|Virginia Emerson Hopkins|
-- Monroe Freedman, founder of legal ethics
Why did U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins deny discovery that might have shown former Alabama attorneys general Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor engaged in a scheme to investigate companies, solicit the same targets, and drop inquiries when the companies coughed up campaign contributions?
Why has R. David Proctor, Hopkins' colleague in the Northern District of Alabama, repeatedly ruled contrary to law in our "Jail Case" and "House Case," favoring defendants who are aligned with Sessions, Pryor, or both?
Public records suggest the answer to the two questions are the same: Both judges are bought and paid for by right-wing interests.
Here is a broader question, with a related, but slightly different, answer? Why have federal courts in Alabama turned into a toxic sewer, regularly churning out the kind of opinions that Monroe Freedman found abhorrent? Much of the blame can be placed at the feet of Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.
Sessions served in the U.S. Senate for 20 years before becoming Donald Trump's attorney general -- and a major figure in the KremlinGate scandal -- earlier this year. Sessions testified yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee and mostly stonewalled on questions about his conversations with Trump on the subject of Russia and its apparent interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Shelby is serving in his 30th year in the Senate. Together, Sessions and Shelby have either hand-picked, or signed off on, many of the federal judges now serving in Alabama's three districts.
Recently issued fraudulent court opinions raise this ticklish question: Are Sessions and Shelby actively involved in directing their judicial sycophants to rule in certain ways, favoring parties connected to right-wing politics, while cheating parties who aren't? If so, are Sessions and Shelby engaging in criminal behavior? More on that in a moment.
A modest amount of research reveals two alarming trends about Sessions, Shelby, and the federal judiciary: (1) They have shown consistently awful judgment in pushing unqualified and unfit candidates for the bench; (2) They tend to favor candidates for their ability to pay, not their intellectual heft, integrity, or judicial temperament.
As for trend No. 1, we merely need point to Mark Fuller, the heavy-drinking, pill-popping, spouse-cheating, wife-beating "arbiter" of the Don Siegelman case in the Middle District of Alabama. Fuller probably would still be on the bench, except that he got caught slapping wife No. 2 around in an Atlanta hotel room, creating a stench that even his judicial colleagues could not bear, so they forced him to step down.
As for trend No. 2, we merely need point to U.S. district judges Virginia Emerson Hopkins and R. David Proctor (Northern District of Alabama), who have conducted a hatchet job on our "House Case," currently on appeal before the Eleventh Circuit. (See here and here.)
Publicly available documents suggest Hopkins is a hack for Richard Shelby. A report titled "Money Trails to the Federal Bench," from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), indicates Hopkins wound up on the federal bench because of the cold-hard cash she helped funnel to Sen. Shelby, with some also going to Sen. Sessions.
A major conduit for the money flow was Christopher Hopkins, the judge's husband who is an attorney in Anniston. From the CIR report on Virginia Emerson Hopkins:
Hopkins, Virginia Emerson U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama Nominated: October 14, 2003 | Confirmed: June 15, 2004
Summary: In May 2003, five months before her nomination, Hopkins and her husband, attorney Christopher Hopkins, each contributed $1,000 to Sen. Shelby, who strongly supported her nomination. On Halloween 2003, two weeks after Hopkins was nominated by the White House, President Bush received $2,000 from Hopkins’ husband. Sen. Sessions, also a backer of her nomination, later received $1,000 from husband Christopher Hopkins several months after her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Sessions is a member. Overall, Hopkins’ husband made nearly $9,000 in federal contributions between 2000-2004, with all but $500 going to Republicans.
Virginia Hopkins, formerly an attorney in private practice, gave Bush $250 in 2000. Chronology: • May 21, 2003: Shelby receives $2,000 total from Hopkins and her husband. • October 14, 2003: Bush nominates Hopkins. • October 31, 2003: Bush-Cheney campaign receives $2,000 from Hopkins’ husband. • November 19, 2003: Confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. • March 2, 2004: Sessions receives $1,000 from Hopkins’ husband. • June 15, 2004: Hopkins is confirmed by the Senate.
Bottom line: The first highlighted section shows that Christopher Hopkins made $9,000 in federal contributions just before, and after, his wife was nominated to the federal bench. The second highlighted section shows a regular money trail leading from Christopher and Virginia Hopkins to Richard Shelby, the Bush-Cheney campaign, and Jeff Sessions. All of these contributions came between May 2003 and March 2004, just before and after Virginia Hopkins was nominated.
Our verdict: Christopher and Virginia Hopkins bought a seat on the federal bench, and it had nothing to do with the nominee's judicial qualifications.
Here is the CIR summary about R. David Proctor. It shows that he is, to put it bluntly, a whore for Jeff Sessions:
Proctor, R. David U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama Nominated: May 1, 2003 | Confirmed: September 17, 2003
Summary: Proctor, formerly an attorney in private practice, was hired by Sen. Sessions in 1996, to represent him in a case in which he was charged with mishandling evidence as Alabama attorney general, according to the Birmingham News. From 2000 to 2002, Proctor contributed $1,775 to Sessions, $1,600 to an unsuccessful GOP congressional candidate, and $300 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Bottom line: Proctor didn't just buy his seat. He "earned" it by representing Sessions, along with Terry Price (nephew of black federal judge U.W. Clemon), which forced Clemon off the case and might have saved Sessions' political bacon. For good measure, Proctor shipped $1,775 directly to Sessions.
Our verdict: Via courtroom chicanery and direct payments, Proctor has been a "whore" for Jeff Sessions, dating to at least 1996. Records clearly show that Proctor owes his seat on the federal bench to Sessions.
As for our earlier question about criminality, consider our "House Case" and "Jail Case," both currently on appeal. Combined, the two cases have at least five defendants (and that's a conservative number) connected to Sessions and/or Shelby. And the cases have been butchered at the trial level by Proctor and Hopkins. If Sessions and Shelby, or their surrogates, have been directing Proctor and Hopkins to issue the kind of fraudulent rulings that made Monroe Freedman want to puke . . . well, that likely indicates Proctor, Hopkins, Sessions, and Shelby, and certain surrogates have been engaging in obstruction of justice.
Ironically, the obstruction issue is swirling around various members of the Trump administration -- including Sessions -- at this moment.
You likely have heard the old saying that no one wants to see how sausage actually is made. Well, this post provides a glimpse at how "justice" is produced in this country -- and it might be even uglier than what goes on in a sausage plant.