Tuesday, February 28, 2017

As a three-time victim of police violence, I'm starting to wonder if states should follow Indiana's lead and allow citizens to shoot cops who disrespect the law

(From rt.com)
For more than 2 1/2 years, the nation has been besieged with reports of police misconduct, much of it brazen and grotesque. And yet, a recent report found that the number of fatal police shootings in 2016 remained virtually unchanged from the year before.

As a victim of police violence three times in less than four years -- and in each case, I committed no crime and engaged in no misconduct of any kind -- I have a perspective on this that might be different from many. In fact, I will admit that perhaps my view is skewed by my personal experience. But the bottom line is this: I've seen, up close, how some police officers can act like thugs, beasts, and outlaws. And I wonder if it might be time for the public to adopt extreme measures to protect ourselves.

One state already has adopted an extreme measure. In 2012, Indiana passed a law that allows citizens to use deadly force against any public servant they believe is unlawfully entering their home, vehicle, or real property. The term "public servant" includes law-enforcement officers.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) pushed for the law, and normally, I don't agree with the NRA on much of anything. But let's consider what has happened to my wife, Carol, and me since fall 2013:

* From roughly September 23 to October 30, 2013, Alabama deputies made about a dozen visits to our property, for no apparent lawful reason, shortly after my reports about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography. They even came at night, shining lights in our windows and banging on the doors. We later learned the cops supposedly were trying to serve court papers in a lawsuit filed by GOP thug Rob "Uday" Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, (Some of the visits were apparent efforts to arrest Carol, in the week after I had been thrown in jail.) A lawyer who later reviewed the sealed file said it showed no summons had been issued during the apparent service attempts. That means the service attempts were unlawful and suggests the officers were trying to unlawfully arrest us all along. The Indiana law states, in part:

(i) A person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to:

(3) prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful trespass on or criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession, lawfully in possession of a member of the person’s immediate family, or belonging to a person whose property the person has authority to protect.

Under the Indiana law, Carol and I could have shot each officer as he/she stepped onto our property. Is that a result we would have wanted? No. Are extreme measures needed in an era where law-enforcement officers seem to think they can violate civil rights with impunity? Maybe.

* On September 29, 2013, Alabama deputy Mike DeHart blocked our vehicle as Carol and I pulled into a parking space at the North Shelby County Library. DeHart claimed I had rolled through a stop sign, wrote me a warning, and then handed me court papers in a lawsuit filed by GOP thug Rob "Uday" Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, saying, "Mr. Shuler, you've been served." When it became clear the purpose of the stop was to give me court papers -- and I had not committed a traffic violation -- I realized DeHart had committed a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. After I sent a few choice words in his direction -- calling him a "fraud," with perhaps a few qualifying adjectives -- he yanked on our open car door, grabbed my arm, and tried to pull me out of the vehicle. Carol let out a shriek that hinted she was about to jump his ass, right there with parents and children walking about. That apparently shocked some sense into DeHart, and he retreated to his vehicle, moved it, and we drove off.

Under Indiana law, Carol or I could have shot DeHart when he attempted to enter our vehicle. Is that a desirable outcome? No. What other options does a citizen have against cops who knowingly go rogue, especially when judges clearly favor cops in civil-rights lawsuits?

* On October 23, 2013, Alabama Deputy Chris Blevins drove his squad car down our driveway as I was trying to pull into the garage, nearly hitting both our car and our house. I was startled when he honked his horn, but I managed to raise the door and pull the car in. When I got out of the car, Blevins was standing inside our garage, near our car's rear bumper. He asked me to step outside, without showing a warrant, saying he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being there. I told him to get out of our basement/garage, which was part of our home. Next thing I knew, Blevins was pushing and shoving me, knocking me to a concrete floor three times and dousing me with pepper spray.

Under Indiana law, I could have shot Blevins the minute he set foot in our garage, maybe earlier.

* On September 9, 2015, more than a half dozen Greene County deputies burst into our duplex apartment in Springfield, Missouri, for an eviction that, by law, was stayed because we had timely filed a notice of appeal. Every lawyer involved in the case had been notified of the appeal and resulting stay, but the landlord and deputies decided to evict us anyway. Carol and I had assault rifles and multiple pistols pointed at us, and a deputy slammed Carol to the ground and yanked on her arms so viciously that it broke her left arm. The damage was so severe it required repair by a trauma surgeon, and Carol is expected to regain only 75 percent or so usage.

Under Indiana law, Carol or I could have shot each officer as he (or she) burst through our front door.

Do I like the contents of Indiana's law? Well, I'm not sure that I do. I would prefer to live in a country where law-enforcement officers behave honorably, respecting the law and the rights of citizens. But we don't have that. And the latest statistics indicate officers have not learned from all the horrific mistakes they have made in recent years.

So, what do we do? My experience suggests we are more likely to need protection from cops, instead of protection by cops. Experience also teaches that cops are likely to lie about and cover up their misdeeds -- and judges are likely to favor cops over citizens who have been abused, even on camera.

The Indiana law does not allow citizens to just start firing away at cops. It says a citizen must "(a) reasonably believe the public servant is attempting to enter their home illegally; and (b) use no more force than is reasonably necessary to dispel the threat to their lives or property." Given that cops tend to be heavily armed, it seems reasonable force against them would almost always include use of a firearm.

A number of downsides to the Indiana law quickly come to mind:

* No matter how much weaponry a private citizen owns, a cop will usually be more heavily armed. The citizen is at a disadvantage;

* No matter how well trained a citizen is in the use of weaponry, a cop almost always will be better trained. The citizen is at a disadvantage;

* An untrained citizen with a firearm can be a dangerous thing. An individual, intending to shoot a rogue cop, might be more likely to shoot himself, a family member, a pet, or a neighbor. Flying bullets don't always go where they are supposed to go.

What about possible upsides? I can think of a couple:

* In a nation that is dysfunctional enough to "elect" Donald Trump, and watch him anoint Jeff Sessions as attorney general, maybe we all should be prepared to protect ourselves. Our justice system has been decaying for years -- heck, that's the whole reason this blog exists -- but it's painful to imagine how badly our constitutional rights could be trampled under Trump. Maybe we need to adopt a "Wild West" ethos and say, "Screw the justice system. It's not going to protect you, so you had better be prepared to protect yourself -- even against cops."

* Consider this question: Would the cops who abused Carol and me in the three violent instances described above have given it a second thought if they had known we might fight back, lawfully, with deadly force? Would they have been less likely to enter our property, our homes, and try to enter our vehicle, if they knew they might pay with their lives?

I suspect the answer to both questions is yes. I've learned that a lot of cops are stupid, but I don't think they are so stupid that they can't grasp the concept of self-preservation. A lot of police misconduct probably is driven by arrogance -- the knowledge that the firepower, and the courts, are on their side, even when they are acting contrary to law.

Would some of that arrogance drain away if more states adopted laws like the one in Indiana? It probably would. And that's why, while I'm not wild about the Indiana law, I'm not ready to write it off, either.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Luther Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison produce moments of high comedy in their testimony from defamation case against Legal Schnauzer and me

Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison
U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) and his adviser/mistress Jessica Medeiros Garrison produced some comedic moments in their testimony at a default-judgment hearing connected to Garrison's defamation lawsuit against Legal Schnauzer and me.

One memorable moment is of the "hah, hah" comedy variety. The other is what might be called "black comedy." Both are worth noting because they say a lot about the people involved:

Jessica Garrison thinks Legal Schnauzer has investigative super powers

In an almost terror-stricken tone, Garrison says she can't imagine how I obtained her address in Crestline because she is unlisted, almost "underground," one might think. She suggests that I've gone to extraordinary lengths to get her address, hinting that I have all sorts of devious plots in mind. Naturally, there is a very simple explanation for how I, or anyone else, could get her address, but Garrison (who is a licensed attorney) apparently can't figure what that might be.

This is from a transcript of her interaction with attorney Bill Baxley on the subject. (The full transcript is embedded at the end of this post.), From page 67:

Q: Do you think in the future you still might have things like bad dreams and lay awake at night and things of that matter because of some of these allegations?

A. Sure, and the fact that he published a photo of my house and my street address. I'm not listed. I'm not listed anywhere. But it made me incredibly nervous when he's posted my address and my home for the world to see, so I've added a security alarm. I was paranoid that my house was either -- I was paranoid people were watching me.

Do I really have investigative superpowers, with plans to use them to torture Garrison and her young son? Not exactly. As we explained in several posts, including this one, her address at the time (119 Main Street in the Crestline section of Mountain Brook) was a matter of public record. It was in her divorce/child custody case, as plainly can be seen below:

The parties were divorced . . . on October 21, 2009 . . . [and] the parties have joint legal and physical custody of their minor child. . . . The Plaintiff (hereinafter "Mother") initially petitioned this court on December 9, 2010, for full custody of the minor child due to a material change in circumstances, and included in her petition notification of an anticipated relocation. The Defendant (hereinafter "Father") responded, objecting to the proposed relocation, and counter-petitioned for a modification of custody. The Mother was able to secure alternate employment that did not require her to move more than sixty (60) miles from the residence of the Father, and she amended her Petition for Modification of Custody accordingly. The Mother's new address is 119 Main Street, Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Father's address remains 1609 Alaca Place, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

That's how I found Jessica Garrison's address, by looking up a record that could not be more public. Anyone else on the planet could do the same thing by walking in the Jefferson County Courthouse, going to the clerk's office on the fifth floor (or third, I can't remember which) and asking to see the Lee Garrison/Jessica Garrison child-custody case out of Tuscaloosa County. So much for my investigative superpowers, but I guess Garrison wanted to have a moment of hysteria on the stand. That a lawyer could not figure out her address was available on her recent divorce/custody case . . . well, it blows the mind.

Luther Strange tells a tall tale that hides Bill Baxley's underhanded tactics

Strange addresses Dothan blogger Rickey Stokes and his coverage of the Strange/Garrison affair, noting that Stokes had pursued the story aggressively before apparently backing off. Strange doesn't say why Stokes backed off, but the reason has been obvious for quite some time -- especially for those who read this blog.

From page 17 of the transcript, as Baxley questions Strange:

Q. Okay. Now, let me ask you this: Did Ricky Stokes write something in his blog adversely to you on that occasion, the first occasion?

A. On the first occasion, he had repeated -- and I don't have the exact chronology, but he had repeated the allegations that the Legal Schnauzer had made.

Q. So he repeated something that Mr. Shuler had written?

A. That's correct.

Q. Subsequent to that, after that did Ricky Stokes later publicly in his blog apologize to you and say he didn't believe what he had written?

A. He did subsequently publish something that said these allegations I believe are highly questionable and backed off of his previous reporting.

We've reported on all of this here at Legal Schnauzer, and we know exactly what happened. We also know that Strange and Baxley pull some con artistry here on the court. Follow us briefly on this timeline of relevant events:

*  July 31, 2013 -- We publish a post about Strange's refusal to answer Rickey Stokes' questions regarding the then-attorney general's extramarital affair with Jessica Garrison. That's the first Stokes article Strange references in his testimony above.

* August 21, 2013 -- We publish a post about Stokes' reversal, where he claims my reporting is "highly questionable as to truth and accuracy." This is the second Stokes article Strange references in his testimony. Stokes says his reversal is based on a conversation with a source he "would trust with my life in his hands." We note that the source likely is someone connected to the Baxley family, which is from Stokes' home base of Dothan. And we note that the source probably did not disclose that Bill Baxley was representing Jessica Garrison in her lawsuit, giving him a vested interest in trying to discredit me. We suggest that Rickey Stokes and his readers have been conned.

* September 30, 2013 -- We publish a post in which Stokes admits Bill Baxley conned him into writing the post that claimed my reporting was "questionable." From our post about Rickey Stokes and his public confession that Bill Baxley conned him:

In a comment posted to wiregrasslive.com at 1:48 p.m. on September 1, Stokes confirms that our suspicions were right on target: Bill Baxley was the source of his post claiming our reporting was "highly questionable"-- and Baxley did not disclose his personal stake in the matter, via his threatened lawsuit on Jessica Garrison's behalf. . . .

Translation: Bill Baxley blew copious amounts of smoke up Rickey Stokes' anal cavity -- and Stokes fell for it.

Perhaps I have a warped sense of humor, but I found both of these pieces of testimony amusing, especially when you know their backstories -- as I do, and as I've outlined here. To be sure, however, these are serious matters.

Consider a few questions:

* Was Luther Strange, Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer and now a U.S. senator, involved in Bill Baxley's con job on Rickey Stokes? Did Strange come up with the idea, or did he at least know it was going to happen, to help make sure Stokes no longer would confront him with uncomfortable questions in public places? If so, is that the kind of man Alabamians want representing them in the U.S. Senate?

* If Jessica Garrison had such a strong defamation case against me, why did Baxley (and maybe Strange) resort to chicanery involving Rickey Stokes? Why did Baxley, Strange, and Garrison take all sorts of underhanded steps to ensure they would not have to engage in discovery, go to trial, or testify under oath before a jury?

Humor aside, the testimony highlighted above adds to the evidence that Jessica Garrison never had a legitimate defamation case -- and she, or someone close to her -- made sure my wife, Carol, and I were subjected to a wrongful foreclosure, ensuring that I would be in Missouri and not in Birmingham to defend myself.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Alan Colmes of Fox News has died, but he leaves a legacy of unmasking the conservative corruption in Deep South that national journalists often ignored

Alan Colmes
News today of Alan Colmes' death has struck us hard here at Legal Schnauzer. We long admired Colmes as the lone reasonable, intelligent, progressive voice on Fox News. We marveled at his ability to be outnumbered and still outwit Sean Hannity and conservative guests night after night on the long-running Hannity and Colmes talk fest.

But our appreciation for Colmes was personal. That's because he was one of the first national journalists to report on the blow back I was facing for reporting on GOP corruption in Alabama. In fact, I think Colmes played a significant role in getting me released from my unlawful five-month incarceration from October 23, 2013, to March 26, 2014.

I was the only journalist to be jailed in the western hemisphere in 2013, the first to be incarcerated since 2006 and likely the only one in U.S. history to be jailed because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case, which has been unlawful under First Amendment law for only 200-plus years. Colmes recognized it as an important story, and while it received national and international attention, Colmes was one of the first (and certainly the best known) reporters to cover it.

At his LiberalLand blog (alan.com), Colmes was one of the first mainstream journalists to pick up on our reports about anti-LGBT federal judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com. He also was among the first to report on law-enforcement intimidation we experienced in the days and weeks after our Pryor reports. (See "Is A Whistleblowing Alabama Blogger Being Harassed By Law Enforcement?") When GOP operatives Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed a bogus defamation lawsuit in apparent retaliation for my reports about their "relationship" (and the Pryor story), Colmes was there to inform the public.

When I finally was released from jail, Colmes provided solid coverage. And just one week prior to my release, Colmes conducted a jailhouse interview with me via telephone.

Was it a coincidence that my release came so soon after the Colmes interview? I don't think so. Many of my friends and readers don't think so either. One said. "When Fox News started focusing on your incarceration, I think the Alabama crooks knew they had problems."

Once I was released, Colmes and Peter B. Collins were the first journalists to interview me. (Colmes' jailhouse and post-release interviews can be heard via links at the end of this post.)

Alan Colmes did not have to pay attention to my story. There were plenty of stories from the White House or Congress that he could have talked or written about. But he was a person of genuine depth and courage. He truly was willing to go where many other journalists would not go. And he treated my plight with seriousness, showing how it threatened the constitutional protections that keep our far-flung society knitted together.

Colmes also recognized that news is not just generated on America's east and west coasts. He knew real issues confronted real Americans in that "vast wasteland" between LA and New York. He knew a story of profound importance was brewing in a little hellhole called Columbiana, Alabama, and he did not hesitate to dive in and find out what was going on.

This I will always remember about Alan Colmes: I am, unquestionably, a "real journalist," with more than 30 years of professional experience and and a degree from one of the nation's foremost J-schools (University of Missouri, Class of 1978 -- "Mizzou-rah, Mizzou-rah, Mizzou-rah Tigers!) Still, as a "blogger," I find that many of my fellow journalists treat me (and other bloggers) with scorn or indifference -- as second- or third-class citizens.

I'm sure many journalists ignored my incarceration because, "Well, it was just a blogger in jail." And the so-called "progressive legal community" was useless, probably because, "Oh well, he's just a blogger."

Alan Colmes never offered up that garbage. He treated me (and my wife, Carol) with respect, never looking down on us because we lived in Alabama or because we were affiliated with Legal Schnauzer and not The New York Times.

Colmes' touch has been apparent on Legal Schnauzer in recent years. He invited me to take part in an advertising network to promote liberal blogs. I don't remember the other blogs involved, but I think Little Green Footballs was one. We hardly made any money off the ad network; I think we might have raked in $25 over several years, and that wasn't Alan's fault. The reality of blog advertising is that it's often not a moneymaking proposition, particularly for a liberal blog in a conservative country, with a blog that unmasks corrupt elites who can threaten advertisers in various ways.

Even though the ad network was not profitable, I chose to hang in there with it. I knew Alan Colmes was a class act, and I liked being affiliated with him -- even though few people knew I was affiliated with him.

Who are the people you remember in life? Is it the ones who reach out with a genuine touch, with a good heart, in your darkest hour of need?

The answer, for me, is yes. And for that reason, I will always be grateful to have crossed paths with Alan Colmes.

He never will be forgotten here at Legal Schnauzer. I hope folks around the nation understand what a genuinely caring, thoughtful person he was. I was fortunate to see that first-hand.

Alan Colmes' jailhouse interview

Alan Colmes' post-release interview with Legal Schnauzer

Our reports on Ashley Madison customers tend to draw disparaging comments, but U.S. military has learned sexual misconduct damages big organizations

David Haight (right), the "swinging general"
(From drum.army.mil)
Each time we publish a post about a customer of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, you can count on it drawing a few disparaging comments from readers who apparently find our reporting distasteful. The comments, almost always anonymous, tend to go something like this: "You are just shaming people and hurting families. These are private people, and their sex lives are none of your business."

I suspect quite a few of the comments come from people who are on the Ashley Madison (AM) list or know someone who is on the list. In other words, they want to discourage my reporting out of fear they will be outed. I've also seen evidence that some of the comments come from individuals associated with Ashley Madison itself. The company is based in Toronto Canada, and my blog statistics show quite a few comments coming from a server at "Bank of Canada, Ottawa Ontario." We're not sure why the traffic would be routed through a bank, but we do know the Ashley Madison "enterprise" is built on deceit, so it's possible many of our negative comments come from individuals who are paid to harass the only journalist in North America (or anywhere else) to look closely at AM's customer base.

On the assumption that at least a few of the comments are from people who genuinely disagree with our editorial pursuits . . . well, I offer them the U.S. Army. I also offer them the U.S. Air Force.

According to recent reports, the Army is so concerned about sexual misconduct among senior officers that it appointed a three-star officer to investigate the matter. Why? Because sexual misconduct among leaders has hurt the organization and threatens to cause even more damage -- much the way behavior linked to Ashley Madison has, or could, hurt organizations in the private sector.

That is especially true when you consider that our reporting has focused on professional elites -- lawyers, physicians, bankers, engineers, wealth managers, IT executives, etc. While one could label them private figures, they also make decisions every day that affect the public. Their missteps certainly can fracture individual families, but they also have the potential to harm all of us, by causing dysfunction in large organizations that serve the public.

The U.S. Army has learned that lesson, and it's trying to do something about it. From a report at USA Today:

The Army has named a three-star officer to review its burgeoning problem of sexual misconduct among senior officers and the shocking suicide [last] summer of a top general, Army Secretary Eric Fanning told USA TODAY.

The Army also instituted a new procedure that prompts the review of the security clearances of top brass to be triggered by investigations of misconduct, Fanning said Friday. The new approach to clearances, which grant troops and civilians access to national security secrets, stems from a USA TODAY report on a senior officer fired from his job last spring but allowed to retain his clearance for several months.

Lt. Gen. Edward Carbon will examine the recent spate of top officers felled by misdeeds, and, one, Maj. Gen. John Rossi, who killed himself, Fanning said.

“This has hit the general officer corps pretty hard,” Fanning said of the suicide.

How deep, or wide, is the Army's problems. For now, it's described as an "uptick," but the Army is trying to make sure it does not go beyond that:

Fanning stressed that the overall number of complaints lodged against the Army’s top officers and senior civilians has remained relatively low, and dipped in the most recent reporting period, fiscal year 2016, which ended on Sept. 30. The vast majority of that group of about 560 senior officials perform their duties honorably, he said.

Data do, however, show what Fanning referred to as “an uptick” in extramarital affairs and other misbehavior. An internal Army report found that “most concerning is that seven allegations of sexual misconduct, inappropriate relationships and sexual harassment were substantiated in FY16. This constituted a significant increase from the two allegations involving sexual misconduct that were substantiated in FY15. These types of cases have a significant negative impact on the Army and its image.” 
The Army has been rocked by several high-profile cases of top officers felled by extramarital affairs, carousing and suicide. Among the findings of investigators: Maj. Gen. David Haight, the “swinging general,” had an 11-year affair and led a “swinger lifestyle”; Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, who had been the three-star adviser to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, frequented strip clubs, got drunk in public and had improper interactions with women; Rossi took his own life in July, just days before he was to be become a three-star general.

On February 8, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis will be demoted to one star and retired. From a report at USA Today:

One of the Army’s most promising generals will be demoted to one star and retired following a scandal that involved sex clubs in Seoul and Rome, high-priced booze and indiscretions with young female troops, the Army announced Thursday.

Ron Lewis, who had been a three-star general and top aide to the then-Defense secretary Ash Carter, will also lose about $10,000 a year in pension payments due to the demotion.

The Pentagon Inspector General "substantiated allegations that Maj. Gen. Lewis misused his government travel charge card for personal expenses, made false official statements regarding his (credit card) misuse, and engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman on multiple occasions," Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The Army, it seems, is not trying to "shame" anyone; it is trying to protect its culture and its effectiveness:

Fanning speculated that the multiple combat tours over the last 15 years of soldiers like Haight, and their long absences from their families, may have contributed to their misconduct.

“We want to have a better understanding of the impact that has on our senior officers, and look for ways that we can mitigate any causes or linkages that we see,” Fanning said

The problem does not appear to be widespread, he said, but continual combat stress may be a common thread for those who violate military rules and laws.

“I don’t think there’s a problem because I don’t think the numbers bear that out,” Fanning said. “But if you look at that small subset of the general officer larger population, we want to understand why. My guess is there’s something systemic in there. We want to get at it and be preemptive about it.”

As for the Air Force, it stripped a retired four-star general of two ranks earlier this month and docked him $60,000 a year in pension payments after he was found to have had coerced sex with a subordinate officer. From a report at USA Today:

The rare move means that retired Gen. Arthur Lichte, who had led the Air Mobility Command until 2009, will be demoted to major general and see his retirement pay dip from about $216,000 per year to $156,000. His case is the latest in a string of general officers to be sacked or demoted in the last year for sex scandals.

Lichte's actions drew an extraordinary, stinging rebuke in a letter of reprimand in December from then-Air Force secretary Deborah James. James blasted Lichte for putting the officer “in a position in which she could have believed that she had no choice but to engage in these sex acts given your far superior grade, position, and significant ability to affect her career.”

James suggested Lichte, who is married, would have been court-martialed but that the statute of limitations of five years had lapsed. Lichte retired in 2010, but the Air Force began conducting an investigation in 2016 after it had received a complaint from the woman.

“You are hereby reprimanded!” James wrote, exclamation point hers, in the letter of Dec. 6, 2016. “Your conduct is disgraceful and, but for the statute of limitations bar to prosecution, would be more appropriately addressed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The military surely is wise to get a grip on the problem before it gets worse. The public would be wise to understand that sexual-misconduct is serious business -- the kind that can harm organizations, big and small.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bentley crony Cooper Shattuck reels in $325,000 of state legal work, while Rebekah Caldwell Mason remains front and center in "Luv Guv's" administration

Cooper Shattuck
(From Alabama Political Reporter)
The lawyer who formed an alleged slush fund for the mistress of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has received state contracts worth $325,000, according to a recent published report. The mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, remains front and center with Team Bentley, even though she supposedly resigned as senior political adviser last March, the report states.

Cooper Shattuck, who resigned as chief counsel at the University of Alabama last December, is billing at $195 per hour for legal work, according to the subscription Inside Alabama Politics (IAP) Web site. Shattuck served as Bentley's legal adviser before taking the UA job and established the ACEGOV nonprofit, which has been described as a slush fund for Bentley mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Shattuck resigned at UA eight days after being named in a lawsuit filed by former Bentley security chief Wendell Ray Lewis. ACEGOV is a defendant, with Shattuck prominently mentioned in the lawsuit. Shattuck might be out of a full-time job, but he won't be hurting for money anytime soon. From the IAP report:

According to a State contract review for February, Shattuck will pull down $325,000 in legal work for the state between now and January 2019. One contract is for legal work related to the Deepwater Horizon matters and issues with the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project, a State-run hotel and convention center that will compete with private businesses along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Billing at $195/hour this contract is good for $250,000 of state money from DWH funds until January 2019. A second contract for Shattuck (again at $195/hour) is related directly to the governor’s office dealing with Bentley’s possible impeachment. The contract states that the nature of the work is to provide “advice, counsel and other related legal services on all matters involving the Governor’s Office…on an as-needed basis.” Bentley’s friend will be paid $75,000 for this work through September 2018.

What about Caldwell Mason? Well, she apparently considers herself bulletproof. From IAP:

Speaking of Rebekah Mason, according to several sources she has once again become a permanent fixture around the Governor’s office. One insider tells IAP “she is conducting meetings as if she were the boss.” Another source has reported Mason now occupies office space in the RSA Union building and possibly working on another project with Shattuck.

Shattuck, by the way, is not the only lawyer gorging himself at the public trough:

Also mentioned in February’s contract review included $285,000 for legal work by Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Governor Bentley paid the firm $50,000 for ‘administrative’ work, presumably since there is no category on campaign finance forms for paying legal fees. Bentley reported the expenditure in January on the same report where he paid his legal bills as well as those for his fondling partner Mason.

How many reports about the seemingly dry topic of state contracts would include a reference to the governor's "fondling partner"?  Only in Alabama.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Nicholas Arciniegas, D.C. attorney with Birmingham roots and interest in national-security work, gets unmasked

Nicholas Arciniegas
(From LinkedIn)
A D.C.-based attorney, with Alabama roots and interests in intelligence, counterterrorism, and national-security work, appears as a paying customer at Ashley Madison. He even used a Mountain Brook address for his activities at the extramarital-affairs Web site. Classy move.

You might think that Nicholas Arciniegas, with his interest in legal work that involves high-level secrecy and discreetness, would be smart enough to stay away from a site like Ashley Madison. But you would be wrong.

Arciniegas appears to be a child of privilege who thinks he can build an impressive resume while getting away with immature and risky actions in his personal life. He certainly appears to come from an accomplished family.

Arciniegas has not responded to our questions, so his roots are a bit uncertain. But a check of public records indicates the following: His father is Joaquin Arciniegas, M.D., a physician with Alabama Cardiovascular Group, an affiliate of Grandview Health. His brother, Daniel Eduardo Arciniegas, is an attorney with Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb, the largest employment-discrimination and civil-rights law firm in Alabama.

Nicholas Arciniegas graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2009 and completed a degree at Samford's Cumberland School of Law in 2013. He worked briefly in the clerk's office at Wiggins Childs and served as a law clerk in the Alabama Attorney General's Office, under Luther Strange. While in college, Arciniegas served as an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives for Spencer Bachus.

Arciniegas has earned certificates related to intelligence and homeland security from a number of institutions, including Johns Hopkins, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the London School of Economics.

As a lawyer, Arciniegas has worked for LDiscovery LLC, Tower Legal Solutions, and the D.C. firm of Rodriguez and Sanabria.  before working three months at World Bank Group. He now appears to have his own solo practice, focusing primarily on immigration law.

Arciniegas' account at Ashley Madison has the address of 4924 Old Leeds Road in Mountain Brook, which is the address for Dr. Joaquin Arciniegas. Was Nicholas Arciniegas trying to disguise his identity or was he living at home at the time? It's not clear and, and he has not responded to our queries for this article.

Based on public records available to us, Nicholas Arciniegas' marital status is unclear; he appears to be single.

Perhaps the biggest question is this: How could an ambitious young lawyer, building a career in intelligence and national security, compromise himself by signing up for Ashley Madison? Has that information become known in the D.C. legal community and already had a negative impact on the trajectory of his career.

Building a snazzy resume seems to be Nicholas Arciniegas' primary accomplishment so far, and that probably isn't hard to do when money is no object, and you were born with a silver foot in your mouth.

As for genuine accomplishment, it's hard to find any -- other than making the dubious choice to join Ashley Madison.


Article with links to 1-20 in Ashley Madison series

(21) Craig Oliver, attorney, Springfield, MO (1/24/17)

(22) Craig Lowell, attorney, Wiggins Childs, Birmingham (1/26/17)

(23) Thomas Mancuso, tax attorney, Montgomery, AL (2/16/17)

Why did Missouri lawyer David Shuler, my brother, form a property-related LLC for our mother just days before my wife and I were unlawfully evicted in 2015?

The Stamps General Store in Osage, Arkansas,
which was in my family from 1912 to 1990.
(From wikipedia.org)
My mother has owned or co-owned property in the Ozarks region of Missouri and northwest Arkansas for more than 60 years. All that time, to my knowledge, she never saw the need to organize her holdings under a limited liability company (LLC). So why did that suddenly change on August 31, 2015, just nine days before my wife, Carol, and I were unlawfully evicted from our apartment in Springfield, Missouri -- an event that caused a Greene County deputy to break Carol's left arm into numerous pieces, requiring trauma surgery that is expected to leave Carol with 75 percent usage in that arm?

Here is another question: Why was my family willing to make it appear that Carol and I were homeless -- when we haven't been, and my family owns property that Carol and I could use temporarily, making sure we don't become homeless? Was I raised by people who are so thoughtless and devious that they would have to improve to be compared to pack of wolves?

We've presented indisputable evidence that my brother actively has been trying to harm Carol and me -- it's not just a matter of "not helping" -- so a reasonable person could wonder about the motives behind this LLC.

We'll return to the questions above in a moment, But for now, why did my lawyer brother, David Shuler, find it necessary at that time to form G Shuler Properties LLC? (My mother's name is Gondylyn, "Gondy" for short.) My mother is 87 years old, and as I understand it, David is her trustee --  and she pretty much lets him handle all of her affairs. In fact, it seems most of my immediate relatives take advice from the "family lawyer," which might explain why our family has descended into a state of embarrassing dysfunction. David is the only member of my family, that I know of, who has demonstrably dubious ethics. No wonder he was attracted to the legal "profession."

It's not like my mother is a "land baron." Her holdings -- at least the ones I know of -- are modest, by most standards. She and my father owned two properties in Springfield, Missouri -- and when my father died in 2008, she became sole owner. According to Greene County records those properties are:

* 1123 W. University--This is our original two-bedroom family home, the one I arrived at after being born in 1956 at Springfield Baptist Hospital, which now is Lakeland Behavioral Health System, which specializes in psychiatric care for children and adolescents, plus adults over 60. Records show this house has 780 square feet (God, no wonder it felt crowded), with a current appraised valuation of $45,800. My parents have rented this home to a number of individuals and families since we moved to larger quarters in 1966.

* 3427 VanOwen--This was my home from fifth grade through the end of college, until I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to seek "fortune" in the journalism business. My mother still lives here. Records show this house has 2,212 square feet (God, no wonder I felt like I could breathe there), with a current appraised valuation of $100,400. My memory is that my parents paid $18,000 for it in 1966; I might be overstating that figure. (Times have changed.) It sits on 1.1033 acres of land and was a great place to grow up, especially in a family with four active kids -- one of whom (me) tended to be playing some sort of ball almost all the time. My brother, Paul, also was a pretty fair athlete and might have been able to pitch at the college level if he had not hurt his rotator cuff.

My mother had three siblings, who all are deceased. They shared ownership of the family plot in Carroll County, Arkansas (near the tiny hamlet of Osage) for years, but my mother, as far as I know, now is sole owner.

As recently as February 2013, records showed my mother owned three properties in Carroll County, with a total value (if my memory is correct) of about $70,000. (Osage, Ark., is not a hot spot for development. That valuation, however, might be way less than what the land would bring on the market.)

The historic Stamps General Store was in my mother's family for decades -- her maiden name is Stamps -- and it now has its own Wikipedia page. It was in our family until about 1990, and now is home to a pottery shop.)

Records currently show no properties in Carroll County under my mother's name. What happened? Were the properties sold? Were they placed under some other entity, such as G Shuler Properties LLC? If so, why was that done?

My family doesn't clue me in on such decisions, so I don't have answers to those questions -- although I'm getting close to finding answers. But I do know this: G. Shuler Properties LLC was formed at a curious time, nine days before Carol and I would be victims of an unlawful eviction. (See the LLC's Articles of Organization below.) And my lawyer brother knew the unlawful eviction was coming, and chose to do nothing about it. In other words, he has clear liability, and it's likely my mother does, too.

I also know this: My family could have allowed Carol and me to live temporarily at my mother's rental home. My sister and her husband lived there, rent free as far as I know, for a year or two after they got married. One of my nephews lived there until he trashed the place so badly that he moved out, and his parents were stuck with fixing it. (Was he charged rent? Maybe, but I doubt it.)

On top of that, my lawyer brother is proprietor of Old Ivy Properties LLC, which seems to deal with rental properties, so he is in the landlord business, too. Is that how he came up with the idea for G Shuler Properties LLC, and if so, what is the new company's purpose?

As for Carol and me, we are living in a pay-by-the-week motel, and the roof over our head is a day-by-day proposition.

In essence, Carol and I have been treated differently from everyone else in the family -- and we've been the target of such contempt pretty much from the day we got married. That's why we had avoided Springfield, Missouri, for roughly 22 years -- until I got kidnapped and thrown in jail, and our house in Birmingham was stolen from us, and we were staring homelessness in the face.

We moved here mainly because it was somewhat familiar, and it was our only real choice. But has my family been more of a help or a hindrance? I hope to find the full answer to that question someday. For now, I know that Carol and I remain close to homelessness -- and I've seen no signs that my family cares one iota.

It did, however, care about starting G Shuler Properties LLC, for some unknown reason.

(Note: I have discovered that several documents related to David Shuler and Trent Cowherd, our former Missouri landlord, seem to be missing from our computer. Did someone hack our computer and steal the documents? I'm not sure, but I intend to find out. If the answer proves to be yes, someone might be facing criminal charges.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

When GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison isn't dreaming of landing a $10-million job, she tosses out other jumbo numbers like . . . well, penny candy

Jessica Medeiros Garris
When last we visited Jessica Garrison's Wide World of Cash, our heroine was convinced she was on the verge of landing a job that would pay her $10 million over a 10-year period. Those, however, are not the only fabulous figures Garrison threw out during testimony in her defamation case against Legal Schnauzer and me.

Garrison, as one might expect from a good Republican operative, sounds crazy about cash. So let's consider some of the other jumbo numbers from her testimony. (A transcript of testimony from Garrison and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is embedded at the end of this post.)

Our gal Jessica endures $25 million worth of "suffering"

Jessica Garrison claims under oath, in so many words, that our reporting about her extramarital affair with Luther Strange has caused her $25 million of damages. We're not making this up; you can read it on pages 65-67 at the transcript below. And this is from reporting that, as a matter of law, has never been found to be false or defamatory. God only knows how much she would be damaged if someone actually defamed her.

Here is part of the exchange between Garrison and her attorney, Bill Baxley:

Q. (MR. BAXLEY:) Jessica, if somebody offered you $25 million to let them do this to you publicly, what has been done, would you say it would be worth it?

A. No, sir.

Q. Have you had expenses that you've had to go through with us representing you?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And have you had expenses with trying to get Mr. Shuler served -

A. Yes, sir.

Q. -- over and over again?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. That's run up in the many thousands of dollars, hasn't it?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you can't quantify what it's done to -- the dollar amount as far as the amount of mental anguish and suffering and angst this caused you, can you?

A. No, sir.

Q. But you say you wouldn't let somebody do this for $25 million for you?

A. Huh-uh (no).

Q. You need to speak up.

A. No, sir.

Q. So you would not let them do that for any amount of money, would you?

A. No. You couldn't pay me to go through this voluntarily.

Was any actual evidence presented that goes to the expenses Garrison concurred? Maybe canceled checks, invoices, etc.? Nope. Before the exchange above begins, something curious happens. It can be found on page 65 of the transcript:

MR. BAXLEY: Your Honor, I think that's all.

THE COURT: Is that all?

MR. BAXLEY: Yes, sir, I think so.

THE COURT: Approach, Mr. Baxley.

(A sidebar discussion was had off the record.)

Q. (MR. BAXLEY:) Jessica, if somebody offered you $25 million . . .

During the sidebar, one can almost imagine Judge Don Blankenship leaning toward Baxley and whispering:

Judge: Uh, Bill we're supposed to be establishing an extremely high figure for damages here; it's part of our plan to terrorize Mr. Shuler. But you haven't done that. You have to ask your client a leading question that establishes some outlandish figure for damages.

Baxley: Oh, that's right, Your Honor, I forgot about that. Haven't had my Jack Daniels yet today . . . heh, heh.

Judge: Will you please get some nutty figure in the record . . . and do it quickly, or I'm going to need some Jack Daniels.

Baxley: You got it, Donnie Boy. Comin' right up -- the nutty figure, that is. I don't share my JD.

Our gal Jessica is paid serious bucks for managing Luther Strange's campaign

On page 40 of the transcript, Garrison lets it be known that she is no regular working girl. She gets paid serious bucks -- $10,000 a month -- for her services:

Q. (MR. BAXLEY:) I'll show you what's been marked Plaintiff's Exhibit Number 10 and I'll ask you what that is.

A. That's my contract to serve as campaign manager for Luther's 2010 attorney general's race.

Q. And what did it call for you to be paid?

A. Ten thousand dollars a month plus expenses.

Q. And what else?

A. Oh, and they provided an iPhone, our computer -- our computer was a Mac. It was a portable computer -- and reimbursement of healthcare insurance premiums.

I don't claim to be a political insider, but $10,000 a month, plus expenses and various goodies (iPhone, Mac computer, etc.) for running an AG campaign in Alabama? Seems a bit high to me, especially for someone who had an 0-1 record at the time as a campaign manager.

Jessica doesn't just make big bucks, she pays big bucks -- and not very intelligently

On page 67 of the transcript, we learned that Garrison has paid Baxley and his firm more than $50,000 to bring the lawsuit against me:

Q. Has the amount you've had to pay for service and our services up to this point exceeded $50,000?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you had travel expenses having to come back to court when Mr. Shuler wouldn't show up?

A. Yes, sir.
As a party to the case, I have a pretty good idea of how much work Mr. Baxley and his firm put in. Here are the items I can recall:

* Baxley wrote me a couple of threatening letters, making outlandish misstatements of law;

* Someone wrote a complaint, which was filled with misstatements of fact and law.

* Baxley attended a couple of hearings where I was present, and probably 1-2 others where I was not present because I did not receive notice, making Garrison's $3.5-million judgment void.

* Someone printed out a bunch of blog posts and news articles, and it's not clear if any of them had to do with the matter being argued at the time -- whether Garrison's default judgment should be upheld or not. In essence, this was a "document dump," of little or no value.

There might have been a few other things Baxley and Co. did, but that's all I can think of right now. This much is certain: The Baxley lawyers did not engage in any discovery, there was no trial or trial preparation . . . so, how does Jessica Garrison wind up paying them more than $50,000? Were they charging her $10,000 an hour?

Was there any sign in the transcript that Garrison produced invoices or canceled checks to show she had been charged, and paid, $50,000? The answer is no.

If that amount was paid, did Garrison do it on her own, or did she have help? Did she walk "bravely" into filing a baseless lawsuit because someone was helping her with expenses? Did Baxley charge an outrageous amount because he knew Garrison's benefactors -- whoever they might be -- could afford it?

I know this: If Jessica Garrison paid Bill Baxley $50,000 for the puny and sorry work he did, she's the biggest dolt ever to land on planet Earth.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ashley Madison records show Alabama tax attorney Thomas Mancuso has been looking for a woman who wants "to be licked" or "taken from behind"

Thomas and Judy Mancuso
A summary of an Alabama tax attorney's activities on the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site shows he is looking for a woman who wants "to be licked," wants "to be taken from behind," and wants "to play with me in your mouth."

Thomas Mancuso, of Montgomery, is married to Judy Mancuso, but that hasn't kept him from seeking more than a little adventure on the side.

Records show that Mancuso signed up for AM at 3:51 p.m. on March 3, 2014, using a computer with an outbound IP address of, located on or near State Dock Road, Montgomery, AL 36104. His Ashley Madison account number is 24474963. (The full summary is embedded at the end of this post.)

What is Mancuso looking for in a partner? Well, he is quite explicit. From his AM profile description:

don't be too shy . . . say or show what you like . . . be aggressive if you like . . . or tell me to take control and seduce you . . . if you want to be licked, then lead me there . . . want to be taken from behind . . . then flip to your stomach . . . I will figure it out . . . want to play with me in your mouth . . . then do it . . . want to scream when you cum . . . that makes me nuts.
Mancuso then puts his slightly kinky side on display, and in perhaps his most impressive move, he points to his wallet:

want me to pull your hair . . . sure . . . your butt spanked softly . . . love to do it . . . and best of all, I am first class, have money, no nut case but very adventuresome, don't need you to go dutch, etc., etc.

We sought comment from Mancuso for this post, but so far, he has not responded to our queries.

Missouri thugs violated state law and my wife's Fourth Amendment rights by ordering her arrest for "failure to appear" when she had received no notice from court

Carol Tovich Shuler
How could my wife, Carol, be arrested in Missouri for failure to appear when the case docket shows she was not notified of a court appearance? The answer is, "She couldn't." But she was, and that is a violation of Missouri law. It also represents a grotesque violation of Carol's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. (The U.S. Supreme Court has found that an arrest is the "quintessential example of a seizure of the person.")

If I have a say about it, someone is going to pay dearly for this abuse of Carol's constitutional rights. It's bad enough that the charges against Carol -- assault on a law enforcement officer and trespass -- are bogus and not supported by probable cause, as we will show in upcoming posts. But as a simple procedural matter, her arrest runs contrary to Missouri law.

How do we know? Please follow us for a brief explanation of the law that governs such issues.

It might seem strange to you, as it does to me, that courts could be allowed to send a summons -- for which you are subject to arrest if you fail to appear -- via first-class mail. You might think that a document that carries with it the potential loss of freedom would require some form of personal service, via certified mail, a process service, or a "peace officer." But you (and I) would be wrong. Missouri allows service of a summons via first-class mail, per Mo. Sup. Ct. Rule 21.08. Here's how it reads, in pertinent part:

A summons may be served by:
(a) The clerk mailing it to defendant's last known address by first class mail; or
(b) An officer in the manner provided in Rule 54.13 or Rule 54.14.

If the defendant fails to appear in response to a summons and upon a finding of probable cause that the defendant has committed a misdemeanor, the court may issue an arrest warrant.

Rules 54.13 and 54.14 refer to personal service in the state and outside the state, respectively. The highlighted section notes that an individual is subject to arrest if she "fails to appear in response to a summons." But Carol did not fail to appear "in response to a summons." The court's own records, as found at case.net (Case number 1631-CR07731), show she did not receive a summons. Last time I checked, it's hard to respond to something you did not receive, especially when you have no reason to believe it even exists.

To summarize, a summons in Missouri may be served by first-class mail or personal service. But if the court opts to serve by first-class mail, that comes with an extra burden: It must receive acknowledgement that the summons actually was received. If that doesn't happen, the court must turn to one of the other methods allowed by law, and that means some form of personal service.

In other words, a subject who does not acknowledge receipt of a summons -- and in Carol's case, she did not acknowledge because she did not receive the summons -- cannot be subject to arrest. The court must try again, via personal service, to make sure the summons actually is received. The relevant law can be found at Mo. Sup. Ct. Rule 54.16, which reads in pertinent part:

Acknowledgment of Service By Mail

Service of the summons and petition upon a resident or nonresident defendant of any class referred to in Rule 54.13(b)(1)(2) or (3) may be made by mailing a copy of the summons and petition by first class mail, postage prepaid, to the person to be served, together with two copies of a notice and acknowledgment conforming substantially to Civil Procedure Form 4B or Civil Procedure Form 4C and a return envelope, postage prepaid addressed to the sender. If no acknowledgment of service under this Rule 54.16 is completed and returned to the sender, service of the summons and petition shall be made as otherwise provided by statute or rule. Unless good cause is shown for not doing so, the court shall order the payment of costs of service on the person served if such person does not complete and return within thirty days after mailing, the notice and acknowledgment of receipt of summons.

We call your attention to the highlighted section above, which states in real clear English that if the subject does not return acknowledgement, the court cannot haul off and arrest her; it must attempt a form of personal service that is allowed by law.

What does this tell us? Carol was the victim of a wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Her constitutional rights were trampled. And it adds to the evidence that charges were brought against her for an unlawful reason -- probably in retaliation for my reporting about Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions and his status as a closeted homosexual.

Who ordered Carol's unlawful arrest? We aren't certain at the moment, but we have a real strong suspect, maybe more than one. I'm more than a little fed up with the abuse we've received from courts and law enforcement, and I am determined to see that the responsible person (or persons) is held accountable for this one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trump AG Jeff Sessions likely will be dragged into Michael Flynn scandal after serving as chairman over Flynn on two national-security committees

Jeff Sessions
(From UK Independent and Getty Images)
Could Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions be drawn into the scandal that caused National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to step down? It looks like the process to scrutinize Sessions, as part of Flynn's communications with Russian officials, already has started.

Sessions, of course, was a long-time Republican U.S. Senator from Alabama. Could that bring the Flynn scandal to The Heart of Dixie, with Sessions having already brought Alabamians into the Trump administration? According to a report today in the UK Independent, some Alabamians might soon be wishing they never had ties to Sessions. The former senator might soon be toxic for reasons other than his well-known racist statements and actions of yesteryear.

In an article titled "Jeff Sessions faces scrutiny over Michael Flynn’s calls to Russia," the Independent notes that the AG was sitting on the same national security council as Flynn when the latter sought to reassure the Russians that sanctions would be overturned.

The issues with Sessions actually go deeper than that. In March 2016, Trump appointed Sessions to head his campaign's National Security Advisory Committee. Let that sink in: Sessions was Trump's chief on national-security issues DURING THE CAMPAIGN, at a time when we now know from U.S. intelligence reports that Russian interests were trying to undermine the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Guess who served on that campaign committee with Sessions? Why it was none other than Michael Flynn. From a Trump campaign press release, dated October 7, 2016:

Today, Donald J. Trump announced the appointment of several key members to his national security advisory council following a roundtable meeting in New York. Mr. Trump’s national security team is comprised of some of the brightest minds in foreign policy, nuclear non-proliferation, combating ISIS and rebuilding our national defense. . . .

New members of the national security advisory council include: KT McFarland, Congressman Mike McCaul, Senator Tom Cotton, Senator Richard Burr, Jim Woolsey, Tom Barrack, Congressman Darrell Issa, Senator Bob Corker, Senator Jim Inhofe, Charlie Glazer and John Ashcroft.

These new members will add to the already strong team comprised of Senator Jeff Sessions, General Mike Flynn, Tom Stewart, Bert Mizusawa, Bob McEwan, Chuck Kubic, Jay Garner, Keith Kellogg, Gary Harrell, Bob Magnus, Jim Hoskins and Rudy Giuliani.

Creating a safe America is important to every American and Donald Trump’s plan will make the U.S. safe again.

In the wake of Flynn's resignation, every member of that committee soon should be under investigation, including its chair, Jeff Sessions. Notice some of the conservative stalwarts serving with Sessions and Flynn on that campaign committee -- Rudy Giuliani, John Ashcroft, Tom Cotton, Bob Corker. What did they know, and when did they know it?

Here's more from today's UK Independent report:

Jeff Sessions is once again in the spotlight after it was revealed he sat on the same Trump campaign national security council as Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who was forced to resign after admitting he called the Russian ambassador to reassure them that sanctions would be overturned.

The Attorney General, who was sworn in last week despite opposition from Democrats and civil rights activists, is now being asked to recuse himself from his role at the nation’s highest office after speculation is swirling that he may also have been involved in the Russia-related scandal.

That is despite revelations that Mr Sessions would lead the investigation against Mr Flynn.

Speculation is swirling that Sessions was involved in the Russia scandal? Gulp. That sound you hear is Jeff Sessions and his cronies stepping in a big pile of doo-doo. And the doo-doo might be much deeper than we now can imagine.

As David Corn, of Mother Jones, reported yesterday, Flynn's communications with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak go way beyond the ones after Trump was elected:

Flynn's departure should not end the demands for an investigation. One tantalizing and somewhat overlooked aspect of the Post story that did him in was the fact that Flynn hobnobbed with Kislyak during the campaign. The paper reported that the Flynn-Kislyak conversations "were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the November 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said." And the paper noted, "Kislyak said that he had been in contact with Flynn since before the election, but declined to answer questions about the subjects they discussed."

This is the mystery that now needs an answer: What was Flynn talking about with the Russians during the campaign?

Who was Flynn's director chairman/supervisor during his talks with Kislyak? That would be Jeff Sessions. And the white-hot light is starting to turn on him.

U.S. Judge R. David Proctor's cheat job in "The House Case" starts early and ends late -- with lots of cheating throughout the middle passages, for good measure

Judge R. David Proctor and
his wife, Teresa
(From Facebook)
The cheat job that U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor has administered in our "House Case" is like a horribly written three-act play -- Proctor cheats in the beginning and the end, with lots of cheating in between.

Let's start by reviewing "Act 1." Proctor reveals himself to be a con man right off the bat, and he continues in that vein throughout. For now, we will focus on two major issues as the curtain rises on our "diabolical play."

A corrupt judge cannot get even the basics right
Reciting the standard of review on a Motion to Dismiss is the first order of business, and Proctor gets it wrong -- and continues to get it wrong on almost every page of his 45-page memorandum opinion. (Proctor's opinion and our Motion to Alter are embedded at the end of this post.)

Proctor cites the two U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases -- Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (known, jointly, as "Twombly and Iqbal") -- that have caused mass confusion in federal courts. At their core, Twombly and Iqbal require a complaint to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Plaintiffs now must “nudge their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,”

That's fine and dandy, but no one seems to know what it means, least of all Judge R. David Proctor. How does something go from conceivable to plausible? Most people of average to high intelligence would shrug their shoulders. Many judges, like Proctor, just wing it. If they are conservative and favor defendants (such as corporations, institutions, moneyed interests), they are likely to use Twombly/Iqbal as an excuse to kick out complaints that likely have merit. If they are liberals, they probably ignore Twombly/Iqbal.

Either way, the public probably is left with the impression that judges don't have a clue what they are doing. And the public would be right. If you skim the 45 pages of Proctor's opinion, you will find repeated use of words such as "conclusory" and "formulaic." That is the language of Twombly/Iqbal -- many people have no idea what those words mean either -- and the law does not make it clear.

It is clear that many observers -- from law-review authors and editors to lawmakers, even judges -- want to get out of this mess. Several measures have been introduced in Congress to overturn Twombly/Iqbal. But with conservatives in the majority, and their corporate backers pushing for easy dismissal of valid lawsuits, nothing has gained traction yet.

In a rare show of forward thinking, courts are moving away from Twombly/Iqbal on their own. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals -- which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and governs our case -- has interpreted Iqbal to mean that a "heightened pleading standard" no longer exists. From a case styled Randall v. Scott, 610 F. 3d 701 (11th Cir., 2010):

We conclude that the district court erred in applying a heightened pleading standard to Randall's complaint. After Iqbal it is clear that there is no "heightened pleading standard" as it relates to cases governed by Rule 8(a)(2), including civil rights complaints.

First, ours is a civil-rights case. Second, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) has determined the bar that plaintiffs must clear to survive a Motion to Dismiss -- and it has applied since the federal rules were adopted in 1938. Rule 8 holds that a plaintiff must provide:

"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."

Our complaint easily meets the Rule 8 standard, and Proctor acknowledges, on page 7 of his opinion, that Rule 8 governs the case. He also acknowledges the 11th Circuit's finding in Randall. If anything, our complaint provides too many factual allegations and details.

Even SCOTUS is moving away from Twombly/Iqbal, and it did so in a Deep South case, originating in Mississippi. From a case styled Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346 (2014):

We summarily reverse. Federal pleading rules call for a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. . . . [The rules] "are designed to discourage battles over mere form of statement. . . . Rule 8(a)(2) indicates that a basic objective of the rules is to avoid civil cases turning on "technicalities."

SCOTUS gets even more emphatic in Johnson:

Petitioners stated simply, concisely, and directly events that, they alleged, entitled them to damages from the city. Having informed the city of the factual basis for their complaint, they were required to do no more to stave off dismissal for want of an adequate statement of their claim.

No one who reads our complaint can seriously claim we did not inform defendants of the factual basis for our lawsuit, and in the words of the nation's highest court, we "were required to do no more to stave off dismissal."

Johnson did not specifically overturn Twombly/Iqbal, but it clearly rejected the pleading standard set out in those two cases. And we are talking about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling here.

Bottom line: Proctor got the pleading standard wrong, both at the Eleventh Circuit level and at the national level, via SCOTUS. You can't get much more wrong than that.

Proctor ignores a simple standard that he took an oath to uphold
A simple rule in reviewing a Motion to Dismiss -- the equivalent of "three strikes and you're out" in baseball -- is this:

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all factual allegations are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party.

We are the nonmoving party here. The Motions to Dismiss were filed by defendants. Proctor must, by law, view factual allegations in a light most favorable to us. He fails to follow this straightforward and longstanding principle over and over.

We will point out examples in upcoming posts. But for now, we've established that Proctor acts corruptly in the early stages of his opinion. And things don't get any better as they move along.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

U.S. Sen. Luther Strange's appointment of Kevin Turner as chief of staff emits the foul odor of blackmail and a "secret" that must be kept under wraps

Luther Strange's campaign team, with Kevin Turner in
the middle and Jessica Medeiros Garrison to his left.
(From Alabama Political Reporter)
One of Luther Strange's first acts as a U.S. senator appears to be driven by blackmail. That's quite a start for the "Big Lutha Era" on the Capitol Hill, but it should not surprise anyone because Strange has been ethically challenged for years.

Strange has appointed Kevin Turner, his former chief deputy in the Alabama attorney general's office, to be his chief of staff in D.C., according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Turner, once an attorney at the Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant, abruptly left the AG's office after reports that he was interfering with the Mike Hubbard investigation by trying to have chief prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case.

Turner landed at the Venable LLP law firm in Washington, but his bio already has disappeared from the firm's Web site, and his LinkedIn page already shows him as Luther Strange's chief of staff. Boy, that happened in a hurry.

How did it happen? Well, blackmail -- or fear of blackmail -- might have played a big role. Consider these words from an August 2014 Legal Schnauzer post, that drew heavily on a report by Bill Britt at APR. The title of our post was "Top Aide To AG Luther Strange Might Be Using "Secret" To Derail Alabama Corruption Probe." How underhanded can Kevin Turner be? The following provides an idea:

The chief of staff to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is trying to derail a corruption probe of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, former Governor Bob Riley and his children, and more, according to a new report at the Alabama Political Reporter.

Bill Britt reports that Chief of Staff Kevin Turner is leading an in-house plot to have chief prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case. Turner, who used to be at the Bradley Arant law firm in Birmingham, is holding a secret over Strange's head as leverage to get Hart off the case, Britt reports.

Turner was holding a secret over Strange's head? That sounds like serious stuff, with criminal implications. Here is more from the post:

Inside the Attorney General’s Office, the effort to sabotage the Grand Jury, by eliminating Hart, is thought to be the work of Strange’s closest ally, Turner.

The seemingly unbreakable bond between Strange and Turner is rumored to be based on more scandalous motives, and not mere loyalty. As Strange’s driver and body man during the 2010 campaign for AG, there is speculation that Turner holds a dirty secret over his boss' head. Whatever the reason may be for Strange’s particular loyalty to Turner, there are more than a few questions raised by Turner’s recent actions against Hart.

What secret could Turner have acquired while serving as Strange's "driver and body man" during the 2010 campaign? Well, we broke the story of Strange's extramarital affair with 2010 campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, whose divorce from Tuscaloosa City School Board president Lee Garrison dovetails with her activities on the Strange campaign. We addressed that issue in an October 2014 post titled "Could Jessica Medeiros Garrison's sealed divorce file help shine light on "secrets" in State House probe?" From the post:

Where does Jessica Medeiros Garrison fit into this picture? She managed Luther Strange's 2010 campaign, which would have more or less made her Kevin Turner's supervisor at the time. Any "dirty secret" that Kevin Turner has on Luther Strange, probably would be known to Garrison.

What's the nature of this secret? Is it personal, professional, political, financial--a combination of all the above? We don't know, but Garrison's divorce case ended in October 2009, and a related child-custody case went into 2011--all in the general time frame of the 2010 campaign for attorney general.

Could the sealed Garrison divorce file include information about the secret? It certainly could, and if so, that means it's relevant to the Lee County investigation--and Kevin Turner's actions that appear to be unethical (at best) and maybe criminal (at worst).

How likely is it that Kevin Turner's "secret" involves Luther Strange's affair with Jessica Garrison? The evidence suggests it is very likely. How likely is it that Turner is a mediocre attorney, and his career at Venable was going nowhere fast -- and when Strange was appointed to fill Jeff Sessions' U.S. Senate seat, Turner made a quick play for the chief of staff post, and Strange had little choice but to go along with it. After all, published reports indicate Strange would be wise to keep Turner's heart happy and his mouth shut.

Based on all the intel we've received, Luther Strange, as AG, ran a wildly dysfunctional office in Montgomery. It looks like he is heading down the same path in D.C.