I like Rickey Stokes. He's got the cajones to call a state judge and ask him to explain his crooked rulings in a matter that involves profoundly important First Amendment issues; no other journalist that I'm aware of confronted Neilson directly about my unlawful five-month incarceration that lasted until March 2014 . And Stokes is smart enough not to fall for it when the judge resorts to bobbing and weaving for an answer.
Stokes came up a tad short in a couple of areas on his post about questioning Neilson. First, I wish Stokes had confronted Neilson with Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), a U.S. Supreme Court opinion hat is roughly 88 years old and holds that the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Neilson issued to justify my arrest are unlawful "prior restraints" -- and have been under First Amendment law that dates back more than 200 years.
Second, Stokes ends his post with a scenario that shows he does not realize the case leading to my incarceration -- Rob Riley and Liberty Duke v. Roger and Carol Shuler -- was handled in a much more crooked fashion than even the appropriately cynical Stokes can fathom. In short, I consider Stokes' missteps to be minor. The important thing is that Stokes confronted Claud Nielson -- something no mainstream media (MSM) reporter in Alabama was willing to do -- and held him up for the lawless, crooked weasel that he is. Rickey Stokes, who is a bail bondsmen by trade, when he isn't writing Rickey Stokes News, will have my eternal respect and gratitude for doing that.
What exactly did Stokes do? Well, let's let him explain it, straight from his March 24, 2014, post, titled "Since October 23 in Shelby County Jail Because He Will Not Remove Article":
JUDGE CLAUDE NEILSON - RETIRED JUDGE DEMOPOLIS, ALABAMA
The Judge is Claude Neilson of Demopolis Alabama. He is retired and specially appointed in this case.
Today I called Judge Neilson and he answered the phone. I asked him how could he hold Shuler in jail on "civil' contempt"? Judge Neilson responded that Shuler held the keys to the jail. That when he removed the articles from The Legal Schnauzer he could be released from jail.
You mean this government paycheck suckin' Judge who is retired and probably drawing a six figure salary still from the people is keeping a man in the Shelby County Jail because he will not remove something from the web?
Let's point out two key issues here?
(1) Stokes' question, in so many words, was, "What law allows you to hold Shuler in jail for "civil contempt"? Neilson responds by saying "Shuler holds the keys to the jail." That's the same pablum, word for word, Neilson spewed during the one hearing I had before him, on Nov. 14, 2013. Stokes' question essentially asks, "What law gives you the authority to throw a journalist in jail over reporting that has not -- as a matter of law -- been found defamatory? (Note: Even if the material of which Riley and Duke complaint had lawfully been found defamatory -- by a jury, as required under defamation law -- the remedy would have been money damages, not incarceration.) Neilson twists Stokes' words and puts the burden on me for being in jail -- all while failing to answer the question of why I was in jail in the first place. Neilson, of course, can't answer that question because there is no law that allows him to issue a "prior restraint" and then hold me in contempt for "violating" a ruling he can't lawfully issue.
(2) Stokes paraphrases Neilson as saying that when I removed the articles from Legal Schnauzer, I could be released from jail." Again, that is the same pablum Neilson spewed in the Nov. 14, 2013, hearing. And again, it doesn't answer the question, which essentially was: How can a journalist be forced to take down a story that, as a matter of law, has not been found to be defamatory? Neilson danced around that issue because there was no answer he could give.
This, of course, involves a practical question that I asked Neilson myself. "Even if I were willing to take down the offending articles, how am I supposed to do it from jail?" Neilson's response: "That's your problem." That shows Neilson is not only a crook, who has no respect for the rule of law, he's also a jackass, who is blind to basic human courtesy and fairness. Calling Claud Neilson a reptile would be an insult to reptiles across the globe.
Stokes picked up on this issue in his post:
First, in the Houston County Jail in Dothan, Sheriff Hughes does not let the inmates have computers. So how in the world can this man remove something from the web? Oh, they did not teach this government paycheck sucking retired Judge that in law school or how to screw people judge school!!!
As for Stokes' second minor misstep, noted in the fourth paragraph above, let's look at the issue he raises near the end of his post:
I do not know Roger Shuler. I do not agree with some of his writings. And my investigation, some of what he wrote, well I hope he has had proof.
(Note: Here is a technical issue the public often gets wrong in a civil case such as Riley, et al v. Shuler, et al. As defendants, Carol and I didn't have to prove anything. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff. They had to prove my reporting was false and defamatory. If they can't do that -- and they did not even come close in this case -- it's party over and case closed -- game, set, match.)
And he was stupid with this lawsuit. Give me the authority to take depositions under oath. MAN - please - please give me that. Especially Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Luther Strange!!! WOW - PLEASE PLEASE - my heart races at the opportunity.
Shuler should have agreed and took the opportunity to get them under oath to answer questions.
Shuler remains in the Shelby County Jail or Jefferson County Jail for Civil Contempt of Court. All for the former Alabama Governor's son--Rob Riley.
As for Stokes' claim that I "was stupid with this lawsuit," he's probably assuming this was a somewhat regular lawsuit, which would follow normal procedures. But there was nothing normal about it. The lawful remedy in a defamation case is money damages, to be determined by a jury. But Riley-Duke did not seek money damages or a jury trial. As for depositions and other forms of discovery, those are precursors to a trial -- and their first function is to help determine, at summary judgment, if there should be a trial at all. But Riley-Duke did not seek a trial or discovery; they wanted Neilson to act as a one-man censor, which is exactly what he did, even though long-standing defamation law forbids it.
we explained in an Oct. 10, 2013 post:
Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed documents that seek to have me held in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction related to certain posts at this blog.
Under Alabama law, however, no preliminary injunction exists because we were not given proper notice of a hearing on the matter. In fact, Riley's own court documents prove that no lawful injunction exists. How do we know? It's spelled out in an Alabama Supreme Court case styled Southern Homes, AL v. Bermuda Lakes, LLC, 57 So. 3d 100 (Ala., 2010).
As you can see, the ruling was issued in 2010, so it's not ancient law. A Yale Law School graduate like Rob Riley should be able to find it. But apparently that kind of research is beyond Mr. Riley's legal skills--and those of retired Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, who issued the injunction.
What issues were at hand in Southern Homes? We addressed that in the Oct. 10, 2013 post, which came less than two weeks before my arrest. In other words, we knew any attempt to arrest us was unlawful well before it happened. That's because there never was a lawful preliminary injunction:
The Southern Homes case involved a preliminary injunction that a circuit judge issued related to the development of 87 acres in Madison County, near Huntsville. The order enjoined Southern Homes from taking any action related to its dispute with Bermuda. But the Alabama Supreme Court found the preliminary injunction was unlawful because Southern Homes did not receive sufficient notice of a hearing, pursuant to Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP). From the opinion:
Southern Homes argues, among other things, that it received insufficient notice under Rule 65(a)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., of the hearing on Bermuda's motion for a preliminary injunction, in violation of Southern Homes' due-process rights. We agree. Rule 65(a)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides that "[n]o preliminary injunction shall be issued without notice to the adverse party." Rule 65(a)(1) does not specify how much notice must be given to the adverse party before a preliminary injunction can be issued. However, as the United States Supreme Court has held in interpreting the federal equivalent of Rule 65(a),2 the notice required by Rule 65(a) "implies a hearing in which the defendant is given a fair opportunity to oppose the application and to prepare for such opposition." Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70 of Alameda County, 415 U.S. 423, 434 n. 7, 94 S.Ct. 1113, 39 L.Ed.2d 435 (1974). See also Alabama Republican Party v. McGinley, 893 So.2d 337, 344 (Ala.2004) (holding that "[t]he hallmarks of procedural due process are notice and `the opportunity to be heard "at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner."'
Bottom line: We were required to receive sufficient notice of the preliminary-injunction hearing to allow "a fair opportunity to oppose the application and to prepare for such opposition (calling witnesses, gathering evidence, etc.)" Instead, we got less than 24 hours notice, violating Alabama law and meaning there was no lawful preliminary injunction for me to violate. In other words, Riley v. Shuler was crazier and more crooked than Ricky Stokes could even imagine.
In a perfect world, Rickey Stokes might have gone a little deeper in his analysis and hit Claud Neilson with even more questions the judge couldn't answer. But that's a quibble. Mr. Stokes did unmask Neilson as a criminal and a fraud, and that is a major public service.