Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Defense counsel resorts to all kinds of preposterous scams and trickery as our "Jail Case" is pending before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta

Virginia Emerson Hopkins
Our federal lawsuit over my wrongful arrest and incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama ("The Jail Case") is pending before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit of Appeals in Atlanta. The process presents a classic example of what defense attorneys can do when they know they have no case, know the case is rigged in their favor -- or maybe both.

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
The Stott lawyers argued that our complaint was due to be dismissed because of a legal doctrine called res judicata, which essentially means the issues have been, or could have been, decided in a prior action. Another term for it is "claim preclusion." In this instance, the lawyers for Rob Riley and Co. contend our claims against them were litigated, or could have been litigated, in Roger Shuler, et al v. Jessica Garrison, et al, which we call "The House Case." Aside from the fact "The Jail Case" raises a number of claims against the Riley defendants that were not present in "The House Case," the res judicata argument has a bigger problem: There was no "prior action" to "The Jail Case," and that element must be present for claim preclusion to apply. From our reply brief:

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)


Anonymous said...

Most of us understand that lawyers tend to be trained liars. You're just getting a really good, up-close look at it.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:04 --

Yes, it's been about a 20-year look at it. And I've more than had enough.

Anonymous said...

Right-wing public officials in Alabama seem to specialize in wasting taxpayer dollars. They did it with the abortion law, and they are doing it with this court case. Voters should remember that when they go to the polls.

Anonymous said...

The defendants are desperate to have your claim dismissed because they want to avoid discovery , at all costs. There is no telling what discovery in this case would reveal, but it probably would make national news. Hopkins, I'm sure knows this, so she essentially is engaged in a cover-up on behalf of defendants.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:23 --

You make a powerful point. They don't just want to receive a favorable judgment at summary judgment, which would be unlawful in itself. But they want the case dismissed, extinguished, before it really gets off the ground. You can't have consideration of summary judgment without discovery, and that's where the rubber really meets the road in this case -- and in all of the cases we've been involved with.

Anonymous said...

What defense do these people have? Are they trying to claim you weren't abducted, that you weren't locked up in jail, that it all wasn't unlawful? This all seems pretty clear-cut, but they would prefer to cheat you than accept responsibility?

legalschnauzer said...

@11:37 --

You are correct. It would be hard for the case to be more clear-cut. But responsibility is a dirty word for these people. They want it from others, but not from themselves.

They have no substantive defense, so they resort to issues like statute of limitations, immunity, etc., but those don't help them either.

Anonymous said...

I think the one "skill" many lawyers develop in law school is the ability to sound like they know what they are talking about when they really have no clue.

Anonymous said...

Rots of Ruck on this. Scott and Harrington are good lawyers. Your arguments based upon plain language and common sense are not likely to “appeal” to snobbish appellate judges (pun intended).

legalschnauzer said...

First, it's Stott and Harrington. Second, you must not be an expert on their skill level if you don't know their names. Third, what would make you think they are good lawyers? Says who?