A representative of the Alabama State Bar told a Birmingham-area lawyer not to get involved in my federal lawsuit over being unlawfully "arrested for blogging" ("The Jail Case") in Shelby County.
Greg Morris, of Fultondale, agreed to attend a Rule 26 meeting (for scheduling of discovery) on our behalf and was rewarded by having U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins berate him in front of a room full of lawyers. Morris,on his own initiative, wrote an affidavit to explain his purpose for attending the meeting. While preparing the affidavit, Morris had a question that he thought someone in the State Bar's Office of General Counsel needed to address.
Instead of getting his question answered, Morris was told to stay out of my case. Perplexed and understandably taken aback, Morris passed along to me what the bar official said -- and I was not happy about it. Is it the purpose of the Alabama State Bar to tell a lawyer not to get involved in a specific case? I doubt it. Why would a bar official make such a statement regarding my case; does this happen regularly in other cases? Greg Morris is a veteran attorney, with about 25 years of experience, and based on his reaction, I'd say the answer is no. Was I deprived of my right to counsel? Yes. Has the Alabama State Bar ensured that my right to counsel would be trampled in other cases? I think it probably has. Has it even communicated with federal judges to make sure I got the short end of the stick in U.S. courts? I'm having fewer and fewer doubts about that. For example, was Hopkins so mad at Morris because the bar told her that no one was expected to appear on my behalf, so she lost it when Morris appeared unexpectedly?
How exactly did Morris' communications with the bar official go? Here is how Morris described it to me:
The State Bar tells me, "Do not use [the affidavit], it may just make your matters worse.[The Bar official] said, "If they want you, the judge will call you or compel you.I said I feel strongly about all I've written; he said, "You'd better not go. Now I'm not telling you to change anything in the affidavit; if the judge wants to hear from you, she will call you in.
How baffled was Morris? His words tell the story:
I don't know what they are going to do to you, Roger. I can't imagine why they have such a hard-on. But the bar is telling me, "Greg, do not get any further involved -- you're not helping yourself and you're probably not helping Mr. Shuler."I have to follow what the bar tells me to do. I wouldn't tell you this otherwise. I feel badly.[The Bar says], "Tell Roger no, no you don't have permission, you stay away from that, if the judge wants to hear from you, she'll let you know."
The State Bar, as a professional ethics group, is the lawyer's lawyer. My lawyer basically says, "Unless the judge asks you, stay out of it." He says no.Why are they doing this? Why you?
As for Judge Hopkins , she was acting like a rabid wolverine. Said Morris:
After she lambasted me, blistered me pretty good, she was so pissed off . . . I don't understand.
I have these words from Morris, and more, in a word-for-word format.
By the way,who was the Bar official with whom Morris conversed? That is unclear because Morris does not remember his name.
Douglas McElvy was acting general counsel at the time, and I asked him to investigate the matter. (The full-time general counsel now is Roman Shaul.) I see no sign that an investigation took place, although I've left a message with Morris to see if the Bar followed up with him. I've received no response so far
The Office of General Counsel consists of Tripp Vickers, Mark Moody, and Jeremy McIntire. McElvy told me that an inquiry such as Morris' almost certainly would go to him or Vickers -- and it did not go to him.
So, did Tripp Vickers tell Morris to stay out of my case? That's the best information we have at the moment.