Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Federal judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins wrongly claims that violent cops, who act unconstitutionally and with bad faith, are shielded by immunity

Officer Chris Blevins
If Alabama federal judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins had her way, cops could break into your home (without a warrant), beat you up without stating their reason for being there, douse you with pepper spray, and haul you to jail without the whiff of a criminal allegation against you -- and it would all be lawful, as long as they were acting within the boundaries of their employment.

What I described above is a state-sanctioned kidnapping, and of course, it isn't lawful in the United States -- at least, not yet. It also describes exactly what deputies in Shelby County, Alabama, did to me, and it is the heart of our federal lawsuit (we call it the "Jail Case) that is pending before Hopkins in the Northern District of Alabama.

We already have shown that Hopkins unlawfully dismissed portions of the Jail Case on statute-of-limitations grounds. She wrongly dismissed other portions of it on state immunity grounds -- essentially saying the actions I described above are lawful, as long as cops are acting within the lines of their job -- and not, say, breaking into your house while on a drunken weekend bender.

Hopkins' finding is preposterously off target, and we have challenged it with a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). In fact, Hopkins ruling is so unlawful that we've had to file two amendments to our Rule 59 motion, just so that we could attempt to address most of the screw-ups. (Hopkins' judgment, and our Rule 59 motion -- plus our two amendments to the motion -- are embedded at the end of this post.)

If all that doesn't work, we will appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We also will consider filing a criminal complaint against Hopkins and others who apparently have been involved with cheating us on the Jail Case, including officials with the Alabama State Bar, who clearly have interfered in the matter. It all could wind up in a federal lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act -- against Hopkins, opposing lawyers and parties, State Bar officials, and perhaps others.

As you can tell, my wife, Carol, and I consider this a serious matter. We've already been cheated on our "House Case" (involving the theft of our home of 25 years in Birmingham via wrongful foreclosure), and we intend to pursue every possible avenue to get justice in that matter. Hopkins' ruling on immunity in the Jail Case is particularly appalling because the cheat job is so obvious.

On page 25 of her memorandum opinion, under "Count Nine, Assault and Battery," Hopkins admits the statute of limitations under Alabama law is six years, so she can't screw us on that. But she comes up with something else -- the immunity sham.  This is from her memorandum opinion on the issue:

Sheriffs generally enjoy sovereign immunity from suits for damages in their individual capacities for acts they performed in the course and scope of their employment. See Ex parte Davis, 930 So. 2d 497 (Ala., 2005).

Notice Hopkins use of the word "generally" in the passage above. That means sovereign immunity does not always protect deputies, and Hopkins ignores portions of the law that do not fit her agenda -- which is to let cops skate for gross violations of our constitutional rights. From our Rule 59 motion, at No. 23:

How wrong is Hopkins on her finding that the officers are protected by state-agent immunity? A case styled EX PARTE ALABAMA DEPT. OF YOUTH SERVICES, 880 So. 2d 393 (Ala: Supreme Court, 2003) holds: "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the foregoing statement of the rule, a State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity: (1) when the Constitution or laws of the United States, or the Constitution of this State, or laws, rules, or regulations of this State enacted or promulgated for the purpose of regulating the activities of a governmental agency require otherwise; or (2) when the State agent acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law." The Shulers allege that the officers, at the direction of Curry, acted in bad faith (with malice and fraud) and outside the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, the officers are not protected by state-agent immunity.

In other words, a deputy and a sheriff are not protected by immunity when they violate rights under the U.S. and Alabama constitutions -- or when they act willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.

Immunity is one of the most twisted, confusing, nonsensical areas of the law I have encountered. In Alabama, it's particularly mind-numbing because sheriff's are considered "constitutional officers," and deputies are considered the sheriff's "alter egos" -- and some case law hints that such status gives them absolute immunity to abuse citizens without fear of being held accountable.

Other case law, such as Ex parte Alabama Dept. of Youth Services (cited above) essentially holds that "constitutional officers" might be immune to charges of alleged negligence, but they lose that protection for intentional acts in "bad faith." We've seen signs that law related to state immunity for sheriffs and their deputies is inconsistently written and inconsistently applied in Alabama. But the most recent case we've found from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, built largely on findings of the Alabama Supreme Court, make clear that Hopkins butchered immunity law in the Jail Case. We will explain further in upcoming posts.

As for Chris Blevins and Jason Valenti, the two officers who beat me up in my own home (and Valenti threatened to break my arms) -- and Sheriff Chris Curry, who apparently directed their activities -- it's clear they acted way outside the constitution and with all of the ill motives noted above.

These concepts -- that state agents, employees, and officers are not immune when they act outside the law, outside their authority, with ill motive, etc. -- go well beyond the Alabama law that Hopkins cites. From our Rule 59 motion:

Hopkins essentially says cops enjoy sovereign immunity to break into someone’s home, beat them up, and unlawfully arrest them without a warrant (and no whiff of a criminal allegation). The officers assert various forms of immunity, including qualified immunity, and that defense fails. Per Jones v. Fransen, et al (11th Cir., 2017), “But the doctrine’s protections do not extend to one who “knew or reasonably should have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of the [plaintiff].” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815 (1982).

Law from the state, Eleventh Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court are clear -- cops are not protected by immunity when they unlawfully enter your home, beat you up, douse you with pepper spray, and arrest you without a warrant or any hint of a criminal allegation.

How can a federal judge possibly get this wrong? One answer might be that Virginia Emerson Hopkins and her husband essentially bought a judicial seat by making campaign donations to then Alabama U.S. Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. Hopkins is nothing but a sleazy product of the Shelby/Sessions corruption pipeline, and we will spell that out as our series on this topic continues.

(To be continued)

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