Monday, August 26, 2019

Eleventh Circuit's Gerald Bard Tjoflat, longest serving federal judge in U.S., hears matters where he has a financial conflict and should, by law, be disqualified

Gerald Bard Tjoflat

A fundamental of the American "justice system" is that no judge should hear a case in which he -- or a member of  his immediate family -- has a financial interest. That is particularly spelled out in the federal court system, but a Legal Schnauzer investigation shows a U.S. appellate-court judge in the Deep South has been violating that principle for years, maybe decades.

The judge in question is Gerald Bard Tjoflat, who serves on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta (covering Alabama Georgia, and Florida), from his base in Jacksonville, Florida.
Tjoflat is the longest serving federal judge, still in active service, in the country. Richard Nixon nominated Tjoflat to a federal judgeship in 1970, and Gerald Ford elevated him to the appellate bench in 1975. Think about that; this guy has been hearing federal court cases pretty much since the Beatles broke up.

We've seen signs for several years that Tjoflat might be one of the most crooked judges in the country. He was on a three-judge panel that upheld abominably unlawful convictions in the political prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. He was on a panel that upheld summary judgment for the University of Alabama Board of Trustees in my employment-discrimination/First Amendment case against UAB. How outrageous was that ruling? Black-letter law, including Eleventh-Circuit precedent, holds that summary judgment cannot be considered (much less granted) in a lawsuit until sufficient discovery has been conducted. In the UAB case, no discovery was conducted at all -- meaning there was no factual record in the case -- but the late (and monstrously corrupt) district judge William Acker granted summary judgment anyway. A Tjoflat-led panel upheld  the ruling, even though a case styled Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988) holds there can be no summary judgment without discovery; the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in slightly different language, says the same thing -- so the principle is firmly established across the country.

That Tjoflat would intentionally botch such a long-held and simple concept suggests he is a deeply compromised judge. Now, we know why, at least in part: He makes a habit of hearing cases where he has a financial conflict. And he has an astonishing record of siding with the party where his financial interests lie.

We are aware of at least two Alabama cases (both since December 2017) where Tjoflat did not let clear financial conflicts keep him from ruling. One of those was "The House Case," where our home of 25 years in Birmingham essentially was stolen from underneath us via a wrongful foreclosure. The other, also a wrongful-foreclosure case, involved a Daphne, AL, couple named Karun and Ursula Jackson. In both cases, a Tjoflat panel ruled against the plaintiffs/appellants -- siding with large banks -- and the record suggests he had a financial incentive to do so.

Let's first examine Jackson v. Bank of America, NA, 898 F. 3d 1348 (11th Cir., 2018), which was the subject of a Schnauzer post in May of this year. Tjoflat authored the panel ruling that denied the Jacksons' appeal, ranting that their attorney -- Kenneth Lay of Birmingham -- had engaged in an abuse of the judicial process by producing "incomprehensible shotgun pleadings." From our May post:

Tjoflat used his opinion in Jackson v. Bank of America, NA, 898 F. 3d 1348 (11th Cir., 2018) to label the pleadings of Birmingham attorney Kenneth James Lay as frivolous "garbage." Tjoflat further claimed Lay and his clients -- Karun and Ursula Jackson, of Daphne, AL -- "obstructed the due administration of justice."

In short, Tjoflat was so incensed about the Jacksons' pleadings that the merits of their appeal hardly got considered. Is that because the Jacksons (and Lay) really conducted their appeal so poorly? Or was Tjoflat protecting his financial stake in Bank of America (BOA)?

The public record is clear that Tjoflat holds stock (or perhaps other forms of securities) in BOA. And yet, he heard the Jackson case and issued a one-sided ruling in favor of the bank, largely ignoring issues the Jacksons raised on appeal.

Was this a rare oversight on Tjoflat's part? Nope. Our research indicates he has made a habit of hearing cases where the law holds he should be disqualified. One of those cases hits close to home.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

This old fart thinks he and is big-bank pals are entitled to favorable treatment.

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of "justice" you get when no one oversees federal circuit courts.

Anonymous said...

So, this guy, Tjoflat, played a big role in sending Siegelman to prison. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Life-time appointments, with no oversight, engender this kind of chicanery.

legalschnauzer said...

For those who might have forgotten the roles JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America played in almost bringing our economy to collapse, here is refresher course from PBS/AP:

legalschnauzer said...

Specifics from PBS/AP report of 2014:

Bank of America has reached a record $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, officials directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

One of the officials, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement isn’t scheduled until Thursday at the earliest, said the bank will pay $10 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion.

The deal is the largest settlement arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. It follows agreements in the last year with Citigroup for $7 billion and with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $13 billion.

legalschnauzer said...

For those keeping score, that's a total of $30 billion Chase and Bank of America had to pay to settle their roles in selling mortgage-backed securities that largely led to the financial collapse of 2008. That likely is only a fraction of the damage they actually caused.

But hey, with friends like Tjoflat on the federal bench, big banks aren't used to being held accountable at all.

legalschnauzer said...

Here are more specifics about Chase's actions in the financial crisis of 2008:

Anonymous said...

FYI. It is a basic principle of law, older than our Republic, that a judgment issued in violation of a litigant's constitutional rights to due process is VOID. A void judgment is absolutely unenforceable and is treated as "null and void ab initio" (i.e., without legitimacy or force of law from the beginning). A void judgment is also subject to 'collateral attack' in any court, or in any proceeding, by any party who has standing to oppose the judgment. Ergo, in any case in which a judge participated but should not have done so, the judge is said to have lacked the qualifications to adjudicate and, therefore, was not qualified and was (and should have been) disqualified. Hence, a judgment issued by a court in which the judge was not qualified, and should have disqualified himself or herself, is a VOID judgment. What does this mean, practically speaking? It means that even after a judgment is issued, and all appeals have been exhausted and the case is thought to be final forever, if it is later revealed or discovered that the judge should not have participated in the case, and was actually disqualified under the governing rules of judicial disqualification (e.g., conflict of interest, including financial conflicts of interest), it means that the judgment previously issued is actually VOID and can be set aside even YEARS OR DECADES later. A judgment issued by a judge who should have been disqualified is a judgment issued in violation of due process and, thus, is void. If a judgment is void, it is null and unenforceable from the beginning ("ab initio") and remains null and void forever, and thus, can be attacked and declared void even decades after its initial issuance. Translated: if Tjoflat has been sitting in cases in which he was not actually judicially qualified to sit, there could be a big pile of court judgments with Tjoflat's name on them that are in truth, and in the eyes of the law, void and unenforceable, and SUBJECT TO COLLATERAL ATTACK AT ANY TIME, AND IN ANY COURT, AND IN ANY AND EVERY PROCEEDING OF ANY KIND. In fact, if you think a judgment against you may have been issued by a judge who was not qualified to preside in the case, you can file an "independent action" "in equity" (i.e., an independent equitable action) to have a subsequent court set aside a judgment that was and is void and thus unenforceable and of no legal effect. Sounds like lawyers could develop a cottage industry simply identifying bad judges like Tjoflat who may have been involved in deciding cases they should not have decided because of some disqualifying factor or factors. See, e.g., the Liljeberg case, 486 U.S. 847, in which the federal judge was totally conflicted in a big case yet remained in the case anyway -- hoping the losing litigant would never realize the judge's association and alliance with the litigant who ended up "winning" the case; this federal judge's failure, in the Liljeberg case, to disqualify himself was just one of many acts of wrongdoing on his part; he ended up facing congressional impeachment, was removed from the federal bench, and ultimately went to prison for other bad acts. Today, it's easy to imagine there are literally tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of judicial decisions in this country that are VOID and subject to collateral attack. Once again, thanks to the Legal Schnauzer for posting and bringing to light a very important subject with regard to the unfortunate failures of our judicial system. Government tyranny comes in all forms, including judicial tyranny by men and women who wear black robes and, in the process, think they are above the law and can do anything they want, despite rules that are very clear with regard to the qualifications and the disqualifications of judges.

Anonymous said...

The legal rules that applying to void judgments, and collateral attacks on void judgments, also apply to many of the lawless orders and judgments issued by America's so-called "administrative" regulatory agencies that are running amok and engaged in serial and systematic lawlessness. Many agency judgments are null and void once they are subject to intelligent inquiry and inspection.

Anonymous said...

One of the worst examples of a case that resulted in a void judgment, issued by a judge who was not qualified to preside over the case, was the federal prosecution of Alabama governor Don Siegelman. The U.S. Department of Justice had the "dirt" on Montgomery federal judge Mark Fuller AND judge Fuller had his own personal animus and axe to grind against Governor Siegelman, the defendant. Someday, if there's any justice left in Alabama, a new judicial tribunal will be tasked to adjudicate and declare that federal judge Mark Fuller (who later resigned in disgrace, by the way) was objectively DISQUALIFED to sit and preside over the 2007 federal prosecution of Governor Don Siegelman. When that happens, the judgment and conviction against Siegelman will be declared "null and void ab initio" and Siegelman's conviction will be formally voided, and set aside. Governor Siegelman will then be free from the stain of a lawless judgment and conviction obtained by the concerted actions of a conflicted and disqualified judge acting in concert with federal prosecutors who, as the judge's insidious blackmailers, had their own disqualifying factors to hide as well. It's all very ugly. The federal prosecutors in the Siegelman prosecution had some very distinct “dirt” on judge Mark Fuller and that’s one of the reasons judge Fuller bent over backwards to help prosecutors win a judgment against Siegelman. It didn’t hurt those federal prosecutors that federal judge Mark Fuller absolutely hated Siegelman, too. Bottom line: in the eyes of the law, once the truth comes out, the conviction and judgment of Don Siegelman was and is void and is not worth the paper it's written on.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand how anyone is still doing business with these wall street banks. I hate to say it, but I fear it's because most of the USA are dumbasses. Billions in fines have been paid, tons of information in the public domain that proves criminal actions and still they remain open for business. It will take at least thirty years for the customers of the B'ham water works to recover from the f**king wall street gave them but still cities, towns across this nation line up to do bond business with these criminals. Since 2007 homeowners are being taken to court by parties that never loaned a single dime on their property and have not suffered any financial lost due to any so called default. The investors who's money funded the loans are left with mortgage back bonds that have lost value while the crooks "wall st" who came up with this scam in the first place, walks away with a free home. The courts have turned a blind eye to this fraud while seeing their retirement accounts go up in value. Greed and corruption rules the world today. If you don't believe me, do the research yourself. Stop buying the BS fox and cnn is selling. Use the brain God gave you and WAKE the FUCK up!

legalschnauzer said...

@12:02-12:51 --

You have provided our readers with a real civics lesson here today. I'm sure many Americans are not aware of the principles you spell out so well above. I know I wasn't until I started to have DQ'd judges screwing Carol and me left and right. Thanks for valuable insights on a most important subject.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:02-12:51 --

Wait to read about Tjoflat's track record when it comes to ruling on cases involving JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.

There is not a player in Major League Baseball who comes close to the batting average these big banks have when they go before a three-judge panel led by Tjoflat.

Details in upcoming posts.

legalschnauzer said...

How sleazy is JPMorgan Chase? This detailed account of its role in 2008 financial crisis, from The Nation, spells it out:

"After JPMorgan’s deceitful activities in the housing market helped trigger the 2008 financial crash that cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and life savings, punishment was in order. Among a vast array of misconduct, JPMorgan engaged in the routine use of “robo-signing,” which allowed bank employees to automatically sign hundreds, even thousands, of foreclosure documents per day without verifying their contents. But in the United States, white-collar criminals rarely go to prison; instead, they negotiate settlements. Thus, on February 9, 2012, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced the National Mortgage Settlement, which fined JPMorgan Chase and four other mega-banks a total of $25 billion.

"JPMorgan’s share of the settlement was $5.3 billion, but only $1.1 billion had to be paid in cash; the other $4.2 billion was to come in the form of financial relief for homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. The settlement called for JPMorgan to reduce the amounts owed, modify the loan terms, and take other steps to help distressed Americans keep their homes. A separate 2013 settlement against the bank for deceiving mortgage investors included another $4 billion in consumer relief. . .

legalschnauzer said...


"A Nation investigation can now reveal how JPMorgan met part of its $8.2 billion settlement burden: by using other people’s money.

"Here’s how the alleged scam worked. JPMorgan moved to forgive the mortgages of tens of thousands of homeowners; the feds, in turn, credited these canceled loans against the penalties due under the 2012 and 2013 settlements. But here’s the rub: In many instances, JPMorgan was forgiving loans it no longer owned.

"The alleged fraud is described in internal JPMorgan documents, public records, testimony from homeowners and investors burned in the scam, and other evidence presented in a blockbuster lawsuit against JPMorgan, now being heard in US District Court in New York City. . . .

"JPMorgan, it appears, was running an elaborate shell game. In the depths of the financial collapse, the bank had unloaded tens of thousands of toxic loans when they were worth next to nothing. Then, when it needed to provide customer relief under the settlements, the bank had paperwork created asserting that it still owned the loans. In the process, homeowners were exploited, investors were defrauded, and communities were left to battle the blight caused by abandoned properties. JPMorgan, however, came out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead, thanks to using other people’s money.

“If the allegations are true, JPMorgan screwed everybody,” says Brad Miller, a former Democratic congressman from North Carolina who was among the strongest advocates of financial reform on Capitol Hill until his retirement in 2013."