Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Severed Penis Case" shows bogus lawsuits don't come just from scum like Bill Swatek; "reputable" lawyers, like Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison, bring them, too

Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange
The Case of the Severed Penis has taught us a legal principle that, on paper, should be of bedrock importance. In reality, lawyers of all stripes ignore the principle, and we've seen little sign that the Alabama State Bar makes it a priority to discipline those who violate it.

The principle is this: A lawyer should investigate a client's claims, making sure there is "good cause" to support them, before filing a complaint. A lawyer never should bring a lawsuit he knows is baseless.

What is the official wording of this principle. It can be found at Rule 3.1 Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, which reads, in part:

In his representation of a client, a lawyer shall not file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defense, delay a trial, or take other action on behalf of the lawyer's client when the lawyer knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another.

That sounds like a relatively simple rule to follow. But my wife, Carol, and I have been the targets of multiple lawsuits that were not based in truth and had no purpose but to maliciously injure us. In fact, they have maliciously injured us, costing us our home of 25 years in Birmingham, causing me to be unlawfully incarcerated for five months in Shelby County, causing us to be unlawfully evicted in Missouri (leading Carol to have her arm shattered by rogue cops and to be falsely arrested and imprisoned twice). I've reported on multiple other Alabama residents who have been the targets of bogus claims.

Pelham, Alabama, lawyer Bill Swatek was the first lawyer to target Carol and me, bringing a malicious-prosecution claim on behalf of Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor who had admitted to trespass, as charged, in a criminal proceeding. Perhaps that should not be a surprise, given that Swatek has been disciplined at least three times by the Alabama State Bar, including a suspension of his license for lying about hiding a tape recorder to capture "private" discussions of opposing counsel during depositions. That led to a criminal charge of perjury, for which Swatek was acquitted, even though tape-recorded evidence presented at trial showed he was guilty as charged.

Swatek is a proven dirt bag and a solo practitioner, so the public pretty much should expect sleazy acts from him. But Carol and I have been targeted for baseless lawsuits by attorneys who have been connected to sizable law firms, the type of practitioner one would expect to know better. We are talking about lawyers who are well known, attached to politicians who have held statewide office. Specifically, we are talking about Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley), who now has his own Riley Jackson firm and used to work for Hare Wynn Newell and Newton. We're also talking about
Jessica Medeiros Garrison (one-time campaign manager and mistress for U.S. Sen. Luther Strange), who until May 2017, worked for Balch and Bingham.

I reported here at Legal Schnauzer that Rob Riley had an extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke, and Garrison had an extramarital affair with Strange. Both Rob Riley and Garrison sued me for defamation, but neither even attempted to prove my reporting was false. That's because my reporting was not false, and we have filed pending federal lawsuits -- Shuler v. Duke, et al and Shuler v. Garrison, et al -- that are designed to show that.

Did Riley or Garrison believe they had a legitimate defamation case against me? Their own actions suggest the answer is no. Let's look first at the Riley case; it's clear his goal was to have me falsely arrested and incarcerated, and his complaint had nothing to do with defamation:

* The normal remedy in a defamation case, by law, is to seek money damages. But Riley did not seek money damages, and none were issued in the case. Instead, Riley sought an improper equitable remedy -- a preliminary injunction that has been prohibited under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. The injunction was a set-up to cause my unlawful arrest -- a kidnapping, really, given that no warrant ever has appeared.

Rob and Bob Riley
* Under long-standing First Amendment law, a defamation claim must be determined at a jury trial. That's because the First Amendment holds an exalted place in American law, and the notion that a judge could act as a one-man censor at a bench trial is considered abhorrent.

* Central to a jury trial, of course, is discovery, which establishes the facts upon which the case is to be argued. Riley did not seek a trial, a jury trial, or discovery. Why is that? I can think of only one reason: He wasn't interested in proving defamation because he knew my reporting about his affair with Liberty Duke was not false. Discovery -- producing e-mails, text messages, phone records, etc. -- would have proven my reporting was on target. Rob Riley wanted no part of that process.

* Judge Claud Neilson, brought out of retirement to hear the case by special assignment, acted as a one-man censor -- declaring my reporting defamatory, even though he had no facts, via discovery, to support that finding. And it was a determination that only a jury, not a judge, could make. In fact, I had one hearing before Neilson, but there never was anything approaching a trial in the case.

* Neilson imposed monetary sanctions against me, acting pro se, in the amount of about $33,000. But Alabama law is clear that a self-represented party cannot be hit with sanctions or attorney fees. They have not, and will not be paid, because they are unlawful. Still, Liberty Duke used her portion of the bogus sanctions to place a lien on our Birmingham home. If Duke and her lawyer, Christina Crow, don't know that monetary sanctions cannot be imposed against a self-represented party . . . well, Liberty Duke should stay out of courtrooms and Ms. Crow should find another profession. In essence, Liberty Duke stole more than $7,000 of excess foreclosure funds that lawfully belonged to Carol and me. So far, Duke has gotten away with the theft, but we intend to make sure that changes. That is one of many issues raised in our pending federal lawsuit. Anyone thinking of doing business with Liberty Duke in her role as a lobbyist should know that we have indisputable facts that show she is a thief -- and that should cause a few second thoughts.

* Liberty Duke used her portion of the unlawful sanctions to have a bogus lien placed on our property. Duke and her lawyer, Christina Crow of Union Springs, had to know this was contrary to law. But did it serve to harass and maliciously injure Carol and me? It sure did -- cheating us out of more than $7,000 -- and inflicting such injury was the whole point of the Riley/Duke lawsuit.

What about the Garrison case? Well, it's every bit as bad:

* Garrison did not seek a jury trial -- at least not in her initial filing. In my response, I demanded a jury trial -- and Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley promptly responded with a motion that more or less said, "Oh yeah, we want a jury trial, too." The truth? Garrison, like Riley, never intended to have a trial (jury or otherwise), suggesting she knew my reporting was accurate.

* Evidence indicates Garrison was a key figure in our wrongful foreclosure, which forced us out of state (to Missouri), where I could not defend myself against her defamation claim, which wound up with a $3.5-million default judgment. That judgment is void, as a matter of law, because I never received notice of the default-judgment application or hearing. Garrison must like to catch fish in a barrel because she clearly likes to bring a bogus lawsuit and then help ensure the target can't defend himself. That kind of chicanery must give her a sense of "power." By the way, Riley's lawsuit that caused me to be unlawfully incarcerated for five months also played a key role in the loss of our home, suggesting that he and Garrison worked together on their little courtroom scams.

* Garrison likely never had any intention of having her case tried, but she did try it in the press. She arranged for an "as told to" article in Marie Claire, a women's fashion magazine published by Hearst Corp. The article only proved that Garrison can't keep her facts straight and defamed me in at least three ways: (1) Falsely claiming I had reported that Luther Strange was the biological father of Garrison's child; (2) Falsely claiming I had stalked Garrison; (3) Falsely claiming there was a trial in her underlying defamation case.

* Former State Rep. Lowell Barron has stated in a radio interview with Marcus Echols that Strange and Garrison had an extramarital affair and said it compromised Strange so badly that he could not do his job -- Alabama attorney general, at the time.

* Barron also shined light on why Garrison and Strange helped launch our wrongful foreclosure, forcing us out of state and making sure I would not receive notice of key events in the case. Strange tried to prosecute Barron for alleged violations of the state ethics law, but that changed when Barron filed a motion seeking to have Strange give testimony under oath. The judge had not ruled on the motion, but in the interim, Strange dropped the case. Said Barron, from an earlier post:

Luther Strange is so compromised that he cannot go after the governor. What happened in my case . . . my attorney asked the judge to allow us to get Luther Strange to testify in my case. The judge left that open and didn't rule on it. Once the judge didn't rule on whether we could put Luther Strange on the stand, my case went away.

Luther Strange cannot stand to be deposed or be put on the stand because his shenanigans with Ms. Garrison would come out in the open. This whole bunch is compromised. You can't have clean government when you are dirty.

* Has Jessica Garrison filed a defamation case against Lowell Barron? Nope. Why? Probably because she knows his statement is true, and truth is an absolute defense to a defamation case. Instead, Garrison made her social-media profile mostly go dark after a report that Strange was tied to the ongoing Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal. Why would Jessica Garrison go underground right now? Hmmm . . .

The Case of the Severed Penis teaches us that the Alabama State Bar is more likely to go after solo practitioners, or lawyers from small firms, while letting the big fish go free. But our experience shows that lawyers with histories of working at large firms -- like Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison -- can be every bit as dirty as the smaller guys.


Anonymous said...

Calling Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison "reputable" is using the term loosely.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:09 --

Agreed. That's why I put "reputable" in quotation marks.

Anonymous said...

The Alabama State Bar does a terrible job of policing corrupt lawyers.

Anonymous said...

I find it disturbing to see the words "penis" and "Bill Swatek" in the same headline.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought about filing bar complaints against Riley and Garrison -- plus Christina Crow?

legalschnauzer said...

@11:05 --

Yes, I have, and I've thought of adding Luther Strange to that crowd because evidence suggests he and Garrison colluded to help cheat us out of our house. My concern is that it would be a waste of time because the Alabama State Bar, based on my experience, is a worthless outfit.

I filed a bar complaint against Bill Swatek, and it wasn't even investigated.

My memory is that the bar has a six-year statute of limitations, so I still have plenty of time to file complaints. Tony McLain, former chief counsel of the bar, died within the past year of so Perhaps that will help bring some much needed change.

Anonymous said...

Rob Riley's actions in the defamation case against you were a disgrace and embarrassment to the Alabama legal profession. To read about the case in NY Times, Al Jazeera, and other major news outlets made me cringe. If any lawyers had respect for Mr. Riley before, they certainly shouldn't now.

I guess I'm preaching to the choir here, but just wanted you to know that the corrupt nature of Riley's antics (and Neilson's rulings) were not lost on many lawyers. Some of us have pride in what we do and don't appreciate it when a "Daddy's boy" like Riley makes us all look bad.

Anonymous said...

I guess we now know why Jessica Garrison got into the political gig and screwed around with Luther Strange -- she's not smart enough to do actual legal work.

Anonymous said...

Liberty Duke is associated with Rob Riley, so it should be no surprise that she's a thief. And you are correct -- Alabama law is very clear that you cannot impose attorney fees (sanctions) against a self-represented party.

Rob and Minda Riley stole like bandits from the public while "Daddy" was guv.

Anonymous said...

Very curious that Garrison's social-media stuff went away once Luther was connected to Superfund scandal. Not sure Luther has an ethical bone in his body. He almost makes Bentley look like a paragon of virtue.