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The memory of a beloved pet inspires one couple's fight against injustice.

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    Antonin Scalia
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday at a ranch in Texas, is being remembered as a "strict constructionist" and "originalist," who believed  the constitution should be applied according to its original intent.

    Scalia's death already is being treated as a political matter, with leading Republicans claiming President Barack Obama should not nominate Scalia's successor, leaving that task to the next president--who will not take office for almost a full year.

    But before focusing on the politics of Scalia's death, Americans should understand that he was one of the most destructive public officials in American history. He also was a fraud and--for lack of a better word--an asshole. If Obama nominates a reasonably competent successor, who receives Senate approval, Scalia's death could be some of the best news to hit this country in quite a while.

    Are those nasty things to say about a dead man? Yes, they are. But Scalia didn't pull punches in life, so I see no reason to pull punches about his death.

    We could analyze many cases to show the damage Scalia did to our democracy, but let's focus on just one--Bush v. Gore (2000). In a per curiam opinion, Scalia and his conservative colleagues essentially installed George W. Bush as president--leading to 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, political prosecutions, use of U.S. attorneys as political weapons, astonishing political corruption, rampant Wall Street sleaze, and an economy that almost sank into a depression.

    By law, two concurring justices--Scalia and Clarence Thomas--should not have participated in Bush v. Gore. But they ignored their duties under the law and helped install a man who likely will go down as the worst president in American history. Noted educator and commentator Dr. Paul R. Wrubel calls Bush v. Gore a "judicial canker sore." Here's why, looking first at Clarence Thomas:

    One of the Supreme Court judges at the time owed his job to the father of one of the litigants in Bush v. Gore. That judge was Clarence Thomas. How is it possible that he could enter into the deliberations without a prior personal bias? He was appointed by George H.W. Bush, the father of litigant George W. Bush. That would never pass the “smell test” in the event he were to be sued successfully by Anita Hill if the presiding judge in that case had been appointed by a family member of Ms. Hill. How then was it OK for Mr. Thomas to weigh in on a case where one of the litigants was the son of the man who appointed him to the Court? It wasn’t OK and if there were another impartial higher court, the outcome would have been overturned probably by a unanimous decision.

    What about Scalia? His conflict of interest might have been even worse:

    Enter Antonin Scalia, the champion not of impartial law but of Mr. Antonin Scalia. Scalia, it turns out had a different family-related conflict of interest. In this instance, his son, Eugene, a budding lawyer, had been promised a job with the new administration if Mr. Bush were to be elected. It was a well-known “secret”. Mr. Justice Scalia was well aware of the pending appointment at the time of Bush v. Gore and he not surprisingly voted with the Court’s majority that overturned the Florida recount while it was being conducted. He also knew at the time that there is a federal statute that “requires a judge to recuse himself from any case in which their spouse or CHILD has an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding”. (Mr. Thomas may also have the same problem given the activities of his wife.) The outcome of the recount had implications for his son’s legal future. Sure enough, Eugene Scalia was nominated by President George W. Bush to be Solicitor of Labor in the Department of Labor, a position that could influence a range of issues relating to worker safety and other working conditions. Everyone including Congress knew that Eugene Scalia didn’t give a fig about worker safety or the laws that protected workers from harm. The confirmation hearings were confrontational as they should have been. His chances looked grim.

    Eugene Scalia was finally appointed by George W. Bush using the recess appointment route that allowed him to circumvent Congress. During his term as a recess-appointed official, Mr. Scalia argued a case involving one of his former paying clients, Pacific Marine Association. It is not surprising that his former client won the case in its conflict with ILWU (the longshoreman’s union). Apparently, the affinity for conflicts of interest is congenital in the Scalia clan.

    According to Source Watch, after Eugene Scalia’s recess appointment expired, President Bush fulfilled his pre-Bush v. Gore promise and appointed him as the Acting Solicitor of Labor which was yet another strategy to avoid the Congressional approval process.

    The notorious Bush ruling also helped reveal the man behind the facade of Antonin Scalia. To those who found the court's handiwork troubling, Scalia repeatedly said, "Get over it." Those are the words of an asshole.

    When he tried, lamely, to defend the ruling, Scalia was outed as a liar. He repeatedly has said Bush was a 7-2 decision, that "it wasn't even close." Not exactly true. From Think Progress:

    Bush v. Gore was not a 7-2 decision — and indeed, Scalia could tell this is true by counting all four of the dissenting opinions in that case. Although it is true that the four dissenters divided on how the Florida recount should proceed — two believed there should be a statewide recount of all Florida voters while two others believed a narrower recount would be acceptable — not one of the Court’s four moderates agreed with Scalia that the winner of the 2000 presidential election should effectively be chosen by five most conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States.

    The death of Antonin Scalia brings two words to mind--Good riddance.



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    What does former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman--now residing at a federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, because of perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in U.S. history--think of Donald Trump's idea of nominating U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor to the U.S. Supreme Court?

    Here are Siegelman's thoughts, straight from the former governor himself. Few people have seen Pryor operate in an up-close-and-personal way as Siegelman has. The mere thought ot Pryor being elevated to the nation's highest court apparently makes Alabama's most successful Democrat of the past 25 years want to vomit. It also might cause many Americans to wonder about Donald Trump's sanity.

    What's Bill Pryor really like? Here are Don Siegelman's thoughts.


    DESCENT INTO THE BOWELS OF INJUSTICE 
    by Don E. Siegelman
    Governor of Alabama, 1999-2003 
    "Evil and Pernicious Jurist To Replace Scalia?" . . .  "Richard Pryor Rather Than Bill Pryor" . . . "Big Tobacco not to blame: Poor People Who Smoke Die Faster, Costing Medicaid Less" . . . "Suppressed The Black Vote" . . .  "Thought the Klan Was A Pretty Good Group Of Guys" . . . "Lock'em Up And Throw Away The Key" . . . "An Unfounded Criminal Case...Totally Without Merit" . . .  "Pro Death Penalty and Pro-Life Stands Could Scare Pope Francis . . ."
    An involuntary scream came from my gut causing heads to turn as inmates also heard Bill Pryor's name drip from Trump's lips. Trump on Saturday night's Republican Presidential debate, named perhaps the most evil and pernicious jurist as Trump's choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Bill Pryor is on the ultraconservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. 
    Pryor's background: Slipped in as a recess appointment of Bush. A protege and political client of Karl Rove, a state attorney general linked to Karl Rove's tobacco clients and large corporate interests refused to join in the national suit against Big Tobacco. His reasoning: 
    "Poor people who smoke die faster, so they cost Alabama's Medicaid less money." Republican Arizona Attorney General, Grant Woods, later Co-Chair McCain for President, responded publically saying: "Alabama would be better off with comedian Richard Pryor rather than Bill Pryor as its attorney general." 
    Bill Pryor has all the right credentials for a Right Wing nomination: an original member of the Federalist Society, an early supporter of the harshest mandatory minimums for the smallest felonious infractions, Karl Rove's client and political mouthpiece in Alabama, someone who started an investigation against me to damage my chances for reelection (and did). The presiding U.S. District Court Judge, U. W. Clemon, described the Pryor instigated prosecution as "the most unfounded criminal case over which I have presided in my entire judicial career (some 30 years)...totally without merit."[see letter to Eric Holder, May 9, 2009, by Judge U.W. Clemon]. The Department of Justice has confirmed in a letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary committee that Pryor's lead prosecutor "in charge of the Siegelman prosecution communicated directly with the campaign manager of Mr. Siegelman's gubernatorial opponent” and "several" other officials acted improperly.[see report of “Project On Governmental Oversight", December 14, 2014] 
    Yet, Pryor is most frightening because of his closeness to: Karl Rove and Jeffrey Beauregard Session. 
    Pryor is from Mobile and is a close friend and protégé of Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions. Sessions was a racist U.S. Attorney, using his position to suppress the black vote by getting his agents to round up Alabama "Black Belt" African American political leaders and threatening them with prison if they ever crossed the line in soliciting absentee votes. Just to show he meant business, he prosecuted two older ladies (one a 72 year old retired school teacher, and a dear friend of mine) and finger printed and photographed others. It worked. 
    In 1994, Session beat out the Democratic nominee to become Alabama's radical Attorney General using his new position to launch him into the U.S. Senate in 1996. Pryor was Sessions's top deputy. Earlier when Sessions was making a play to be a federal judge himself, Senator Ted Kennedy forced Sessions to admit under oath, on the record in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, that Sessions had said: 
    "I always thought the Klan was a pretty good group of guys . . . until I learned they smoked pot." [see U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearing] 
    Sessions also had a penchant for prosecuting Democratic officeholders, white or black. 
    Recently, Mr. Donald Trump went to Mobile, Alabama, where he proudly cuddled Sessions on camera before a crowd of exuberant voters. Then he announced that Sessions's advisor, would become Trump for President "Senior Policy Advisor". Now, we hear in the most recent debate from Trump's own mouth that he has found the perfect possible replacement for Justice Scalia: 
    Bill Pryor, Session's creation, Karl Rove's client, a protector of corporate interests, a man who puts political prosecutions ahead of the truth and justice, an outlaw who orchestrated illegally certifying bogus elections results to ensure that Karl Rove's and Jack Abramoff's candidate for governor won in 2002, a Right Wing, "lock'em up and throw away the key" blinded, fanatical anti-Roe v. Wade pro-life, pro-death penalty Catholic. He is still not an equal to fill Antonin Scalia's shoes who exclaimed in the Sorich case in 2012: 
    "It is simply not fair to prosecute someone for a crime that has not been defined until the judicial decision that sends him to jail." 
    Bill Pryor's bent mind could never comprehend such a judicious decision seeking true justice. Pryor's lust to put people in prison has no bounds. Pryor's criminal justice logic is itself a unique work of injustice. 
    The real danger is that Pryor is young and is just beginning his descent into the bowels of partisan injustice.

    Footnote: 

    In the interest of full disclosure, Bill Pryor, Karl Rove's client, as Alabama's newly elected Attorney General, started an investigation of me on March 19, 1999, just days after I was sworn in as governor in January, 1999. He then joined with the Bush U.S. Attorney to prosecute me, while the U.S. Attorney's husband was running my opponent's campaign. Despite an all out offensive by Karl Rove and the Pryor smear campaign, I won but only to wake up the next morning to find out that enough votes had been stolen to swing the election to the Rove- Abramoff backed candidate. (See Mark Crispin Miller's book: "Loser Take All") When I asked for a hand recount, Bill Pryor threatened anyone who touched the ballots with jail, then surreptitiously took the bogus results to Montgomery and certified them two full days before Alabama law allowed, thus ending my ability to get a recount. 
    After my Republican opponent was sworn in, Bill Pryor was nominated and confirmed to a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals during a Congressional recess, after which U.S. Senator Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions stated publically and on the record: 
    "We would have moved faster and gotten Pryor on the bench earlier but we needed a Republican governor in place first." 
    The 11th Circuit is the court through which all my appeals had to first be screened. While Pryor did not directly participate, his coffee break and cocktail conversations no doubt poisoned the well for my appeals. At an 11th Circuit Court Judicial Conference for all U.S. District Court and 11th Circuit court judges, a prominent Atlanta attorney, Buddy Darden, overheard Judge Pryor telling those within listening distance his opinion about me. Mr. Darden told me he had pulled Judge Pryor aside and asked about the ethics of his statements. 
    My Republican opponent, Congressman Bob Riley, was hand picked by Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff to run against me. In Abramoff's own words, we had to "stop Siegelman...[and my lottery-gaming proposal]...at a cost of approximately $20,000,000 to the tribe" [The Mississippi Choctaw Indian casinos to protect their gambling monopoly in the Southeast. See pages 187-194 of Abramoff's book, "Capitol Punishment".] 
    Millions of Indian casino dollars were illegally laundered into Alabama to defeat me by Rove and Abramoff's friends, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, according to "Capitol Punishment" and the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs report:"Gimmie Five", authored by U. S. Senator John McCain. 
    This Indian casino money flowing into my opponent's campaign was never investigated. The Rove generated prosecution only investigated a single contribution in support of my proposed ballot initiative. One that would have sent all Alabama high school graduates to college for free, but instead sent me to prison for 88 months. 

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    An edited version of Bill Pryor's photo
    at the badpuppy.com gay "super store"
    Web site.

    Donald Trump is known for hiring and firing people on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. He often brags that he surrounds himself with the best and brightest people, suggesting he and his staff are adept at conducting background checks.

    That might apply to Donald Trump, businessman and reality-TV star. But it apparently does not apply to Donald Trump, presidential candidate.

    At Saturday night's Republican debate, Trump mentioned U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor as someone he might nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court. Pryor's duty station is the Hugo Black Courthouse in downtown Birmingham, he lives in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills, and he is a former attorney general of Alabama.

    Many people who closely follow politics and legal issues in Alabama know Bill Pryor has enough skeletons in his closet to outfit a haunted house. This apparently is unknown to Donald Trump.

    Donald Trump
    Pryor's most glaring skeleton involves his connections to 1990s gay pornography, via a Web site called badpuppy.com. As we first reported in September 2013, nude photos of Pryor (complete with glaring erection) appeared in the early days of badpuppy.com, which has gone on to become a sort of "online superstore for gay porn," from its base near Cocoa, Florida. (Photos at the link above include a full-frontal version of one Pryor photo; a discreetly edited version of the photo can be seen at the top of this post.)

    Pryor is a staunch opponent of gay rights, and the photos suggest he is a world-class hypocrite. From our initial report:

    The photos appeared in 1997 on badpuppy.com, which was in its online infancy, having debuted in mid 1995. Based in Cocoa, Florida, the site has morphed into one of the largest gay porn sites on the Web.

    Images obtained by Legal Schnauzer show Pryor posing completely nude, staring into the camera and sporting a noticeable erection. We see no indication that the photos were taken surreptitiously, without Pryor's knowledge. Sources say Pryor was college age when the photos were taken.

    Pryor rose to national prominence in Republican circles on the basis of a staunchly conservative record, including consistent opposition to gay rights. He also has supported school prayer and the death penalty, while opposing abortion rights, making him a highly unpopular figure among liberal and progressive interest groups.

    A married father of two, Pryor lives in Vestavia Hills and his federal-court duty station is in Alabama, with an office on the ninth floor of the Hugo Black Federal Courthouse in downtown Birmingham. Pryor revealed during his confirmation hearings that he and his wife, Kristan W. Pryor, rescheduled a family vacation to Disney World when they discovered the Orlando, Florida, theme park had scheduled "Gay Days" festivities at the same time as their planned visit.

    How did the photos first come to light, and how did Pryor react when asked to comment on them? We addressed that in our initial post:

    Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at badpuppy.com in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

    Legal Schnauzer contacted Judge Pryor last Friday via e-mail, seeking an interview about the photographs and their possible implications for his role on the federal bench. Pryor responded as follows:

    "I have nothing to say to you except that these accusations are totally false. 
    Do not contact me again. 
    Bill Pryor"

    I replied by stating that these are not "accusations," they are photographs of an individual that multiple sources have identified as him. I further stated that I had every right, as a citizen and a journalist, to seek comment from a public official with a lifetime appointment, regarding matters of national importance. For good measure, I attached copies of the photographs. Pryor responded as follows:

    "This is the last time I will respond to you. Those photos are not of me. 
    Do not contact me again. 
    Bill Pryor"

    Pryor said the photos were not of him, even though badpuppy.com attached the name "Bill Pryor" to them, and the young man in the photos bears a striking resemblance to the judge. Was Pryor willing to sit down for a one-on-one interview, answering questions about the photos? No, he was not. Was Pryor willing to present family photos from his college days that might support his claim that the young man shown at badpuppy was not him? No, he was not.

    Bill Pryor at a badpuppy.com photo gallery.


    When national reporters sought comment about the story, Pryor would not talk to them either. He trotted out a former law clerk named Jennifer Bandy to "issue a statement." Even Bandy would not take questions, it appears. Bandy now is with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Kirkland and Ellis, so it appears her ties to Pryor--and her willingness to make herself look like a fool in public on his behalf--have paid off nicely.

    Perhaps of most interest, the young man in the photo clearly has strabismus, a fairly rare condition that involves misalignment or crossing of the eyes. Recent photos of Pryor suggest he has strabismus, although it appears treatment (usually surgery) has improved his condition. Even if that is the case, multiple sources who have seen Pryor in person, up close, say his strabismus is quite noticeable.

    In a post dated October 17, 2013, we addressed the issue of strabismus in the Pryor/gay porn story. We sought to interview him on the subject, via an e-mail that reads as follows:

    Bill: 
    This is a followup on my reporting at Legal Schnauzer.

    Do you have a condition known as strabismus, which is a crossing or misalignment of the eyes? Have you ever been treated for strabismus?

    Would you release copies of your medical records as it relates to any and all eye care?

    Thank you,

    Roger Shuler

    Pryor did not respond to our query. He apparently wanted no part of the strabismus question.

    How could Donald Trump and his team not know about Bill Pryor's dicey past? It's not as if this story did not receive widespread, national coverage. Among the many news and cultural sites that covered it was Above the Law, the No. 1 law blog in North America. (Legal Schnauzer is No. 37, thank you very much, according to a Chicago-based Web research and marketing firm called Cision.) Title of the Above the Law article: "Underneath his Robes: Nude Photos of a Federal Judge."

    Has Team Trump not heard of Google?

    Since Donald Trump put Bill Pryor's name back on the nation's front burner, we will try again to interview the Alabama-based judge about the gay pornography in his past. We will let you know how that works out.


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    Antonin Scalia
    (From motherjones.com)
    Bush v. Gore, as much as any other case, reveals that Antonin Scalia's legal doctrine of "originalism" is a fraud. That tells us Scalia had no legal basis for supporting the decision that ushered in the disastrous George W. Bush presidency. And that means Scalia supported the ruling, and maybe even engineered it, for political or personal reasons--perhaps because his son, Eugene Scalia, had been promised a job in a Bush administration. On top of that, Eugene Scalia, worked for Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, a Los Angeles-based law firm that helped represent Bush in the 2000 post-election controversy.

    Both of those factors likely required Antonin Scalia to recuse himself from Bush v. Gore. But he didn't, and his one vote made the difference in turning the presidency over to George W. Bush, a man many historians and experts already call "the worst president in American history." What words did Scalia have for the American public about such skulduggery--"Get over it." (See video at the end of this post.)

    That's the kind of arrogance and sleaze, and borderline criminality, that requires payback--not just for Democrats, but for any American who cares about democracy. Antonin Scalia died on Saturday, under peculiar circumstances at a remote ranch in Texas, and that provided some measure of karma for those who have not "gotten over"Bush v. Gore. But a deeper sense of karma dictates that President Barack Obama take it a step further--and he should do so by nominating Al Gore to fill Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Does Gore make sense as a Supreme Court nominee? More on that in a moment. But first, let's see how Antonin Scalia trampled his own notion of originalism by supporting the majority opinion that put George W. Bush in the White House, where he did untold damage to our country--via 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for torture, erosion of privacy rights, false intelligence on critical international matters, outing of a CIA agent, firing of U.S. attorneys, use of the justice system as a political weapon, rampant greed and malfeasance on Wall Street, and installation of perhaps the most devious and destructive political operative in American history (Karl Rove).

    None of that would have happened without Antonin Scalia. Now we know that Scalia's own phantom legal doctine--originalism--did not support the finding in Bush v. Gore. In fact, originalism would have required Scalia to vote against the finding in the case--to side with the minority. Had Scalia stuck to his own stated beliefs, his vote would have turned the minority into a majority--and the election would have been decided in Florida, which (by law) was the proper venue, and Gore would have been the likely winner. Here's how Scott Lemieux, of American Prospect, described it:

    Scalia is inadvertently right about one thing: It's not a "hard question" whether this case should have been resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or by the United States Supreme Court. Since the case was an issue of state law that did not present anything remotely resembling a substantial federal constitutional question, it should have been decided by the former.

    In essence, Scalia betrayed his country and himself. How do we know? We have Scalia's own words.

    In a January 2011 interview with California Lawyer magazine, Scalia made it clear that, in his originalist view, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment--which the court cited to hand the presidency to George W. Bush--only applied to black males. From Robert Parry's report at Consortium News:

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unintentionally revealed the hypocrisy of the Right’s rhetoric about “originalist” interpretations of the U.S. Constitution with his comments about how the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection under the law” doesn’t mean equal rights for women.

    “In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don't think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation,” Scalia said in a recent interview with the legal magazine California Lawyer.

    “So does that mean that we've gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both? Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that.”

    Was Scalia full of horse manure with this? Absolutely, as Robert Parry proved by comparing the justice's words with his actions in Bush v. Gore:

    However, if the “original intent” of the amendment’s drafters was so determinative – that the 14th Amendment supposedly was only meant to apply to black men at the end of slavery – it might be safe to assume that the drafters weren’t thinking about protecting a white man like George W. Bush from possibly losing an election in Florida in 2000.

    Yet, the 14th Amendment was precisely what Scalia and four other partisan Republicans on the Supreme Court cited to justify shutting down the Florida recount and handing the White House to Bush, despite the fact that he lost the national popular vote and apparently would have come out on the short end of the Florida recount if all legally cast ballots were counted.

    To justify their ruling, the five Republican justices cited the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause in claiming that Florida’s electoral precincts had failed to apply common standards for counting votes. Then, rather than giving the state time to rectify the situation, the justices set a deadline of two hours, effectively assuring Bush’s “victory.”

    Are Scalia and his like-minded brethren actually guided by originalism? Of course not, Parry says, unless it serves their political agenda:

    In other words, Scalia and other right-wing justices operate with a situational ethic when it comes to “originalism” and “strict construction.” If their partisan and ideological interests require the abandoning of those precepts, the principles are dumped overboard.

    That is what most of us would call hypocrisy or dishonesty. But Scalia, like many on the Right, operates with a curious sense of false righteousness, at least when his “principles” match up with his ideology and partisan interests.

    Scalia's "curious sense of false righteousness" probably was the No. 1 reason Al Gore was cheated out of the presidency. But President Obama has a way now to fix that (at least a little bit)--by nominating Al Gore to replace Scalia on the nation's highest court.

    Al Gore
    (From theatlantic.com)
    Has this idea occurred to Obama or his staff members? I have no idea. Would Gore consider such a nomination, if it was put to him? I don't know. Is Al Gore qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, would he be a good justice, and would he be a wise nominee at a time of heightened controversy regarding the GOP senators' stated plans to block any Obama nominee?

    The answers, in my view, are "without question,""yes," and "absolutely.

    Just consider Gore's biography: He is a former vice president of the United States, a former U.S. representative, and U.S. senator. He served in Vietnam and has received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, He has written books and articles on some of the most important issues of our times--climate change, American family life, capitalism, and efficient government. His intellectual output far surpasses that of the supposedly brainy Scalia and probably everyone else on the current Supreme Court.

    Americans, in general, already have shown that they approve of the way Al Gore conducts his business. It's undisputed that he won the popular vote in the 2000 election over George W. Bush. That election probably was close only because President Bill Clinton (whom Gore served as vice president) had engaged in an unseemly Oval Office dalliance with an intern named Monica Lewinsky. Gore decided that he needed to separate himself from Clinton's personal missteps--which was unfortunate because Gore also separated himself from the Clinton administration's many successes. Gore went so far as to pick Clinton critic Joe Lieberman as his running mate, which proved disastrous because Lieberman probably did not help carry a single state.

    Bottom line? If ignorant white voters in Gore's home state (Tennessee) and Clinton's home state (Arkansas) pulled their heads out of their behinds and voted to continue the peace and prosperity and competence of the Clinton years, the Florida controversy would not have mattered--Gore would have won the election without needing Florida. If an NRA-funded scare campaign had not convinced white voters in normally Democratic West Virginia that a Gore administration would come for their guns, Gore would not have even needed Arkansas and Tennessee.

    Gore's public life is the very definition of "mainstream"--and even Jeb Bush, George W.'s brother and a current GOP presidential candidate--has said that is the kind of nominee Obama should make.

    Al Gore is one of the most distinguished Americans of his time, and he likely would be both a breath of fresh air and an effective jurist on the Supreme Court.

    For those of us who like a little karma with our public affairs, an Al Gore nomination to replace Antonin Scalia would be delicious indeed.





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    Cibolo Creek Ranch
    Antonin Scalia's hunting trip to a remote Texas ranch was a "gift" from a businessman who received a favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) late last year, according to multiple reports yesterday. Scalia visited the ranch with "a friend," but that friend has not been identified.

    Scalia died Saturday at Cibolo Creek Ranch, and revelations about ranch owner John B. Poindexter and his apparent favors to a Supreme Court justice should prompt a criminal investigation, not only of Scalia but of other members of the high court and the federal judiciary.

    Why? The facts surrounding Scalia's vacation to Texas, as we know them now, strongly suggest bribery or a kickback--and maybe obstruction of justice, or some combination of the three. If Scalia so baldly accepted gifts from a businessman whose company had appeared before the high court, did other justices behave in a similar manner? And if such corruption was common at America's "citadel of justice," was it also present in the 11 judicial circuits around the country?

    How ugly could this story get? The original report, from reporters Mark Berman and Jerry Markon at The Washington Post, suggests it could get pretty darned ugly. From the report:

    Who pays for a Supreme Court justice to make this kind of trip?

    Not Scalia, it turns out. Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia was not charged for his stay, something he described as a policy for all guests at the ranch.

    “I did not pay for the Justice’s trip to Cibolo Creek Ranch,” Poindexter wrote in a brief email Tuesday. “He was an invited guest, along with a friend, just like 35 others.”

    Poindexter added: “The Justice was treated no differently by me, as no one was charged for activities, room and board, beverages, etc. That is a 22-year policy.’’

    Poindexter's policy toward guests at his ranch is irrelevant, of course. But any relationship Poindexter and his subordinates might have had with Scalia--and how it might have affected a case before SCOTUS--is extremely relevant. Was an agreement in place that Scalia would treat Poindexter's case favorably in exchange for a "vacation hunting trip" and perhaps a rendezvous with a "friend"? Did Scalia receive other types of favors that perhaps have not reached public attention yet?

    These questions require a serious investigation, one that should be wide-ranging, way beyond Scalia. Personal experience tells me that federal courts are a cesspool, especially for plaintiffs and non-corporate parties. Scalia's death could be an occasion to shine a much-needed spotlight on the courts. If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, it raises the specter of federal crimes.

    Houston headquarters of
    J.P. Poindexter and Co.
    The hunting ranch is in the west Texas town of Shafter, which is about 30 miles from the Mexican border and home to John B. Poindexter. Who is Poindexter? He owns the Houston-based manufacturing firm J.B. Poindexter and Co.

    Poindexter's firm has several subsidiaries, one of which was involved in an age-discrimination case, and the employee-plaintiff appealed last year to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here is how Gawker explains it:

    Justice Antonin Scalia was taking a free vacation at the exclusive Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas when he was found dead inside a guest room Saturday. The trip, the Washington Post reports, was a gift from the ranch’s owner, who just last year obtained a favorable result from the Supreme Court.

    The 30,000-acre hunting ranch, located around 30 miles from the Mexican border in the West Texas town of Shafter, is also the home of owner John B. Poindexter, who owns the Houston-based manufacturing firm J.B. Poindexter and Co.

    The two men already had a tenuous connection outside of the ranch. Last year, an age discrimination suit filed against the Mic Group, a subsidiary of J.B. Poindexter and Co., reached the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

    The high court's refusal to hear the case meant circuit and district court rulings favoring Mic Group would stand--a nice outcome, indeed, for ranch owner J.B. Poindexter.

    In a statement to The Washington Post, Poindexter insisted he treated Scalia just like his other guests. But that is beside the point. His other guests likely had not taken oaths to uphold the nation's laws, including the guarantees of due process and equal protection--to which the plaintiff in the Mic Group case was entitled. From the Post report:

    Poindexter, who would not identify Scalia’s friend, is a Texas native and decorated Vietnam veteran who owns Houston-based J.B. Poindexter and Co., a manufacturing firm.

    The company has seven subsidiaries, with combined annual revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to information on its website. Among the items it manufacturers are delivery vans for UPS and FedEx and machine components for limousines and hearses. The company has 5,000 employees, the site said.

    One of Poindexter’s companies was involved in a case that made it to the high court. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving an age discrimination lawsuit filed against one of these companies, court records show.

    Could the age-discrimination case have cost Poindexter and his company a bunch of money? Not much is known about the case at the moment, but the answer possibly is yes. It's also possible that the case would not have hurt the company much, but Poindexter might just like to use his access to Scalia--sort of a way to show off for his corporate friends. The case is styled James Hinga v. Mic Group LLC.

    According to The Post, many more unknowns are out there:

    The nature of Poindexter’s relationship with Scalia remained unclear Tuesday, one of several lingering questions about his visit. It was not known whether Scalia had paid for his own ticket to fly to the ranch or if someone else picked up the tab, just as it was not immediately clear if Scalia had visited before.

    It is also still not known who else was at the Texas ranch for the weekend, and unless that is revealed, there could be concerns about who could have tried to raise an issue around Scalia, said Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal and judicial ethics at the New York University School of Law. He compared it to unease that arises when judges and officials from major companies are invited to seminars or educational events that bring them together for periods of time.

    Was there something about the Hinga case that made Poindexter and Co. officials nervous? Did that cause the company owner to make arrangements with Scalia for a favorable verdict? Or did Poindexter seek access to SCOTUS just because he could?

    These questions should not be pushed aside. They go to the very heart of our justice system, and they demand a thorough investigation.


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    Former Missouri Rep. Don Gosen
    (From news-sentinel.com)
    A Missouri Republican legislator, who resigned last week after reports surfaced about an extramarital affair, also was a customer of the Ashley Madison Web site.

    Don Gosen (R-Ballwin) was serving his third term in the House of Representatives, but abruptly resigned his position last Wednesday. Tony Messenger, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported two days later that Gosen stepped down because rumors were swirling around the state capitol in Jefferson City about an extramarital affair. Gosen admitted to the affair in Messenger's column last Friday, but the former legislator denied published reports of multiple other affairs.

    Should the public take Gosen's word about that? It seems iffy, given that his name appears on a list of Missouri customers for Ashley Madison, the Web site with the motto: "Life is short, have an affair."

    Gosen, who has a conservative "family values" voting record, apparently took that suggestion literally. A State Farm insurance agent in Wildwood, Missouri, Gosen said the affair started in 2014. From Tony Messenger's report at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    The day of his fall, former state Rep. Don Gosen sat in his empty insurance office in the Wildwood Town Center and had a good cry. . . .

    Starting in 2014, Gosen says, he had an affair. He betrayed his wife and three daughters. He betrayed his faith. Now he’s paying the price. Gosen blames only himself for his bad behavior. On Thursday, Gosen said that on the advice of his attorney, he wouldn’t publicly outline the events that led to his resignation.

    Gosen is tight-lipped about details of the affair, but reports have surfaced that racy text messages, and maybe even a video, are part of the picture. Reports Messenger:

    Two sources with knowledge of Gosen’s actions, including one whom the former state representative confided to before he resigned, say the downfall started with an event outside the Capitol in 2014.

    Gosen met the woman, who is from southeastern Missouri, and they hit it off. She is not a Capitol employee and hasn’t ever worked there. At some point, the sources say, the relationship became sexual. Gosen, following the path made famous by former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner and to a lesser extent former Missouri Speaker of the House John Diehl, sent the woman at least one text that included a photo of a sexual nature. The Post-Dispatch has obtained one of these texts. The couple also made a video of some sort, the sources confirmed.

    Gosen lied to the woman, sources say, about many things, including his ultimate intentions, and that led to a bad breakup. It’s unclear when that breakup took place.

    It’s the sexts and video — or at least the rumor of their existence — that led to his rapid fall from grace. Those rumors made their way to Speaker of the House Todd Richardson on Monday. He called Gosen into his office and asked for his resignation.

    Gosen said he had already made that decision, after telling his wife and daughters what had happened.

    Yes, Gosen and his wife have three daughters, but multiple reports say the legislator's actions might be far worse than has been reported so far in the mainstream press. Reports Danny Wicentowski at the Riverfront Times:
    Additional details of Gosen's wandering libido can be found in a newsletter published today from former reporter/cop/ John Hoffmann. Citing several anonymous sources, Hoffmann claims that Gosen has juggled "multiple girlfriends" since he joined the legislature in 2010, and that one of those girlfriends was an unnamed "elected state representative."

    Just how seedy was Gosen's behavior? Consider these details from a post at johnhoffman.net:

    The story begins to unfold, that Gosen, 53, who lives in Ballwin on Clayton Road west of Kehrs Mill Road has multiple girlfriends. He is married and has been married for some time. He has been a State Farm Insurance agent for a long time with an office on Taylor Road in Wildwood. He was elected to the 101st District of Missouri House of Representatives in 2010. He apparently quickly joined the Jefferson City Legislature fraternity party club.

    We have been told by several sources that in the last two years Gosen has had affairs with several women. One source names an elected state representative. At least two of the relationships were over by 2016 when Gosen was in another relationship with a younger woman described as "twentyish" and from Jefferson City. During that relationship Gosen is reported to have claimed he was divorced. Much like former Missouri Speaker of the House John Diehl (who like Gosen represented part of Chesterfield) and Anthony Weiner Gosen was sex texting. We were told that he was sending photos of him "Donald Ducking" which would have him like Donald wearing just a shirt and nothing else. . . .
    We were also told by two independent sources that there was a video of Gosen having sex inside the capital.

    Wow, a legislator engaging in sex inside the capital, with video running? You can't get much more "conservative" than that. And Gosen's record at votesmart.org indicates he voted like a staunch "values" conservative. Gosen describes himself as "pro life" and says that marriage should between "one man and one woman." He is against state funding for stem-cell research, against affirmative action, and against including sexual orientation under Missouri's anti-discrimination laws.

    What about Ashley Madison's role in Gosen's seamy story? Did any of his affairs start via the AM Web site? Is he still an active user of the site? How much money did he spend there?

    Answers to those questions remain unknown, but we are seeking comment from Gosen.


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    Antonin Scalia
    (From crooksandliars.com)
    Conservatives tend to lionize the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia because he championed the notion of "originalism," as applied to the Constitution. Originalism holds that the Constitution's meaning is the same today as it was when it was adopted in 1788. Liberals tend to see the Constitution as a "living and breathing document" that should evolve with the society it governs, while Scalia and many conservatives see it as an "enduring document," one that should remain grounded in the nation's earliest days.

    Bush v. Gore, probably the most controversial case in which Scalia participated, shows that the justice believed in originalism as a theory but did not practice it in real life. Scalia frequently cited Roe v. Wade, decided before he joined the court, as a case that violated the precepts of originalism. Here's what The Washington Post wrote about a 2012 Scalia speech:

    “I’m not saying you shouldn’t have the right to an abortion,” said Scalia, who has previously spoken out against Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established a woman’s right to an abortion. “But don’t tell me the American people demand that you have it and wrote it in the Constitution, because that’s not true.

    In other words, if an issue was not addressed in the Constitution of 1788, federal courts should not deal with it now--leaving it to voters in individual states. "The Constitution does not say anything about (abortion) . . . ," Scalia told CNN's Piers Morgan in a 2012 interview. "Roe v. Wade said no state can prohibit it; that simply is not in the constitution." (See interview at the end of this post.)

    Did Scalia consistently apply this principle? Not even close, and I'm not the only observer who holds that opinion.

    But I do have first-hand experience with the repercussions of Scalia's phony originalism, and it involves a subject that almost all Americans are likely to experience at some point--traffic stops.

    That's a sensitive subject in this space because my wife and I were victims of two unlawful traffic stops in the days leading to my unlawful arrest that led to a five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama. In fact, my arrest--which really was a state-sanctioned kidnapping since no warrant ever has been presented, at the scene or in court--was the result of a bogus traffic stop.

    You might say that Antonin Scalia was responsible for both incidents, the first by Shelby County Lt. Mike DeHart, the second by Officer Chris Blevins. Why? Scalia wrote the opinion in a SCOTUS case styled Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), which essentially made it lawful for law-enforcement officers to conduct traffic stops under false pretenses--all in the name of the "war on drugs."

    Specifically, Whren made pretext stops legal. What is a pretext stop? Here's how we describe it in a post from May 2015:

    A "pretext" or "pretextual" stop is a stop in which the officer detains the citizen for a minor crime (i.e. traffic offense) because the officer actually suspects the person of involvement in another, more significant crime (i.e. drug possession).

    Here was the situation in Whren:

    Whren, which involved an officer who stopped a vehicle, on the surface, for a traffic violation--but the real reason for the stop was suspicion of illegal drug activity. In fact, a search subsequent to the traffic stop turned up crack cocaine, and SCOTUS found the pretext stop was legal because it's real purpose was to seek information about a suspected crime, the illegal distribution of drugs.

    In other words, the officers initiated the stop under false pretenses, with ulterior motives. And Antonin Scalia ("The Originalist") said such actions, with cops acting in fraudulent and deceitful ways toward the public, was perfectly fine, Gee, can't imagine why we've had a string of cases where cops were caught lying and covering up evidence of misconduct.

    The petitioners in Whren argued that they had been subjected to an unreasonable search that violated the Fourth Amendment. Many legal experts, I suspect, would agree with them. But the court--surprise, surprise--sided with the cops.

    How did Scalia justify the court's finding. It's hard to tell because Whren is a poorly written mess, which doesn't even define a pretext stop. Those who call Scalia an "intellectual giant" and a "brilliant writer" likely have not read his work. Here is the gist of his opinion in Whren:

    We think these cases foreclose any argument that the constitutional reasonableness of traffic stops depends on the actual motivations of the individual officers involved. We of course agree with petitioners that the Constitution prohibits selective enforcement of the law based on considerations such as race. But the constitutional basis for objecting to intentionally discriminatory application of laws is the Equal Protection Clause, not the Fourth Amendment. Subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.

    Scalia's words even have left police officers confused. For example, in our first traffic-stop encounter, Lt. DeHart said in sheriff department's notes that he conducted a "pretext stop" in order to "serve" Carol and me with papers in Rob Riley's defamation lawsuit. DeHart, however, never said or did anything to indicate he suspected our vehicle had been involved with a "more significant crime." In fact, there was no suspicion that we had been involved with any crime. That means DeHart's actions did not constitute a pretext stop, and they were not legal--a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    Let's look at the Whren finding in the context of originalism. Are traffic stops mentioned in the U.S. Constitution of 1788? Of course not. Are drug busts and traffic stops mentioned in the Constitution? Not a word.

    So according to Scalia's own words, he should have found for the petitioners and stated this was a decision for each individual state to address--just as in the issue of abortion, which also is not mentioned in the Constitution.

    Whren shows, with simple clarity, that Scalia was, in the words of Salon's Paul Campos, an "intellectual phony."

    Here is Scalia's real world view: If an issue (the right to an abortion) is not mentioned in the Constitution, but it might be of help to a minority group (women), Scalia was against it. If an issue (traffic stops) is not mentioned in the Constitution, but it might help an establishment group (police officers), Scalia was for it.

    That pretty much sums up his "brilliance."



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    Donald Trump
    (From businessinsider.com)
    GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump stated at a recent debate that, if elected, he would consider nominating federal circuit judge Bill Pryor to the U.S. Supreme Court. It seems clear that Trump, at the time, was not aware of Pryor's connections to 1990s gay pornography, via nude photographs that appeared at the badpuppy,com Web site.

    Gay porn, however, might be the least of troubling activities in Bill Pryor's past. Powerful evidence suggests he has connections to--or at least is aware of--criminal activities that were carried out on his behalf. This could involve serious criminality--possible felonies such as kidnapping, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, deprivation of rights under color of law, and more.

    Was Pryor actively involved in such schemes? The answer to that is not clear at the moment. But we have little doubt he was aware of it and has done nothing to bring it to light. That, in itself, is a federal crime called misprision of a felony, under 18 U.S. Code 4. What does the crime involve? Here is the answer, from the statute:

    Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

    We're talking about a crime that carries a possible three-year prison sentence, so this is not to be sniffed at. It all hits close to home because evidence indicates my wife, Carol, and I were the targets of such a scheme--because of my reporting on Pryor's ties to gay porn. I was unlawfully arrested in fall 2013 and incarcerated for five months; Alabama deputies tried to arrest Carol; and we lost our home of 25 years to a dubious foreclosure, just as my jail time was coming to an end, forcing us to move out of state.

    Did this all just happen out of thin air? We don't think so; we think someone made it happen. If Bill Pryor was involved, would he act alone in such a scheme? We doubt it.

    Bill Pryor, at badpuppy.com
    The record points to Alabama attorneys and GOP operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison as possible accomplices. It is widely known that Pryor, Riley, and Garrison are political allies. As attorney general of Alabama, Pryor helped pave the way for Riley's father (Bob Riley) to become governor by launching an investigation against Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman. Jessica Garrison has stated publicly that she considers Bill Pryor to be her professional mentor, calling him a "real-life hero."

    Let's look at a timeline of events related to my reporting on Bill Pryor's ties to gay porn and my arrest/incarceration, attempts to arrest Carol, and the foreclosure:

    * Sept. 13, 2013--I send an e-mail to Pryor, seeking an interview and/or comment about my research showing that nude photos of him had appeared at badpuppy.com. Pryor responds by claiming the photos are not of him and instructing me not to contact him again.

    * Sept. 17, 2013--I publish my first post about Pryor and gay porn, and numerous blogs and news sites quickly pick up on the story. These include Above the Law, the nation's No. 1 law blog.

    * Sept. 18. 2013--I send a followup e-mail, asking Pryor if he would provide for inspection documents related to his confirmation as a U.S. judge. The issue is this: Did Pryor reveal his ties to gay porn during the confirmation process. I receive no reply to my query.

    * Sept. 24, 2013--Shelby County deputies make the first of numerous visits to our home, usually two or more deputies, in two to three vehicles, at a time. I soon learn that Rob Riley has filed a defamation lawsuit against me, alleging that posts about his relationship with lobbyist Liberty Duke are false and defamatory. I later learn, via jailhouse communications with Birmingham attorney David Gespass, that no summons had been issued in the Riley case at this point, so the deputies could not have been trying to conduct lawful service. A service record from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office shows deputies tried to serve us 10 times in a six-day period. Sources state that it's extraordinary for a sheriff's department to attempt that many service attempts in such a short time. A normal course of events would involve one or two attempts in a 30-day period. If that doesn't work, the summons usually is returned to the clerk's office for attempts by a process server or other lawful means of service. Without a summons, the deputies had no valid grounds to serve us or "summons" us to court. That strongly suggests that they were trying to arrest us--even though we had committed no offense--and not serve us.

    * Sept. 29, 2013--Deputy Mike DeHart conducts an unlawful traffic stop to "serve" us with papers in the Riley lawsuit. According to Gespass' written statement to me, these could not have included a summons, so we had no reason to appear at a hearing that was scheduled for the next day.

    * October 3, 2013--I send an e-mail to Bill Pryor, asking if he had ever been diagnosed with strabismus, a crossing or misalignment of the eyes. The young man in the badpuppy.com photos clearly has strabismus, and photos of an adult Bill Pryor suggest he also has the condition. Pryor does not respond. Multiple sources who have seen Pryor in person, up close, say the strabismus still is quite evident.

    * October 17, 2013--I write a post about Bill Pryor and strabismus.

    * October 23, 2013--I write a post about Jessica Garrison's extraordinary hypocrisy regarding tobacco. She states in court documents from her child-custody case that she objects to her former husband and his new wife smoking around her child. I point out that her "mentor" and "hero," Bill Pryor, has long helped protect the tobacco industry from being held accountable for diseases that its products cause.

    * October 23, 2013--Just before 6 p.m., a few hours after my Garrison/Pryor/tobacco post appears, Shelby County deputy Chris Blevins arrives at our home, enters the garage without showing or stating that he had a warrant, shoves me to a concrete floor three times and douses me with pepper spray (without stating why he was there), handcuffs me and drags me to a police cruiser for a drive to the Shelby County Jail in Columbiana. I wind up getting charged with resisting arrest (believe it or not), and at the trial, Blevins and prosecutor Tonya Willingham are ordered to produce a copy of the warrant that Blevins claims he had in an incident report. Willingham says they have no warrant.

    Rob Riley's possible role in this is obvious. His defamation lawsuit, on the surface, launched all of these events. Curiously, Riley never asked that his case be heard by a jury, and my reporting (to this day) never has been found false or defamatory at trial. That's because there was no trial.

    U.S. Judge Bill Pryor
    (From nbcnews.com
    Garrison's role is less obvious because she filed a defamation lawsuit against me on August 27, 2013, before I had contacted Pryor or written a post about his ties to gay porn. But I received notice that our home was going into foreclosure just a few days before my release from jail. That turned out lives upside down and forced us eventually to move out of state, to Missouri, where I grew up. That meant I could not defend myself in Garrison's lawsuit, and she wound up receiving a $3.5-million default judgment that is not remotely supported by fact or law. In fact, the default judgment is void as a matter of law because of Garrison's failure to notify me of a hearing on default.

    Curiously, Garrison's case proved to be much like Riley's: She only asked for a jury trial after I had asked for one; she did not seek one in her original complaints. My reporting never was found to be false and defamatory at trial because . . . surprise, surprise . . . there was no trial. Jessica Garrison never came close to proving my reporting was false in an adversarial proceeding--never sat for depositions, never answered interrogatories, never turned over documents (e-mails, texts, etc.) and never took a witness stand to be questioned by the opposing party or lawyer.

    We've already shown that the foreclosure on our house was highly questionable, to the point of probably being wrongful under the law. But who benefited most from the foreclosure? Who received a $3.5-million default judgment because we were forced to move out of state in the foreclosure's wake?

    The answer is Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who sees Bill Pryor as a "mentor" and a "hero."

    Were Pryor, Rob Riley, Jessica Garrison (and perhaps others) involved in a scheme to have Carol and me arrested and jailed, while our house was stolen out from under us via a wrongful foreclosure? I don't have a definitive answer to that question yet, but the whole process is transmitting an odor most foul.

    I recently sent Bill Pryor another e-mail, requesting an interview about Garrison, Riley, and issues related to my incarceration and our foreclosure--along with questions about Donald Trump's statement, in light of Pryor's ties to gay porn.

    How did Pryor respond? We will let you know in an upcoming post.


    (To be continued)

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    Members of the International Order of St. Hubertus
    (From theblaze.com)
    Reports about Antonin Scalia's death among members of a secretive hunting society have focused largely on the group's history and strange customs. Some focused on unusual circumstances surrounding Scalia's death itself. But the real story is this: It reveals that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court had zero respect for basic legal ethics. And it shows that Scalia specifically never met a conflict of interest he did not embrace, especially when it meant he could hob-nob with big-money Republicans.

    The story raises serious questions about the integrity of the nation's highest court. And this might be the most serious question of all: If SCOTUS tolerates, even flaunts, such conflicts of interest, how rampant and brazen must ethical violations be on lower courts, at both the federal and state levels?

    It's intriguing, even amusing, that Scalia was hanging out with members of a hunting fraternity that dates to the 1600s in Austrian. But here is the troubling part: The friend with whom Scalia traveled to Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas was prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer C. Allen Foster--and he's had business before the Supreme Court.

    Ranch owner John B. Poindexter had declined to identify Scalia's companion, but the information came from an incident report by Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez. Ironically, Yahoo! News reports, Poindexter had told Dominguez that he had no jurisdiction over the case. That must have been surprising news to the sheriff. Ranch owners make these kinds of determinations in Texas?

    Dominguez' incident report provides all sorts of intriguing information about the events surrounding Scalia's death. In fact, it's the sheriff's report that identifies C. Allen Foster as Scalia's traveling companion. From Yahoo! News:

    Poindexter has previously said Scalia traveled to the ranch with a friend but declined to name the companion. Dominguez's report identifies him as Allen Foster.

    The report provides no details on Foster's background, but C. Allen Foster is a Washington, D.C., lawyer who has previously represented clients in cases before the Supreme Court. When contacted Wednesday at his law firm, a secretary said he was traveling out of the country and unavailable until his return on Thursday. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

    C. Allen Foster
    In 1993, Foster argued a case before the Supreme Court in which he represented Hispanic Republicans challenging Florida's state redistricting plan.
    According to his firm's website, Foster has served as special litigation counsel to the Republican Party.
    Here is Scalia, who took an oath to uphold the law in an objective way, hanging out with special counsel for the Republican Party. Gee, I wonder if Foster was involved in the Bush v. Gore free-for-all of 2000.

    That's not all. Here's this from The Post:

    Planes owned by Wallace “Happy” Rogers III and the company of A.J. Lewis III left from San Antonio and arrived at the ranch just after noon Feb. 12. The planes departed the ranch about 30 minutes apart Feb. 14, according to flight records provided to The Post by FlightAware.

    Rogers owns the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in San Antonio. He has donated $65,000 to Republican candidates since 2008. Lewis is the owner of a restaurant supplier company, also based in San Antonio. He has given $3,500 to GOP candidates since 2007.

    Rogers and Lewis have both served as prior officers in the Texas chapter of the International Order of St. Hubertus, according to Texas business records. Rogers spoke to a Post reporter briefly on the phone and confirmed that he was at the ranch the weekend of Scalia’s death. He declined to comment further.
    Lewis did not respond to several attempts for comment.

    Again, you have Scalia hanging out with big-money GOP donors. Most first-year law students probably know that the general standard for judges is to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety." Why didn't Scalia know that--or why did he not practice it? Was Scalia so arrogant that he didn't think ethical considerations applied to him?

    In death, Scalia might have done the country the kind of favor he hardly ever did in life--he's helped to show that our nation's "justice system" is a sleaze pit from top to bottom.

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    Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo
    from "Spotlight"
    (from geeknewsnetwork.net)
    Mrs. Schnauzer and I wanted to stand and cheer as the final credits rolled at a screening of Spotlight several weeks back. We felt the same inclination last night when the little movie about investigative journalism was named Best Picture at the Academy Awards--an upset, given that The Revenant widely was seen as the favorite.

    Was the win for Spotlight, and its story of the Boston Globe's efforts to uncover child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a victory for hard-nosed reporting on important subjects? It might be seen as such; several presenters and award recipients said last night that the film largely is about the power of journalism to expose corruption and affect change.

    But amidst the joy felt in many quarters from Spotlight's win, the public should not ignore grim signs that the kind of reporting that inspired the film might soon become a thing of the past.

    In an age of hemorrhaging budgets, many newspapers are cutting staffs to the bare bones--and beyond. Harried reporters must focus on the simplest stories of the moment--fires, car crashes, police chases--with no time to research stories that might take months (or years) to unravel. With many print editions either disappearing or being cut back, newsroom excellence often is measured in digital terms--on the number of "clicks" certain "trending" stories receive.

    The Catholic Church scandal in Boston began to unfold in the early 1990s, and most of the stories at the heart of Spotlight were published in 2002. Would such stories be published today, as a weakened mainstream press seems more interested in protecting establishment interests than in unmasking them? I would say it's unlikely.

    If the mainstream press won't do it, that leaves the heavy lifting to non-traditional, Web-based reporters, who often have limited funding (if they have funding at all) and face life-altering blow back from powerful forces who do not appreciate being exposed.

    Consider my own experience here at Legal Schnauzer, reporting on legal, judicial, and political corruption--in Alabama and beyond. And keep in mind that I have an unusual dual role--as both a victim of, and reporter about, corruption.

    Why did Mrs. Schnauzer and I feel we could not stand and cheer Spotlight's victory last night? For one, I was so convinced that The Revenant, with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio's star power, would win that I was only semi paying attention as Morgan Freeman opened the envelope and made the announcement. But even when it registered that our favorite movie of the year had pulled off a shocker, we felt compelled to remain quiet.

    Why? Thanks to attacks from the legal and political conservatives who rule Alabama, we lost our home of 25 years in Birmingham to a dubious foreclosure. That came just as I was being released from a five-month stay in jail because of an unlawful contempt-of-court order that lawyer Rob Riley (son of former GOP governor Bob Riley) sought.

    Before that, Carol and I had been cheated out of our jobs--her at Infinity Insurance, me at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked for almost 20 years. Tape-recorded evidence shows conclusively that I was targeted at work because of my reporting on the political prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Evidence strongly suggests that Carol was targeted because she is married to me.

    When we challenged our bogus firings in federal court, we got cheated there, too. (See here and here.)

    With our home in Alabama being swiped from underneath us, we were forced to move to Springfield, Missouri, where I grew up. Last September 9, we were subjected to an unlawful eviction at the apartment we were renting. In the course of throwing us and our possessions to the street, a Greene County deputy grabbed Carol, slammed her to the ground, and yanked on her arms in a vicious upward and backward motion. That broke her left arm so severely that it required trauma surgery for repair--and even then, she is expected to regain no more than 75 percent usage of her arm.

    The real-world cost
     of practicing investigative journalism:
    An X-ray of my wife's shattered arm

    In the eviction's wake, we wound up living at a pay-by-the-week motel--the kind of establishment some might charitably call a "fleabag motel." Carol and I have come to calling it "The Shiftless Drifters' Motel." That's why we had a subdued reaction to Spotlight's win. We didn't want our whooping and hollering to disturb our neighbors. After all, we no longer live in a stand-alone house.

    What price have I paid for reporting accurately on court-related corruption in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and several other states? What price has Carol paid for supporting my efforts in investigative journalist?

    Well, we've lost our jobs, our careers, our life savings, our reputations, and our once-stellar credit rating,  During the eviction, the landlord's crew was seen stealing many of our possessions--including almost all of my shoes, pants, shirts, coats, underwear, hats, and much more. Our wedding rings were stolen, and many irreplaceable items of sentimental value were lost or pilfered.

    Because of a bogus resisting-arrest conviction in Alabama, I now have a criminal record that makes me virtually unemployable.

    What is the cost of investigative journalism for one reporter and his wife? Well, we are almost homeless--and public records indicate even my own family members (and maybe one friend of long standing) have been working against us. Why? My best guess is that it's because one of my brothers is a lawyer, which makes him part of the establishment that doesn't much appreciate my reporting--no matter how accurate it is.

    Spotlight is a wonderful movie, and it got two thumbs up here at Legal Schnauzer. If you haven't seen it--and it's not the kind of blockbuster that draws huge crowds--we strongly recommend
    a trip to your local cinema to catch it.

    But the movie does not touch on the many modern threats to investigative journalism--and the dangers reporters can face when they take on powerful interests.

    Do we want to see movies like Spotlight in the future? Do we want to see the kind of journalism that can inspire such a movie?

    We are in danger of losing both.


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    Robert McDonnell
    In the wake of Antonin Scalia's death, a number of analysts have written that an eight-justice U.S. Supreme Court could spell doom for the appeal of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell. Lawyers for McDonnell are moving forward, and they filed their opening brief with SCOTUS yesterday.

    The bigger issue, however, is this: Why did the nation's highest court agree to hear the McDonnell case when it has repeatedly refused to hear appeals from former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. After all, the two cases present almost identical legal questions.

    Tom Jackman, of The Washington Post, reports that the effect of Scalia's death on the McDonnell case might not be as cut and dried as many observers think. Here is how Jackman summarized the issues:

    For some Supreme Court watchers, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia equated to bad news for the future of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, whose final appeal now rests with the high court. With only eight justices on the court, the thinking went, a conservative-liberal bloc deadlock of 4 to 4 would affirm McDonnell’s 2014 conviction and send him to prison while leaving the definition of “public corruption” fairly broad.

    But that’s far from the only possibility, a number of court experts said this week. Most of the other options mean either a delay or even vindication for McDonnell (R), who has always argued that his actions after accepting loans, vacations and gifts from a Richmond businessman did not constitute “official acts” subject to criminal prosecution.

    As you can see, it's undisputed that McDonnell benefited personally from favors heaped upon him by Virginia businessman Jonny Williams--and there was no such evidence in the Siegelman case. That makes convictions in the Siegelman case much more shaky legally than those in the McDonnell case. On top of that, McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison after his conviction on public-corruption charges, while Siegelman continues to serve a much longer sentence--part of which was based on charges for which he was acquitted. So why is SCOTUS prepared to hear one case while consistently rejecting the other?

    At least one commentator, David Swanson, has asked if the decision to hear McDonnell means the Supreme Court is set to virtually make bribery legal. Swanson uses the McDonnell and Siegelman comparison to make his point. The headline on Swanson's piece: "How the Supreme Court Could Legalize Direct Bribery: An Innocent Man Behind Bars, A Guilty Man Free":

    Two U.S. state governors have recently been convicted of taking bribes: Alabama’s Don Siegelman and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell. Siegelman has been in prison for over four years though he was targeted by politically motivated prosecutors and was never accused of any personal gain. McDonnell was bribed with a Rolex watch, plane tickets, dinners, trips, loans, catering, golf bags, and i-phones, and, according to his successful prosecutors took official actions in his capacity as governor to benefit the person bribing him within minutes of receiving various loot. The U.S. Supreme Court has kept McDonnell and his wife (also convicted) out of prison as it considers his case. A bipartisan collection of 113 current and former state Attorneys General urged the Supreme Court to correct the injustice to Siegelman, and it declined to consider it.

    The U.S. Supreme Court was uninterested in a bribery case like Siegelman’s that involved no bribery. What’s frightening is its interest in a case like McDonnell’s. His lawyers will argue that while he and his wife clearly benefited, he didn’t know everything his wife had promised in return for the bribes, nor did he agree to it, nor did he deliver on it. There is clearly the potential that the new standard in U.S. politics going forward will be that you can give luxury toys and personal bribes directly to an office holder, as long as he or she fails to deliver the public policy you asked for, or as long as he or she doesn’t try very hard to deliver it.

    Such a standard would open the door to direct bribery of politicians in a new way not achieved by Citizens United and related rulings that facilitate bribery through campaigns and PACs and foundations. As long as the two parties are discreet, who will be able to prove that the favor your politician did your corporation was actually in response to the Mercedes you gave him?


    SCOTUS' decision to hear McDonnell v. United States, raises questions about blatant inconsistency in our federal appellate courts.  It also raises this question: Why does the nation's highest court steer clear of Siegelman like it was radioactive waste, while gladly hearing other cases that raise the same issues--first, in a case from Florida, and now, in one from Virginia.

    Is Siegelman left to rot in a Louisiana federal prison because he's a Democrat, while McDonnell remains free--and receives an audience before SCOTUS--because he's a Republican? Does the high court avoid Siegelman because the prosecutorial, judicial, and political corruption that led to his conviction is so deep-seated and disturbing that the justices feel compelled to make sure it remains under wraps?

    Those questions might seem "out there," but under the circumstances, perhaps they are not so far-fetched. Here is how the Supreme Court docket describes the issues raised in McDonnell:

    Issue: Whether “official action” under the controlling fraud statutes is limited to exercising actual governmental power, threatening to exercise such power, or pressuring others to exercise such power, and whether the jury must be so instructed; or, if not so limited, whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional.

    Every one of those issues was present in the Siegelman case and could have been addressed back in 2010, maybe even earlier.  Here is how Adam Liptak, of The New York Times, describes issues in McDonnell:

    Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, was prosecuted on charges that he had used his office to help a businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who had showered the governor and his wife with luxury products, loans and vacations. The gifts themselves were legal, and the question in the case was whether they were part of a corrupt bargain in which Mr. McDonnell reciprocated by using the power of his office to help Mr. Williams.

    Mr. McDonnell arranged meetings for and attended events with his benefactor. But Mr. Williams, whose company made a diet supplement, met with no real success in obtaining support for his product from the state. A jury found that Mr. McDonnell’s actions amounted to corruption, and a federal appeals court upheld the conviction. . . .

    In urging the Supreme Court to hear his appeal, Mr. McDonnell’s lawyers said he had done no more than extend “routine political courtesies” to Mr. Williams. “This is the first time in our history that a public official has been convicted of corruption despite never agreeing to put a thumb on the scales of any government decision,” the brief said.

    McDonnell's lawyers are wrong about that. The same thing happened in Siegelman--and powerful evidence suggests that prosecutors had to coach and threaten chief witness Nick Bailey to get him to concoct a story about Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy reaching an agreement.

    Don Siegelman
    Could SCOTUS craft a decision in McDonnell that essentially legalizes bribery? David Swanson already has raised that possibility, and he goes on to lambaste SCOTUS for its nonsensical handling of Siegelman:

    If you imagine the Supreme Court's interest is in correcting injustice, as opposed to expanding the legalization of bribery, have another look at the Don Siegelman case. Siegelman was by far the most successful Democratic politician in an overwhelmingly Republican government in Alabama. When he won reelection as governor in 2002, the election result was reversed after Republican officials in a single county waited until the Democratic officials had gone home, then recounted the votes and determined that there had been an error. Despite Democrats' objections of impropriety and pointing out that the voters whose votes were switched away from Siegelman didn't -- as one would have expected -- have their votes similarly "corrected" in other races, the Republican Attorney General of Alabama upheld the result and forbid any manual recount to verify it.

    Republican lawyer Jill Simpson describes "a five-year secret campaign to ruin the governor," during which Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's senior political advisor, asked her to "try to catch Siegelman cheating on his wife." Rove associate Bill Canary, she says, told her that his wife Leura and friend Alice Martin, both federal prosecutors, would "take care of" Siegelman. When Siegelman began running to win his office back two years after losing it, the U.S. Justice Department took him to trial alleging a Medicaid scam, but the judge listened to the opening argument and then threw out the case as worthless.

    The "Justice" Department kept trying, and finally got Siegelman on bribery. His offense? He was not alleged to have pocketed a dime or to have received any support through any foundation or committee. Rather, he re-appointed a man [Richard Scrushy] to a board who had been appointed to the same position by the previous three governors, a man who made contributions to a state lottery to pay for college scholarships for poor kids. Yes, Siegelman's idea to help poor people with a lottery seems to have missed the fact that lotteries are taxes on poor people. But does that make him guilty of bribery or justify prosecutors targeting him?

    Swanson's piece includes thoughts from Joseph Siegelman, the former governor's lawyer son who has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, seeking documents about the case:

    A U.S. House Committee investigated the Siegelman case and asked Karl Rove to testify. He declined. And the committee declined to hold him in contempt or to use inherent contempt. He was simply allowed to refuse. Now Siegelman's son, attorney Joseph Siegelman, has filed suit seeking documents from the U.S. government. I asked him what he hopes to find.

    "Every stone that gets overturned ends up showing something negative," he said. As an example he pointed to the Justice Department's description of an email from a prosecutor of Siegelman to the campaign manager [Rob Riley] of his main Republican opponent, a description of an email that didn't become public until years after Siegelman's trial. "We don't know what else they have to hide," said Joseph Siegelman.

    I asked Joseph Siegelman about the Supreme Court's decision to hear McDonnell's case and not his father's, and he exclaimed, "How can our system of justice be so skewed?"


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    Bill Pryor at badpuppy.com

    After yesterday's Super Tuesday results, Donald Trump took several major steps toward securing the Republican Party presidential nomination. Trump handily won the Alabama vote, and that has interest on a variety of levels. "The Donald" already seems to have formed an alliance with two of Alabama's most oily right-wing politicos--U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions and U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor.

    Sessions endorsed Trump on Sunday, a move that inspired National Review to call Alabama's junior senator "a prostitute." We don't agree with National Review on much, but we think the storied conservative periodical is on target here. And we think NR used an interesting term, given the reported skeletons that Sessions and his acolyte, Judge Pryor, have in their respective closets.

    Speaking of Pryor, how did the Birmingham-based federal judge respond to questions about his possible nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, an idea Donald Trump floated, apparently without realizing Pryor has ties to 1990s gay pornography?

    How did Pryor respond to questions about his possible role in my unlawful arrest and five-month incarceration, events that came suspiciously close in time to initial reports here about the nude photos of Pryor that appeared at badpuppy.com?

    How did Pryor respond to questions about his knowledge of a scheme--possibly involving Alabama lawyers and GOP operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--to have me falsely imprisoned and to have the house my wife, Carol, and I had owned for 25 years forced into a foreclosure that likely was wrongful?

    Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump
    (From studentprintz.com)
    In the wake of Trump's recent announcement that he would consider Pryor as a possible nominee to the nation's highest court, I sent Pryor an e-mail seeking an interview or comment about that--and other issues noted above. Pryor apparently wanted no part of such a discussion because he did not respond to my query.

    Such cowardice reminds me of Sessions--and another Trump supporter, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Here are a few of the harsh words NR's Ian Tuttle had for those two:

    Presumably, Christie thinks an endorsement will increase the likelihood of his securing a position in a Trump administration (and given Trump’s financial history, that is a likelier prospect than his receiving 30 pieces of silver). But he has agreed to be, for the next several months, willingly at the end of Trump’s leash, evidence of which was Trump and Christie’s brief exchange after Christie’s speech in Arkansas: “Get on the plane and go home,” Trump said, caught on a hot mic. “It’s over. Go home.” There are pimps and prostitutes with more equitable relationships.

    Speaking of prostitutes: On Sunday, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions offered Trump his own endorsement. Sessions is, of course, the Republican party’s famous immigration hawk — a fierce, and fiercely intelligent, opponent of unchecked immigration, of amnesty, and of the various abuses of visa programs that large businesses use to undermine American labor. So, naturally, he endorsed the candidate who has proposed a de facto amnesty in which the federal government would first expend astronomical quantities of money and labor to round up 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the country, escort them to their home countries — and then let them back in (provided, of course, that they’re sufficiently “terrific”); he endorsed the candidate who has abused the H-2B visa system to import foreign workers to do “jobs Americans won’t do” — like model fashion; and he endorsed the candidate who has employed illegal immigrants on his building projects as recently as July of last year. Perhaps the senator thinks that Donald Trump, having touted his promises so publicly, will be made to go through with them. If so, he should consult with Trump’s business associates, employees, and two ex-wives about the reliability of Mr. Trump’s promises.

    As for Pryor, I'm not surprised he would ignore tough questions about topics that likely make him more than a little uncomfortable. But I wanted to share my query with readers, to help give an idea of just how dirty Pryor might be. As you probably can tell from the tone of my questions, I did not try to disguise the contempt I feel for Pryor and his compatriots, Riley and Garrison. Given the prominent role Pryor played in the bogus investigation of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, I did not try to hide my suspicion that Pryor is capable of some extremely lowdown actions.

    Bill Pryor, the federal judge
    (From nbcnews.com)
    Here is the e-mail I sent on February 16 to Pryor. Even though he holds a lifetime appointment, one funded by taxpayer dollars, Pryor apparently feels it is beneath him to answer tough questions. But I think it's important for the citizens who fund Pryor's cushy job on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to know of serious and ugly issues that seem to rest on the judge's plate.

    The tagline on the e-mail is "Inquiry about Donald Trump comments re: your possible nomination to U.S. Supreme Court." Here is the body of the e-mail:

    Judge Pryor:

    I am a reporter from Birmingham, with more than 30 years of professional experience in the field and a bachelor's degree in journalism. I write the blog Legal Schnauzer, which focuses on justice issues in Alabama, the Deep South, and beyond. My reporting was cited in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's hearing in fall 2007 on political prosecutions under the George W. Bush administration.

    I would like to request an interview about Donald Trump's recent statement that, if elected president, he would consider nominating you to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump's statements seem to have particular significance in light of my reports in fall 2013 that photos of you appeared on a gay pornography site, badpuppy.com, in 1997. Multiple sources told me then that you posed for these full-frontal nude photographs while a student at Northeastern Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) in the 1980s. I further understand they originally appeared in a four-color magazine, and surfaced again at the Bad Puppy Web site.

    A few questions I would like to address in an interview:

    * Would it be appropriate for you to consider a SCOTUS nomination, given the gay-porn photos in your background--and your public statements indicating you oppose gay rights. Multiple sources say you were confronted about the photographs in roughly 1997, long before your nomination to the federal bench. Did you disclose information about these photos to the FBI and U.S. Senate when going through confirmation for your current position?

    * What does the presence of such photographs say about your judgment and your suitability for a position on the federal bench?

    * Were you asked about these photographs--or other potentially embarrassing and/or corrupting background information--during the confirmation process for your position on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? If so, did you answer truthfully? If you failed to disclose this information, what does that say about your suitability for a role on the federal bench? Did you effectively lie to Congress and is that a crime?

    * On a personal note, I was unlawfully arrested--kidnapped, actually, because no warrant ever has been presented--and sent to jail for five months not long after I began investigating your ties to gay pornography. My kidnapping was conducted under the guise of a defamation lawsuit brought by Rob Riley, and at about the same time, I also faced a lawsuit from Jessica Medeiros Garrison. I understand that both Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison are long-time political allies of yours. It should be noted that, by law, my reporting never has been found defamatory at trial in either the Riley or Garrison cases. Some related questions:

    A. Did you order my unlawful arrest (kidnapping) and imprisonment?

    B. Did you participate in any way in a scheme to have me (and my wife, Carol) kidnapped and imprisoned? If so, what kind of deviant person are you?

    C. Would you turn over all of your communications--e-mails, text messages, phone records, etc.--from Sept. 2013 until the present? Would you allow me and/or law enforcement to review these records? Would you request that Rob Riley, Jessica Garrison, Luther Strange and Liberty Duke also turn over similar records? Would you turn over all of this information to the Trump campaign?

    D. Do you have any knowledge about the likely unlawful foreclosure, in spring 2014, on the house my wife and I had owned for 25 years? This foreclosure started while I was in jail and could not help defend our property rights. The imprisonment and foreclosure appear to be connected. Were you involved in both?

    If nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, would you be the kind of justice who has journalists beaten and kidnapped from their own homes, and sent to jail, while their homes are essentially stolen via dubious foreclosures? Is that the kind of judge you are now? Does that reflect your view of the First Amendment?

    Trump's comments represent a breaking story, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on 2/17/15 (Wednesday).


    Sincerely,

    Roger Shuler

    legalschnauzer.blogspot.com

    (205) 381-5673


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    Our series "Ashley Madison customers revealed" starts next week, shining light on professional elites from Alabama and Missouri who paid to seek extramarital affairs at the now infamous Web site. We hope eventually to be able to unmask AM customers from other states, as well. But that's not the only news shaking on the Ashley Madison front.

    The Ashley Madison scandal, which broke last July, has led to a veritable flower garden of lawsuits, with complaints popping up around the country like new blossoms--or weeds, depending on your viewpoint. The lawsuits have become so numerous that they require consolidation, and the process is taking place now in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Missouri, where the cases will be heard.

    The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation made the decision in early December to base the cases in St. Louis. How convenient, since we happen to currently be based in Missouri.

    That's ironic because Legal Schnauzer is one of only two Web sites I'm aware of--the other is gotnews.com--that have provided significant reporting on customers of Ashley Madison--the extramarital-cheating Web site, with the motto: "Life is short; have an affair." Our reporting has been based on AM customer lists for the two states--Alabama and . . . Missouri--where my wife and I have lived over the past two years.

    So imagine our surprise to learn that our current home state will become Ground Zero for Ashley Madison litigation. From a January 31 report at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:


    Last summer’s hacking of a website dedicated to arranging romantic infidelity led to angst, embarrassment, accusations and potentially complicated litigation that is all coming here.

    Lawsuits filed across the country against Avid Life Media LLC, owner of AshleyMadison.com, are being consolidated in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

    Two dozen lawyers representing Avid and current or former clients met this week with District Judge John Ross. More listened in by phone as Ross scheduled a series of motions and told the attorneys he soon will pick leaders among them to streamline handling of the case.

    Here is more information about how St. Louis came to be the center of the Ashley Madison universe. Much of it has to do with geography, and St. Louis' location near the heart of the country.

    The Birmingham law firm Heninger Garrison Davis has filed several class-action complaints involving Ashley Madison, mostly in California and Texas.

    How much money is at stake and how wide-ranging are the AM cases? An article from thexpertinstitute.comprovides some clues:

    The original class action, filed by two Canadian law firms, sought to recover $578 million in damages against Avid Life Media. This lawsuit, along with four other class action suits, were centralized in St. Louis, MO, in December, 2015. The cases being consolidated stem from Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, California and Texas. There are still 13 related actions pending in eight different districts that were not included in the consolidation at this time.

    How will the consolidated cases proceed? That apparently depends on how the court decides to handle a major issue--privacy. From the Post-Dispatch:

    One issue will be the continuing privacy of people who signed on to the site, whose slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” It has boasted of millions of clients, in 50 countries and every U.S. ZIP code.

    Ross said lawyers would have to file motions by Feb. 15 to allow plaintiffs to continue using pseudonyms to press their cases. The company can then respond. Lawyers have until March 22 to file a consolidated class action complaint.

    Robert A. Atkins, one of the lawyers for Avid Life, said that he expects that some of the 50 or so plaintiffs might drop out of the lawsuit if they have to reveal their real names. Roughly 40 filed as John or Jane Doe or some variation.

    If Avid Life Media has its way, the cases might never see a courtroom:

    And [Atkins] said a clause in the users’ agreement might put the lawsuit on hold while clients’ claims are handled in arbitration in a venue of the company’s choosing.

    St. Louis attorney John Driscoll told Ross that plaintiffs’ lawyers may need some limited information from the company before they proceed, so they know which clients were covered under what versions of user agreements. He said that the arbitration requirement didn’t exist in the beginning, and he disputed whether it could be enforced against anyone.

    Driscoll represents a woman from Maryland Heights who is among clients complaining that after quitting the service they paid extra to have their personal information removed but it was not done.

    Last summer, hackers harvested data from the company, then released it online when the company refused to shut down the website. That stolen information included user names, emails, home addresses, messages and partial credit card information.

    What legal issues are in play?

    Besides complaints of breached personal information, some plaintiffs claim fraud, alleging — as some analysts have — that the hacked data showed tens of thousands of the site’s profiles of women seeking flings were merely computer-generated “fembots.” Those allegedly sent millions of messages to male customers in an attempt to garner more money.

    The company has denied the claims about fembots, saying in August that the ratio of paying men to women active on the site was 1.2 to 1 in the first six months of 2015.

    A tech Web site called anewdomain.comran an article that includes copies of several federal complaints against Ashley Madison and Avid Life.

    The notion of plaintiffs using pseudonyms to press their cases may, or may not, fly in court. It certainly will not fly here. To our knowledge, Legal Schnauzer will be the only Web site providing detailed background information--and real names--on AM customers. That many of them hold exalted positions of trust in corporations and institutions . . . well, that adds an extra layer of significance to the story.


    (To be continued)

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    Gov. Robert Bentley and
    Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    (From HBTV.us)
    The administration of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley appears to be inching toward an implosion, amid reports that Bentley might have unlawfully interfered in the investigation of House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).

    That's serious, by itself. But consider these broader questions: How important was the Web press in educating the public about a governor who increasingly seems to be out of control? Specifically, how important was Legal Schnauzer in uncovering a story that shows signs of growing into a monumental scandal? The answer to both questions is "very."

    The recent revelations probably never would have been known if we had not broken the story last August of Bentley's affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Would Alabama's right-leaning mainstream media (MSM) ever have broke that story? We doubt it. Did we receive heat from various MSM outlets for daring to report the story? We sure as heck did?

    It's not just that Legal Schnauzer is able and willing to report on stories the MSM would rather keep under wraps. Any serious journalism outfit is only as good as its sources--and I've been fortunate to have darned good ones. I had good ones on the Rob Riley-Liberty Duke story, the Bill Pryor-gay porn story, and the Luther Strange-Jessica Medeiros Garrison story.

    I've been sued twice connected to those stories. I've been kidnapped and unlawfully incarcerated; our home went through a dubious foreclosure; my wife, Carol, and I went through an unlawful eviction that led to a cop breaking her arm. And still, my reporting never has been proven to be false or defamatory at trial--and that's because there was no trial (a jury trial is required in defamation cases, by law) in either case. (See here and here.)

    Through all of that, Legal Schnauzer remains. And my sources on the Bentley-Mason story have proven to be just as strong as those on the earlier stories mentioned above.

    Our blog is not the only Web-based news operation to do heavy lifting on the Bentley story--and especially the Hubbard story. Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), has covered both with a doggedness that generally seems to be beyond the MSM's capabilities. Here is how Britt described Bentley's latest difficulties in a post published yesterday:

    Insiders privy to meetings between Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier and Gov. Robert Bentley claim, the Governor asked Collier to tell the State’s Attorney General’s Office that an investigation into Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart was on going, when it was not.

    Bentley’s conversation with Collier was due to an investigation into allegations made by attorney and radio host, Baron Coleman, that he concluded that Hart had improperly share Grand Jury information with him. This resulted in an affidavit from Collier and Special Agent Jack Wilson, stating the Coleman allegations against Hart had no merit.

    Bentley told al.com that he ordered Collier not to give the affidavit to the Attorney General’s Office. According to those with intimate knowledge of the situation, Bentley asked Collier to tell the Attorney General’s Office that the investigation into Coleman’s allegations against Hart was ongoing.

    Where could this lead? Britt explains:

    If these individuals’ claims are factual, there may be more to the story than an order from Bentley to his Chief of Law Enforcement Officer.

    Those in the meeting when Bentley told Collier he should tell the Attorney General Office the investigation was ongoing were: Special Agent Jack Wilson, ALEA, Chief Attorney Jason Swann and the Governor’s attorney David Byrne.

    Law Enforcement officers speaking on background said this falls under several state statues including providing false statements or witness tampering.

    Where does Rebekah Caldwell Mason fit into the picture? Britt provides insight, borrowing from reports of al.com's Chuck Dean and John Archibald:

    Those inside the administration have even said the recent firings of ALEA top officials and those close to Collier are related to “internal investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by some employees and staff related to the misappropriation of State dollars and resources,” according to an article by Chuck Dean, an intimate of Bentley’s chief advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

    Columnist John Archibald recently wrote, “Her very word sends shivers through state employees. Because they believe she is the de facto governor, that her word has become Alabama law.”

    Close associates of the Governor have expressed grave concern about their relationship, fearing Mason is encouraging Bentley to engage in a public cover-up that includes the firing of: JT Jenkins, ALEA’s second-in-command; Jay Howell; Camilla Gibson; and Collier’s personnel assistant, Merritt Hayes.

    Rebekah Mason is encouraging the governor to engage in a cover-up? If that proves to be true, there is no telling how ugly this story could get--and Alabama's already dysfunctional government could get even more inept.

    Where is the story headed? That's hard to say. But we know for sure where it started. With Bill Britt's top-notch reporting, the Web press continues to lead the way.


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    Jim Arnott, sheriff of Greene County, Missouri
    The Missouri sheriff who oversaw the brutalization of my wife, Carol--which resulted in her left arm being shattered--apparently would be OK with the February 27 shooting that killed a Virginia police officer during her first day on the job.

    Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who was responsible for the unlawful eviction last September 9 that led to Carol's broken arm, has shown that he and his minions are dishonest, dim-witted, and dangerous. But Arnott's denseness apparently is not limited to a few unfortunate encounters per year. He seems to wear it proudly all the time.

    We recently learned that Arnott is a hypocrite of epic proportions, especially when it comes to his support of the Second Amendment "right to bear arms." He apparently is unaware that the "right to bear arms" can have profoundly negative consequences for law-enforcement officers--such as Ashley Guindon, 28, who was shot and killed while responding to a domestic-dispute call in Prince William County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

    Funeral for Guindon will be today in her childhood home of Springfield, Massachusetts. Did loose gun laws, and the politicians (like Arnott) who support them, contribute to her death? Here are the facts:

    When Guindon and two other officers arrived at the residence, Ronald Hamilton opened fire--killing Guindon and injuring both male officers with her. From a New York Times report on the incident:

    A police officer who was fatally shot on her first day on the job was remembered Tuesday as someone who helped in soup kitchens, at suicide prevention programs and at mortuary services for Marines killed overseas.

    Thousands of people came to the Hylton Memorial Chapel here to honor the officer, Ashley Guindon, 28. Officer Guindon died Saturday when she and two other Prince William County police officers were investigating a domestic disturbance at a home in Woodbridge, about 20 miles south of Washington.

    As the officers approached the front door of the house, a gunman opened fire, hitting all three, the police said. Officer Guindon later died at a hospital; the other two officers were treated for their wounds. The suspect, Ronald W. Hamilton, 32, who the police said also fatally shot his wife before they arrived, was arrested on murder charges.

    Jim Arnott, from the safety of his office in Springfield, Missouri, apparently would be glad that Ronald Hamilton had easy access to a gun--even if he wound up using it on law-enforcement officers.

    Arnott stated in a recent article that he supports a citizen's right to carry a concealed weapon--even on a college campus, almost everywhere. But how do Arnott and his deputies react when they think a citizen might have a gun, inside his own home? They act like hyper-caffeinated storm troopers, bursting into private property, with at least one assault rifle and roughly a half dozen handguns drawn--for an eviction that could not lawfully be conducted.

    Ashley Guindon
    (From smh.com)
    The citizen, in this case, was me. So why did Arnott and Co. think I had a gun? They claimed I had called 911 here in Springfield, Missouri, and threatened to shoot anyone who tried to evict Carol and me. Never mind that I've never called 911 in my life--about any matter, anywhere. Never mind that I've never owned a gun, never fired anything beyond a B-B gun, and never shown any history of using firearms. Never mind that law enforcement could not have had any legitimate evidence that I planned to shoot anyone.

    So where does hypocrisy enter the picture? If Arnott truly wants every citizen to be armed--inside and outside the home, even on college campuses--he and his deputies should treat every encounter accordingly. It should be no surprise to them if someone is "packing heat"; they should be expecting it. So why the SWAT-team antics with us?

    How did Arnott's avid support for concealed weapons--and his raging hypocrisy--come to light. A Missouri legislator, Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa), has proposed a bill that would allow Missourians to buy guns tax free on the Saturday after the Fourth of July. A reporter decided to get Arnott's views on the matter and discovered the sheriff thinks Taylor's bill is a swell idea. From the article:

    Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said he would like to see civilians be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campuses and elsewhere.

    "The more people that have a weapon, that have taken the time to learn how to use it and learn what their rights are and where their liability lands when they do use, the better off we are as a society," Arnott said.

    Asked if the training required to carry a concealed weapon was enough to allow a person to respond in an active shooter situation, Arnott said no but that gun owners should seek out continued training.

    "Firearms training should be ongoing, but I'm for people carrying concealed weapons. I think it's a deterrent, and I'm for people being able to protect themselves and their family," he said.

    Let's ponder what Arnott is saying here. He admits that state-required training is not nearly enough to allow a citizen to respond safely and effectively in an active shooter situation. But Arnott wants poorly trained citizens, who essentially have no clue how to properly handle a firearm, to carry guns everywhere

    Imagine this scenario: About 70,000 pack people pack Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia for a big University of Missouri football game in the Southeastern Conference. Let's say the opponent is the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. (With Nick Saban as head coach, plus the buying pow . . . I mean influence of Paul Bryant Jr., you are always safe assuming Alabama is defending a national title.) Perhaps 60,000 Missourians in the crowd are carrying concealed weapons--and maybe a few have had a little something to drink.

    Nick Saban
    With the game surprisingly close in the fourth quarter, the officials blow a call that winds up costing Missouri the game. Fans start shooting at the officials. They even shoot at Nick Saban, who thanks to his God-like status, is equipped with a protective shield that causes bullets to bounce off and hit his players.

    Injured and dead officials, players, fans, and assistant coaches litter the playing surface. But somewhere, Jim Arnott and Rep. Jered Taylor must be smiling. Concealed weapons on college campuses--just what we need for a safer America.

    Just to show that not everyone in Missouri is a right-wing lunatic, consider the words of Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis). She has consistently pushed for stronger gun regulations:

    Newman said the notion that allowing students to carry concealed weapons on campuses would make them safer in the event of a mass shooting is a "false argument." She said the eight hours of firearms training required for concealed carry permits is nowhere near enough training to prepare someone to respond to an active shooter situation.
    "It's laughable. It's completely laughable," Newman said.

    Yes, it is laughable--that someone like Jim Arnott is in any position of authority and influence.

    It's also ironic, that Arnott and his gang stormed our apartment with at least a half dozen weapons drawn, while we had not a single weapon on the premises--and there was no reason to believe we did have a weapon or had a history of using weapons. When Officer Guindon and her two colleagues approached the residence in the D.C. area, they encountered a man who was armed and more than willing to use firepower. It probably is a miracle that all three officers weren't killed.

    Most importantly, it's profoundly sad that a promising young officer such as Ashley Guindon lost her life--largely because public officials like Jim Arnott know that support for the "right to bear arms" will help them win votes.


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    Attorney Edgar C. Gentle III
    (First in a series)

    The founding partner of a Birmingham law firm known for mass torts and class-action cases is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

    Edgar C. Gentle III has earned both bachelor's and master's degrees at Oxford University in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and received Honors in Jurisprudence. In the states, Gentle earned undergraduate degrees at Auburn University and the University of Miami before completing his legal education at the University of Alabama.

    Gentle heads Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, an eight-lawyer firm that is tucked away in Riverchase, a leafy, moneyed section of the Birmingham suburb, Hoover.

    Does Gentle sound like the kind of guy who would participate in a notorious Web site with the motto: "Life is short, have an affair"? You wouldn't think so. But our research shows dozens of high-end professionals--lawyers, doctors, architects, wealth managers, vice presidents, and so on--give the Alabama list an elite feel. The same holds true in Missouri.

    According to Gentle's professional biography, he has helped create and administer more than $2 billion in settlements. Here is more about his background:

    Mr. Gentle has comprehensive experience in serving as Special Master and Claims Administrator in Mass Tort Litigation, and providing claims administration and financial and business advice to Courts, Settling Parties, and Mass Tort Settlements. He has helped create and administer over $2 Billion in Settlements during the past 20 years.

    From 1992 to 2015, Mr. Gentle has served as Special Master and Escrow Agent for the MDL 926 Global Breast Implant Settlement, paying over $1.1 billion dollars in claims. From 2001 until 2003, he was Interim Financial Adviser for the Settlement Facility – Dow Corning Trust (the Dow Corning Breast Implant Settlement) overseeing the investment of over $1 billion and providing tax and accounting support for the Settlement.

    Commencing in December 2003, Mr. Gentle was appointed as the Settlement Administrator in the $300 million Anniston, Alabama Tolbert PCB Settlement with Monsanto and Solutia in connection with the administration of a Global Settlement before the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Alabama applicable to approximately 18,000 claimants with respect to PCB contamination of property and PCB personal injury claims. In administering the $300 million settlement, Mr. Gentle has designed the claimant payment program for property damage and personal injury, collected criteria for payments for each of the 18,000 Claimants, ranked the claimants for payment amounts, and remitted payments to each of the claimants. He now helps manage a medical clinic for the claimants in Anniston.

    In the legal world, Edgar Gentle has been entrusted with multiple billions of dollars. Is he to be trusted in his personal life? Documents made public after last summer's hack of the Ashley Madison Web site suggest the answer is no.

    According to published reports, Gentle does not appear to be currently married. Public records indicate, as of 2013-14, he owns property in Hoover with a woman named Beverly Denise Carlisle.

    We twice contacted Gentle via e-mail seeking comment for this post. He replied to our second inquiry with the following statement:

    Beverly Carlisle and I were married but are now divorced. In the divorce her share of the property was deeded to me.

    (To be continued)

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    Stewart Springer, with his wife
    and daughter
    (From stewartspringer.com)

    (Second in a series)

    A Birmingham attorney who touts his family life at his professional Web site  is a paying customer of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair site, records show.

    Stewart Springer, who apparently works from his home at 3005 Lake Park Circle in north Shelby County, has worked in several areas of law, but now is focusing on personal injury. At his Web site, Springer touts his willingness to take tough cases to trial, even taking a shot or two at his legal colleagues. (Not surprisingly, I like that.):

    The numbers demonstrate that very few lawyers are willing to try cases, and when they do, they are not effective. Contrary to the statistics, Stewart Springer has twenty six years of experience effectively trying cases. Springer has proven to be highly successful inside and outside the courtroom. Outside the courtroom Springer has settled cases in the millions and has represented all types of people including those from his working class background to doctors, lawyers and even judges. Springer has been successful in the courtroom with juries.

    Having hauled in a personal injury verdict for a former state senator of $500,000, obtaining a ‘not guilty’ verdict on three felony counts for a Birmingham police officer, and obtaining a verdict in favor of a lawyer and law firm accused of sexual harassment, battery and assault. Springer will try cases and take insurance companies to the courthouse in response to low settlement offers or gamesmanship, even risking a total loss as opposed to settling for less than the fair value.

    Springer is "highly successful" outside the courtroom? Does that include his interactions with potential mistresses on the Ashley Madison Web site? Records made public from last summer's hack of the AM Web site suggest the answer might be yes.

    That's unfortunate because his biography page indicates he has every reason to enjoy to healthy and satisfying home life. His wife, Allison, is a dental hygienist and owner of a small business. He has three children. From his bio:

    Stewart Springer was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama in the '60s so he knows Alabama and how people here live and think. He is married to a dental hygienist and sole owner of a small business. He often says the single best decision he ever made in life was marrying his wife Allison. He has three children Russell, Julia and Caroline.

    Springer attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1982 and obtained his degree in three and a half years graduating in 1985 with a B.S. degree in Public Relations with a minor in Political Science. While at the University of Alabama, Springer was elected to be a member of the Freshman Forum a very distinguished group of forty freshman students that advised the University. He was appointed to the City of Tuscaloosa Mayor’s Advisory Council serving Mayor Al Dupont a former war hero he greatly admired. Springer was elected by his fellow students to serve as the President of the School of Communication. He was a member of the founding chapter of a national social organization.

    Springer praises his parents for setting him on the road to personal success:

    Springer graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. Stewart is most thankful to his parents Dot Springer and Clarence Springer for creating the opportunity for him to become a lawyer through their love, dedication, hard work, sweat and tears, and struggle to send him to an premier law school. Stewart has said “I am happy about becoming a lawyer but I am most proud of my parents for doing so much for me that allowed me such an opportunity. I will never forget what they have done for me when I represent people who need my help”

    Stewart Springer seems like the guy who pretty much has it all. So why screw around on Ashley Madison? We twice contacted Springer, seeking comment for this post. He responded to our second query with this comment: "Your story is completely false and defamatory."



    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III--attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)



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    Antonin Scalia's wealthy hunting buddy,
    John B. Poindexter
    (From nytimes.com)
    A Texas businessman who owned the remote ranch where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died last month, received a favorable ruling last year in an unpublished opinion before a federal appellate court.

    Multiple news outlets have reported that John B. Poindexter, owner of Cibolo Creek Ranch and the Houston-based manufacturing firm J.B. Poindexter and Co., received a favorable outcome when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on an employment-discrimination case involving one of his subsidiaries. According to news reports, Scalia's expenses-paid hunting trip to Poindexter's ranch was a "gift."

    Was it a possible kickback for court-related favors the justice had provided? The answer to that question is not clear, but it is clear that Poindexter's favorable treatment in the discrimination case (James Hinga v. MIC Group) started long before SCOTUS refused to hear the case.

    How? The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) upheld a trial court's dismissal of Hinga's discrimination claim on summary judgment. Here is the alarming part: The Fifth Circuit issued an unpublished opinion in Hinga. Based on our experience and research, that can be a sign a ruling is suspect.

    We aren't the only ones who hold that opinion of unpublished opinions. A scholar who was considered the "father of modern legal ethics" also had a low opinion of unpublished opinions. (More on that in upcoming posts.)

    How do we know the Hinga opinion was unpublished? Well, different courts do it different ways. In the Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) such opinions usually are stamped near the top "Do Not Publish." It's hard to miss. The Fifth Circuit apparently is a bit more subtle about it.

    The Hinga opinion includes an asterisk near the name of the justice who authored it, with the following explanation at the bottom of the first page:

    * Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR. R. 47.5.4

    A SCOTUS docket chart for August 2015 also shows that the opinion was unpublished.

    Why might an unpublished opinion emit a foul odor? In so many words, the "unpublished" designation suggests issues in the case were so clear-cut that the outcome was obvious and the case deserves to be buried because it has no precedential value.

    That might actually hold true in some unpublished cases. But we've seen signs that "Do Not Publish" on an opinion can be a way to cover up judicial skulduggery.

    In the Hinga case, it almost surely meant that his appeal was dead on arrival at SCOTUS. Did Scalia do Poindexter a favor, not by making sure the nation's highest court did not hear the case, but by making sure the Fifth Circuit ruled in his hunting friend's favor--and did so in an unpublished fashion that the public was unlikely to notice or question?

    How can that happen? We will explain in an upcoming post--and we also will show why a leading legal scholar was not high on unpublished opinions.


    (To be continued)


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    Richard W. Bell's law office is at the
    Valleydale Courtyard near Birmingham.
    (Third in a series)

    A suburban Birmingham attorney, with 44 years of experience in several areas of law, is a paying customer of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

    Richard W. "Dick" Bell, who has an office at 4956 Valleydale Road in north Shelby County, is known primarily for divorce and family law. He also has worked in product liability, probate inheritance, and medical malpractice.

    What kind of lawyer is Bell. A man named Trey Horton posted a less-than-glowing review:

    Trey Horton 
    8 months ago
    Went in, Very old guy.... I told him about some tax things I would like to take care of. Paid him $500 - he said he was going to the IRS to pull my transcripts (that can be pulled online) the next day so when I met him next I asked to see them. Since he said he spent all day down there getting them and used the $500 I paid him.. . He could not produce them. Never saw them. I asked him what I needed to do, he offered no sort of plan, no sort of advice. Said let's offer them xyz and see what they say.... Give me a break. I can do that myself... Never went back. hate being lied to. Lost $500 beware...

    Was Bell too tied up with Ashley Madison to tend to Mr. Horton's legal needs properly? Records made public from last summer's hack of the AM Web site suggest the answer might be yes.

    Public records indicate Bell has been married multiple times--at least twice, to Nancy V. Bell and Cynthia A. Bell. A Pamela Bell was associated with him in the 1970s.

    Records show that during much of the 1980s, Bell had significant tax issues with both the IRS and Alabama Department of Revenue

    Based on published reports, it appears that Richard and Cindy Bell remain husband and wife. Cindy Bell ran as a Democrat for the State Senate  in 2014 against long-time GOP incumbent J.T. "Jabo" Waggoner." and is a nurse and military veteran. Waggoner won the race with roughly 80 percent of the vote.

    Cindy Bell
    (From democracy.com)
    It's typical of Shelby County to re-elect a GOP warhorse over a Democrat who might actually help drag the county into the 20th century (never mind the 21st century). Cindy Bell sounds pretty cool and darned competent to me. Both Mrs. Schnauzer and I probably would have voted for her if we hadn't been trying to stave off a wrongful foreclosure, apparently launched by certain powerful Republicans.

    This is from Cindy Bell's political biography:

    Hard work. Trust. Honesty. Those are the values Cindy learned from her mother, who learned them from her father and mother. Those are the values Cindy will bring to Montgomery.
    Today, Cindy and her husband, Richard, live those values. She is a mother of three children, Elliott, Erin, and Mandy, a grandmother of seven grandchildren, and the owner of an English bulldog named Winston. Cindy and her husband are active members in their church, where she sings every Sunday in the choir. Cindy’s family and community inspire her desire to serve Alabamians in the State Senate

    Erin Bell Welborn, is an attorney with the Columbiana firm of J. Welborn and Associates.  She and her mother, Cindy Bell, sound like first-class folks. Not so sure the same can be said for Richard W. Bell, given his interest in Ashley Madison and the cheating it promotes.

    We twice contacted Richard W. Bell via e-mail seeking comment for this post. He did not respond. His Web site, richardwbelllaw.com, no longer is functioning. It apparently disappeared not long after we first contacted him about this story.


    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III--attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)



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    Robert M.N. Palmer
    (From LinkedIn)
    The president of the bar association in Missouri's third-largest city is a paying customer of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

    Robert M.N. Palmer, who has practiced law in Missouri for 34 years, was installed as president of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar in January 2016.

    Palmer started a solo law practice in 1990, and it since has morphed into the Law Offices of PalmerOliver, with offices at 431 S. Jefferson (Suite 120) in Springfield.

    Has Palmer enjoyed a successful legal career? It sure sounds like it. From his bio at the firm Web site:

    Robert M. N. Palmer has represented clients in complex litigation in over 60 jury trials as lead attorney in over 34 states. He has obtained verdicts and judgments for his clients in excess of $100,000,000, including a verdict in Missouri for $21,000,000. He is currently President of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association; past-President of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys; past-President of Attorneys Information Exchange Group; a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy; certified as a Super Lawyer (Missouri and Kansas); ranked as one of America's Top Lawyers; AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell (over 15 years); member of the American Association of Justice, American Board of Trial Advocates and International Society of Barristers. He received the 2009 Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Award from Brigham Young University. He lectures nationally to bar and professional trial associations on numerous topics including pretrial-discovery, evidence, use of experts and focus groups, and preemption. He has published numerous articles in national trial magazines.

    With all of that going for him, why is Palmer messing around at Ashley Madison? That's hard to say, but public records indicate he's had some rocky times on the personal front.

    Brent Bothwell Palmer
    (From Facebook)
    He married Susan Marie Schmucker in 1975, and they divorced 10 years later. He then married Brent Bothwell Palmer, and they have three children--Joshua Daniel Palmer, Samuel Lester Bothwell Palmer, and William Stuart Bothwell Palmer.

    Brent Bothwell Palmer filed for divorce in 1994, but the parties reconciled, and the case was dismissed.

    We twice contacted Robert Palmer, seeking comment for this post. He did not respond to our queries.

    Palmer is the son of the late Bob Palmer, an award-winning editorial cartoonist for almost 40 years with the Springfield News-Leader.

    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III--attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

    (3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)



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