Monday, April 8, 2019

Astros-Rangers MLB game provides a stage for umpire Ron Kulpa to blow calls and show he is almost as crooked and arrogant as America's courtroom judges




Are American sports officials doing their best to become as arrogant and crooked as our judges? We long have lamented that Americans accept a level of corruption in courts they would not tolerate on fields of play. But we recently saw signs that might be changing.

It came during a Major League Baseball (MLB) game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros at Arlington, TX. Here's how the Houston Chronicle sets the scene that led to a troubling verbal confrontation between Astros manager A.J. Hinch and umpire Ron Kulpa:

Kulpa employed an inconsistent strike zone during the first inning. He missed an obvious called third strike in a 2-2 count during [Rangers'] Joey Gallo's plate appearance against [Astros'] Gerrit Cole, forcing the fiery righthander to throw five more pitches in the inning.

Cole was two steps off the mound after releasing the 2-2 fastball, which Statcast showed was blatantly inside the strike zone. Cole escaped the inning allowing only one run, which scored prior to Gallo's plate appearance.

So, the umpire blew two calls, both going against Houston. But that's not the alarming part. Deadspin's Chris Thompson describes that in a post titled "Arrogant Dickwad Umpire Shouts "I Can Do Anything I Want" After Goading A.J. Hinch Into An Ejection." Here's the set-up from Deadspin:

In the top of the second inning of Wednesday night’s Astros-Rangers game, home plate umpire Ron Kulpa called a low strike on a pitch from Rangers starter Mike Minor. It was not Kulpa’s first controversial strike zone call of the evening, and it greatly displeased the Astros bench. Kulpa, a sensitive wiener engorged with power, turned the scene into an embarrassing spectacle:

Virtually everyone in the Astros dugout charged up to the railing in frustration after the low strike. Kulpa yanked off his mask and gestured to the dugout, and Astros manager A.J. Hinch walked out to the plate to calm things down. Kulpa was evidently still pissed: for one thing, he replaced his mask with enough force to permanently lower his hairline; for another, he couldn’t take his eyes off that Astros dugout for even a second, even while Minor toed the rubber for the 0–1 pitch.

Hinch, noticing that Kulpa was waiting for an opportunity to run someone, urged Kulpa to watch the actual baseball game, which was enough of a challenge that Kulpa went ahead and tossed Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, who’d been the most demonstrative about Kulpa’s strike zone. Hinch once again came out to calm things down, but now Kulpa was fully engaged in a sneering performance of authority. He all but laughed in Hinch’s face while pointing out Cintron in the dugout.

What did the umpire do next? Deadspin has the call:

My absolute favorite part of this comes after Hinch has returned to the dugout the second time and Minor has finally thrown his next pitch. The camera cuts to Hinch at the top step in the dugout, averting his eyes in disgust, because he knows that he can’t even look toward the plate without making eye contact with Kulpa, who is still bird-dogging for another victim. When Hinch finally gives in, you can hear him shout at Kulpa, “You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing it!” And, of course, Kulpa tosses him. And to finally make the point he’s been wanting to make all along, in the ensuing confrontation, Kulpa can be seen shouting “I can do anything I want!” in Hinch’s face.

Kulpa wasn’t done. At the end of the third inning he chirped at Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole and instigated a confrontation, and then before the bottom of the fourth inning he jumped in the middle of Cole’s warmups and started shit again.

You can see the whole imbroglio unfold in the video from MLB.com at the top of this post. Hinch mentioned the "I can do anything I want" comment to reporters in a post-game interview, and Deadspin helpfully provides a video that shows the umpire saying exactly those words.

This is the kind of behavior we've seen in Alabama courts, both state and federal. It also reminds me of a stunning scene from one of my favorite movies about our "justice system."

Here's how we described one of our encounters with former Alabama Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner -- from a July 2007 post, roughly one month after Legal Schnauzer started:

After Joiner had repeatedly cheated me, I discovered that he and Bill Swatek used to be longtime neighbors and were frequent golf partners. I moved for Joiner's recusal, and Joiner admitted his cozy relationship with Swatek in open court. (Why would such a fine Christian be buds with a lawyer of Swatek's sleazy pedigree?) I asked Joiner in open court why he had denied two motions for summary judgment (MSJ) that, by law, had to be granted because the opposing party did not respond. His answer? "I thought it was the right thing to do." (I'm not making this up! A judge in Alabama says he violated his oath to uphold the law because he thought it was the right things to do! Don't you just love it? What do they teach in law school?)

Joiner also said, "Mr. Shuler, if you don't like the way you're being treated here, you can get on I-65 and go to Montgomery (home of Alabama's appellate courts). Of course, Alabama's appellate courts are dominated by Republicans, and they proved just as corrupt as the Shelby County courts did. (And doesn't Joiner's snarky comment just radiate Christian warmth and charity?)

Here's how we described our interaction with former U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. -- who thankfully, has since died -- when the esteemed jurist admitted in open  court he was going to cheat me and then did just that in my First Amendment/employment discrimination lawsuit against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and individual supervisory types at the UAB campus in Birmingham. Here's the set-up, from an April 2012 post:

The hearing in question took place in Acker's court on December 10, 2010. It's clear from the transcript that Acker is going to convert motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment--and there had been no discovery in the case. And yet, he granted summary judgment on January 28, 2011, without even a discovery meeting having been held between the parties.

Courtroom crookedness doesn't get much more outrageous than that. But it came as no surprise, given Acker's statements in open court on December 10. One issue on that date was a motion to dismiss from the City of Birmingham, which I had named as a party in my complaint. The record shows that the city attached an affidavit to its motion, and the transcript makes clear that Acker did not exclude it. When a defendant attaches "matters outside the pleadings" to a motion to dismiss and the court does not exclude them, the motion must be converted to a motion for summary judgment and handled according to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP)--and that means discovery must be conducted. This process is outlined in Rule 12(d) FRCP, which ends with this sentence: "All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Law doesn't get much more clear cut than that.

What happened next? I quoted straight from a court transcript:

I pointed out the requirements of Rule 12(d) to Acker, but he wasn't going to hear it. . . . Acker's dark intentions become clear on page 14 [of the transcript]:

MR. SHULER: Well, I just want to be on record that --

THE COURT: You have your record.

MR. SHULER: -- it has to be converted, and I think we all here know that.

THE COURT: I suppose with all the work you have done on this and other cases that you know what a petition for a writ of mandamus is. Have you run into one of those yet?

MR SHULER: That shouldn't be needed.

THE COURT: That would be the way to get an immediate review of my disagreement with you. You better look that up. . . .

MR. SHULER: Isn't that a waste of judicial resources when everybody here --

THE COURT: You know, I give pro se parties slack because they are due it. You are about halfway between a pro se party and a represented party. You are still pro se, so I have got to cut you some slack, but I don't have to give you free legal advice, some of which I have already given you. So I think I'm stopping there on that for the question of the City of Birmingham. They are going to be out, one way or the other. . . .

What kind of con game was Acker pulling? This is how I described it:

So there you have a federal judge admitting that he's not going to follow the law. But Acker does not stop there. Near the end of the hearing, on page 27 in the transcript, he returns to the issue of a writ of mandamus:

THE COURT: . . . But if you file something before I do it, I will read it, and it will be in the file, and the record will be made. But as of now, we are just making the record for today. And don't forget to look up the mandamus rule. Look that up.

To fully grasp what Acker is doing here, you have to understand the purpose of a writ of mandamus. The filing of a petition for such a writ is governed by Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP). It is a form of appeal while the case still is in the trial court. That's why it is called an "extraordinary writ"; the process is designed to address close questions of law or fact, not to serve as a pinch hitter for a trial judge who is too crooked to rule correctly on simple procedural issues.

The transcript, read in full, shows there was no legitimate reason for Acker to warn me twice that I would need to learn about the mandamus process. But Acker knew two things about mandamus petitions: (1) They are time consuming; and (2) They are expensive, with an appellate docketing fee of $450 every time you file one.

In so many words, Acker was telling me: "I'm going to screw you on every little detail of this case, and you are going to have to spend months of your time and thousands of your dollars just to make the simplest step forward in your case. I will drain you of your resources simply because I can--and no one can stop me."

Acker's words are almost identical to those that came from umpire Ron Kulpa's mouth the other night. They also are almost identical to the words of a judicial character in the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. Below is a video of probably one of the most stunning scenes in movie history, and it's a rare and realistic portrayal of court-related corruption in the United States. Warning If you've never seen the movie or this scene, brace yourself. I must admit that I've come to cheer for the abused character, played by Butler, who has the technical skills to cause a judge's painful demise:





15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Saw this on MLB highlights. This umpire is a douche.

Anonymous said...

This umpire needs to be suspended. What an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

Love "Law Abiding Citizen." It's gory and bloody, but a much-underrated movie.

Anonymous said...

The scene with the judge and the cell phone, from "Law Abiding Citizen," made me jump out of my chair.

Observer said...

What Acker did in your UAB case is beyond the pale, but it's not a surprise coming from him. He was a demented old prune, who greatly overrated his own intelligence and sense of humor. Glad he's gone.

Anonymous said...

That ump had a hard-on for the Astros. He needs to be disciplined.

Anonymous said...

I assume a number of lawyers were present when Acker said this stuff in open court?

legalschnauzer said...

@3:01 --

Oh yes, the seats were filled with lawyers, not to mention at least 2-3 lawyers present for UA System, plus lawyers from Acker's staff.

Anonymous said...

As you probably know, those lawyers who were present had a duty to report this kind of blatant misconduct "to the proper tribunal."

legalschnauzer said...

@3:10 --

Yes, I am aware of the duty all of these lawyers had to report Acker's misconduct. and they obviously did not do it. I filed a written complaint under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, and Joel Dubina (Martha Roby's father, who then was chief judge of the 11th Circuit) did nothing about it. Here is URL to post about that complaint. But yes, the lawyers on hand completely ignored their duty to report misconduct under the Rules of Professional Conduct:


https://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/search?q=dubina+and+acker

legalschnauzer said...

Here is key material from Dubina's ruling re: the Acker complaint:

Did Dubina take Acker's threats seriously? Of course not. Here is how he brushed them off.

"Mr. Shuler provides no credible facts or evidence to substantiate his claim that Judge Acker committed misconduct with respect to this issue. Judge Acker's statements--that Mr. Shuler would need to "study up" on the procedure for filing a writ of mandamus--do not support Mr. Shuler's allegation that Judge Acker was going to "cheat" Mr. Shuler, did not know the law, intending to intentionally misapply the law, or was going to force Mr. Shuler to waste resources by filing multiple appeals. It appears that the statements were made in an effort to inform Mr. Shuler of a process for redress in the event that Judge Acker made any erroneous rulings. Furthermore, the fact that Judge Acker made the alleged statements only to Mr. Shuler, and not to counsel for the defendants, does not support Mr. Shuler's claim that Judge Acker was biased against him, given that Mr. Shuler was representing himself pro se. In this context, the statements appear to be Judge Acker's explanation of the different options available to a pro se litigant, as opposed to an indication of bias against Mr. Shuler."

First, it should be noted that these weren't "alleged statements" from Acker. An official court transcript shows they were exactly as my wife and I reported them in affidavits to support my complaint. Second, Acker's own words show that Dubina's explanation is a pile of horse feces. On page 6 of the hearing transcript, Judge Acker commented on my apparent knowledge of the law:

"Mr. Shuler, you, in representing yourself, demonstrated to me that you are more cognizant of and aware of the Rules of Civil Procedure and some of the statutory causes of action you present, or attempt to present, than some of the lawyers that come in here . . ."

Acker knew I didn't need to "study up" on the mandamus rule. He simply was making it clear that he was intentionally going to rule against me. He's a cheat and a bully, and he thought I wouldn't have the cojones to file a complaint against him. He was wrong about that one.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is more from Dubina's whitewash on the Acker complaint:


Let's also examine Dubina's response to my complaint about Acker stating in open court that he knew that "UAB and the people over there are anxious about this." What did that mean? Here is how I explained it:

"How could Acker know that UAB is anxious about the case? It could only be because someone connected to the university told him--and this is the kind of prejudicial communication that is strictly prohibited by judicial ethics rules."

Did Dubina see the obvious? Not a chance. Here is how he brushed this one off:

"Mr. Shuler provides no credible facts or evidence to substantiate this claim, as the alleged statement does not support that Judge Acker had inappropriate conversations with someone external to the case. Given that UAB was the defendant in a lawsuit, Judge Acker could assume or perceive that UAB was anxious about the case, without having been informed of that information by someone."

This is laughable, and it shows that Dubina either is a blatant apologist for corrupt judges or he lives in an impenetrable bubble--or both. I'm the one who has been subjected to a career assassination. I'm the one who has been stripped of my livelihood in the midst of an epic recession. If anyone should have been anxious about this case, it was me. But did Acker "assume or perceive" that? Of course not.

In fact, Acker did not "assume or perceive" anything. The transcript shows that he said "I know" that UAB and the people over there are anxious. He was making a statement of fact, based on what someone had told him.

Anonymous said...

I've got some legal advice for the Legal Schnauzer. I would encourage you to research "fraud on the court." I think you will find that judges can commit fraud on the court, and Acker's actions in your UAB rise to that level. I further think you will find that your claims against UAB defendants can by reopened due to Acker's fraud on the court, and there is no deadline for attacking his rulings as the kind of fraud that interfere with the machinery of the court.

The UA and UAB folks probably are safe and secure that the issues in your complaint are behind them, and they've gotten away without being held accountable. I would argue that they could be wrong about that, and it likely would be a mighty shock to them to see your case rise from the dead.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:06 --

Thanks for the legal advice. I definitely will read up about fraud on the court, on the UAB case and perhaps others where it was involved.

Anonymous said...

Joiner is part of that crowd that has turned any notion of fairness and justice into a joke in Shelby County. The feds need to go into that courthouse in Columbiana and exterminate the vermin.