|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
This information comes from the docket in the Garrison case (Number CV-2013-903427.00), which was produced among responsive pleadings in our pending federal lawsuit against Garrison, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, and others in a wrongful foreclosure/defamation action. We call it "The House Case," as opposed to "The Jail Case," which is on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit because of trial judge R. David Proctor and his refusal to follow black-letter law that requires court clerks to execute service for in forma pauperis (indigent) litigants such as us. (Docket from the Garrison v. Shuler state case is embedded at the end of this post.)
The docket, which I don't think I've ever seen because I either was in jail, in the midst of a fighting a foreclosure, or forced to live like a refugee in Missouri, is filled with interesting information -- even though some of it is not perfectly clear. I'm still trying to digest the information, so I'm not certain about all it reveals. But here is some of what we learn:
* There is no sign that I ever received three days' notice from Garrison of her default application and hearing, as required by Alabama law -- spelled out in a case styled Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing (Ala. Civ. App., 2010). As we've been reporting for months, the docket shows Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment is void, as a matter of law, and can be attacked as such at any time.
* While the docket hardly is a model of clarity, it appears to show that Garrison and her lawyer, Bill Baxley, never even sent notification of the default application/hearing, and it certainly was not received. What does this suggest? It suggests, to me, that Garrison and Baxley intentionally avoided notification because they did not want me at the default hearing. Obviously, it's easier to prevail on such a matter when you have no opposition.
* The court record suggests Garrison's lawsuit was about obtaining a default judgment all along -- and nothing else. Why? The docket shows she first applied for a default judgment on October 21, 2013, less than one month from my arrest (on September 23, 2013) related to the Riley/Duke case. I had not been lawfully served -- and Judge Don Blankenship eventually would agree, granting my motion to quash service -- and I had not even had the 30 days provided by law to answer the complaint, but Garrison filed for a default judgment anyway. Does that mean she was trying to use my incarceration to her advantage? It sure looks that way to me.
Garrison next filed for a default judgment on February 20, 2014, again while I was in jail. I never received notice of a default application or hearing while in jail, and the docket reflects that.
* All this time, there is no sign in the docket that Garrison was trying to prove her defamation claim in the usual way -- via a scheduling meeting, a discovery schedule, or any actual discovery. There was no sign of any effort to prove my reporting about her extramarital affair with Luther Strange was false or defamatory. Does that mean they knew my reporting was not false or defamatory, and Garrison had no grounds for her lawsuit? That's what the docket strongly suggests -- and the filing of such an abusive lawsuit is the kind of thing that can cost a lawyer her bar card.
* Garrison filed for default No. 3 on September 17, 2014, roughly two months after we had been forced to vacate our home because of a foreclosure that almost certainly was contrary to law? Does this indicate the foreclosure and the default (and possibly my incarceration) were all a coordinated effort among Garrison, Baxley, Riley, Duke, and likely others -- designed to get Carol and me out of town so Garrison could get her $3.5-million judgment with no opposition? The answer appears to be yes, suggesting Garrison (like any good Republican) likes to cheat. The docket suggests her lawsuit was the legal equivalent of catching fish in a barrel.
* A hearing on default application No. 3 -- again, with no sign of notice to me -- was set for October 15, 2014, but the docket shows that was continued. It does not show a new date, and in fact, the docket does not show that a hearing ever was scheduled or conducted. An entry on December 16, 2014 reads "disposed by separate order." That suggests default was granted, but news apparently did not get to Garrison because, on January 7, 2015, she filed a motion for an order rendering judgment by default. The record shows such an order was rendered and entered six days later, on January 13, 2015.
How big a mess is all of this? The docket shows that three default applications were filed, and the opposing party never received notice on any of them. While Baxley and Garrison have whined in court documents that they couldn't find me to provide notice, they sought default twice while I was in jail -- so they certainly knew where I was then. (Gee, Baxley and Garrison wouldn't lie, would they?) The docket suggests default was granted, even though there is no sign that a hearing was conducted.
So how did Blankenship come up with the $3.5-million figure for damages? Well, the docket and other documents produced in "The House Case" shine interesting light on that, as we will explain in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)