Wednesday, July 25, 2018

U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala dismisses FOIA case on Siegelman prosecution, as DOJ is allowed to produce documents so heavily redacted as to be worthless

Joseph and Don Siegelman
A lawsuit seeking information from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has been dismissed. As often is the case with federal-court matters in Alabama, the final ruling is dubious -- in large part, because Judge Madeline Haikala received documents from the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) last spring and sat on the case for roughly 10 months before making a final ruling.

Does Haikala's ruling make sense under the law.? We don't have access to the entire court file, so it's hard to make a determination on that question. But an online summary of the case docket raises troubling questions and suggests powerful conservative forces -- both in Alabama and Washington, D.C. -- are trying to keep the lid on what really happened in a case that has become known as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.

Here is the most disturbing part: OPR turned over documents that "were so heavily redacted they were worthless," a source close to the case says -- and Haikala let the government get away with that. Haikala,an Obama appointee and former attorney with Birmingham's Lightfoot Franklin firm, is the same judge who twisted the facts and law into a pretzel in order to let Madison police officer Eric Parker off on criminal charges after he had body slammed Sureshbhai Patel (a grandfather from India), causing spinal injuries. We reported a four-part series about the myriad ways Haikala butchered the law in the Patel case.

Is there any reason to think Haikala got it right in the Siegelman matter? I don't see any.

The case started when Birmingham attorney Joseph Siegelman (Don's son and currently a candidate for Alabama attorney general) filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking documents about the prosecution that caused his father to spend more than six years in federal prison. Of particular interest were documents related to the supposed recusal of Leura Canary, who was U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama on the Siegelman case -- even though her husband, Bill Canary, had worked for the campaign of Siegelman's chief opponent, Bob Riley.

Madeline Haikala
Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit is the latest in an effort that has gone on for more than a decade, struggling to unlock the truth behind his father's case and meeting OPR stonewall tactics at every turn. This is from a Legal Schnauzer post of April 17, 2017:

The road to seeking government documents has been long and winding in the Siegelman case. It started with a FOIA request in 2006, a FOIA lawsuit in 2009, and years of stonewalling by both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Are these documents sensitive? Well, the government has covered them up for 11 years, when both Republicans and Democrats controlled the White House. That has led to the current Joseph Siegelman lawsuit, with OPR supposedly turning over the documents and Haikala supposedly set to act with integrity while reviewing them outside of public view.

At the time those words were written, OPR had just turned over the requested documents for Haikala's in camera review. We now know those documents were so redacted, with information blacked out at every turn, that they provided almost no information about Canary's "recusal" or anything else related to the Don Siegelman prosecution. To justify the redactions, OPR apparently claimed the material was exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Haikala -- surprise, surprise -- sided with OPR, in a ruling that suggests we might as well not have a FOIA law if the government can get away with producing blacked-out documents that reveal nothing.

Here are the final four entries from Joseph Siegelman's FOIA case:

2017-04-10 -- 25 -- NOTICE by Office of Professional Responsibility, United States Department of Justice (Notice of Submission of Ex Parte, In Camera Material) (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 04/10/2017)

2018-02-09 -- 26 -- ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE - The Court ORDERS OPR to SHOW CAUSE by February 23, 2018 why the portions of the report identified above are subject to the FOIA exemptions claimed and cannot be segregated and produced, or to produce those portions of the report to the plaintiff. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 2/9/2018. (KEK) (Entered: 02/09/2018)

2018-02-23 -- 27 -- RESPONSE to re 26 Show Cause Order filed by Office of Professional Responsibility, United States Department of Justice. (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 02/23/2018)

2018-02-28 -- 28 -- FINAL ORDER - On February 23, 2018, OPR gave notice that it produced the identified non-exempt portions of its report to Mr. Siegelman. (Doc. 27). Because OPR produced the portions that are not protected from disclosure under FOIA exemptions 3, 5, 6, and 7(C), Mr. Siegelman's request for injunctive relief is now moot. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED AS MOOT. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 2/28/2018. (KEK) (Entered: 02/28/2018)

Notice that OPR turned over the requested (and heavily redacted) documents for Haikala's review on April 10, 2017, and the case went dormant until February 2018. Then, in a span of 19 days, Haikala issued three orders that disposed of the case -- with no sign she even considered any Siegelman arguments to OPR's claims of exemption -- with a final order dated February 28, 2018.

Does that smell funny to you -- especially when you consider Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions played a major role in launching the Siegelman investigation while serving as U.S. senator from Alabama? It sure smells funny to me, given that Sessions and his allies -- including some "Democrats" -- likely had major influence on Haikala, and her outlook for career advancement.


Anonymous said...

What's that fishy smell coming from the Northern District of Alabama.

Anonymous said...

This isn't about protecting Leura Canary. There are much bigger fish who would go down if those documents were revealed.

Anonymous said...

12 years trying to get these government documents, and still no luck. Gee, I wonder what is in those documents.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of an appeal?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:23 --

I see no sign that an appeal has been filed, and I think the time for filing a notice of appeal has past. Of course, it would go to the 11th Circuit, which includes Bill Pryor and has cheated Don S. over and over, so the Siegelman's might have decided there is no point in going that route.

Anonymous said...

Haikala must be somebody's puppet.

Anonymous said...

I bet at least three people behind this cheat job are in, or have been in, the U.S. Senate. At least one other is on the federal bench.

Anonymous said...

Huge story, which will receive zero coverage in the Alabama MSM.

Anonymous said...

Haikala is a DINO from a conservative law firm, so she is right up Doug Jones' alley. My bet is that Jones played a central role in this cheat job. He's been a suck up for the DOJ for years -- under Bush, Obama, doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

The national press -- NYT, WaPo, CNN, ABC, etc. -- need to pick up on this story.

Anonymous said...

They say the cover-up usually is worse than the original crime. Well, this must be one helluva cover-up.

Anonymous said...

No excuse for a judge to sit on a case like this for so long. Makes me think she is on the take.

e.a.f. said...

sitting on the material for so long, you have to wonder what if anything made her so busy. Waiting for money, orders, hoping people died of old age? who Knows. What we do know is something is fishy. About the only way to truly find out what was in the documents is to hire a first class burglar who can break in, obtain all relevant material and make a quick getaway so others can have a really good look and publish it all. Of course that type of burglary is illegal, how ever pleasant the thought, but its not like the government and/or its representatives are really going to turn over the documents.

What is so secret about them that they had to use black ink to cover up the information? My guess, the truth and that is rarely given out freely in Alabama politics or the politics of my province British Columbia.

It is interesting that the MSM doesn't deal with these types of issues. All we have seen in the last couple of years is trump the dump and as long as the MSM keeps dumping trump on the public, they will not see or know what is truly going on in the U.S.A. Nice racket.

Anonymous said...

I think she was waiting on orders. Amazing how U.S. judges take an oath to uphold the law, then they get in office, and totally forget about that oath.

It's way too much work for the MSM to deal with this, and with layoffs at U.S. newspaper, we're heading for the day where there is no MSM.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like something happened in February of this year that caused Haikala finally to act. I wonder what it was. It would be interesting to go back through state, regional, and national news to look for clues.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:17 --

News of Joseph Siegelman qualifying for AG race came on Feb. 9, and the first of Haikala's three rulings after 10 dormant months came on Feb. 9.

Don't know the date J. Siegelman actually filed. It might have been a day or two before it hit the press on Feb. 9.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. If Haikala ruled on this in February, why are we just now hearing about it?

legalschnauzer said...

@1:00 --

I can only speak for myself. Haikala had sat on it for so long that it went to my back burner, and I pretty much forgot about it, with so many other stories going on. Also, I live in Missouri at the moment, which means I don't have access to federal court records in Alabama, so other stories took priority. A source just happened to mention to me that the Siegelman FOIA matter had been decided, and I found a FOIA-related Web site that had a summary of the docket, giving the basics on Haikala's three rulings in February, which ended with her dismissing the case.

I assume you read about here at Legal Schnauzer? Have you read about it anywhere else, MSM or otherwise?

Anonymous said...

LS: @1:00 am here. -- Yes, I read the announcement here first! Apologies if I seemed critical--didn't mean to be in any way. It was just very surprising to me that absolutely NO ONE is covering this story, and the outcome is, as most of us feared, lots of judging but no justice, for either you, Carol or Don Siegelman. (You also linked to a February post on Joe Seigelman's FOIA lawsuit, wherein Captain Marshall commented that Trump would save the day after a screening of Atticus vs. The Architect in DC. Fat chance.)

legalschnauzer said...

@9:17 --

No problem. Appreciate your comment. Sadly, the MSM in Alabama (, in particular) have been "see no evil" re: the Siegelman prosecution for years. I know Kyle Whitmire has written he believes the defendants were guilty, without providing any facts or law to support that. Pretty sure John Archibald has written the same thing. And general news coverage was wildly pro-prosectuion

Anonymous said...

Eliza Battle to @ 9:17
The bread is buttered on the side you can not see. Trump could not get involved while the lawsuit was pending.

Anonymous said...

@EB 12:16 pm -- Whose bread? Why is it buttered? What lawsuit (I thought it was simply a FOIA case)? Are you suggesting something will occur later? I'm just a little too dense to get your cryptic comment.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:58 --

I can answer part of your question. A FOIA case can be both a "request" and, if the government does not adequately respond, a lawsuit. The Siegelman matter started with a request in 2006, then a first lawsuit in, I believe, 2009, and then Joseph Siegelman's second lawsuit, which I think started in 2016 and was concluded, with more cover-up, in Feb. 2018.

Anonymous said...

Eliza Battle to @8:58
The bread is buttered on the side you cannot see: See Roger's posts.
July 25, 2018 Judge Haikala ruling: The material is heavily redacted.
June 27, 2012 Judge Coody ruling: The material does not further the defendant's claims, does not contain exculpatory material .
My opinion: Well Hell's Bells- It's heavily redacted.
Dec 22, 2014 Judge Land ruling: Read Land's " unsolvable riddle." {His Words}
Whose bread? Trump is a showman. He could order the documents un-redacted and use them as an opening act against Mueller.
I would use them as a curtain raiser.