|Virginia Emerson Hopkins|
Some of defense counsel's actions in Roger Shuler, et al v. Liberty Duke, et al would be comical if the issues at stake were not so serious. An appeal would not be necessary, of course, if U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins (Northern District of Alabama) weren't so crooked and oily that she squeaks when she walks. Hopkins is more than happy to waste your taxpayer dollars by repeatedly ruling contrary to black-letter law and forcing an appeal that should not be necessary. Hopkins and her husband -- Anniston lawyer Chris Hopkins -- essentially bought a judicial seat with donations to the Richard Shelby/Jeff Sessions/George W. Bush crime syndicate, so her bogus rulings were no surprise.
The good news is that Judge Hopkins' unlawful rulings probably rise to the level of fraud on the court, which means her orders are void, and we can pursue that avenue if the Eleventh Circuit screws us again. I'm still researching the fraud-on-the-court issue, but it could prove to be our best path to justice on all of the cases where judges have sullied the "machinery of the court" with fraudulent rulings.
History teaches that we should be prepared for a shock if the Eleventh Circuit actually dispenses justice. This is the same court that already has cheated us on a variety of issues -- employment discrimination and First Amendment violations, wrongful foreclosure, unlawful sheriff'a sale of the full ownership rights to our house, violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Oh, and this is the same court that cheated former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, forcing both men to be wrongfully imprisoned for roughly six years each.
The Eleventh Circuit process began with the filing of our appellants' brief (embedded at the end of this post). That gave defendants an opportunity to file response briefs, and most of them did so. (Note: Almost all of those documents were served to us in hard-copy format, and our scanner was stolen during our eviction in Missouri, so we have no means of converting them into a digital format for publication here. The documents can be viewed via PACER [for a fee].) We then filed a reply brief (embedded at the end of this post, doing our best to point out the mountain of absurdities that defense counsel produced.
Hopkins primary screw-ups in he district court involved the statute of limitations for cases involving allegations of false arrest and imprisonment (as ours does) and state immunity for state agents, such as sheriff's deputies, acting outside the "line and scope of their employment."
Defense counsel must know Hopkins got it wrong on those issues because none of them made a particularly strong effort to argue for her findings. Opposing lawyers, however, came up with some real gems -- failing to get it right on even simple factual issues, matters of public record. It will take more than one post to outline all of the hilarity, but let's start with perhaps the most corrupt outfit of all -- defendant Rob Riley (and other members of his law firm) and their "counsel," Joseph Stott and Freddie Harrington, of the Birmingham firm Stott and Harrington.
|Stott and Harrington|
Riley’s res judicata argument fails because it is based on the false notion that there was a “prior action” to this one. In fact, Riley admits that res judicata claim preclusion holds “. . . any claim that was, or that could have been, adjudicated in the prior action is barred from further litigation.” A simple review of court records shows there was no “prior action” to this one. The instant case (Shuler, et al v. Duke, et al) was filed on March 26, 2016. The other case (Shuler, et al v. Garrison, et al) was filed on April 29, 2016. In simple language, this case came first. Therefore, res judicata and similar doctrines, such as collateral estoppel, do not apply and do not bar the Shulers’ claims. Also, Riley falsely claims certain issues in the instant case already have been decided in the “prior action.” One, there was no prior action. Two, the Eleventh Circuit has not upheld any of the district court’s findings in Garrison. The Shulers’ appeal was (wrongfully) dismissed on alleged error in the Notice of Appeal, but no trial-court rulings were upheld in Garrison on the merits, so there were no affirmances per the Eleventh Circuit.
(Note: We have grounds to challenge the dismissal in Garrison on "fraud on the court" grounds, which make the ruling void and subject to attack at any time because, as a matter of law, it is a nullity.)
The Riley defendants also argue our complaint must be dismissed, per the Rooker-Feldman Dostrine, which generally holds that a federal district court cannot review rulings of state courts. The Riley argument, as stated by the Stott attorneys, has a few holes. From our reply brief:
Riley’s Rooker-Feldman argument fails for multiple reasons, but the primary issue is this: Per Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F. 3d 1266, 1276 (11th Cir., 2009), the Riley-Duke state-court proceeding has not lawfully ended because Roger Shuler had no reasonable opportunity to appeal; the 42-day window for filing a notice of appeal lapsed during his five-month incarceration. When a state-court proceeding has not ended, it cannot be subject to Rooker-Feldman.
A second reason Riley’s Rooker-Feldman argument fails: The Eleventh Circuit has found that Rooker-Feldman does not apply to interlocutory state-court judgments, such as the preliminary injunction that caused Roger Shuler’s unconstitutional incarceration in the instant case. From "Revisiting Rooker-Feldman," Florida State University Law Review, 2009: “The circuits are split on whether the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars suits in lower federal courts that challenge state court interlocutory orders. The Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits use a narrow approach, applying Rooker-Feldman only to final state court judgments.” Also from "Revisiting RookerFeldman" . . . (“Federal courts have been somewhat divided about whether Rooker-Feldman can bar lower federal-court jurisdiction when a state court has made an interlocutory ruling, such as granting a preliminary injunction.”) As noted above, the Eleventh Circuit has come down against a bar on state-court interlocutory rulings, such as the preliminary injunction at issue in the present case.
So, there you have it in plain language: The Eleventh Circuit has found that Rooker-Feldman does not bar federal review of state-court interlocutory rulings, such as the preliminary injunction that caused me to lose my freedom for five months. The Riley defendants and their defense counsel -- all of them lawyers -- should know that. But they raised the baseless argument anyway. If you ever have the misfortune to be involved in a court appeal -- federal or state -- you are likely to run across such bilge from the other side.
We've got many more examples of it, some of which rise to the level of outrageous. We will address those in upcoming posts.
(To be continued)