Thursday, October 31, 2019

U.S. Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, from his base in Jacksonville, FL, appears to be in the pocket of Deutsche Bank, which is awash in probes of money laundering and other possible financial crimes


Deutsche Bank in Jacksonville, FL

A federal judge, who has a financial stake in JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) and Bank of America (BOA) and a perfect record of ruling in their favor in court matters (see here and here), also has a .1000 batting average in favoring Deutsche Bank, the shady German-based outfit that is under investigation for reported money laundering involving Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Russia and the late accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

We have found no public record that indicates U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat holds stock or other financial interests in Deutsche Bank. But he is based in Jacksonville, FL, where the bank has a major operations center. Our research indicates Tjoflat is five-for-five in favoring Deutsche Bank when sitting on a three-judge panel in cases involving the bank.

If the bank is found to have been involved in international money laundering -- and Tjoflat serves as its protector on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Florida, Georgia, and Alabama) -- could that mean Tjoflat is involved in a criminal conspiracy, with ties to the Trump-Russia scandal and Epstein's grotesque crimes? Our answer is yes.

Gerald Bard Tjoflat
How ugly could the Deutsche Bank-money laundering story get? Consider this from a June 2019 report by Lisette Voytko at Forbes:

Jeffrey Epstein used Deutsche Bank since 2013 to move millions of dollars through dozens of accounts, according to the Wall Street Journal, and while the embattled German bank is cooperating with federal investigators, it took months for the bank to close Epstein’s accounts and flag suspicious activity. . . .

The Epstein fallout is the latest gut punch for Deutsche Bank. In addition to laying off 18,000 employees by 2022, the bank is cooperating with two federal investigations: one on Trump’s financial ties to Russia and the other for money laundering.

Deutsche Banks headquarters were raided last November as part of a wide-ranging money laundering investigation. From a report at Wall Street Journal:

Around 170 police officers and other officials seized documents during searches through six different properties Thursday, including one employee’s home, according to authorities.

The raid was a visible sign of mounting legal problems for the German lender, which has faced a string of allegations and costly legal settlements tied to failures to prevent money laundering and other banking violations.

Thursday morning, police vehicles lined up outside Deutsche Bank’s central Frankfurt headquarters, and German federal police and other officers crowded into the lobby of the high-rise towers. Officers soon filtered upstairs onto other floors of the bank to search records, a person inside the bank said. . . .

The probe includes two unidentified Deutsche Bank employees aged 50 and 46 and other unidentified employees suspected of helping clients create offshore entities in tax havens, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The person who works in the financial crime-fighting division remained an employee Thursday, the people familiar with the matter said.

Deutsche Bank confirmed the investigation. Both the bank and prosecutors said it is related to the Panama Papers, a trove of records revealed by a consortium of journalists in 2016 tied to a Panamanian law firm that specialized in offshore holding companies.

Since early this year, Deutsche Bank has been in the cross hairs of Congressional investigators. From a report at CNN:

House Democrats gearing up for fresh investigations into President Donald Trump's businesses and money laundering involving Russia are setting their sights on the German lender Deutsche Bank.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said his committee would be working alongside House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters to probe the bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. Both chairs had previously signaled interest in Deutsche Bank while they were still in the House minority. . . .

Deutsche Bank has been of interest to lawmakers because it is one of the few big banks that has been willing to lend to the Trump Organization. Trump businesses have borrowed over $300 million for a Florida golf course and hotels in Chicago and Washington, according to financial disclosures and public filings from 2012 to 2015.

Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has also disclosed an unsecured line of credit from the bank ranging between $5 million to $25 million that he's shared with his mother since 2015.

As for federal judge Tjoflat, he seems to think Deutsche Bank can do no wrong -- much as he appears to view JPMC and BOA. Here are five cases, all in the past six years, in which Tjoflat has been part of three-judge panels that ruled in favor of Deutsche Bank. We can find no cases where he ruled against the bank:

(1) Zelaya/Capital v. John Zelaya, 769 F.3d 1296 (11th Cir., 2014) Court approves award of $70,644.56 in costs and attorney fees to Deutsche Bank;

(2) Avenue CLO Fund v. Bank of America, 709 F. 3d 1072 (11th Cir., 2013) Court sides with Deutsche and other "revoling lenders in a complex dispute involving the ambitious Fontainebleau development in Las Vegas;

(3) Westley v. Albert (11th Cir., 2017). Court sided with Deutsche and other entities in a case of alleged fraudulent eviction;

(4) Quinn v. Ocwen Loan Serviging (11th Cir., 2017) Court sided with Deutsche in case alleging improper loan servicing and initiation of foreclosure;

(5) Smedley v. Deutsche Bank (11th Cir., 2017). Court sided with Deutsche in a case alleging improper loan servicing and default.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hints of violence and retaliation fill the air after Vindman deposition in Trump inquiry, but as targets of right-wing attacks for years, that is no surprise to us


Alexander Vindman

Leading Democrats in the Trump impeachment inquiry said after yesterday's testimony from a top Ukraine expert that they feared Republicans were seeking to reveal a whistleblower's identity so they could "punish" him and perhaps even jeopardize his safety.

The statements might be shocking to many Americans, like something you might expect to hear in a third-world country. But they hold little shock value here at Legal Schnauzer because my wife, Carol, and I have been under attack from right-wingers for at least 12 years -- all because I've dared to report on judicial and political corruption in Alabama and beyond. We've been targeted with loss of our jobs, theft of our home (via a wrongful foreclosure), financial devastation, use of law enforcement for physical violence, and much more.

Roger Shuler mugshot after "arrest for blogging"
In October 2013, deputies beat me up inside our Birmingham home, doused me with pepper spray (with an officer threatening to break my arm), and dragged me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay -- apparently the only journalist in U.S. history to be incarcerated because of a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction that has been unlawful under more than 230 years of First Amendment law, without even the slightest hint of criminal allegations on my part. Nope, I reported accurately on the relationship between GOP thug Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke -- my journalism, as a matter of law, never has been proven in court to be false or defamatory -- and that's enough to earn you the brown-shirt treatment in the Alabama that produced a racist U.S. senator like Jeff Sessions, who is aligned with many of our attackers.

In September 2015, after we were forced to move to my home state of Missouri, deputies conducted an unlawful eviction on our apartment, pointed an assault rifle at my head, and manhandled Carol so viciously that they broke her left arm (shattered it, really, above the elbow), leaving her with a comminuted fracture (a break into three or more fragments) that required roughly eight hours of trauma surgery and involved complications that could have put her life at risk.

As you can see, the use of government force to "punish" someone is not new to us. We have been on the front line for that -- all because of my role and history as a journalist, which is much like that of a whistleblower. This is from an NBC News report about yesterday's 10-hour testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:

Top Democrats at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said his testimony Tuesday was “extremely disturbing” and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House.

The closed-door deposition before House impeachment investigators lasted more than 10 hours.

Once it concluded, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters that he hopes Vindman's example of patriotism "will be emulated by others."

Schiff said that he was "deeply appalled" by attacks made against Vindman on Fox News Tuesday night.

"The suggestion that because he's of Ukrainian origin, that he has some dual royalty...this purple heart recipient deserved better than that scandalous attack," Schiff said.

Schiff should not be surprised that conservatives, when they feel threatened, are prone to attack honest Americans in a vicious manner. Our legal woes started in a December 1999 when a Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama employee named Mike McGarity -- with an extensive criminal record -- moved in next door to us and promptly tried to take over our yard.That grew into attacks from legal and political elites -- probably because Dax Swatek, son of McGarity lawyer Bill Swatek, has ties to political luminaries such as Bill Canary (former head of the Business Council of Alabama, with connections to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and Karl Rove. The first sign of such an attack probably came in 2008 (after I had started this blog in July 2007) when I was cheated out of my job at UAB -- where I had worked for 20 years -- because of my reporting on the political prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. I don't have to guess that I was fired because of my reporting (on my own time, with my own resources) on the Siegelman matter. A UAB HR employee named Anita Bonasera told me that's why I was targeted, and I recorded the conversation. (See video at the end of this post.)

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm.
Roughly one year later, Carol was cheated out of her job at Infinity Insurance, and that greased the skids for our downhill slide on the economic ladder. That was in 2009, and little did we imagine the amount of violence that lay in our future.

Comments after yesterday's Vindman deposition, strongly hinted at potential violence and retaliation. From NBC News:

Regarding reported attempts by GOP lawmakers to get Vindman to reveal the whistleblower's identity, Schiff said that Trump would love to "punish" the whistleblower. He also said the president's comments and actions have "jeopardized the whistleblower's safety."

"The President's allies would like nothing better than to help the president out this whistleblower. Our committee will not be a part of that. We will not stand for that," he said. "They have the right to remain anonymous. They certainly should not be subject to these kind of vicious attacks and other words and actions that threaten their safety for doing their patriotic duty," he said about whistleblowers.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) added to those concerns:

Wasserman Schutlz said the Republicans present for the deposition were trying to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower.

"What the Republicans are trying to do very clearly in their questioning is try to front door or back door Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony he says he doesn't he didn't know," she said.

"They've been unsuccessful," she added.

Press reports described a "tense moment" between one Democrat and one Republican. From NBC News:
Leaving the deposition, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said that he was concerned that Republicans in the room were trying to out the identity of the whistleblower, which caused a tense moment between Swalwell and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

"My concern inside the room is that you know there, there’s an intent to out the whistleblower, and you know risk that person's life which is why we're trying to protect them," he said. "And that's what the quote, unquote tense moment was about."

Americans should not be surprised at anything Trump allies might pull in the near future. We know, from firsthand experience, that there is no level to which Republican thugs will not stoop when they feel threatened.






Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Have we ever prevailed in a court case, and has a judge ever ruled correctly in one of our legal matters? The answer to both, despite what trolls might think, is yes




For several years, we have received anonymous statements from trolls that go along these lines -- "You've never won a court case" or "You always think the judge is out to get you."

I generally have ignored such statements because they came from individuals who obviously were ill-informed and did not have the courage to use their names. I reconsidered that policy when an intelligent and loyal reader, someone we know long distance, recently asked, "Has a judge ever ruled correctly in one of your cases?"

This person, I know, has a serious interest in justice issues and asked the question because he genuinely wanted to know. That convinced me to think about the issue, conduct some limited research, and try my best to answer in this post.

First, I take the question to come in two parts: (1) Has a judge ever ruled correctly in a final order or a non-final order that was central to the case? (2) Have you and your wife, Carol, ever prevailed in a court case? Second, since we now live in Missouri and much of our court experience has been in Alabama, I don't have access to all relevant records at the moment. That means I'm having to work largely from memory, so my answer might not be all-inclusive, but it is pretty accurate. As to the two-part question raised above, the answer to both is yes.

Let's look at No. 1 -- Has a judge ever ruled correctly in a final order or a non-final order that was central to the case?

(A) The best example of this came in what we call "The Jail Case" (involving my unlawful arrest and incarceration in Shelby County), where U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor found that, as in forma pauperis (IFP) litigants, we were not entitled to have the clerk's office in the Norther District of Alabama, conduct service. Proctor's ruling clearly was contrary to black-letter law that applies across the country, but his incompetence forced us to waste roughly a year's time to appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. To our amazement, the appellate court got it right, with these words:

We review a district court’s sua sponte dismissal for failure to effect service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m) for an abuse of discretion. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). “We affirm unless we find that the district court has made a clear error of judgment, or has applied the wrong legal standard.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Without addressing the merits of the appeal, we reverse the district court’s dismissal because it should have effectuated service for the Shulers, who had IFP status. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(3), the district court must order that service be made by either a United States marshal, a deputy marshal, or by any person specially appointed by the court when the litigant is proceeding under IFP status.

REVERSED.

This was not a final order, settling the case, but it was on a critical matter, and a three-judge panel (Charles R. Wilson, Clinton appointee; Julie E. Carnes, Obama appointee; Jill A. Pryor, Obama appointee) got it right.


 (B) When GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison sued me for defamation, it was no surprise the case got off to an underhanded start -- considering Bill Baxley was her attorney. Baxley hired some lowlife to conduct "personal service," and he did it by throwing court papers on our driveway. You don't have to be a Harvard Law grad to know such a lame act does not qualify as service, and I argued as such in a motion before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship. In another shocker, Blankenship ruled correctly that service was improper. A Baxley thug solved the problem by "serving" me while I was in the Shelby County Jail. That also probably was unlawful, and the server likely lied to jail personnel that she was an attorney or minister to pull it off. I wasn't in a position to challenge the issue further, so the case moved forward.

Blankenship went on to show his true colors by awarding Garrison a $3.5-million default judgment, even though the docket shows I never was notified of the default application or the default hearing. Because of that, the award is void as a matter of law -- and it can be attacked as such at any time.

Did something fishy happen between Blankenship's correct ruling on service and his wildly incorrect ruling on the default judgment? In the interim, did he receive a favor or payment that caused him to shift from appearing to be a judge with a hint of integrity to being a crook of the worst kind? You probably can guess my answer to that question. We soon will have a post where a recently filed court document presents evidence that shows a Jefferson County judge issuing favorable rulings for a certain party soon after receiving campaign donations that appear to be in the form of bribes.

Now, let's look at question No. 2 -- Have you and your wife, Carol, ever prevailed in a court case? We separate it from question No. 1 because it's possible to prevail in court, even though the judge does not necessarily issue a correct ruling. Sometimes, the judge has no choice but to find in your favor, whether he has any integrity or not:

(A) This is the kind of case to which almost every American can relate. Somewhere around 2010 (I'm not sure of the date), a Shelby County deputy pulled me over and wrote a ticket for speeding in a school zone -- I think the allegation was that I drove 5 mph over the limit, which I think was 30 mph. The ticket, however, gave the location of the alleged offense as a place where there was no school zone, and the speed limit was 40 or 45 mph.

I challenged the ticket in court, pleaded not guilty, and the deputy failed to appear. District Judge Ron Jackson, who we know from personal experience is an absolute train wreck on the bench, had no choice but to find me not guilty and dismiss the ticket. But get this: Jackson had the audacity to ask me if I wanted to pay court costs. I already hated the SOB because of his crooked rulings in our case involving Mike McGarity, our former trespassing, criminally inclined neighbor. My response to Jackson? "I pleaded not guilty because I am not guilty. The wording on the ticket shows I'm not guilty, and that would be the case whether the deputy appeared or not. In other words, I'm not about to pay your damned court costs." Notice I did not call him "Your Honor."

(B) In late 2008, we received notice from a debt-collection outfit called CACH LLC that we owed money on what I believe was a GE VISA card. It was a relatively small sum that we allegedly owed, but Alabama legal and political thugs had just cheated me out of my job (of 20 years) at UAB, so we were in a crunch. Before long, we received notice from a Birmingham law firm called Halcomb and Wertheim that the alleged debt had been placed with them, and they intended to collect. We contacted the firm and asked them to validate the debt -- as was our right under the Fair Debt Collection  Practices Act (FDCPA). By asking for validation of the debt, we were asking Halcomb and Wertheim to provide documentation to prove they held the debt, and we owed it.

We even went to the law firm in person, seeking to get the alleged debt validated, but we never received any such documentation. It probably was a surprise to the fine lawyers at Halcomb and Wertheim, but we weren't anxious to pay a debt that maybe we did not owe.

In a brazen act of "legal ethics," Halcomb and Wertheim sued us, even though they repeatedly failed to prove we owed the debt. On the appointed date, we appeared at the Shelby County Courthouse and -- surprise, surprise -- no one from the debt-collection law firm appeared. I don't remember the judge on that one, but he had no choice but to dismiss the case.

Bottom line: Yes, we have prevailed in court, and yes, we've witnessed a judge or two rule correctly in our cases. More importantly, here is today's take-home lesson: Whether you are dealing with a traffic cop or a debt collector, it pays to fight back -- especially when you have legitimate grounds for doing so.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Missouri jury awards $19 million to police veteran Keith Wildhaber in employment-discrimination lawsuit where he was told to "tone down your gayness," in a case marred by blatant perjury from cop witnesses


Keith Wildhaber

A Missouri jury has awarded $19 million to a 24-year police-force veteran in an employment discrimination case where the plaintiff repeatedly was passed over for promotion and told to "tone down your gayness." Based on our research, that is an extraordinarily high award in an employment case, and according to new reports, jurors based it, in part, on what appeared to be flagrantly false statements under oath by police witnesses for the defense. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell has vowed to review transcripts as part of a perjury investigation.

In many states, discrimination cases are heard in federal court, but Missouri has a Human Rights Commission that opens a path for such cases to be heard in state court.

As for possible perjury by police witnesses, that is an issue that hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. We saw multiple Greene County deputies lie under oath in the trial of bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges brought against my wife, Carol, after they conducted an unlawful eviction on our home that ended with an unidentified officer slamming Carol to the ground and yanking so violently on her limbs he broke her left arm -- a comminuted fracture, which means the bone was broken in more than two places.

Audio evidence shows that Officer Scott Harrison clearly committed perjury in Carol's case. At least three other cop witnesses (Debi Wade, Jeremy Lynn, Christian Conrad) made statements under oath that were so wildly inconsistent from their written reports that they might also amount to perjury.

Scott Harrison
Keith Wildhaber, the plaintiff in the St. Louis County case, said he was passed over for promotion 23 times and called "fruity" and other derogatory terms by co-workers. From a report at KMOV in St. Louis:
[Last] Friday, a St. Louis County jury awarded $19 million dollars to a St. Louis County police sergeant who said the department repeatedly passed him over for promotions because he is gay.

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department in 2017 in which he claims he was told he should “tone down [his] gayness” if he ever wanted to be promoted to lieutenant.

Wildhaber has worked for the police department since 1994. The lawsuit details dozens of times where Wildhaber was passed over for a promotion despite positive feedback about his work performance.

The lawsuit details an incident in 2014 when Sgt. Wildhaber spoke to John Saracino, a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners at the time, about his application for a promotion.

“The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt [i.e. get a promotion], you should tone down your gayness,” the lawsuit reads.

The discrimination lawsuit went to trial [last] week and on Friday, a jury awarded Wildhaber nearly $20 million. Multiple officers and Chief John Belmar took the stand in the trial. Now there are calls for changes in leadership in the police department.

Wildhaber, after filing his complaint, was transferred to a less desirable precinct, on a later shift, tripling his commute time. From the New York Daily News:

The week-long trial, which ended Friday, included testimony about several times Sgt. Keith Wildhaber was denied a promotion, about the use of demeaning, homophobic terms to refer to him, as well as the retaliation he faced, after filing a complaint.

Additionally, accounts from fellow department employees, who were witnesses to the discrimination he faced, made for a lively and dramatic Hollywood-like trial.

In about three hours of deliberation, the jury sided with Wildhaber on both the discrimination and retaliation counts. It awarded him $1.9 million in actual damages, and $10 million in punitive damages on the discrimination allegation; as well as $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for the retaliation allegations.

“We wanted to send a message,” juror No. 4 said of the verdict, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch “If you discriminate you are going to pay a big price. … You can’t defend the indefensible.”

What did the New York Daily News mean by a "dramatic Hollywood-like trial"? That apparently is a reference to one or more officers who got caught providing perjured testimony. From the Daily News account:

Wildhaber said he was passed over a promotion 23 times. After he filed an EEOC complaint, he alleges he was retaliated against and transferred to another, less desirable precinct.

“Defendant believes plaintiff’s behavior, mannerisms, and/or appearance do not fit the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be,” the lawsuit read.

In the trial, Dana Woodland, the girlfriend of an St. Louis police officer, corroborated his story, saying that he was referred to as “fruity” by police Capt. Guy Means in 2015, and added that Means told her that Wildhaber would never get a promotion because he was “way too out there with his gayness and he needed to tone it down if he wanted a white shirt.,” a term that refers to a higher position in the force.

Means testified Thursday claiming he didn’t even know Woodland, and said that he didn’t recall attending the 2015 event, when he had supposedly used the derogatory term to refer to Wildhaber.

The following day, in a scene that could’ve been written to a clich├ęd court drama, Woodland produced a set of three pictures showing Means and Woodland posing for a photo booth shoot, taken at a St. Louis County Police Welfare fund-raiser, where the two can be seen smiling and hugging.

Russ Riggan, Wildhaber's attorney, said Means' testimony destroyed any credibility police witnesses might have had. From a report at lgbtqnation.com:

Riggan told the jurors, “[Means] blatantly perjured himself.… How credible are the rest of their witnesses? You don’t think they sent other people in here to lie? They will stop at nothing to bury this case.”

Means' testimony shows that some cops will testify falsely under oath with stunning casualness. We already have seen that, thanks to Greene County deputy Scott Harrison in Carol's trial. From a September 2019 post:

Harrison's false statement under oath is one of several such statements cop-witnesses for the state made in Carol's trial. But Harrison's is the one we can prove -- right this minute, with no additional investigation or discovery -- is perjurious. Other deputies' sketchy statements generally were inconsistent -- their trial testimony differed from written statements in incident reports -- so it would take some research to determine what might rise to the level of perjury. Either way, they apparently committed perjury or filed false police reports, both of which are crimes. 
At least one statement from Harrison -- the deputy who burst into our apartment and pointed an assault rifle at my head during an unlawful eviction in September 2015 -- leaves no doubt. This is from page 3 of Judge Jerry Harmison Jr.'s judgment in Carol's case: (The judgment and Carol's Motion to Vacate Judgment That Was Procured by Fraud, Perjury, etc. are embedded at the end of this post.)

Harrison stated he initially focused on Roger Shuler once the front door was open because Roger Shuler had called and expressed threats to law enforcement on August 12, 2015.

We have recorded evidence that Harrison's statement is false, and we presented that evidence in a recent post, with more relevant posts to come. (The video/audio is embedded at the end of this post.)

Could one or more cop witnesses wind up behind bars for committing perjury in the Keith Wildhaber case? The answer appears to be yes. The same could hold true for Scott Harrison and at least three of his Greene County colleagues who made false or inconsistent statements in Carol's case.














Thursday, October 24, 2019

Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of my "arrest for blogging" in Alabama, as GOP herd stormed secure Capitol room in a similar "F--k you" to the rule of law


My mugshot after Alabama cops beat me up in my own
home and hauled me for a five-month stay in jail -- all
for practicing investigative journalism.

Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of my "arrest for blogging" in Shelby County, Alabama. It fell on the same day that U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) led more than 30 Republicans to storm a secure impeachment hearing room in the Capitol basement.

How is that for irony? The over-arching theme of this blog, since it began in June 2007, is that respect for the rule of law -- and 14th Amendment protections, such as due process and equal protection -- has been deteriorating for at least two decades, probably much longer. We have reported on dozens of examples where courts -- both state and federal, in multiple jurisdictions -- have issued rulings that bare little resemblance to the relevant facts or law. Usually, it's the "little guy" who winds up holding the short end of the stick, with elites and large institutions (banks, mortgage companies, universities, etc.) happily reaping the benefits of courts that are rigged.

What happened to me on the evening of Oct. 23, 2013? A swarm of Alabama deputies, led by officer Chris Blevins, entered our property and barged into our basement garage just as I had pulled our car into the garage and was attempting to close the door. The garage was built under the main portion of our house -- a common design in Alabama -- so the deputies actually broke into our home, our living quarters. Without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating why he and his colleagues were on our property, Blevins proceeded to beat me up, shoving me three times to a concrete floor and dousing me with pepper spray. Dash-cam footage shows that Blevins did all of this without telling me why he was there or what I had supposedly done wrong. The same footage captures deputy Jason Valenti threatening to break my arms after I had been dragged out of my own home and placed on the driveway.

I spent five months in jail, all because I dared to write about judicial and political corruption -- most of it involving Republicans -- in Alabama. The story received national and international news coverage, much to the consternation of J. Claud Neilson, the judge who was brought out of retirement to ramrod the case at the direction of the Alabama Supreme Court.

House Republicans storm a secure deposition room
in the U.S. Capitol
What was the impetus for all of this? It did not involve even an allegation that I had committed a crime. I had reported on a relationship involving attorney and GOP operative Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) and a lobbyist named Liberty Duke. Rob Riley and Duke filed a defamation lawsuit against me and my wife, Carol -- even though Carol, at that point, had nothing to do with the blog and had never seen what you might call the "control center," where the blog is written, edited, organized, and published, with ties to my email account, not hers. Carol and I have never known when the lawsuit was filed because the plaintiffs had the court file immediately sealed. To this day, we've never seen it, even though we were the ones being sued.

Was the arrest really about just Riley and Duke? Probably not. It came roughly five weeks after I broke a story about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor (a Bush 2 nominee and ally of the Rileys and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions [R-AL]) and his ties to gay pornography at a Web site called badpuppy.com. It came one day after our report on an apparent sweetheart deal for GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison -- one-time campaign manager and mistress for former Alabama attorney general and U.S. Sen. Luther Strange -- on a house in the fashionable Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook.

How was the rule of law trampled in my arrest and incarceration? Here are just a few ways:

(1) The granting of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or preliminary injunction -- Riley and Duke were granted both -- is an unlawful "prior restraint" in a case of alleged defamation -- In essence, Riley and Duke sought to arrest Carol and me for allegedly violating the TRO and preliminary injunction and failing to appear at a court hearing on the matter. But one, we never were timely summoned to appear in court; actually, a summons was issued, but that was more than two weeks after the hearing in question had been held, according to a lawyer's review of the file. Two, prior restraints have been unlawful under First Amendment law that dates back roughly 230 years. The U.S. Supreme Court issued the seminal ruling on the issue in 1931 -- Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). As a matter of law, my reporting on Riley and Duke never has been found to be defamatory.

(2) It is unlawful for police to make "a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home to make a routine felony arrest" -- The U.S. Supreme Court spelled out this principle in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980). My arrest was not for an alleged crime, much less a felony, and Blevins' entry certainly was not consensual. I can be heard on the dash-cam video telling him to get out of our house.

(3) Use of pepper spray in an unlawful arrest amounts to excessive force -- Federal courts have held "if a stop or arrest is illegal, then there is no basis for any threat or any use of force, and an excessive force claim would always arise but only collaterally from the illegal stop or arrest claim." Jackson v. Sauls, 206 F.3d, 1156 (11th Cir., 2000). Federal courts also have held "Courts have consistently concluded that using pepper spray is excessive force in cases where the crime is a minor infraction, the arrestee surrenders, is secured, and is not acting violently, and there is no threat to the officers or anyone else." Vinyard v. Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340 (11th Cir., 2002). In my case, there was no alleged crime at all, not even a minor infraction, so Blevins' use of pepper spray was excessive force.

(4) Under Alabama state law, an officer must state his purpose for being on private property -- From Code of Alabama 15-10-2: "An officer may execute a warrant of arrest on any day and at any time; but in doing so, he must inform the defendant of his authority and, if required, must show the warrant." The same principle is found in Alabama case law, at Livingston v. Browder, 285 So.2d 983 (AL Civ. App., 1973): "Importantly, in most circumstances, a person must make known his purpose and demand admittance before breaking into and entering the house of another to make an arrest. 5 Am.Jur.2d Arrest § 93. Mr. Justice Bouldin, in Gray v. Williams, 230 927*927 Ala. 14, 18, 160 So. 715, 718, spoke to this point when he stated: "In entering the dwelling of a third person, especially at night, the officer is under a duty to apprise the head of the family of his mission and authority. No particular words are necessary, but, coming in the name of the law, he should make known such fact."


Do House Republicans, under the "leadership" of Matt Gaetz, show respect for the rule of law? Not in the least, as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out, in a broad sense, with a piece titled "A revealing 24 hours for the GOP and the rule of law." For particulars, consider this from Vox:

“House rules and committee rules allow the Intel committee to close hearings and other meetings behind closed doors,” said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder. “The House — and its committees — adopt their rules by majority vote at the start of each Congress.”

As agreed upon, House rules limit the members who are able to participate in the impeachment inquiry’s closed-door interviews. Because these interviews are classified as “depositions,” only the members and staff of the relevant committees are able to attend them.

“These are regulations for the conduct of depositions that extend beyond the impeachment inquiry and were established before the impeachment inquiry began,” Brookings Institute’s Molly Reynolds told Vox. . . .

In addition to Republicans’ breach of House deposition rules, members who brought their cellphones into the secure space were violating the protocol on SCIFs, which individuals are not able to enter with such devices. Ultimately, as Politico reports, the House sergeant at arms — a law enforcement official based in the Capitol — arrived at the SCIF and conducted a sweep for surveillance devices because of this breach.

Six years ago, Alabama deputies broke into our home, showing utter disregard for the rule of law, acting as if rules do not apply to them. GOP members of the House of Representatives showed much the same mindset yesterday.


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(If you are able to help along our journalism journey, please click on the yellow donate button in the upper right corner of the blog, under the "Support the Schnauzer" headline. We are deeply grateful for your support through the years -- and we are especially grateful now to have Gabby, so he can join in a big round of thanks.)

Alabama jury awards $9 million in medical-malpractice case where Auburn student died of a blood clot after receiving prescription for birth-control pills


Hope Johnson
An Alabama jury has awarded $9 million in a medical-malpractice lawsuit involving the death of an Auburn University student, according to a report at law.com.

Hope Johnson, 20, of Trussville, died in December 2014 after being prescribed birth-control pills that led to a blood-clot in her lung. Brett Turnbull, of Birmingham, was the primary attorney for the Johnson family. From law.com:

A jury in Opelika, Alabama, awarded $9 million to the family of a young woman who died after being prescribed birth control pills that led to the development of a blood clot in her lung.

A screening prior to her receiving the medication revealed that Hope Johnson had a genetic predisposition for blood clots, but the obstetrician-gynecologist prescribed the pills anyway. When Johnson became ill a couple of weeks later, a doctor at an Auburn urgent care facility at first diagnosed her with bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic. She returned two days later complaining of sharp chest pains, and another doctor—who was on his first day working at the center and unable to access its electronic records—prescribed an inhaler.

Johnson died the next day of a massive pulmonary embolism. The Auburn University student was 20 years old.

Roughly one week before trial, the OB/GYN and clinic he worked for, Lee Obstetrics and Gynecology, settled their claims for a confidential amount, Turnbull said. The jury verdict was entered against Auburn Urgent Care and its owner and founder, Dr. Zenon Bednarski, along with Dr. David Willis.

In an unusual twist, Turnbull said Urgent Care and Bednarski were represented by counsel, but Willis was left to represent himself. The discovery that Willis would appear pro se “was one of the most vexing moments of my career,” said Turnbull, who tried the case with filing attorneys Leila H. Watson and Nina Herring, his former colleagues at Cory Watson in Birmingham.

“[Willis] had the full ability to participate; he made opening and closing statements; he had the ability to call witnesses; … he was given as fair a shake as possible,” Turnbull said.

Because Alabama does not have an apportionment statute, Turnbull said he didn’t think the issue of representation would matter as far as collecting the judgment.

“We have joint and several liability in Alabama, so all three defendants are responsible,” he said.

Mistakes started piling up early in Johnson's encounter with the health-care system. Writes law.com:

According to Turnbull and court filings, Johnson consulted with OB/GYN Kerri Hensarling at Lee Obstetrics and Gynecology in October 2014 about getting birth control pills.

“Her mom went with her. She has a history of blood clots and realized there may have been a genetic issue,” he said.

A blood test came back positive for a Factor V Leiden mutation, but court filings said staffers incorrectly interpreted the result as normal, which is what Johnson was told.

She began taking the pills that November, and on Dec. 1 she went to Urgent Care complaining of shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, headache and sore throat. She told Bednarski that she was taking birth control pills but did not report the blood clotting issue because she was unaware of it, according to plaintiff’s filings.

She was diagnosed with “possible pneumonia and bronchitis,” said Turnbull, and prescribed an antibiotic.

When she returned two days later she “was much worse, experiencing chest pain and extreme shortness of breath” resulting from “any activity.”

Willis ordered blood work and found that Johnson had an elevated white blood count and prescribed an inhaler. She died Dec. 4, 2014.

Plaintiffs argued, in part, that Johnson's death was the result of inadequate staffing:

Johnson’s mother and executor, Cortney Johnson, filed suit in Lee County Circuit Court in 2016.

Turnbull said he was not at liberty to discuss any settlement demands or offers, and the case went to trial Oct. 7 before Judge Jacob Walker III.

At trial, Turnbull said the defense argued that the doctors responded reasonably to the symptoms Johnson displayed and had no way of knowing about the predisposition for blood clots, pointing to the dismissed co-defendants who misread the test results as the culprits.

“Our position was that they hired Dr. Willis to come in on his first day, at the busiest and most popular Urgent Care facility, in December—the height of flu season—and he got behind,” said Turnbull.

He said there was some effort to argue that Willis may not have even examined Johnson.

“They said, ‘Oh, it’s a big mystery, maybe we didn’t even see her,’” Turnbull said. “They took her vitals and gave her a prescription. I actually got angry at that defense.”

In closing, Turnbull said he asked the jury to award $9 million in damages.

“I said it was a symbol that Hope’s life matters, that her death matters; that the tools of the law in Alabama should be used to deter similar conduct in this community,” he said.

The jury took about 1½ hours to award exactly that amount on Oct. 11, Turnbull said.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

With an eye for detail in a scientific environment, Jeannine Dorroh has the kind of credibility that shatters Mike McGarity's bogus version of assault case


Jeannine Dorroh
Jeannine Dorroh, the eyewitness who saw Mike McGarity assault me with a roadside sign in Alabama, probably would be the kind of witness prosecutors dream of in a criminal case. When you learn about Dorroh's background, and listen to her speak (via a video embedded at the end of this post), her credibility is off the charts. It's that credibility, along with Dorroh's attention to detail, that shatters false statements McGarity -- who has at least eight criminal convictions in his background -- made to a deputy who took a report about the assault.

What do we know about Dorroh? She works as a senior accountant at Southern Research (SR), which forms a cluster of buildings adjacent to the UAB Medical Center on Birmingham's Southside. In fact, SR is across the street and down one or two blocks from where I worked over about 15 years of my 20-year career at UAB.

A strong argument could be made that SR is one of the most important institutions in Alabama, the Deep South, and even the country. What does SR do? This is from its Web site:

We’ve created seven drugs that are helping win the war on cancer. More are on the way. When HIV threatened the world’s future, we helped develop a course of treatment that changed the course of history. We’re creating better ways for you to have cleaner air and water. Our technologies help men and women in uniform remain safe overseas. We’re developing methods to build energy efficient cars out of plant fiber that will get 80 mpg. We are Southern Research. We’re taking on the world’s hardest problems. And solving them. This has been our mission since 1941.

And we’re just getting started.

Jeannine Dorroh functions in an environment that does some of the country's most important work. And the above snippet only begins to tell the Southern Research story. Here is more from the institute's Web site:

Founded in 1941, Southern Research (SR) is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, scientific research organization with more than 400 scientists and engineers working across four divisions: Drug Discovery, Drug Development, Engineering, and Energy and  Environment. SR supports the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental, and energy industries as we work on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, major aerospace firms, utility companies, and other private and government organizations. We pursue entrepreneurial and collaborative initiatives to develop and maintain a pipeline of intellectual property and innovative technologies that positively impact real-world problems. SR is headquartered in Birmingham with additional laboratories and offices in Wilsonville, Alabama; Frederick, Maryland; Durham, North Carolina; Cartersville, Georgia; and Houston, Texas.

Millions of dollars in research grants flow through SR, and Jeannine Dorroh helps keep track of the dollars and cents. She does important work, to say the least. Here are more details about the research that she helps make happen:

* We’re developing 18 drugs to combat various forms of cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s and tuberculosis, among others.

* We’ve developed 20 other drugs, including seven FDA-approved cancer drugs—a number rivaling any other U.S. research institute.

* We’re developing new medical devices.

* We’re helping to launch manned missions to Mars.

* We’re making the air and water cleaner here on Earth.

* We’re helping to keep the men and women of our military safe from harm.

So, when Mike McGarity falsely tells a cop I hit him during our encounter, and I say I didn't, it's not just a matter of my word against his. Jeannine Dorroh also says I did not hit McGarity -- and I don't know many people who have stronger credibility than does Dorroh. From the conversation I had with her about what she saw:

Roger Shuler (RS): Apparently, the officer went to see [McGarity] first, and he claims I hit him . . .

Jeannine Dorroh (JD): I did not see that.

RS: That's because it didn't happen.

JD: I saw him hit you in the back of head with a sign. [Actually, the blow landed on my upper back.]

RS: I don't know if you know the Shelby County Courthouse is a mess. This guy has trespassed against us, and he admitted it, but was found not guilty and turned around and sued us. Judges in Shelby County are so corrupt it boggles the mind. That's why I'm hesitant about what to do. But the fact there is an eyewitness . . .

JD: The officer said it's your word against his, so he wanted to get my account of it.

RS: I just happened to see your license plate as I was walking away. [McGarity went to] a couple of cars in front of you, and he said, "You didn't see that."

JD: My window was up when he said that, but as you were walking away, I heard you say, "You saw that?" and I said yes.

RS; I guess you would be willing to testify . . . ?

JD: I gave my account, and I wouldn't go back on that, of course not.

RS: He's claiming I hit him with a sign, and I didn't even have a sign in my hand.

JD: I did not see that at all. If someone asked if I saw you hit him, I would have to say no because I did not see that.

RS: I had what I call a weed whacker in my hands. I didn't touch him with anything. I was walking away, if I had hit him, I'd be running away.

JD: I just happened to be driving by at that time, and talked to the police officer, and he took down my statement.

RS: I appreciate you being honest and talking with me.

JD: I Hope you are OK.

RS: My back is sore, and it drew blood. But I'll be fine.

Did Alabama law enforcement do anything to help seek justice in this matter? Absolutely not. In fact, they gave me such a classic runaround -- and spewed so much false information -- it would be comical if it did not involve a serious, criminal matter.

We will have more on that in upcoming posts.


(To be continued)


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Luther Strange pushes for hasty settlement in opioid case, despite signs that his client, the Sackler family, is engaging in bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion


(From NPR)

Former U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) is a long-standing political hack, so it should be no surprise to learn that he is at the center of opiod-lawsuit settlement discussions that involve a "partisan divide," according to a report yesterday at npr.org.

That is not the only breaking news on the opioid front. Just hours before opening arguments were to begin yesterday at a federal courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio, four pharmaceutical companies reached a settlement with two Ohio counties that have been ravaged by the opioid crisis. From a report at CNN:

Hours before the first federal trial in the opioid epidemic was set to begin, four pharmaceutical companies reached a settlement totaling $260 million.

The four companies -- McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. -- reached a settlement Monday morning with the two plaintiffs, Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio. McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. will pay out a combined $215 million immediately, and Teva Pharmaceutical will pay $20 million, officials said at a press conference Monday. . . .

The defendants were supposed to appear in a Cleveland court Monday in the first federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) trial involving the opioid epidemic. Thousands more plaintiffs' cases are awaiting trial.

As for Luther Strange, former attorney general of Alabama, he is a key figure in discussions over a proposed settlement offered last month by Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. From a report at NPR:
The nation's response to the deadly opioid epidemic has been broadly bipartisan, but deep divides have emerged over a settlement plan offered last month by Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin.

Democratic state attorneys general have generally panned the deal, which would force Purdue's owners, members of the Sackler family, to give up control of their company while paying roughly $3 billion in cash from their personal fortunes.

So far, only two Democratic attorneys general nationwide have backed the plan, with more than 20 rejecting it.

Republican attorneys general, meanwhile, have mostly embraced the structured bankruptcy plan. They say the deal isn't perfect but it would get money to communities fast.

Who is pushing heavily for the plan that critics say would let Purdue Pharma off easy? Why, that would be Luther Strange, sticking to his reputation as a pure political animal. Reports NPR:

NPR found that much of the political pressure faced by Republican AGs who pursued opioid litigation has come from one highly influential conservative: Luther Strange.

He's a former US Senator from Alabama who served as that state's Republican attorney general. He also led the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) until 2017.

Strange didn't respond to NPR's repeated requests for an interview but, over the last year, he emerged as a prominent critic of opioid lawsuits.

He objects to state attorneys general hiring outside law firms to help sue Big Pharma. He also argues that AGs who use so-called "public nuisance" claims to hold companies accountable set a dangerous legal precedent, expanding liability for companies accused of harming the public.

"I've written on this recently because it is a blooming problem and issue around the country," Strange said at a gathering of the conservative Federalist Society in June.

He predicted the public nuisance legal arguments now being used against opioid defendants like Purdue Pharma "will be used against almost any other broad social issue."

Why is Strange pressuring fellow Republicans, especially those who show signs of having a spine and standing up for the public against Big Pharma? Well, that's likely because Strange essentially is a legal whore for the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma -- plus, Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, his one-time campaign manager and mistress, helped rake in more than $680,000 from Purdue (2014 to 2018) while they were associated with RAGA:

NPR has learned that while Luther Strange was championing conservative arguments against opioid lawsuits, he was also working behind the scenes as a paid attorney for members of the Sackler family.

According to a source with detailed knowledge of the matter, Strange represented his clients at a gathering of the Republican Attorneys General Association in West Virginia over the summer, where he worked to convince AGs to accept Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy plan.

Strange and his like-minded corporate protectors on the right seem to be ignoring signs that the Sackler family is engaging in apparent bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion, as we wrote last month, borrowing on original reporting at Splinter News:

Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed 33 financial institutions with ties to the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The subpoenas are tied to James’ effort to track billions of dollars the family allegedly transferred out of Purdue Pharma to hide profits before the company declares bankruptcy, The New York Times and other media reported.

The findings announced on Friday come from only one of the financial institutions that responded to the subpoenas, the Times said.

The attorney general’s office said it found about $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family, some of which went through Swiss bank accounts.

“While the Sacklers continue to low ball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct. The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena,” James said in a statement.

Is Luther Strange engaging in conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion as he pushes for a hasty settlement that likely would be highly favorable to is clients, the Sackler family? That appears to be a question investigators should be asking.

Monday, October 21, 2019

11th Circuit Court of Appeals panels, led by 89-year-old Nixon-era geezer Gerald Bard Tjoflat, favor Bank of America in 24 of 24 cases involving money matters




A Deep South federal judge, who has a perfect batting average of favoring JPMorganChase (JPMC), has an even more astonishing record on cases involving another financial monolith, Bank of America (BOA).

Is that because Gerald Bard Tjoflat, an 89-tear-old geezer from the Richard Nixon era -- holds a  perch on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) -- and has a financial stake in both JPMC and BOA? Does that mean Tjoflat tends to cheat everyday Americans in order to pad his own financial bottom line? Does that mean Tjoflat routinely violates federal law that, in general, prohibits a federal judge from hearing any case in which he or a member of his immediate family has a financial interest?

Public documents indicate the answer to all three questions is yes.The issue hits particularly close to home here at Legal Schnauzer because Tjoflat led a three-judge panel that cheated us in "The House Case," which involved theft of our home of almost 25 years in Birmingham via a wrongful foreclosure.  That ruling came down in December 2017, but we only became aware in recent months of the likely reason the Tjoflat panel screwed us -- and did it in a way, clearly contrary to law, that did not even consider the myriad faulty rulings by trial-court judges R. David Proctor and Virginia Emerson Hopkins in the Northern District of Alabama. (See here and here.) The reason? Chase Mortgage held our mortgage and led the effort to cheat us out of our home, and Tjoflat has a longstanding financial stake in its parent company, JPMC.

Gerald Bard Tjoflat
My wife, Carol, and I are not the only Alabama couple to get the short end of the stick when going before a Tjoflat panel, against one of his banking favorites. Karun and Ursula Jackson, of Daphne, went up against Bank of America in a wrongful-foreclosure case, and like us, they lost, with the pertinent rulings from the trial court barely being considered. Tjoflast has -- surprise, surprise -- financial holdings in BOA. And his record of favoring BOA is even more off the charts than his record on JPMC.

Between 2003 and 2017, Tjoflat sat on three-judge panels 15 times to hear cases involving banking giant (JPMC). Each time, the panel ruled in favor of the banking giant -- and, in most cases, against everyday Americans. If that makes you want to throw up just a little bit in your mouth, you might want to really spew when you see his record of favoring BOA. From 2009 to 2018, Tjoflat panels favored BOA in 24 of 24 cases.

BOA, like JPMC, has a perfect record when coming before panels led by one of its shareholders (Tjoflat). Let's check out the details:


(1) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Jackson v. BOA (2018);

(2) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Thomas v. BOA (2009);

(3) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Avenue CLO Fund v. BOA, (2013;

(4) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Merisier v. BOA (2012);

(5) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Fenello v. BOA ((2014);

(6) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Shine v. BOA (2015);

(7) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Lawrence v. BOA (2012);

(8) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Fabre v. BOA (2013);

(9) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in D. Jones v. BOA (2014);

(10) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Lawrence v. BOA (2017);

(11) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in White v. BOA (2015);

(12) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Sheppard v. BOA (2013);

(13) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Cheshire v. BOA (2009);

(14) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Chipka v. BOA (2009);

(15) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Carroll v. BOA (2013);

(16) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in McCulley v. BOA (2015);

(17) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Hill v. BOA (2013);

(18) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Ambarus v. BOA (2014):

(19) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Coniglio v. BOA (2016);

(20) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Infante v. BOA (2012);

(21) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in K. Jones v. BOA (2014):

(22) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Elliott v. Wells Fargo-BOA (2015);

(23) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Re: Diamond v. BOA (2017);

(24) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Cooley v. Ocwen Servicing-BOA (2018).


Is it possible some of the above cases were correctly decided in favor of BOA? Of course. Is it possible some of them unlawfully were decided in favor of BOA? Given our experience with a Tjoflat panel in a case involving JPMorgan Chase, there is no doubt in my mind? Does that mean Tjoflat has violated federal law multiple times by hearing cases where he was disqualified because of his financial stake in big banks? The law on this subject is circuitous, but when taken as a whole, the public record suggests the answer is yes.


(To be continued)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Police training emphasizes perceived danger to the officer over public safety, contributing to events like the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth





The fatal shooting of Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, leading to murder charges against Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, likely was caused by training that focuses on perceived danger to the officer as opposed to common-sense patrol guidelines that could help ensure public safety, according to experts who spoke with Dallas Morning News reporters Jennifer Emily and Cassandra Jaramillo.

In a new development, the murder warrant for Dean says Jefferson was holding a gun inside her own home at the time she was shot, but that is not illegal under Texas law, according to a report at the Fort-Worth Star Telegram: (A copy of the warrant is embedded at the end of this post.)

The murder arrest warrant for a white officer who shot and killed a black woman on Saturday says that the victim was holding a gun after she heard noises outside her window.

But holding a gun inside your home is not illegal in Texas, and the former police officer who shot her was arrested on Monday.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said on Monday that the gun was irrelevant to the investigation. In Texas, homeowners have a right to be armed on their own property, Price said.

A witness, the woman’s 8-year-old nephew, told a forensic interviewer that after Atatiana Jefferson heard noises outside their home and thought there might be a prowler in the back yard, she reached into her purse, grabbed a handgun and pointed it toward the window, the warrant said.

At a press conference Tuesday, Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said it made sense that Jefferson had a gun if she felt threatened by an unknown person being in her yard.

He called Dean’s actions inexcusable.

As for police-training issues, this is from the Dallas Morning News:

The Fort Worth officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson likely relied on police training that overemphasized the risk to an officer’s life while ignoring basic patrol guidelines every cop learns, law enforcement experts said Monday.

Jefferson, 28, was at her home in southeast Fort Worth when she was shot around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. She was up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor — concerned because Jefferson’s door was open and the lights were on — called a non-emergency police number.

When officer Aaron Dean and his partner arrived, they went to the backyard. Dean shot Jefferson through a bedroom window. It appears they did not yell “police” or go to the open front door, according to the snippet of body camera footage released Saturday by the Fort Worth Police Department. Both approaches should have been part of Dean’s training after he joined the department in 2018, the experts said.

Police trainees are taught, above all else, to look out for their own safety, according to the report:

Jefferson’s death shows that overall police training in the United States hasn’t changed much, said Johnny Nhan, a criminal justice professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Police academies and departments focus their initial and subsequent training on the fact that officers can be hurt or killed at any time, said Nhan, who studies police use of force.

Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Jail Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. He resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department after he fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson in her home Oct. 12.(Tarrant County Jail)

“It focuses on the risk, officer safety. To not get killed and go home,” he said. “Whenever you have someone just out of the police academy, they have a very heightened sense of danger and risk.”

Many officers, especially young ones, operate in a world where they perceive themselves to be in constant danger:

Nhan said that although policing is inherently dangerous, officers tend to go into situations feeling their lives are constantly in danger.

He compared Jefferson’s death to the September 2018 shooting of Botham Jean in Dallas. . . .

Amber Guyger was off-duty but still in her Dallas police uniform in September 2018 when she entered Botham Jean's apartment and shot him while he watched football on TV. She told jurors that she thought his apartment was her own and that she mistook Jean for a burglar. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this month for murdering Jean.

“That’s their default mentality: ‘Something is wrong and I need to prepare for it,’” said Nhan, who has written a book called Issues and Controversies in Policing Today.

Race often is an issue in police shootings, and the Morning News provides statistics to shine light on that:

Jefferson was the sixth person shot and killed since June by Fort Worth officers. Jefferson was black, and Dean is white.

The Fort Worth police department is 63% white, 21% Hispanic and 12% black, according to data released by the city in June. The city is more diverse, according to 2018 census data. Fort Worth is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.

Law enforcement officers in the United States have shot and killed 709 people in 2019 as of Monday afternoon, according to a database kept by The Washington Post.

Texas officers killed 79 (11%) of those people as of Thursday. Only seven were women. Overall, nine were black, 18 were Hispanic, 21 were white and the race is unknown for 31.

What about Officer Dean's background? The Morning News provides insight on that:

According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Dean underwent training classes for crisis intervention, a refresher on using less lethal options, and courses on cultural diversity and on conflict resolution in the past several months.

Craig Miller, a former Dallas police deputy chief who testifies in cases about police use of force, said it appeared Dean fired his weapon into the house through a window very quickly after arriving and yelling for those inside to show their hands.

“Those commands are pretty quick,” he said. “They almost came at the same time as the shooting.”

Miller said that it appears from the body camera footage that there was no reason for the Fort Worth officer to act so quickly. (The footage is embedded at the beginning of this post.)

“He had time on his side,” Miller said. “He could have moved more slowly with this.”

Miller made an educated guess about how a criminal trial might proceed:

Miller said Dean is likely to say that he fired into the window because he feared for his life. Using deadly force for that reason is a defense to a murder charge. If the case goes to trial, a jury will decide whether a “reasonable officer” would have acted similarly, Miller said.

When Miller was with DPD, he oversaw investigations into police shootings and typically went to the location where they occurred along with his detectives. He recently consulted with the defense team for Guyger, the Dallas officer serving a prison sentence for killing Jean.

Miller said if he were investigating this shooting, he would want to see the house during daylight to compare with the lighting officers saw that night. He’d also want to trace what happened in the lives of both Jefferson and the officer to get a better idea of their state of mind before the shooting.

Miller said it’s also important to know what the officer knew about the neighborhood and that particular call before the shooting, as well as what other calls he had answered and if he’d been involved in prior shootings.

One expert said it is almost impossible for training to prepare officers for the realities of the street -- and the Jefferson shooting illustrates the difference between a "welfare check" call and an "open structure" call:

Despite the months of training officers go through, how it applies in the field depends on each scenario.

Former Dallas police Officer Vana Hammond Parham, who spoke about race and policing at the Texas Tribune Festival last month, said she spent several months under the supervision of a senior corporal when she was a rookie officer. During that time, she was evaluated at different phases on what was done well and what needed improvement.

“In the world, things are fluid. They are not black and white,” Hammond Parham said.

She said trainers always stressed the importance of identifying yourself as law enforcement when responding to calls.

Hammond Parham said a wellness check call — typically a low priority — is different than a call about a so-called “open structure,” meaning a home or other building with doors and or windows open.

“It’s usually someone calling saying, ‘Something doesn’t seem right. Can you check it out?'” she said.

But officers would approach an open-structure call differently, she said.

The officer will need to search the building and make sure there are no threats, she said. It’s not uncommon for an officer to have their weapons out, but she said identification is very important with those calls.

“The first thing we do is announce ourselves because you don’t know who is in there,” she said.

Kraus, the Fort Worth police chief, said the officers were not aware the call originated out of concern for Jefferson’s welfare. They were told it was an “open structure” call. The chief said it would be typical for officers to announce themselves on a welfare check, but not if they thought the incident might involve a criminal situation.

Some see a policing system that is broken and badly needs repair:

Reynold Verret, the president of Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black college from which Jefferson graduated in 2014 with a biology degree, said in a statement that there is “an urgent need to fix a law enforcement system that is broken.”

Verret said that while many officers fulfill their duty to their communities, the system does not serve everyone equally.

“We should expect safety when we call on our police, whose mission is to protect and serve,” Verret said. “Sadly, our fathers and mothers must caution daughters and sons on their interactions with officers. Families in our communities hesitate to call on their protectors out of fear they will be killed. This should not be.”