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)


Anonymous said...

The judge seems to be saying that sheriff's deputies are above the law.

Anonymous said...

If Hopkins is correct -- and I don't think she is -- what incentives do sheriffs have to act within the law. The answer seems to be none.

Anonymous said...

Where is Hopkins pulling this immunity bull crap, from what law?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:20 --

She doesn't make that clear in her judgment, but it's probably from Sec. 14 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901 and related case law. That, of course, is the famously racist constitution that has held Alabama back for more than 100 years.

Hopkins conveniently ignores state and federal law that says sheriffs and deputies lose their immunity under certain circumstances, as I outline in the post and will have more in coming posts.

Anonymous said...

Deputy Blevins looks like a real charmer. It must be a treat to have him show up at your door.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:15 --

He's particularly delightful when he breaks into your home -- when he's given no clue why he's there, and you've told him to stay out -- and proceeds to beat you up and douse you with pepper spray, for no reason. Lots of fun, but he's supposed to be "immune" to do that.

T Striker said...

Federal judges generally don't even write these opinions, and I'm betting Hopkins did not write this. She probably handed a few basic documents to a clerk, probably a law student or recent graduate, and said, "Here's how I want this to turn out. I want this party to prevail, so find a way to make it happen."

legalschnauzer said...

T Striker --

No doubt you are on target. I've written several posts on this topic, including the one below:


James Greek said...

OMG Offiver Blevins looks mean in the pic!

Anonymous said...

I would bet my sweet bippy that Deputy Blevins is on 'roids. Must have been fun to have that monster coming at you.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:53 --

Oh, it was lots of fun. Made my day, for sure.

Anonymous said...

@10:53 --

I was thinking the same thing. You don't get shoulders like that by eating Wheaties and pumping a little iron. This guy could be the poster boy for roid rage.

Chuckles said...

Blevins looks like he eats his young.

legalschnauzer said...


Hysterical line; made me spew milk out of my nose.

I think that picture was taken as Blevins was arriving home from duty, about to walk through the front door and say, "Honey, I'm home, ready to eat my young!"

Anonymous said...

Hopkins just likes brownshirts, as long they aren't breaking into her home.

Anonymous said...

@10:53 --

You hit on something that made this a particularly dangerous situation. Cops tend to be angry, hair-trigger types anyway. But put them on steroids, and they can become really violent, irrational, and filled with rage.

A thug like Blevins could kill somebody. That he would walk into a home, having been told to stay out and without showing a warrant, makes me think something was clouding his judgment. Or maybe he never had good judgment in the first place.

LS, you must be in pretty good shape to have survived this encounter with Officer Roid.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:45 --

I was in pretty fair shape at the time, and it's a good thing. Also, I was lucky. All three of my falls were broken -- one by a dog pen in our garage, and two by a stack of boxes I had been vowing for months to throw away.

Without items to break my falls, I probably would have fallen fully backwards and cracked my skull on concrete. God only knows what kind of head trauma that would have produced, and whether I would have survived it. I might have been left in a vegetative state where I wouldn't have wanted to survive it.

legalschnauzer said...

James Greek:

Yes, and he's mean in real life, too. I've got the scars to prove it.

e.a.f. said...

some weird judge. some weird rules. thought there was a constitution in the U.S.A. WHICH says you can't just barge in, even if you're on duty. Now just in case I got that wrong, living in Canada, where its against the rules, I'm sure you'll let me know. In my opinion it would seem these Judges and cops make things up as they go along and then wait for the fall out, if there is any. The U.S.A. needs a huge over haul of their Judicial And Bail system. Of course if that happened there would be a lot of unemployed "law enforcement" types.

If the cop did what he did to you, in some states, he could be dead, there are those stand your ground laws.

When cops break the law they ought to be held charged just like others, but I do know that in the U.S.A. some levels of cops don't get charged with murder. It was something Canada and the U.S.A. were at odds on when there was discussion of having staff such as Immigration Officers operating on Canadian soil.

OMG, is all I can say. The U.S.A. certainly appear to be no different than any of those "shit hole" countries Trump was referring to. The U.S.A. just has more t.v.s and cars. The rule of law appears to have disappeared, or perhaps never was what it ought to have been.

legalschnauzer said...

e.a.f. --

Yes, we have federal-law claims in our lawsuit where cops clearly can't barge into your home and beat you up. That's an unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and it also violates SCOTUS precedent in Payton v. New York. Hopkins, the judge, unlawfully dismissed our federal-law claims on statute-of-limitations grounds. I've written a post or two showing that she got that wrong, which is typical for judges in this country -- they simply can't be trusted to properly apply the law, which means we more or more are becoming a nation with no rule of law.

The immunity issue involves our state-law claims -- trespass, assault and battery -- and that's where Hopkins wrongly claims the officers are entitled to state immunity. Again, she simply is wrong. Alabama law is that state immunity generally does apply on cases of alleged negligence by a deputy, but it does not imply on intentional wrongdoing -- as is present in our Jail Case.

We've challenged all of that in our Rule 59 motion, and we are going to keep challenging until someone gets it right. I'm not going to get beaten up and kidnapped from my own home, and thrown in jail on a totally civil matter, and then be cheated in court for the umpteenth time.

These crooks have pushed me as far as they are going to push me, and they aren't going to get away with cheating Carol and me on this -- or on the theft of our home via wrongful foreclosure. We've already been cheated on the House Case, but their are vehicles to get that overturned, and that's going to be changed. We're done being cheated, and the Alabama crooks needs to learn that.

BTW, calling Hopkins a "judge" is using the term loosely. She was appointed because she and her lawyer hubby (Christopher Hopkins, of Anniston) gave thousands of dollars to Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, and Bush-Cheney campaign. They just flat bought a judicial seat, which says a lot about why our "justice system" is so corrupt. I will be posting shortly about the Hopkins money trail.

Sessions, of course, is in the middle of Trump corruption, and Shelby recently led a GOP delegation to Russia, which many believe was designed to set up meddling for 2018 elections.

e.a.f. said...

In Canada police officers do not get immunity on anything. They can be charged with any sort of crime while doing their jobs, if they don't do their jobs properly. In Toronto, Ontario, a cop was charged with attempted murder and convicted for shooting a young man. In B.C. it goes to an independent body who investigates and then turns the file over to the "crown". So glad I live in Canada. The appointment of Judges in the U.S.A.does't appear to have anything to do with their knowledge of the law or their contribution to society.

Even law firms donating money to political parties gets a good look and then of course we have limits on what can be donated to a political party.

Its just beyond me how they stole your home, put you in jail, broke Carol's arm and got away with all of it. Good luck in your continued fight for justice.

legalschnauzer said...

e.a.f. --

Qualifications have nothing to do with it. Sessions and Shelby wouldn't know a good judge if one bit them in the ass. And yet, even Democratic admins check with them about judicial appointments in Alabama.

One of many reasons the U.S. "justice system" is no better than what you might find in a third-world country.