Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sexual-abuse case involving Dr. Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics shows that our courts consistently fall short when it involves equal protection under the law

Dr. Larry Nassar
(From cbssports.com)
A casual observer of recent activity in the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse case in Michigan could have the impression that American courts actually are striving to achieve equal protection of the law -- especially in matters that involve alleged contempt of court and abuse of girls and women by men in positions of authority.

My wife, Carol, and I have up-close-and-personal experience with such matters in two states -- Alabama and Missouri -- and we know U.S. courts are a long way from acting with anything approaching consistency and enlightenment. No matter how many life sentences are imposed against Dr. Larry Nassar -- the physician and sexual predator at the heart of the Michigan case -- the public should not fall for any notion that our courts truly dispense justice. The sideshow created when Randall Margraves -- the father of three Nassar victims -- tried to attack the doctor in court only adds to evidence that our courts are not to be trusted, even in a case that has attracted national media attention.

The criminal cases against Nassar likely ended yesterday, with a judge imposing another 40- to 125-year sentence. That could be interpreted as a form of justice for the victims. But criminal cases are about punishment for wrongdoers, and they do little or nothing to address the victims' damages. That can only come from civil cases, and lawsuits already are mounting against USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and other entities connected to Nassar.

Are the victims guaranteed anything close to justice in civil matters? Absolutely not. Michigan State is one of the most powerful entities in the state, and we know from first-hand experience with the University of Alabama, that you should never underestimate the ability of a state university to cheat its victims. When I was screwed out of my job of 20 years at UAB, the university was more than happy to take advantage of U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr.'s corrupt rulings, granting summary judgment when no discovery had been conducted.

That simply cannot be done, per Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988), and University of Alabama lawyers surely knew this was a monstrous cheat job. But they stayed quiet because it benefited them. Would Michigan State's lawyers do the same thing to Larry Nassar's victims? Well, they've already shown signs that the answer is yes. MSU has moved a federal judge to dismiss complaints against it in the Nassar matter on the grounds of "state immunity." From an article at the Lansing State Journal:

MSU has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuits against it by some 140 women and girls who say former university doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused them because as a state institution it "retains absolute immunity from liability" for his actions. . . .

Attorneys for the university furthered their argument that Michigan State University and its current and former employees should be dismissed from the nine lawsuits by saying the statute of limitations had expired, the plaintiffs lacked standing for protection under the federal Title IX law or because MSU employees are also immune from liability.

"In the fall of 2016, Nassar was unmasked and exposed for what he is: a fraud, a pedophile, and a criminal," attorneys wrote. "He has now publicly admitted that he abused his position of trust to surreptitiously sexually assault his patients under the guise of medical care. He will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars — and deservedly so."

Michigan State has signaled clearly that it intends to do everything in its power to make sure Nassar's victims walk away empty handed. If that doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth just a little . . . well, I've seen the University of Alabama pull the same stunt -- and get away with it.

I suspect the public perceives that the Nassar criminal sentencing signals his victims will achieve justice in the civil arena. But we warn against jumping to such conclusions.  We've seen here in Missouri that powerful institutions, who have abused women once, are likely to try it again.

Members of the Greene County Sheriff's Office -- acting at the behest of corrupt landlord Trent Cowherd and his corrupt lawyer, Craig Lowther -- broke into our rented apartment, with no authority from a court, and wound up breaking Carol's arm in more than two places (a comminuted fracture).

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm
Did the thugs take accountability for their actions? Are you kidding? They concocted a bogus "assault of a law enforcement officer" criminal case against Carol, which she has been fighting for more than a year --and it clearly is a "cover charge" designed to impede her chances of achieving civil justice.

How weak is the cover charge? The Probable Cause Statement shows there is no accuser -- no one with a name makes any claim that Carol assaulted anyone. That can't be done under the Sixth Amendment to he U.S. Constitution, but it's being done right here in the Missouri Ozarks. Even worse, the supposed "victim," Officer Jeremy Lynn, admits in his incident report that he initiated contact with Carol -- and that means, as a matter of law, she could not have assaulted him.

All of this raises a discomfiting question: What if Larry Nassar had been a cop, or a doctor who worked for law enforcement? What if he had routinely sexually abused female inmates in the Michigan corrections system? Would the justice apparatus be doing everything in its power to protect him?

The answer, in my view, likely is yes. Also, we encourage the public not to buy into the notion that the justice system, and those who are powerful enough to manipulate it, care one iota about justice for Larry Nassar's victim.

We've already seen signs that Michigan State is working against the victims, and you can only expect that to intensify.

As for contempt of court, our justice system has proven beyond a doubt that it routinely butchers that concept. More on that issue is coming.

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