his connections to 1990s gay pornography, via a Web site called As we first reported in September 2013, nude photos of Pryor (complete with glaring erection) appeared in the early days of, which has gone on to become a sort of "online superstore for gay porn," from its base near Cocoa, Florida. (Photos at the link above include a full-frontal version of one Pryor photo; a discreetly edited version of the photo can be seen at the top of this post.)

Pryor is a staunch opponent of gay rights, and the photos suggest he is a world-class hypocrite. From our initial report:

The photos appeared in 1997 on, which was in its online infancy, having debuted in mid 1995. Based in Cocoa, Florida, the site has morphed into one of the largest gay porn sites on the Web.

Images obtained by Legal Schnauzer show Pryor posing completely nude, staring into the camera and sporting a noticeable erection. We see no indication that the photos were taken surreptitiously, without Pryor's knowledge. Sources say Pryor was college age when the photos were taken.

Pryor rose to national prominence in Republican circles on the basis of a staunchly conservative record, including consistent opposition to gay rights. He also has supported school prayer and the death penalty, while opposing abortion rights, making him a highly unpopular figure among liberal and progressive interest groups.

A married father of two, Pryor lives in Vestavia Hills and his federal-court duty station is in Alabama, with an office on the ninth floor of the Hugo Black Federal Courthouse in downtown Birmingham. Pryor revealed during his confirmation hearings that he and his wife, Kristan W. Pryor, rescheduled a family vacation to Disney World when they discovered the Orlando, Florida, theme park had scheduled "Gay Days" festivities at the same time as their planned visit.

How did the photos first come to light, and how did Pryor react when asked to comment on them? We addressed that in our initial post:

Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

Legal Schnauzer contacted Judge Pryor last Friday via e-mail, seeking an interview about the photographs and their possible implications for his role on the federal bench. Pryor responded as follows:

"I have nothing to say to you except that these accusations are totally false. 
Do not contact me again. 
Bill Pryor"

I replied by stating that these are not "accusations," they are photographs of an individual that multiple sources have identified as him. I further stated that I had every right, as a citizen and a journalist, to seek comment from a public official with a lifetime appointment, regarding matters of national importance. For good measure, I attached copies of the photographs. Pryor responded as follows:

"This is the last time I will respond to you. Those photos are not of me. 
Do not contact me again. 
Bill Pryor"

Pryor said the photos were not of him, even though attached the name "Bill Pryor" to them, and the young man in the photos bears a striking resemblance to the judge. Was Pryor willing to sit down for a one-on-one interview, answering questions about the photos? No, he was not. Was Pryor willing to present family photos from his college days that might support his claim that the young man shown at badpuppy was not him? No, he was not.

Bill Pryor at a photo gallery.

When national reporters sought comment about the story, Pryor would not talk to them either. He trotted out a former law clerk named Jennifer Bandy to "issue a statement." Even Bandy would not take questions, it appears. Bandy now is with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Kirkland and Ellis, so it appears her ties to Pryor--and her willingness to make herself look like a fool in public on his behalf--have paid off nicely.

Perhaps of most interest, the young man in the photo clearly has strabismus, a fairly rare condition that involves misalignment or crossing of the eyes. Recent photos of Pryor suggest he has strabismus, although it appears treatment (usually surgery) has improved his condition. Even if that is the case, multiple sources who have seen Pryor in person, up close, say his strabismus is quite noticeable.

In a post dated October 17, 2013, we addressed the issue of strabismus in the Pryor/gay porn story. We sought to interview him on the subject, via an e-mail that reads as follows:

This is a followup on my reporting at Legal Schnauzer.

Do you have a condition known as strabismus, which is a crossing or misalignment of the eyes? Have you ever been treated for strabismus?

Would you release copies of your medical records as it relates to any and all eye care?

Thank you,

Roger Shuler

Pryor did not respond to our query. He apparently wanted no part of the strabismus question.

How could Donald Trump and his team not know about Bill Pryor's dicey past? It's not as if this story did not receive widespread, national coverage. Among the many news and cultural sites that covered it was Above the Law, the No. 1 law blog in North America. (Legal Schnauzer is No. 37, thank you very much, according to a Chicago-based Web research and marketing firm called Cision.) Title of the Above the Law article: "Underneath his Robes: Nude Photos of a Federal Judge."

Has Team Trump not heard of Google?

Since Donald Trump put Bill Pryor's name back on the nation's front burner, we will try again to interview the Alabama-based judge about the gay pornography in his past. We will let you know how that works out.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman blasts Donald Trump's notion of nominating Bill Pryor to the Supreme Court, calling Pryor "evil and pernicious"

Donald Trump
What does former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman--now residing at a federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, because of perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in U.S. history--think of Donald Trump's idea of nominating U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Here are Siegelman's thoughts, straight from the former governor himself. Few people have seen Pryor operate in an up-close-and-personal way as Siegelman has. The mere thought of Pryor being elevated to the nation's highest court apparently makes Alabama's most successful Democrat of the past 25 years want to vomit. It also might cause many Americans to wonder about Donald Trump's sanity.

What's Bill Pryor really like? Here are Don Siegelman's thoughts.

by Don E. Siegelman
Governor of Alabama, 1999-2003 
"Evil and Pernicious Jurist To Replace Scalia?" . . .  "Richard Pryor Rather Than Bill Pryor" . . . "Big Tobacco not to blame: Poor People Who Smoke Die Faster, Costing Medicaid Less" . . . "Suppressed The Black Vote" . . .  "Thought the Klan Was A Pretty Good Group Of Guys" . . . "Lock'em Up And Throw Away The Key" . . . "An Unfounded Criminal Case...Totally Without Merit" . . .  "Pro Death Penalty and Pro-Life Stands Could Scare Pope Francis . . ."
An involuntary scream came from my gut causing heads to turn as inmates also heard Bill Pryor's name drip from Trump's lips. Trump on Saturday night's Republican Presidential debate, named perhaps the most evil and pernicious jurist as Trump's choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Bill Pryor is on the ultraconservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. 
Pryor's background: Slipped in as a recess appointment of Bush. A protege and political client of Karl Rove, a state attorney general linked to Karl Rove's tobacco clients and large corporate interests refused to join in the national suit against Big Tobacco. His reasoning: 
"Poor people who smoke die faster, so they cost Alabama's Medicaid less money." Republican Arizona Attorney General, Grant Woods, later Co-Chair McCain for President, responded publicly saying: "Alabama would be better off with comedian Richard Pryor rather than Bill Pryor as its attorney general." 
Bill Pryor has all the right credentials for a Right Wing nomination: an original member of the Federalist Society, an early supporter of the harshest mandatory minimums for the smallest felonious infractions, Karl Rove's client and political mouthpiece in Alabama, someone who started an investigation against me to damage my chances for reelection (and did). The presiding U.S. District Court Judge, U. W. Clemon, described the Pryor instigated prosecution as "the most unfounded criminal case over which I have presided in my entire judicial career (some 30 years)...totally without merit."[see letter to Eric Holder, May 9, 2009, by Judge U.W. Clemon]. The Department of Justice has confirmed in a letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary committee that Pryor's lead prosecutor "in charge of the Siegelman prosecution communicated directly with the campaign manager of Mr. Siegelman's gubernatorial opponent” and "several" other officials acted improperly.[see report of “Project On Governmental Oversight", December 14, 2014] 

Bill Pryor
Yet, Pryor is most frightening because of his closeness to: Karl Rove and Jeffrey Beauregard Session. 
Pryor is from Mobile and is a close friend and protégé of Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions. Sessions was a racist U.S. Attorney, using his position to suppress the black vote by getting his agents to round up Alabama "Black Belt" African American political leaders and threatening them with prison if they ever crossed the line in soliciting absentee votes. Just to show he meant business, he prosecuted two older ladies (one a 72 year old retired school teacher, and a dear friend of mine) and finger printed and photographed others. It worked. 
In 1994, Session beat out the Democratic nominee to become Alabama's radical Attorney General using his new position to launch him into the U.S. Senate in 1996. Pryor was Sessions's top deputy. Earlier when Sessions was making a play to be a federal judge himself, Senator Ted Kennedy forced Sessions to admit under oath, on the record in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, that Sessions had said: 
"I always thought the Klan was a pretty good group of guys . . . until I learned they smoked pot." [see U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearing] 
Sessions also had a penchant for prosecuting Democratic officeholders, white or black. 
Recently, Mr. Donald Trump went to Mobile, Alabama, where he proudly cuddled Sessions on camera before a crowd of exuberant voters. Then he announced that Sessions's advisor, would become Trump for President "Senior Policy Advisor". Now, we hear in the most recent debate from Trump's own mouth that he has found the perfect possible replacement for Justice Scalia: 
Bill Pryor, Session's creation, Karl Rove's client, a protector of corporate interests, a man who puts political prosecutions ahead of the truth and justice, an outlaw who orchestrated illegally certifying bogus elections results to ensure that Karl Rove's and Jack Abramoff's candidate for governor won in 2002, a Right Wing, "lock'em up and throw away the key" blinded, fanatical anti-Roe v. Wade pro-life, pro-death penalty Catholic. He is still not an equal to fill Antonin Scalia's shoes who exclaimed in the Sorich case in 2012: 
"It is simply not fair to prosecute someone for a crime that has not been defined until the judicial decision that sends him to jail." 
Bill Pryor's bent mind could never comprehend such a judicious decision seeking true justice. Pryor's lust to put people in prison has no bounds. Pryor's criminal justice logic is itself a unique work of injustice. 
The real danger is that Pryor is young and is just beginning his descent into the bowels of partisan injustice.


In the interest of full disclosure, Bill Pryor, Karl Rove's client, as Alabama's newly elected Attorney General, started an investigation of me on March 19, 1999, just days after I was sworn in as governor in January, 1999. He then joined with the Bush U.S. Attorney to prosecute me, while the U.S. Attorney's husband was running my opponent's campaign. Despite an all out offensive by Karl Rove and the Pryor smear campaign, I won but only to wake up the next morning to find out that enough votes had been stolen to swing the election to the Rove- Abramoff backed candidate. (See Mark Crispin Miller's book: "Loser Take All") When I asked for a hand recount, Bill Pryor threatened anyone who touched the ballots with jail, then surreptitiously took the bogus results to Montgomery and certified them two full days before Alabama law allowed, thus ending my ability to get a recount. 

Don Siegelman
After my Republican opponent was sworn in, Bill Pryor was nominated and confirmed to a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals during a Congressional recess, after which U.S. Senator Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions stated publicly and on the record: 
"We would have moved faster and gotten Pryor on the bench earlier but we needed a Republican governor in place first." 
The 11th Circuit is the court through which all my appeals had to first be screened. While Pryor did not directly participate, his coffee break and cocktail conversations no doubt poisoned the well for my appeals. At an 11th Circuit Court Judicial Conference for all U.S. District Court and 11th Circuit court judges, a prominent Atlanta attorney, Buddy Darden, overheard Judge Pryor telling those within listening distance his opinion about me. Mr. Darden told me he had pulled Judge Pryor aside and asked about the ethics of his statements. 
My Republican opponent, Congressman Bob Riley, was hand picked by Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff to run against me. In Abramoff's own words, we had to "stop Siegelman...[and my lottery-gaming proposal] a cost of approximately $20,000,000 to the tribe" [The Mississippi Choctaw Indian casinos to protect their gambling monopoly in the Southeast. See pages 187-194 of Abramoff's book, "Capitol Punishment".] 
Millions of Indian casino dollars were illegally laundered into Alabama to defeat me by Rove and Abramoff's friends, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, according to "Capitol Punishment" and the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs report:"Gimmie Five", authored by U. S. Senator John McCain. 
This Indian casino money flowing into my opponent's campaign was never investigated. The Rove generated prosecution only investigated a single contribution in support of my proposed ballot initiative. One that would have sent all Alabama high school graduates to college for free, but instead sent me to prison for 88 months.