Monday, June 5, 2017

Federal judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins has a lifetime appointment, and it's a good thing because she exhibits the kind of laziness that would get most people fired

Virginia Emerson Hopkins
We have written hundreds of posts about judicial corruption, but judicial laziness has gone relatively unexplored. We now tackle that subject and present U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins (Northern District of Alabama) as the poster child for judges who are happy to accept handsome taxpayer-funded salaries, but reluctant to actually earn their pay.

We've already shown that Hopkins acted corruptly when denying our Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment in our "House Case," currently on appeal before the Eleventh Circuit. Now, we examine Hopkins' actions in denying our Rule 60 Motion to Vacate in the same matter.

The first sign of Hopkins' laziness is found simply from looking at the dates on the documents involved. Our Rule 60 motion was filed at 2:30 p.m. on March 13, 2017, and it raised a number of substantive issues, including fairly complex constitutional matters like due process and equal protection of the law, as found in the Fourteenth Amendment. But Hopkins' order denying our motion is time stamped at 10:43 a.m. on March 17, 2017; in other words, it took a federal judge (whom one assumes has a fairly heavy docket) less than four days to churn out an order on a motion that presents some pretty deep foundational issues. How can that be?

You can begin to form an answer when you view Hopkins' order, see that it is less than four pages long, and contains less intellectual heft than most fortune cookies. (The Rule 60 motion and Hopkins order are embedded at the end of this post.)

The issue in our motion is relatively simple: When a judge issues a number of orders in a case, and it's then found that he had a conflict that should have forced recusal, his orders generally are due to be vacated. A case styled Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp, 486 US 847 (Supreme Court, 1988) deals with a violation of the federal statute (28 U.S.C. 455) that requires a judge's recusal. From Liljeberg:

These facts create precisely the kind of appearance of impropriety that § 455(a) was intended to prevent. The violation is neither insubstantial nor excusable. Although Judge Collins did not know of his fiduciary interest in the litigation, 868*868 he certainly should have known. In fact, his failure to stay informed of this fiduciary interest may well constitute a separate violation of § 455. See § 455(c). Moreover, providing relief in cases such as this will not produce injustice in other cases; to the contrary, the Court of Appeals' willingness to enforce § 455 may prevent a substantive injustice in some future case by encouraging a judge or litigant to more carefully examine possible grounds for disqualification and to promptly disclose them when discovered. It is therefore appropriate to vacate the judgment unless it can be said that respondent did not make a timely request for relief, or that it would otherwise be unfair to deprive the prevailing party of its judgment.

It's undisputed that we made a timely request for relief, via Rule 60. It's also undisputed that original trial-court judge R. David Proctor made the laughable claim that his conflict had arose only after he had dismissed our case. Our motion shows that Proctor's contention is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. And our motion touches on issues that are very much in the news, via the evolving Donald Trump-Jeff Sessions KremlinGate scandal. From the Rule 60 motion:

In his recusal order . . . , Proctor acknowledges that a member of his family worked for then-U.S. Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- and had a financial interest in Sessions' office.

In their recusal motion No. 2 . . . , the Shulers state that at least four defendants in the instant matter -- Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Rob Riley, Cliff Sims, and Yellowhammer News -- had strong political, professional, and financial connections to AG Sessions. Proctor did not deny this in his recusal order.

Based on publicly available documents, Judge Proctor's son, Jake Proctor, worked for then-Sen. Sessions in summer 2015.

Based on publicly available documents, Judge Proctor's other son, Luke Proctor, entered the U.S. Military Academy in roughly 2009, with the assistance of then-Sen. Sessions.

Both of Judge Proctor's sons have financial/professional connections to Jeff Sessions, and those ties date back eight years or more.

The conflicts go well beyond Proctor's kids:

Judge Proctor himself, while in private practice, represented Sessions (then Alabama AG) in a case styled USX v. Tieco that dates to the mid-1990s. That means Judge Proctor has financial connections to Sessions, and it's likely Judge Proctor owes his judicial career to Sessions. Court documents indicate Proctor and his firm were hired in USX specifically to help Sessions get black federal judge U. W. Clemon off the case, adding to Sessions' already dubious record on matters of race.

Our little case touches on international intrigue because of Proctor's ties to Jeff Sessions, who could plunge into disgrace because of his undisclosed ties to Russian figures who might have manipulated the 2016 presidential election:

The Washington Post recently disclosed that Sessions made false statements to Congress regarding meetings with a Russian ambassador, raising questions about Sessions' ethics (not to mention possible criminal charges) and those of individuals affiliated with him - including members of the Proctor family and at least four defendants in the instant case. In his recusal order, Judge Proctor acknowledges that his son, Jake Proctor, now works for Luther Strange, a defendant in this case and Jeff Sessions' replacement in the U.S. Senate. Judge Proctor recused himself based on this clear conflict, but claimed the conflict arose after he had dismissed the Shulers' complaint on 1/13/17 . . . . Publicly available documents indicate Jake Proctor went to work in the U.S. Senate on 1/3/17. Jake Proctor presumably went to work at that time for Luther Strange, although Strange was not formally appointed until February 2017. Public information indicates Judge Proctor is mistaken, or he is flat-out lying, about the start date of his son's employment in the U.S. Senate, presumably with Luther Strange. The 1/3/17 start date means, by Judge Proctor's own admissions, he was disqualified when he dismissed the Shulers' complaint on 1/13/17.

Could Judge Hopkins be bothered to seriously examine such fundamental issues of justice. Apparently not. Her order, which can be viewed below, says almost nothing and analyzes even less.

Her order does accomplish one thing: It unmasks the kind of laziness that likely would get you or me fired


Anonymous said...

I don't think the judge is going to like this.

legalschnauzer said...

@7:37 --

I don't care if she likes it or not. Most crooks don't like it when someone reveals the truth about them. Do we just stand silent in the face of corruption? I'm not standing silent.

Anonymous said...

If Hopkins doesn't want her whittle feelings hurt, maybe she should try doing her job.

Anonymous said...

If Schnauzer doesn't want his feelings hurt, maybe he should stop filing lawsuits.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:54 --

I assume you realize courts do not belong to judges like Hopkins; they belong to citizens like you and me. Judges take an oath to uphold the law, and we have a right to expect they will do that. I paid state and federal taxes in Alabama for 35-plus years, so I have an ownership stake in those courts. I haven't paid for them to be used as playthings by corrupt judges.

I invite you to go back and look at the first lawsuit I was involved in -- brought by a criminally inclined neighbor AGAINST me; not the other way around -- and see if you can find anything in the case that was correctly decided. If that case is handled according to law, no other lawsuit would have come from me, zero.

If you believe courts are to be used at the whim of corrupt judges, you really should find a different blog to read. You won't like what you find here.

Anonymous said...

Rule 60 motions can be quite involved and often go to issues that arose throughout the case. It would be highly unusual for such a motion to be filed on a Monday, have a judge or clerk do a thorough research job, and have it written and served by Friday. Things in court just do not happen that fast, especially on something as involved as a Rule 60 Motion. It doesn't look like Hopkins tried on this one, which raises the question, "Why?" I don't blame you for being concerned.

Anonymous said...

We have lazy, brain-dead federal judges because we let feckless, brain-dead individuals pick them for us. By that, I mean Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby. As George Carlin famously said, "Garbage in, garbage out."

Anonymous said...

Proctor's claim that his conflict only was a factor after he had dismissed your case is a real hoot. How stupid do these judges think we are?

legalschnauzer said...

@1:07 --

They think we are real stupid. I've seen this kind of stuff over and over. You might remember that Judge William Acker told me in open court he was going to cheat me on my UAB case, and it was in the court transcript, on paper. I complained to the Judicial Conference of 11th Circuit, and the "honorable" Joel Dubina (another great Alabama conservative) did nothing about it.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, is there one case, one judge, who you think treated your fairly? If so please give details.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:06 --

A couple of words in your question are problematic. One is "think" and one is "fairly." I don't think I've ever written that I "think" a judge failed to treat me "fairly." Many times I have written that a judge's ruling runs "contrary to law." And that is the point of this blog, whether I'm reporting on a case that involves me or one that doesn't involve me at all. The points are these: (1) Was the case or statutory law applied correctly? (2) Was I treated correctly under the law (and the facts)?

With that out of the way, I think I know what you are getting at, and I can think of one judge who has treated me correctly under the law. That was Carol Aiken, the Missouri judge who accepted my brother's motion to dismiss the incapacitated and disabled lawsuit he filed, seeking to have Carol and me committed. That's a lawsuit we "won," in spite of everything.

It doesn't take much judicial courage to dismiss a case that the plaintiff admits is groundless, but I give Aiken credit for at least doing the obvious and correct thing. A lot of judges can't even do that.

Aiken is the only one I can think of, at the moment. If another comes to mind, I will update. I hope Margaret Holden Palmietto, the Missouri judge on the bogus "assault" case against Carol, proves to be a person of integrity. But the jury still is out on that.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:06 --

Allow me to turn your question around. Just out of curiosity, is there one judge, in any case, who you think has treated me fairly -- to use your term. If so, please give details of how the judge applied the facts and the law correctly.