Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Crooked judges in Alabama divorce courts turn the rule of law on its head, trampling the constitutional rights of women and children with shockng brazenness

Ted Rollins on Wall Street

The ongoing debate over the rule of law is centered on headline-makers like Donald Trump, Roger Stone, and William Barr -- with more than 2,000 former Department of Justice officials calling for Barr to resign. What about everyday Americans, including mothers and children, who suffer because judges fail to uphold the rule of law?

We have reported on several such cases, and this is where the rubber really meets the road when it comes to abuse of the rule of law, but you won't read about these cases in the mainstream media:

(1) The millionaires behind Orkin Pest Control ensure that Sherry Rollins and her daughters get cheated in divorce case -- When Sherry Rollins decided to divorce Ted Rollins, part of the family behind Atlanta-based Orkin Pest Control, the couple and their two daughters lived in Greenville, South Carolina. As the divorce case was pending, Ted Rollins defied a court order to keep up mortgage payments, causing Sherry and their daughters (Sarah and Emma) to be kicked out of their home. Desperate for shelter, Sherry moved with the girls to Birmingham, AL, where she had family.

Not long after the move, Ted Rollins sought to have the divorce case moved to Shelby County, AL, where Sherry had settled and where he had legal connections via the Bradly Arant law firm. Shelby County Circuit Judge Al Crowson allowed the move and went on to issue an order that was preposterously one-sided in Ted Rollins' favor, with Sherry getting a fraction of the child support and alimony to which she was entitled -- especially considering evidence of Ted Rollins' infidelity and other misconduct (including a vicious beating of Sherry's son from a previous marriage). In fact, Sherry and the daughters received so little from Crowson's judgment that they wound up on food stamps.

Was moving the divorce case from South Carolina to Alabama proper under the rule of law? Not even close. The controlling law can be found at a case styled Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953 (1993):

"Once jurisdiction has attached in one court, that court has the exclusive right to continue its exercise of power until the completion of the case, and is only subject to appellate authority."
That's the rule of law; it could not be more simple -- and Sherry Rollins and her daughters had a Constitutional right under the 14th Amendment to have it properly applied. But Al Crowson was a reptile with a robe, and he cheated them in shameless fashion.

(2) A judge throws Bonnie Cahalane, an Alabama mother, in jail -- How can a woman wind up in jail over an alleged debt in a divorce case? Debtors' prisons became unlawful in the United States years ago, right? It can happen in Chilton County, AL, where Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds routinely tramples the rule of law.

Bonnie Cahalane
Reynolds sent Bonnie Cahalane, of Clanton, to jail because she failed to pay $165,000 as part of her divorce settlement. Was the jailing lawful? Nope. The Alabama Constitution states that citizens cannot be sent to jail because of debts, and case law specifically states that it is unlawful to incarcerate anyone because of failure to pay a property-related debt from dissolution of a marriage. An Alabama case styled Dolberry v. Dolberry, 920 So. 2d 573 (Ala. Civ. App., 2005) is clear:

In this case, the husband argues that he cannot be imprisoned for debt pursuant to § 20, Ala. Const.1901. He is correct. The parties' marriage settlement agreement states: "The [husband] shall pay to the [wife] the sum of Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000) for her equity in the home. . . . This court [has] recognized that . . . payments . . . for sustenance and support are . . . outside the scope of § 20. . . . The $15,000 payment is clearly a property settlement, as evidenced by the language in the settlement agreement "for her equity in the home." Therefore, the nonpayment of that debt is within the ambit of § 20, Ala. Const.1901. Our resolution of this issue pretermits consideration of the husband's ability or inability to pay. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

Under the rule of law, Bonnie Cahalane could not possibly be incarcerated in her divorce case. But she spent five months behind bars, and God only knows how long she would have been held without our reporting on the case.

(3) Bill Upton, CEO of Vulcan Steel Products, is not held accountable for brazen infidelity in Alabama divorce case --  Bill Upton, the multimillionaire CEO of Pelham-based Vulcan Steel Products, admitted in court documents that he had an extramarital affair with Gincie Walker, a young woman (with serious mental-health issues, including multiple-personality disorder) he and his wife had raised as their daughter; Ms. Walker even called Bill Upton "daddy." Records indicate the affair was the driving event that ended Bill's marriage of more than 30 years to Linda Upton. (Note Bill and Gincie, the biological daughter of convicted sex offender Dr. William Flynn Walker, have since married, and she now is Gincie Walker Upton.)

Gincie Walker Upton
Such an affair represents the kind of marital misconduct for which the perpetrator usually is held accountable in divorce court. But that did not happen with Bill Upton, whose wealth is estimated in the $40- to $60-million range -- and that might be conservative. In his final order of divorce, private judge Gary Pate did not even mention Bill Upton's infidelity.

The outrage does not end there. Pate awarded sole physical custody of the couple's three minor children to Bill Upton -- even though we've seen no evidence in the record that Linda Upton was an unfit mother. Here is how we described, in an April 2016 post, the financial terms of the order:

Linda Upton receives $4,350 a month in periodic alimony, but she received zero in gross alimony. She did not even receive the marital residence. From Pate's order:

11. (a) The parties jointly own a residence at 2870 Shook Hill Road, Birmingham, Alabama. It shall be placed on the market and sold. The Wife shall have exclusive possession pending sale unless she moves. . . .

Linda Upton wound up staying at the home, but only after she had paid Bill Upton for his share of the property. And this was a husband who admitted to conducting an extramarital affair, apparently under the marital roof.

Does Pate's ruling square with the rule of law. No way. It reeks of a judge, who likely was compromised and never should have heard the case, and issued an order based on his whims and prejudices. How unlawful was it? Consider this from an April 28, 2016, post:

Code of Alabama 30-2-52 shows that Private Judge Pate butchered the Upton divorce, and a case styled Shirley v. Shirley, 600 So. 2d 284 (1992) drives that point home. From the Shirley ruling:

Section 30-2-52 permits a trial court, upon a finding of misconduct by one spouse, to make an allowance to the other spouse out of the estate of the offending spouse, as the circumstances may justify, provided "that any property acquired prior to the marriage of the parties or by inheritance or gift may not be considered in determining the amount."

Here is more related to the Shirley case:

Was misconduct present in Shirley? The trial court determined the answer was yes, and the Alabama Supreme Court agreed:

The record reveals that the parties' marriage was beset with extreme unpleasantness. In the pleadings and at trial, each party placed blame for the breakup of the marriage on the other. The husband claimed that the wife was verbally abusive, argumentative, and vindictive and that she interfered with the operation of his business both during the marriage and after the parties' separation. The wife claimed that the husband had a violent temper, had been physically abusive during the marriage, had been dishonest in his handling of the parties' finances, and had engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. At trial she specifically alleged that the husband had, without her consent, misapplied a number of her real estate commission checks for his personal use and had attempted to misappropriate certain life insurance proceeds of which she was the sole intended beneficiary. The husband denies that he has ever been dishonest in handling the wife's money or that he has engaged in adultery, although he admits to having engaged in sexual activity with a woman not his wife on three occasions.

The trial court made no specific finding of adultery, granting the divorce on . . . grounds of incompatibility of temperament and irretrievable breakdown. However, in the judgment of divorce the court recognized the husband's sexual infidelities and made specific findings of his marital misconduct and financial dishonesty toward the wife and other parties. We have thoroughly reviewed the record and conclude that there is ample evidence to support the trial court's finding of marital misconduct by the husband. . . .

What impact should such misconduct have on the outcome of a divorce case? From Shirley:

Where one spouse is guilty of misconduct toward the other spouse, the trial court's award may be as liberal as the estate of the offending spouse will permit under the circumstances of the case. Isom v. Isom, 273 Ala. 599, 143 So. 2d 455 (1962).

In other words, Bill Upton could have, and should have, taken a major financial hit for engaging in misconduct that a reasonable person might decide was way worse than that present in Shirley. But Upton's attorney did his best to cover up the issue, and the judge made no mention of it.

Sherry Rollins, Bonnie Cahalane, and Linda Upton . . . three Alabama women who probably would guffaw at the notion that abuse of the rule of law started with Donald Trump's tweet about the Roger Stone case -- and William Barr's subsequent dubious actions that appear to be based on political considerations..

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