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

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    Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    (From nytimes.com)
    Governor Robert Bentley's family members and closest associates started suspecting he was having an affair with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason in early May 2014, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed last week by former security chief Wendell Ray Lewis. That coincides with a Decatur Daily report that shows Bentley's use of state aircraft increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2014.

    Does that add to the evidence that Bentley was using state resources to facilitate an extramarital affair that ended his 50-year marriage to Dianne Bentley and launched multiple criminal investigations of his administration? That certainly appears to be the case.

    This is from the Lewis civil complaint, providing insight about when those closest to Gov. Bentley began to suspect he was having an affair:

    May 4, 2014, is when Lewis first learned that Governor Bentley might be having an affair with Mrs. Mason. The Governor was flying to Talladega for a race, at which he was the Grand Marshall. Lewis, Paul Bentley (the Governor’s oldest son), the Governor, Mason, and the Governor’s grandchildren were on a State plane.

    Paul Bentley leaned over and said to Lewis, “I need to talk to you later in the week.” Ray replied, “Okay. What about?” “Mom says she is seeing ghosts.” “What do you mean?”, asked Lewis. Paul Bentley replied, “She thinks Dad is having a relationship with Rebekah.”

    That is in the general time frame of a Decatur Daily article titled "Gov. Bentley picks up pace of in-state flights." From the article, dated July 26, 2014, and written by Mary Sell:

    Gov. Robert Bentley’s use of state-owned aircraft increased in the first quarter of this year as he flew around Alabama more often than in the previous three years.

    His communications officials say the travel was all related to his role as governor and not his re-election campaign. Any campaign expenses incurred by his office have been reimbursed by his campaign.

    Bentley’s flight logs, but not the trips’ costs, are listed on his office’s website. The log for the second quarter — April, May and June — had not been posted as of late last week.

    Most of Bentley’s flights are on an older-model Alabama Department of Transportation jet. In June, The Decatur Daily filed an open records request with ALDOT for the cost of each trip taken by Bentley from January through June 3, the GOP primary.

    The department turned over records, for a $118 fee, on 35 flights totaling about $83,600. Bentley’s office occasionally uses other state agency aircraft, including that belonging to the department of public safety.

    “The governor uses the plane as necessary to fulfill the duties of being governor,” Jennifer Ardis, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said Thursday in an email. “His goal is to meet with people outside of Montgomery in order to understand local issues and communicate his message of job creation, government efficiency savings, etc.

    Did the governor also use the plane to help fulfill his "manly needs"? Alabama taxpayers certainly have grounds to ask that question, seeing as how they pay for these things. You will notice that Bentley's communications team tried to quell any drama that might come from questions about use of state aircraft. And a key member of that team, in various roles, was . . . Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The Decatur Daily helped put her in the spotlight:

    Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley’s campaign spokeswoman, said the governor has never used state aircraft for campaign purposes. The Bentley campaign has made payments to the state’s General Fund as reimbursement for campaign-related travel in state vehicles, as required by state code.

    Records on the secretary of state’s website show Bentley’s camp has paid $758 to the General Fund since August of last year for transportation and administration cost reimbursements.

    Mason is listed as being on at least one flight paid by taxpayers, according to the online flight logs. Before she was his campaign spokeswoman, Mason was director of communications in the governor’s office.

    “When the Governor’s Communications Office is short-staffed, I volunteer at no cost to the taxpayers, and the law allows for that,” Mason said of why she was on the flight.

    So the governor's mistress volunteered to board flights, at no cost to taxpayers, because . . . well, she's just a swell gal. It surely had nothing to do with allegations, as outlined in the Lewis lawsuit, that she was bonking the governor at the time.

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    Davy Hay
    Since this blog began in June 2007, there has been only one instance where I let someone talk me out of publishing a post. I've regretted it ever since, and I intend to correct the mistake in the next few days. But first, some background.

    A hearing was held in Jefferson County Circuit Court on June 18, 2015, to consider my motion to vacate a $3.5-million default judgment for GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison in her defamation lawsuit against me. I had researched the issues enough beforehand to know there was no way, under the law, Judge Don Blankenship could allow the default judgment to stand.

    Davy Hay, my attorney at the time, and Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley argued the issues, and Blankenship stated that he would issue a written order in a few days or weeks. I knew the motion had to be granted, with the default judgment vacated, and the case moving forward with discovery and possibly a trial. I wrote a post to that effect and published it the next morning, June 19, explaining the facts and law that Blankenship had to follow -- at least if he took his judicial oath seriously.

    Later that day, Hay contacted me and asked that I remove the post. His thinking? He said the post made it look like he couldn't "control" his client. Reluctantly, I took the post down, and naturally, Blankenship issued an order several weeks later, ignoring the law and denying our motion to vacate.

    As it turned out, my post was spot-on about most every issue. But Davy Hay apparently only cared about not being embarrassed because his client had written accurately that a judge was incompetent, crooked, or both.

    Hay then bailed out of the matter, even though we had a written agreement for him to represent me in the Jessica Garrison case -- the whole case. Hay got tons of free publicity from my case, and made multiple high-minded statements on his Facebook page about the critical free-speech issues at hand. But ultimately, he had no interest in fighting for those weighty, constitutional issues.

    In a Facebook post dated April 23, 2015, Hay wrote:

    I am about to hit "File Motion" on the single most important document I have ever written.

    The document was a motion in my case. In a Facebook post dated April 28, 2015, Hay stayed with the high-minded theme:

    My client and I are fighting for the most basic freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

    I was that client. Hay then used my case to get the kind of publicity he probably has never gotten at any other time in his legal career. Alabama Political Reporter published an article titled "Legal Schnauzer blogger finally has a legal champion." From the article, by Bill Britt:

    Since July 2013, Roger Shuler has suffered one legal defeat after another, over reports he published on Legal Schnauzer concerning Liberty Duke, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Attorney General Luther Strange and Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley.

    During all of his legal troubles, Shuler refused legal council (sic), and according to a report in The New York Times, maintained “self-defeating posturing.” (Note: This is off target on a couple of fronts. I never refused legal counsel; I always was open to, and would have welcomed, tough, smart, honest, affordable legal help. But no such lawyer appeared to meet me at the Shelby County Jail. As for the "self-defeating posturing" business, that characterization came from a right-wing California lawyer/blogger named Ken White (Popehat blog) who knew nothing about me and very little about my case. The guy presented zero evidence to support his claim.)

    Since our legal travails started 16 years ago, Carol and I have hired at least five lawyers. (I might be forgetting someone.) Obviously, I don't "refuse counsel." I do tend to part ways with lawyers once they've made it clear they aren't going to do what they've said they would do. That gets a bit aggravating, especially when you've paid one lawyer roughly $12,000 and another $4,500. I have this strange tendency to get peeved when I pay that kind of money and get nothing for it -- especially in cases where the facts and law clearly are on my side. That doesn't even count the dozens of lawyers we've communicated with, or met with, and decided we wanted no part of working with them. A classic line from one such lawyer: "I'm not going to look down any rabbit holes!" Translation: "I have no intention of doing serious discovery to help prove your case -- but oh, I will require $5,000 up front for you to retain my 'services.' And that's just for starters." Gee, can't imagine why we found that unappetizing.

    Anyway, here is more from the Britt article:

    In an up-coming May hearing, [Shuler] will be represented by Davy Mack Hay, who said he will seek the justice that Shuler has been denied under the First Amendment. . . .

    Hay, who has known Shuler for a number of years, recently filed a Motion To Alter, Amend, or Vacate the recent $3.5 million default judgment received by Garrison, for what her attorney called “cyber-bullying of the worst order.” (Note: This isn't accurate either. Hay and I never really knew each other. We talked on the phone a time or two a few months before he became my lawyer. And to this day, I haven't met him in person. We certainly did not know each other for a number of years.)

    While it appears that Hay will be fighting the default judgment on grounds that his client was not properly informed of the hearing, it is about a much bigger issue, he says.

    At issue is " . . . core constitutional tenets of journalistic protections associated with a ‘free press,’ which allows the unmitigated flow of news and information, void of Orwellian governmental intrusion,” writes Hays, in his motion.

    More high-cotton rhetoric was present in an al.com article titled "Blogger Roger Shuler fighting $3.5 million judgment." From the article, by Kent Faulk:

    Shuler, who operates the website Legal Schnauzer, on Thursday afternoon, filed a motion through his attorney asking Jefferson County Circuit Judge Donald Blankenship to vacate his April 13 default judgment against Shuler for $1.5 million in compensatory and $2 million in punitive damages.

    Shuler also asks the judge to grant him leave to file an amended answer and counterclaim, and enter a new scheduling order sufficient to allow time for discovery in the case.

    Notice key information in the final paragraph. Hay and I had discussed the possibility of filing a counterclaim and seeking discovery, and he agreed to take that approach. In other words, it was not just about overcoming the groundless default judgment; it was about going on the offensive, seeking discovery that would show Garrison knowingly filed a bogus lawsuit against me. I wanted Garrison held accountable for engaging in such fraudulent behavior, and Hay agreed that was the right approach. Here's more from the Faulk article:

    Shuler filed an initial response denying Garrison's claims but failed or refused to sit for a scheduled deposition and did not attend a hearing that resulted in the default judgment.

    Prattville attorney Davy Hay, who entered an appearance in the case on April 18 on behalf of Shuler, stated in Thursday's motion that the court had issued an order in the case May 9, 2014 changing Shuler's address from the Shelby County Jail to an address in north Shelby County.

    "However, the aforementioned address was no longer the defendant's (Shuler's) residence by virtue of a recent foreclosure. Therefore, he did not receive notice of this court's scheduling order or any subsequent documents filed in the case," according to the motion.

    Hay states in the motion that Garrison failed to ascertain Shuler's whereabouts and provide proper notice regarding hearings or filings in compliance with his due process rights, especially considering Shuler was representing himself at the time.

    "Now that defendant (Shuler) is represented by counsel, he understands he had a duty to notify the clerk of court of any address changes, however, several circumstances prevented him from doing so," according to Hay's motion.

    Hay is mostly on target here. As a procedural matter, I should have notified the court of our new address -- and I would have if our lives had not been turned upside down via the foreclosure; in fact, for quite some time, we did not know where our address was going to be. As a matter of law, however, we have shown that Garrison had an obligation to make sure I had at least three days notice of her application for default and a hearing on the issue. (See Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing (Ala. Civ. App., 2010).

    Garrison did not fulfill that obligation, meaning her $3.5-million judgment is void and can be attacked as such at any point. In short, the judgment is a nullity, having zero legal foundation. Here is more from the Faulk article, focusing on matters my wife, Carol, and I were struggling with at the time of the default judgment:

    According to the motion those circumstances were:

    * "Mr. Shuler and his wife lost their home and were facing the very real possibility of being homeless. This being such a pressing and immediate issue, all other concerns had to be given lower priority.

    * "Mr. Shuler had just spent five (5) months in jail, which began with being beaten by law enforcement officials in his own home and wrongfully detained, in violation of his constitutional rights."

    * "Mr. Shuler and his wife experienced excessive psychological trauma, resulting in the defendant spending six (6) days in a psychiatric unit, in direct relation to these events, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."

    * "Mr. Shuler has a good-faith belief that his very life has been in actual peril as a result of his reporting. Accordingly, he has been and continues to be highly reluctant to submit to the authority of the state after what he perceives to be illegal attacks against his person, his family, and his rights as a citizen of the United States."

    Hay states in the motion that Shuler has a meritorious defense in the case, "and by virtue of evidence currently in his possession and that which can be obtained through exhaustive discovery, shall show that the case against him is frivolous and nothing more than an attempt by the plaintiff to unconstitutionally bully the defendant (Shuler) into silence."

    Hay argues in the motion that Garrison is a public figure, based on her work on Strange's campaigns, her appointment as Chief Counsel and Deputy Attorney General of the state of Alabama in 2011, and her position as director of the Republican Attorneys General Association. If Garrison was to be considered a public figure, rather than a private citizen, it would raise the burden to that of proving actual malice, the motion states.

    This is good stuff from Hay. The four circumstances listed are all accurate; in fact, they pretty much are matters of public record. Garrison's lawsuit, in fact, was nothing but an effort to bully me into silence. And there is little doubt Garrison is a public figure, but that standard was not used in her default judgment. That means the splashy $3.5-million figure is based on a flawed interpretation of the law.

    Where does Hay go off the tracks? Well, note his reference to "exhaustive discovery," along with his earlier reference to our intention to file a counterclaim. Was Hay serious about that? Doesn't look like it. He bailed out of the case before doing any discovery.

    After the hearing with Baxley -- but several weeks before Blankenship issued his order -- Hay told me Garrison had offered to accept a $1 payment from me if I would agree to remove posts about her extramarital affair with Attorney General Luther Strange. There were a couple of problems with that: One, I never saw such an offer in writing; two, I wasn't about to accept such an offer. I told Hay from the outset that Garrison had filed a groundless defamation lawsuit, and I wanted to file a counterclaim to hold her accountable. Hay made it clear he understood that, and indicated he would conduct "exhaustive discovery" to get at the truth.

    He either never had any intention of conducting such discovery -- or his mind changed the day he and Bill Baxley came together to argue the motion to vacate.

    My relationship with Davy Hay did not end on a good note. I liked Davy and thought he was someone with genuine ethics, but right now, I wouldn't recommend him to work a traffic-ticket case.

    With that as background, let's look at the one post that I allowed someone to talk me into censoring. It's been a little more than a year since I wrote it, but every point about the Jessica Garrison case still holds. Her $3.5-million default judgment is void, a nullity, and not worth a piece of used toilet paper:

    (To be continued)

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    Wendell Ray Lewis
    (From linkedin.com)
    Officials from the University of Alabama and Alabama Power might be feeling a tad uncomfortable after former security chief Wendell Ray Lewis filed a lawsuit last week against Governor Robert Bentley, mistress/former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the ACEGOV nonprofit, Bentley for Governor Inc., and other unnamed persons and entities.

    Coverage of the lawsuit, so far, has focused mainly on its content about the Bentley/Mason extramarital affair. But Lewis' complaint goes well beyond that, focusing on ACEGOV -- described in some quarters as a "slush fund" to pay Mason for her "services" -- and those who funded it. The complaint also seeks information about individuals who helped cost Lewis possible jobs at UA and Alabama Power after he had been forced out in the Bentley administration, apparently at Mason's insistence.

    For example, the lawsuit names fictitious defendants "D,""E," and "F, who are described as:

    "those persons, firms, corporations, universities, trade associations, think-tanks, non-profits, or other entities who or which contributed money directly or indirectly to Mason, whether by cash, check, PayPal, or other means, or provided other benefits or things of value to Defendant Mason, through RCM, or any of Defendant Mason’s businesses, any of Jon Mason’s businesses, ACEGOV, and/or Bentley for Governor, Inc."

    The lawsuit clearly seeks information about "corporations,""universities," and other entities that paid Rebekah Mason and her husband, Jon Mason. It also dips into the world of journalism, seeking information about those who:

    "participated in the act of feeding to certain Alabama journalists misleading information about the overtime worked, earned and/or paid to Plaintiff [Lewis] by the State of Alabama."

    Speaking of the University of Alabama, the suit makes multiple references to Cooper Shattuck, UA's chief legal counsel and a former Bentley staff member. The lawsuit shines light on what led Shattuck to form ACEGOV:

    On one occasion, Dr. Henry Mabry, then the Executive Secretary of the Alabama Education Association, said he could get Mason paid to the tune of $150,000. Paul Bentley told Lewis that Cooper Shattuck, the Governor’s former Legal Advisor, set up the 501(c)(4) for Mason. On information and belief, that 501(c)(4) was Defendant ACEGOV. Seth Hammett told Lewis he had a conversation with the Governor in which Hammett informed the Governor that because of the Governor’s relationship with Mrs. Mason, Mason could not be on the state payroll, therefore the need for the 501(c)(4). Bentley confirmed that conversation to Lewis,saying of Hammett, “I want his ass gone."

    The lawsuit describes Lewis' relationship with Rebekah Mason as "strained at best." From the complaint:

    She knew he wasn’t going to do anything to facilitate her relationship with the Governor; she wanted him gone. Plaintiff was beginning to reach an important conclusion: once you got in Rebekah’s cross hairs, that was it. She ordered the hit, and the Governor carried it out. At one point, the Governor barked to Lewis, “If anybody says another thing about Rebekah, I will fire their ass.

    Rebekah Mason and Nick Saban
    (From heavy.com)
    It seems someone close to Bentley still had Lewis in his/her cross hairs, even after he had left his state job. From the complaint:

    A few months after Lewis retired earlier than he had ever intended to, he was contacted about a senior security position with The University of Alabama. He met with Cooper Shattuck, formerly Governor Bentley’s Legal Advisor and now General Counsel to the University System. Shattuck spoke to Lewis about helping with University security, perhaps having a role with Coach Saban, whom Shattuck described as “the University’s greatest asset.” Eventually, Shattuck turned the conversation to the Governor. He asked Lewis his thoughts. Lewis told Shattuck, honestly and soberly, that he thought eventually the Governor would be held accountable, and that he should be. Shattuck replied, “Well, I plan to be a friend to him when he falls.” Lewis never heard back from Shattuck about the University security job. When Lewis eventually himself got back in touch with Shattuck, he told Lewis to reach out to Ronnie Robertson. Lewis followed up with Robertson, who had nothing to do with anything Lewis and Shattuck had talked about. Needless to say, no job offer was forthcoming.

    Lewis went through a similar experience with Alabama Power:

    Lewis also heard about this same time from Clay Ryan, a Birmingham attorney, who asked Lewis if he would be interested in the job of head of security for Alabama Power. Lewis responded in the affirmative. By text message on July 24, 2015, Ryan informed Lewis that the “pay will be ‘what it takes’ [one can assume, to get Lewis there]” and “You would be crosswhite’s [sic] guy” meaning Mark Crosswhite, the President and CEO of Alabama Power. Lewis replied, that same day, “Thanks Clay. This is a great opportunity!” But it never materialized. Ryan asked Lewis to send him a resume, which he did. But then Ryan asked Lewis how he intended to respond if and when the questions started flowing about the Governor. Another honest answer from Lewis. Another no call back.

    (Note: The UA System hired Ryan as vice president of governmental affairs in September 2015; before that, he was an attorney at Maynard Cooper and Gale in Birmingham. Ryan helped serve as PR defender for UAB President Ray Watts during the university's controversy over removal of the football program.)

    Lewis winds up alleging two counts of intentional interference with business or contractual relations -- one for unlawfully pushing him out of his state job and one for costing him opportunities with at least two other employers once he left.

    Gee, this story sounds familiar. Cheating someone out of his long-time position as a state employee, and then making sure that his career is ruined so that he can't find jobs with other employers -- and he can't find justice in a court of law? Where have we heard that before?

    Have "Luv Guv" and "Home Wrecky Becky" been taking notes from Alabama's previous GOP regime, led by Bob and Rob "Uday" Riley? Sure sounds like it.

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    Roger Stone and Donald Trump
    (From freedomdaily.com)
    Of all the stunning statements made by and about President-Elect Donald Trump, the worst might have come earlier this week when a key Trump adviser indicated he had no knowledge of, or respect for, the rule of law.

    Roger Stone, in so many words, said he has no regard for the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and for the ideals of the American justice system. If one is to assume that Donald Trump shares those views, our country could be in for a period of unimaginable darkness for the next four years -- or longer.

    What exactly did Stone say? He said the Hillary Clinton campaign's decision to join the Green Party's recount effort in three swing states increases the likelihood of Clinton being prosecuted. Here are details on the comments, as reported at The Hill:

    A longtime ally of President-elect Donald Trump says the Hillary Clinton campaign joining recount efforts increases the chances that Clinton will face criminal prosecution.

    I think Hillary increases her chances of prosecution by acting this way,” Roger Stone said Monday on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

    We should note that Stone long has been seen in political circles as somewhat of a loon. He got his start in politics as a dirty trickster for Richard Nixon, and The Daily Beast has described him as a "self-admitted hit man for the GOP." But Stone hardly is an outsider or a lightweight. He largely is credited with creating the "Brooks Brothers riot," which stopped the Miami-Dade recount during the 2000 presidential election and helped give us eight years of George W. Bush.

    To hear a guy with that kind of clout -- and with the ear of the incoming president -- say that participating in a recount makes it more likely Hillary Clinton will be prosecuted . . . well, it makes one wonder if Stone (or Trump, for that matter) ever took a seventh-grade civics class.

    Those of us who did take such a class know a little bit about the quaint notions of due process and equal protection that are found in the 14th Amendment. We know that, at least in theory, all of us are to be treated equally under the law -- and any prosecution is to be based on probable cause that an individual committed a crime, not on her support for a recount that might determine whether our election system was compromised.

    Trump recently has backed off his campaign statements that he would prosecute Clinton if he was elected -- supposedly over an alleged e-mail scandal in which the FBI twice has released statements that it could find no criminal wrongdoing. A Politico article about the Stone comments, indicates Trump was on thin legal ice all along:

    It would be a major breach of the Justice Department’s traditional independence from the White House for the president to order the prosecution of any individual as a means of political retaliation. (The FBI recommended against bringing charges against Clinton for her use of a secret email secretary of state in July and reaffirmed that decision a few days before the election.)

    Still, Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, also seemed to draw a connection between the recount effort and the prosecution question during a TV interview on Sunday.

    He’s been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when, for whatever reason, her folks are saying they will join in a recount to try to somehow undo the 70-plus electoral votes that he beat her by,” Conway said to CNN’s Dana Bash.

    To make this even more mind blowing, one of Trump's candidates to be secretary of state reportedly is Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to giving classified information to his mistress and still is on probation for that crime. This is an administration-in-waiting that suggests it would prosecute Hillary Clinton, against whom the FBI found no criminal conduct regarding classified information, while offering a cabinet post to David Petraeus, who has admitted to committing a crime involving classified information.

    This is scary stuff, folks, especially for those of us who are wide awake in what seems to be a somnolent United States. Before even taking office, you have Trump and his acolytes essentially saying they support political prosecutions -- or, even worse, prosecutions based on whims or perceived affronts.

    This suggests these people are not only dangerous, they are frightfully stupid. To go on television, time and again, to say they do not respect basic constitutional protections indicates they have no business serving in a position of governmental authority.

    How dense are these people? Stone told The Daily Beast in 2008 that he had come to regret launching the Brooks Brothers riot. From the article:

    “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, 'Maybe there wouldn't have been a war if I hadn't gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there wouldn't have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn't become president.' It's very disturbing to me."

    It was so "disturbing" that Stone now supports Donald Trump? Sweet Jeebus, have mercy on what's left of our country!

    We learn that Roger Stone has a sliver of a conscience, and at least mild concern about the U.S. engaging in unjustified wars. but he supports Donald Trump in 2016? The same Donald Trump who appears quite capable of launching unjust wars on a monthly basis, once he hits the Oval Office?

    So Roger Stone perhaps has a conscience when it comes to war, but his conscience exits stage left when it comes to political prosecutions and respect for the constitution? A shaky conscience, with no brain, is . . . well, a bad combination.

    Man, we are in for a heap of trouble. Our country probably has never seen dysfunction like Donald Trump, and acolytes such as Roger Stone, are about to unleash.

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    Cooper Shattuck
    Cooper Shattuck, chief legal counsel for the University of Alabama System and a confidant of embattled Gov. Robert Bentley, has resigned. The move comes eight days after Wendell Ray Lewis, Bentley's former security chief, filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the governor and his adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

    Also named in the lawsuit is ACEGOV, a nonprofit that Shattuck formed, apparently to funnel money to Mason. Just two days ago, we wrote a post about the Lewis lawsuit and its likely discomfiting effects on officials at the University of Alabama and Alabama Power. Shattuck is mentioned prominently in the lawsuit:

    A few months after Lewis retired earlier than he had ever intended to, he was contacted about a senior security position with The University of Alabama. He met with Cooper Shattuck, formerly Governor Bentley’s Legal Advisor and now General Counsel to the University System. Shattuck spoke to Lewis about helping with University security, perhaps having a role with Coach Saban, whom Shattuck described as “the University’s greatest asset.” Eventually, Shattuck turned the conversation to the Governor. He asked Lewis his thoughts. Lewis told Shattuck, honestly and soberly, that he thought eventually the Governor would be held accountable, and that he should be. Shattuck replied, “Well, I plan to be a friend to him when he falls.” Lewis never heard back from Shattuck about the University security job.

    Shattuck plans to be a friend to Bentley when the "Luv Guv" falls? Is this resignation part of that plan? Was it forced on Shattuck or did he willingly give up what would seem to be a dream job for any UA graduate?

    The answers to those questions are not clear, but Shattuck seems to be managing the story by releasing it yesterday afternoon via Fox News Tuscaloosa. Perhaps that is a news outlet he knew would not ask too many questions? Here is the official news release:

    After over four years of service as General Counsel for The University of Alabama System, Cooper Shattuck has announced his resignation effective December 31, 2016. Shattuck plans to pursue a number of professional opportunities, including his recent nomination as a candidate for President-Elect of the Alabama State Bar.

    “After many years of public service to the State and to the state’s largest education enterprise, I am looking forward to returning to the private practice of law where I can utilize my broad-based experience to further the interests and accomplish the goals of numerous clients,” Shattuck said.

    Shattuck joined The University of Alabama System as General Counsel in August 2012. He previously served as Chief Legal Advisor to Governor Robert Bentley, where he worked extensively on the restoration of the environmental impact and recovery of the economic damages sustained by the state as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.

    “I had the pleasure of working with Cooper over the past four years,” current Chancellor Ray Hayes explained. “During his tenure, Cooper maintained and grew a great team in the Office of Counsel and accomplished much. It will be difficult to find his replacement; however, he will assist with the transition.”

    John Daniel, Chief University Counsel at UAB, has been named Interim General Counsel, and will work with Shattuck over the next month to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. With over 38,000 employees, 65,000 students, 50 affiliated entities, and a combined budget of over $5.6 billion, The University of Alabama System is the state’s largest education enterprise.

    Shattuck put his house on the market last month, according to our sources. That suggests Shattuck is not planning to stick around Tuscaloosa. Where might he wind up? The Beasley Allen law firm in Montgomery is one possible landing place, our sources say. If Bentley picks Luther Strange to replace Jeff Sessions as U.S. Senator, Shattuck might be in line to take over as attorney general.

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    Don Blankenship
    (Last in a two-part series)

    Will I ever again let anyone talk me into censoring a post here at Legal Schnauzer? I hope not because the one instance where that happened did not turn out well.

    As noted in a recent post, attorney Davy Hay talked me out of publishing a post about a hearing on my motion to vacate Jessica Medeiros Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment. Hay's primary point of concern? He felt the post, published the morning after Hay had argued the motion with Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley, made it look like he could not control his client.

    In other words, Hay was concerned that it might hurt Judge Don Blankenship's feelings. As it turned out, Blankenship proved to be a corrupt con man, and we never should have been concerned about his feelings.

    The censored post was written almost two months before Blankenship issued his ruling. But it proved to be prescient, accurately showing (if you read between the lines) how Blankenship was likely to rule on almost every key point. When you've been cheated as many times in court as I have, I guess you get pretty good at seeing another cheat job coming.

    Here is the one censored post in the history of Legal Schnauzer. Its important because it provides significant insight into the facts and law that should have forced Blankenship to vacate Garrison's $3.5-million. That he didn't rule properly . . . well, it makes him the same as the white, conservative crooks who dominate the Alabama bench. On a positive note, it shows that -- even well in advance -- Blankenship was not fooling me.

    Hopefully, there will never be another censored post as long as Legal Schnauzer lives:

    June 19, 2015 
    Headline: Evidence at yesterday's hearing suggests that Jessica Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment is void
    No final order was issued yesterday at a hearing on a motion to vacate a $3.5-million default judgment against me in the Jessica Medeiros Garrison defamation case. But evidence strongly suggests the judgment already is void.

    My presence was not required, so I was not at the Jefferson County Courthouse. But my attorney, Davy Hay, provided a general rundown of what took place. Hay and Garrison's lawyer, Bill Baxley, apparently engaged in spirited argument about a number of issues regarding the default judgment, but Hay drove home what might be the single most important argument -- from a simple procedural standpoint, Garrison's default judgment appears to be void.

    On top of that, Hay argued, the court incorrectly applied a "private person" status to Garrison, even though she appears to be a public figure who has engaged in high-profile, public matters for roughly a decade. That means the court should have used an "actual malice" standard to address the alleged defamation.

    Circuit Judge Don Blankenship has been off the bench recently because of eye surgery, so he conducted the hearing via telephone, with the two lawyers speaking from the courtroom. It's not known when Blankenship will make a ruling.

    The hearing raised issues of good faith and fair dealing. Davy Hay filed our Motion to Vacate on April 23, meaning Baxley had eight weeks to file a written response. He filed nothing in writing before the hearing, but he did execute a "mini document dump" of "evidence" that appears to be utterly irrelevant to the Garrison case (more on that in a moment). In essence, our motion was unopposed in writing, and we had no opportunity to prepare for Baxley's "document dump."

    What points to Garrison's default judgment being void? The record shows that she filed a Motion for an Order Rendering Judgment by Default on January 6, 2015 (entered on January 7). On January 13, 2015, the court entered an order granting the motion. In between those two dates, there is nothing in the record to show the plaintiff made any effort to notify me of her application for default. (The case docket is embedded at the end of this post.)

    As we showed in a recent post, Alabama law requires that the opposing party receive at least three days written notice of a default application and hearing. The law suggests it must be actual notice, with completed service. Here is how we summarized the law:

    Despite whatever arguments Baxley comes up with, the facts and law already point to the default judgment being void, based on a case styled Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing, (Ala. Civ. App., 2010). Abernathy focuses on the notice required for parties seeking default judgments. From the ruling:

    "Abernathy contends, among other things, that Green Tree did not provide her with appropriate notice of its November 12, 2009, application for a default judgment and that, as a result, the trial court erred when it entered the November 13, 2009, default judgment. Specifically, she argues that Rule 55(b)(2), Ala. R. Civ. P., required that her attorney be given three days' written notice before the entry of the November 13, 2009, default judgment and that the failure to provide such notice constitutes reversible error. We agree."

    The Abernathy case goes on to state that failure to give proper notice "renders the default judgment void" and "requires vacation of the default judgment."

    Not only did I not receive notice, the record apparently shows that the plaintiff or her representatives never sent it. Under the law, that should make yesterday's other arguments moot.

    As for those other arguments, Attorney Hay said Baxley entered a dozen or more exhibits that purported to show I have an ongoing disregard for the justice system. That's the "'document dump" I referred to earlier. Apparently the exhibits were copies of court orders from other cases, or news reports from other cases; it was hard, Hay said, to tell exactly what they contained. It perhaps is even harder to determine how they are relevant to the Garrison case. Without seeing the exhibits, I can't say much about them. But I can say for certain that any insinuation I have a habit of disregarding the court system is false.

    Heck, if anything, the justice system has shown disrespect for me. After all, an Alabama judge (Baxley friend Claud Neilson) essentially ordered me kidnapped, leading to a five-month incarceration that violates more than 200 years of First Amendment law -- and that played a major role in the Garrison-case default judgment, as did a foreclosure (which I believe was wrongful) on our home of 25 years.

    The dubious exhibits apparently were the only "hard copy" material Baxley filed with the court. Should the exhibits, which appear to have no connection to the Garrison case, be kicked out as irrelevant? Sure looks that way from here.

    The two-pronged "Kirtland" test, which is central to having a default judgment overturned, partly involves a showing of a meritorious defense. The test comes from a case styled Kirtland v. Fort Morgan Authority Sewer Service Inc., 524 So. 2d 600 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1988)Baxley apparently argued that the defaulting party must submit affidavits or exhibits to show a meritorious defense, but Alabama case law does not appear to say that. From the Kirtland case:

    The rationale behind the meritorious-defense requirement is that evidence of a defense indicates that the outcome of the case could be different if it were disposed of by a trial on the merits rather than by a default judgment and, therefore, justifies reopening the case so that justice can be done. . . .

    The allegations set forth in the answer and in the motion must be more than mere bare legal conclusions without factual support; they must counter the cause of action averred in the complaint with specificity— namely, by setting forth relevant legal grounds substantiated by a credible factual basis. Such allegations would constitute a "plausible defense."

    A case styled Ex parte Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, 514 So. 2d 1283 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1988) puts it in even simpler terms:

    To meet the meritorious-defense element, the movant need not satisfy the trial court that the movant would necessarily prevail at a trial on the merits, only that the movant is prepared to present a plausible defense.

    Our Motion to Vacate asserts the ultimate defense in a defamation case -- the truth of my reporting, stating that I stand by my sources and my work. The motion also states that I have evidence, and can obtain additional evidence via discovery, that more than amounts to a "plausible defense."

    The first prong of the Kirtland test is perhaps the most important, It states that a trial court must act with an understanding that default judgments are disfavored under the law, and any close call should come down on the side of ordering a trial on the merits:

    The Alabama Constitution and our past opinions construing the default judgment rule support the conclusion that the interest in preserving a litigant's right to a trial on the merits is paramount and, therefore, outweighs the interest of promoting judicial economy. We have repeatedly held that the trial court's use of its discretionary authority should be resolved in favor of the defaulting party where there is doubt as to the propriety of the default judgment. Johnson v. Moore, 514 So.2d 1343 (Ala. 1987). . .

    We, therefore, emphatically hold that a trial court, in determining whether to grant or to deny a motion to set aside a default judgment, should exercise its broad discretionary powers with liberality and should balance the equities of the case with a strong bias toward allowing the defendant to have his day in court."

    In this case, there isn't much doubt about the default judgment. The evidence indicates it is void, on procedural grounds. In terms of case law, my right to a trial on the merits is paramount and should demand that the default judgment be set aside.

    As the defendant, I am due my day in court. Blankenship's order, whenever it comes, should uphold Alabama law on that point.

    The above post, which Davy Hay talked me into censoring, showed exactly what Blankesnhip's obligations were under the law and hinted that he probably would ignore them. Unfortunately, my post proved to be quite predictive of Blankenship's actions.

    No wonder Davy Hay, as surrogate for the legal tribe, did not want this post to see the light of day. But it's seen the light of day now. Hay's concern should not be about controlling his clients. It should be about unmasking corrupt judges, like Don Blankesnhip, who sit on benches all over Alabama and deny justice -- especially for regular folks going up against the powerful, the moneyed, and the connected.

    We see no sign that Davy Hay cares one iota about that. You can bet that Bill Baxley, once known for standing up to the Ku Klux Klan, does not.

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    Craig O'Dear
    Every subject in our Ashley Madison series has been given at least one opportunity to make a statement or respond to questions prior to publication. Most have passed on that opportunity, but Kansas City "Super Lawyer" Craig O'Dear, of the Bryan Cave firm, opened up about plenty. So did Stephanie O'Dear, his ex wife. Both indicated they reconciled in 2014 and are living together again as a family, although neither specifically said they were remarried.

    Here is the full response that Craig O'Dear sent to me via e-mail:

    Mr. Shuler:

    The article you have drafted and now threaten to publish conveys a false and misleading impression of people about whom you have little knowledge.

    Stephanie was and is the love of my life. We were married in 1995, and legally divorced in November 2012. Many years prior to the effective date of our divorce, we ceased to be a married couple, and my marital obligations to Stephanie came to an end. I was not unfaithful in the marriage, and Stephanie never alleged in our divorce proceeding that I had been. Your draft article conveys an impression to the contrary. That impression is false.

    Further, I have never at any time in my life been romantically involved with any woman who was married. You draft article conveys a false impression to the contrary on that issue as well by highlighting the marketing tag line for the dating site you reference and implying anyone who might have used it did so for the purpose of engaging in an extramarital affair. The only possible purpose you could have to do this is to publish something you believe will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally. During this difficult period in my life, whatever social activity I engaged in violated no marital obligations. My focus was being the best father I could be to my children and being the best lawyer I could be practicing law and taking care of my clients. If you took the time to interview anyone who has any personal knowledge of my life, you would know this.

    The good news in all of this is that in the Spring of 2014, Stephanie approached me and expressed a desire to re-establish our relationship and reunite our family. Unlike most of the stories of broken marriages, this one has a happy ending. We engaged in a process that achieved our objective, and Stephanie and I are again partners in life, living together with our children, and enjoying the blessing of all that entails. This is yet another point on which your draft article conveys a false and misleading impression, because you know nothing about the people and the family you seek to slander.

    I am copying Stephanie on this email. I told her of your communication to me. She has seen your draft "article" and she told me she had some comments to convey to you as well. You should refrain from publishing your false and slanderous "article." If you proceed to publish this false and misleading article, an act which is legally actionable, we insist you publish in full in the same article my response and Stephanie's response, which tells the real story of our lives and corrects the many false impressions your article conveys.

              Craig S. O'Dear

              Sent from my iPhone

    Mr. O'Dear makes a number of curious, even alarming, statements. A few such statements require a response from me:

    1. I did not "threaten" to publish anything. I said I was going to publish an article on Mr. O'Dear's appearance at Ashley Madison, which he does not deny, and I even sent him a draft to fact-check, comment on, or take questions about. Why does he use the word "threaten"? My best guess is this: Most extortion statutes use some version of the term "threat" or "threaten." Such laws generally govern situations where someone says, "I'm going to publish this unflattering information if you don't do such and such." That is a threat, and nothing like that is present in my communication with Mr. O'Dear. As a "Super Lawyer," he should know that, but he apparently wants to send a not-so-subtle threat himself.

    2. O'Dear repeatedly claims my article gives a "false and misleading impression" about him and his family life. He never points out anything that is false, and he apparently is the arbiter of what is, or is not, a "misleading impression." His comment seems to be an attempt to "read into" my article information that is not there.

    3. O'Dear claims my article "conveys the impression" that he had been unfaithful in his marriage, even though his wife never alleged that in her divorce proceeding. Well, that's fine, but my article doesn't allege that either. It's curious that O'Dear takes a literal approach to reading his wife's divorce documents, but reads my article based on "impressions" that he pulls out of thin air.

    4. O'Dear claims he never has been romantically involved with a married woman, but again, my article never says that he has been. He also says he never engaged in social activity that violated marital obligations. Again, my article doesn't say that he has. O'Dear seems to be focusing on Ashley Madison's motto: "Life is short, have an affair." That is the language the firm has used to differentiate itself from standard dating sites. Ashley Madison developed that language, not I; and the company clearly was targeting those who were at least interested in the possibility of an extramarital affair. That's a marketing decision Ashley Madison made, and Mr. O'Dear fell for, but I was not involved in that process.

    5. O'Dear seems to dip into mind-reading when he claims my reporting "will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally." The truth? I've never said anything in my communications with Mr. O'Dear about blog traffic, embarrassing anyone, or damaging anyone (personally, professionally, or otherwise).

    6. I'm pleased the O'Dears have reunited, and that information only came to light because I did legwork -- also known as journalism -- to bring it to light. My original reporting references the reunion, and I address it again here. And yet, O'Dear still claims I am seeking to "slander" his family.

    7. O'Dear then refers me to Stephanie O'Dears comments -- which we will share in an upcoming post -- but he warns that I should not publish this "false and slanderous" article, which he deems "legally actionable." That's a clear threat of a lawsuit. As I've stated on this blog several times, all of us are subject to being sued each day, from the moment we wake up until the moment we plop back in bed. I suppose we can be sued while we are asleep, perhaps for "negligent dreaming" or "intentional infliction of dreamy distress." That doesn't mean any old lawsuit is legally actionable, and the filing of baseless lawsuits comes with the possibility of countersuits and sanctions.

    Now, let's see what Stephanie O'Dear has to say.

    (To be continued)

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    Arizona cop Jeff Bonar punches Marissa Morris, with
    deputy Joel Winchester between them.
    (From nydailynews.com)
    An Arizona police officer who recently was caught on video punching a woman in the face has said she kicked him several times, including once in the groin. But the cop's story took a serious blow late last week when a sheriff's deputy who was on the scene issued a report that does not mention the woman assaulting the officer.

    The more we learn about this incident the more it reminds my wife, Carol, and me of our own experiences with officers in Alabama and Missouri. And it adds to the mountain of evidence that the first instinct for many officers is to lie after they have abused a citizen.

    Coconino County deputy Joel Winchester is seen in the video between Flagstaff officer Jeff Bonar, who threw the punch, and Marissa Morris, a 30-year-old Flagstaff resident who was on the receiving end. The two officers had gone to Morris' residence to serve an eviction notice when Bonar said he believed Morris had at least one outstanding arrest warrant and started trying to apprehend her. She responded by saying, ""You cannot arrest me until I know I have a warrant." That's when Bonar punched her in the face. (The video is embedded at the end of this post.)

    In his report, Bonar claimed the woman "kneed him several times, including in the groin, before he hit her." But Winchester's report makes no mention of aggressive action on Morris' part, other than to state multiple times that she did not have an outstanding warrant. Morris proved to be correct about that; As CBS News reported:

    Morris did hold two “failure to appear” warrants for DUI and resisting arrest — but they were resolved before Wednesday’s incident.

    Translation: Bonar had no grounds for arresting Morris, but he tried it anyway, wound up punching her in the face, and then -- we now know -- he lied about her kicking him. The Web site copblock.orgput it all in blunt terms:

    Marissa Morris was already having a bad day. Due to an eviction, she was hurriedly trying to relocate her possessions when Jeff Bonar pulled up and claimed that she had a warrant and he planned to arrest her. However, not only did the badged thug not have the warrant to show her, as is the law, he did not even explain what the warrant was for. The woman was resisting her illegal kidnapping when the power-tripping gangster decided that she deserved a punch in the face for demanding her rights.

    Wow, let's review all the telling phrases used herer: "Badged thug,""he did not even explain what the warrant was for,""the woman was resisting her illegal kidnapping," and "the power-tripping gangster decided she deserved a punch in the face"? I couldn't have written it better myself.

    Now, we can add "lying liar who lies" to the descriptive phrases for Bonar. This is from an azcentral.com report about Officer Winchester's report on the incident:

    Deputy Joel Winchester is captured in the cellphone video footage. He is seen between the two for most of the duration of the physical encounter.

    In his report, obtained by The Arizona Republic, Winchester described his role in the incident. He said in the document that Morris “resisted” as he struggled to keep her hands behind her back to be handcuffed.

    “As our efforts continued in this manner, I noted (Bonar) punch Marissa around the chin area with a closed fist,” Winchester wrote. “I believe this was an effort to gain her compliance and enhance efforts to maintain control of her.”

    There is no mention in the report of Morris kicking or kneeing Bonar, and few specific details about the physical struggle involving the three of them.

    He did write that Morris repeatedly told Bonar that she no longer had a warrant out for her arrest and asking him to contact officials for verification.

    How does this remind us of our experiences with rogue cops in Alabama and Missouri? Suffice to say that the similarities are so real, and so great in number, that I haven't slept much since reading about the Arizona incident in detail -- and it will require a followup post to explain how the incidents converge, and what we can learn from them.

    (To be continued)

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    Bill Pryor
    The content warning that had been placed on Legal Schnauzer for several days is gone, hopefully never to return. You can chalk that up, we think, as a small victory for those of us who refuse to let loony supporters of President-Elect Donald Trump win by intimidation. It also shows the complainers failed to follow Google policy, which probably helped ensure their efforts to essentially censor this blog would fail.

    A content warning appeared here not long after our November 17 report titled "Our posts about Judge Bill Pryor's ties to 1990s gay pornography have gone viral, thanks to Trump election -- and now, a second nude Pryor photo has surfaced." Our number of visitors skyrocketed as thousands of readers landed at Legal Schnauzer from Facebook, Reddit, Above the Law, and many other sites. Also the widely read fact-checking site Snopes.com weighed in on the Pryor gay-porn story.

    About the same time, we ran a post stating that Trump's nomination of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as U.S. attorney general was like "picking Tiny Tim to lead the New York Philharmonic."

    That, plus the Pryor posts in November, seemed to unleash a flood of nutty, nonsensical, and threatening comments -- many of which I deleted or sent to spam.  Along with that, came what appeared to be a coordinated effort to complain about a nude photo of Pryor that ran at the gay-pornography site badpuppy.com in the 1990s. I had run the photo twice before, always including a warning that those who are squeamish about nudity should not scroll to the bottom of the post, where the picture was placed. So what happened? Naturally, certain readers ignored the warning, scrolled to the bottom to see the photo, got a case of the vapors, and whined to Google about it.

    The origins of the complaints and wacky comments are not known for sure right now. But given that Sessions is Trump's AG pick -- and Pryor (because of his ties to Sessions) likely is near the top of Trump's list of possible nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court -- it seems a safe bet that Trump supporters launched the attack. I'm guessing they were particularly alarmed about our statements that a second nude photo of Pryor has surfaced, and we have information that could lead to explosive and revealing articles about Sessions.

    Given Trump's clear lack of respect for the rule of law, no one should be surprised that his followers can't follow rules either. In fact, they violated Google policy in making their complaints about Legal Schnauzer.

    What do I mean? The Blogger platform, which comes under the Google umbrella, has a "report inappropriate content" policy; it can be found at this link. A key part of the policy is this:

    If an author’s contact information is listed on their blog, contact them directly to ask them to remove or change the content in question.

    My e-mail address is available in the upper right-hand corner of the blog; it's hard to miss. But no one contacted me directly to complain about objectionable content. So in whining that I was violating Google policy, the whiners themselves violated Google policy.

    I like to think we are providing a public service by giving a glimpse at what life likely will be like under a President Donald Trump. After all, it's quite clear that this "content warning" is about politics and not about nudity. In other words, the people responsible for it are dishonest, threatening, psychologically unhinged -- and they are too cowardly to contact me directly, as Google policy requires them to do.

    Pryor is considered a prime candidate to be nominated to SCOTUS, and my accurate reporting on his foray into gay pornography is a possible threat to his ascent -- hence the complaints about objectionable content. I also have information that could be powerful enough to scuttle the Sessions nomination.

    Any nude photos on this blog now have been pixilated, so nudity no longer is an issue. I proved that to Google, and also showed that whiners had violated policy by not contacting me directly first, and the content warning went away.

    Is the content warning gone for good? I don't know; this is my first time dealing with the issue, so it's hard to say. At this point, I'm impressed by Google's response to my request to have the warning removed.

    I soon will be running a second nude photograph of Pryor, and the plan is to pixilate that. But I'm guessing a new uproar will break out because Pryor supporters aren't concerned about nudity; they are concerned about my reporting, which shows that their homophobic judge is a world-class hypocrite for having dabbled in gay pornography while he was in college. Jeff Sessions also has a closet-full of skeletons, and we will be reporting on them.

    That's why we landed in the cross hairs of unhinged Trump supporters; it had nothing to do with a nude photograph.

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    Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    The more we learn about Alabama "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley, the more I take personal offense at his hideously corrupt and hypocritical administration. An objective journalist, of course, is not supposed to write a sentence like that. But I've had to check my objectivity at the door on this story.

    Bentley repeatedly has taken swipes at my professional and personal integrity, and multiple reports have him targeting me (and perhaps my wife, Carol) for unlawful retaliatory action. To think this clown rode into office while touting family values, with one arm raised in the air, while the other thumped a Bible . . . well, it makes him a despicable individual in my book, right down there with his GOP predecessor, Bob Riley -- and I thought no one could touch Riley when it came to right-wing perversity. Bentley has placed himself in the same ballpark.

    All of this comes back to mind in the wake of a lawsuit former Bentley security chief Wendell Ray Lewis filed two weeks ago (Nov. 23) against Bentley, former adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason and various unnamed individuals and entities who allegedly helped form a slush fund to pay Mason for her "services" to the governor.

    I've been a professional journalist for more than 35 years, and I know how to separate my personal feelings from the job of being a reporter. But members of the Riley machine caused me to be thrown in jail for five months in Shelby County, Alabama, for daring to produce accurate journalism about their nasty activities. Now, Bentley has come along to smear me time and again, perhaps taking a role in acts that caused Carol's arm to be broken and us to be thrown into the streets. When political figures attack you in that way, it's no longer just a news story. They are trying to ruin you, and the most objective reporter is driven to fight back -- in a way that could draw blood from someone, at some point.

    Again, why has the Bentley story become personal? Let's count the reasons, taking into account what we've learned from the Lewis lawsuit:

    (1) On August 31, 2015, we break the story at Legal Schnauzer of the Bentley-Mason extramarital affair. Nine days later (on Sept. 9), we are unlawfully evicted from our apartment in Springfield, Missouri, and in the process, a deputy breaks Carol's left arm so severely that it requires repair from a trauma surgeon. We later learn that Bentley had targeted Web-based journalists, including yours truly, who led the way in breaking details about the Mason affair.

    (2) On September 1, 2015, I become the first journalist to report on possible financial irregularities related to the Bentley/Mason affair. I follow up with a second such post on September 2. (Al.com begins to address similar issues on September 3; but the entire scandal, both the sexual and financial angles, take flight from my reporting.) Did this increase the likelihood that Bentley would target us, causing Carol's arm to be broken and both of us to have assault weapons and pistols pointed in our direction -- during an eviction that, by law, could not happen? We still are searching for answers to that question.

    (3) In a December 27, 2015, article by al.com reporter (and Ashley Madison devotee) Chuck Dean, Bentley denies "rumors" of an affair with Mason. From the article:

    "The rumors were not true," said Bentley.

    The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.

    "There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.

    Bentley essentially took a No. 2 on my integrity. Did I take exception to that, knowing the quality of the sources who helped me break the affair story? Yes, I did. Did I take a certain amount of pleasure in what came next? Yes, I did.

    (4)  On March 22, 2016, news breaks that text messages and audio recordings show that Bentley and Mason did, in fact, have an affair. Audio captures Bentley reminiscing about fondling Mason's breasts and exploring her nether regions. Despite that, Bentley claims the affair was just a matter of dirty talk and was not physical. (Note to self: Fondling a woman's breasts and massaging her nether regions does not count as "physical.") The Rachel Maddow Show, The Washington Post, and other national news outlets pick up the story, turning Bentley -- and Alabama -- into a national punchline.

    (5) In early August, a new audio recording captures Bentley calling me a "slimy guy" and blaming his divorce on "casino gambling people." How low will this guy go? This is from our post on the subject:

    A taped phone conversation released yesterday captures Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley calling your humble blogger a "slimy guy." Bentley also makes a negative reference to attorney Donald Watkins. The tape adds another level of authenticity to reports that Bentley used state and federal resources to target Watkins and me -- the two citizen journalists who broke the story last summer of Bentley's extramarital affair with advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

    It becomes more intriguing when you consider this timeline: I broke the story of the Bentley/Mason affair on August 31, 2015, the same date Bentley and State Rep. Allen Farley (R-Bessemer) talked in the evening, with Bentley calling me a "slimy guy." Nine days later, on September 9, my wife, Carol, and I were violently and unlawfully evicted from our apartment in Springfield, Missouri, and Carol was left with a shattered left arm that required trauma surgery. We've already asked this question: Were Bentley and/or Mason involved in arranging the bogus eviction in Missouri? Was that part of their plan to target me? Was having us roughed up and brutalized also part of the plan?

    The new audio suggests the answer might be yes.

    (6) Finally, we have the Lewis lawsuit, which was filed on November 23. Lewis quotes Bentley admitting to a physical affair and asking his security chief to break up with her for him. So, let's review: Everything I reported in my early postings -- roughly seven months before the mainstream media took notice of the story -- was accurate. But "Luv Guv" Bentley wants the public to believe I am the "slimy guy." This apparently is a seriously disturbed mind at work.

    Where does this all go from here. In a Facebook post dated December 4, attorney Donald Watkins says corruption might be coming to a head in Alabama, driven in part by former House Speaker Mike Hubbard and his efforts to reduce his sentence for ethics-law violations by "singing like a bird" to a task force of state and federal investigators. From the post:

    Hubbard’s cooperation with authorities has led them to others in state and local government. This includes Jefferson County lawmakers and local officials.

    As a result of Hubbard’s substantial cooperation with prosecutors, at least four members of the Alabama House of Representatives are under investigation and could possibly be indicted. One of the four -- Oliver Robinson -- suddenly resigned his House seat at the end of November. Three additional Birmingham-area legislators are targets of the investigation. Two of these lawmakers are Republicans and one is a Democrat.

    In October, the Alabama Attorney General’s Corruption Unit empaneled a grand jury in Jefferson County. This is the prosecutorial unit that took down Mike Hubbard.

    We have confirmed that the grand jury is investigating allegations of ethics violations and public corruption inside Birmingham City Hall and the Birmingham Water Works Board. The investigation is also reviewing vendor relationships at other city agencies, including the Birmingham Airport and Birmingham Construction Industry Authority.

    (Question:  Is anyone looking at Riley Inc.? How can any serious investigation of Alabama corruption not include Bob and Rob "Uday" Riley?)

    Watkins paints a picture that comes back around to "Dr. Love" Bentley and Rebekah Mason:

    On Friday, Cooper Shattuck, Governor Bentley’s former legal adviser, suddenly resigned from his powerful position as General Counsel to the University of Alabama System. Shattuck oversaw Bentley’s “dark money” slush fund -- the Alabama Council for Excellent Government – that was formed in 2015 and used to pay Rebekah Mason for “personal services” rendered to the Governor.The slush fund was established after Mike Echols, Governor Bentley’s long-time personal CPA and heavy hitting moneyman for the Robert Bentley Campaign Committee, split from Bentley. Echols resigned his post over a disagreement with Bentley about his love affair with Rebekah Mason. . . .

    Prosecutors have not extended a plea deal to Rebekah Mason. They do not need her cooperation to make their criminal case against these two lovers.

    Bentley and Mason have run out of options for avoiding their indictment.

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    Arizona cop Jeff Bonar punches Marissa Morris in the face.
    (From nydailynews.com)
    An Arizona cop who was caught on video punching a woman in the face is seeing his credibility shredded, thanks largely to another officer who was on the scene and makes no mention in his report of the woman repeatedly kicking anyone before being punched.

    The incident, which started when Flagstaff cop Jeff Bonar and sheriff's deputy Joel Winchester tried to evict Marissa Morris and others at her residence, has profound resonance here at Legal Schnauzer. It has so many similarities with our cop-related experiences in Alabama and Missouri that it's hard to keep up with them all.

    But here is our best effort to show how the various cases converge, the truths we can take from them. Taken together, the cases indicate you can be subjected to gross police abuse, no matter where you live in the country:

    (1) Rogue cops have an almost innate instinct to lie about abuse of the public --

    In Arizona, Officer Bonar wrote in his report that Morris had kneed him multiple times, including once in the groin, prompting him to strike her. Deputy Winchester makes no mention in his report of any aggressive behavior on Morris' part, other than repeatedly stating (correctly) that she did not have any outstanding warrants for her arrest. In Missouri, my wife Carol was slammed to the ground and an unknown officer yanked so violently on her arms that one of them was snapped in two, and the other was purple from extensive bruising. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, inexplicably, was on the scene, standing about five feet away when Carol was assaulted. He immediately stated that Carol had "assaulted a police officer." I knew this statement was false because I saw the whole event from about 20 feet away, and Carol did not say or do anything to prompt the assault. She had been given permission to enter the apartment to retrieve our belongings -- as had I -- and that's what she was trying to do.

    (2) Be wary when law enforcement is on hand for an eviction --

    Both of these cases involved evictions. Our understanding is that sheriff deputies (usually one or two) are on hand to make sure evictions go smoothly, with the landlord's staff and tenants doing most of the work. Ours involved eight to 10 officers and probably close to a dozen assault rifles and handguns. Best we can tell, the Arizona eviction was legitimate. Ours had been stayed, by law, when we timely filed a notice of appeal in our court case. Did that have any impact on rogue cops? Nope. They had no lawful grounds to be on the Missouri property, much less to barge through the door, start waving firearms around, handcuff us, and eventually commit a brutal assault on Carol.

    (3) Cops might try listening to citizens once in a while --

    In Arizona, Marissa Morris repeatedly tried to tell Bonar that she did not have an outstanding warrant -- and she proved to be correct about that. Did Bonar listen to her? No, he punched her in the face. In Missouri, as I was sitting handcuffed on the lawn outside our apartment (why was I handcuffed for an eviction?), I repeatedly told Arnott that execution of our eviction was stayed because we had timely filed a notice of appeal (and paid the filing fee) within the 10-day window allowed by law. He repeatedly turned his palms upward and shrugged his shoulders, as if he had no clue about Missouri law -- on a subject he is entrusted with handling.

    (4) Cops don't seem to care if they hurt someone, even women --

    Marissa Morris apparently took a punch to the face without being hurt too badly. This must be one tough woman -- or perhaps Bonar hit her more with his palm than with his fist. The punch had to have hurt, and Morris was fortunate to escape without a broken nose or other structural damage. As for our situation in Missouri, X-rays show that Carol's left arm was essentially snapped like a twig, with the break so extreme that it required trauma surgery -- and she likely will never regain more than 75 percent use of her arm.

    (5) Cops aren't big on showing warrants or offering explanations for their actions --

    According to a report at copblock.org, Morris asked Bonar to see a copy of any warrant for her. He didn't show her a warrant, and he did not explain what any warrant was supposed to be about. I can identify with that. When Alabama deputy Chris Blevins entered our home, knocked me to a concrete floor three times, and doused me with pepper spray, he did it all without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating his reason for being on our property. When told by a judge at my resisting arrest trial to produce copies of any warrants, assistant DA Tonya Willingham said she didn't have any. I've still never seen one. Copblock.org used the term "kidnapping" to describe what happened to Marissa Morris, and since I also was taken without a warrant, I've used the same term to describe my experience.

    (6) Cops will hit you with a "resisting arrest" charge simply for questioning their actions --

    Both Arizona officers alleged in reports that Morris "resisted." As noted above, I actually went to trial in Alabama for "resisting arrest" and was found guilty -- even though a dashboard camera caught Blevins walking into our garage without stating his reason for being there. It captures him asking me to step outside, and me telling him to (in so many words) get the hell out of our house. Under Alabama law, an arrest is unlawful when an officer enters premises without stating his reason for being there. In fact, a citizen has both a right, and a duty, to resist an unlawful arrest -- and an officer has no lawful grounds to use any force in an unlawful arrest. Morris and I acted 100 percent within our rights, but she still got punched in the face -- while I got pummeled, doused with pepper spray, and thrown in the slammer for five months.

    (7) Cops and cover-ups seem to go hand in hand --

    Based on press reports, it appears Officer Bonar participated in a cover-up. His report said Marissa Morris kneed him multiple times, including in the groin, while another cop on the scene made no mention of any kneeing or kicking. (Note: I've had the misfortune of being hit in the "delicates" a time or two while playing sports, usually baseball. Some advice for you young sprouts out there -- never take to a baseball or softball diamond without a cup firmly in place. No matter how uncomfortable a cup might feel, you will be glad you had one on if a ball makes direct contact with the "family jewels.") If Morris actually had kneed Bonar in the groin, I feel quite certain the officer would have been on his hands and knees, wanting to puke up his guts. His report makes no sense, and the words of another officer, indicate Bonar flat-out lied. Here in Missouri, I've written several posts about the Greene County Sheriff's Office Policies and Procedures Manual, which is supposed to govern investigations regarding use of force. The posts, which include links to the manual online, can be viewed here, here, and here.

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm,
    broken by a sheriff's deputy
    Guess what we recently discovered about the policies and procedures manual? The link to it on the Web no longer works. You click on the link, and you now get this -- and I can't find the manual anywhere else on the Web. In September and October 2016, I wrote three posts based largely on that manual, and now it has disappeared from the Web.

    What does that tell you? It tells me that Sheriff Arnott's department has not followed its own policies and has never conducted an investigation, serious or otherwise, about what happened during our eviction.

    (8) Cops have ways of taking their body cams out of commission --

    A report at CBS News on the Arizona incident included the following:

    Bonar was wearing a body camera, but according to his own police report, he turned it off before approaching Morris.

    Why would an officer turn off his body cam before approaching someone? (For that matter, why are body cams made so that officers can turn them off?) I can think of only one answer: Bonar knew he was likely to rough up Morris, and he wanted to make sure there was no video evidence of it. Fortunately, Morris' friends and family members were on hand to make sure the punch was captured on video. (From my research, evictions normally are under the control sheriff's departments. It's not clear why Bonar, a city police officer, was on the scene. Did he have some beef with Morris, or someone close to her, and appeared with the intention of roughing her up?)

    Was there a similar mindset at play in Missouri, with us? I have little doubt about it. I suspect any cameras were removed or turned off, and if one was operational, I imagine its contents have been destroyed. We believe one police vehicle might have been parked in a way that it would capture the assault on Carol -- if it included a functioning dash camera.

    Many Americans still like to think cops are looking out for them, doing that "protect and serve" thing. But if you've actually had a close encounter with a cop, you are likely to know the truth -- a lot of them are lying scumbags and bullies, who apparently take delight in hurting others and trying to cover up their misdeeds.

    We've witnessed it in Alabama and Missouri, and reading about the recent case in Arizona brings a lot of that trauma back home.

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    Stephanie O'Dear
    (From Facebook)
    Missouri "Super Lawyer" Craig O'Dear, of Bryan Cave's Kansas City office, has voiced displeasure with our reporting about his presence among paying customers of the Ashley Madison (AM) Web site. While never denying that he was on AM, O'Dear repeatedly referred to our post as "false and slanderous," claiming it "conveyed false impressions," and hinted at a lawsuit because publication of the post would be "legally actionable."

    O'Dear did not stop there. He shared our communication with Stephanie Doolin O'Dear, his ex wife and current partner (they reunited, but apparently did not remarry in 2014), and she also has expressed her dismay with our reporting. Ms. O'Dear notes that she, like me, is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Perhaps that is where our connection is supposed to begin.

    In any event, here is her full response, once Craig O'Dear forwarded my communications to her -- which I have no problem with, by the way. And I have to say that Stephanie O'Dear is a pretty darned good writer, as I would expect from a graduate of the MU J-School. Here is Ms. O'Dear's e-mail:

    Dear Mr. Shuler,

    As a fellow University of Missouri Journalism school graduate I am confounded by your definition of journalism and the motives from which you are operating. This approach of salacious and hurtful disclosure is not what we were taught to go forth and pursue with our degrees and that you are using that fine education to pursue such a trajectory saddens me.

    What is especially troubling being the lack of backstory that you have elected to circumvent and that would not be obvious to anyone simply searching via Google for random details. Those details are difficult, complex and private and your notion that you will and have a right to force our hand is troubling. From what pedestal are you mandating this approach and what is your motive other than to attempt to humiliate and hurt a family that you do not know and in which you have no vested interest? It is perplexing and again, saddening, to know that anyone out there would embark upon this tactic and slander a family that has done you no harm.

    Our family story is an amazing one but one that has withstood tests and trials the likes of which you cannot know or understand. Including, the breakup of our marriage and the struggles for our children that it inherently brought. If you must know, I take responsibility for the divorce and was the one who filed. The details of our downfall aren’t relevant here except that Craig never had an affair nor did I ever accuse him of such. If he did participate in any online sites as you are suggesting, he did so at a time and place that we no longer had a mutual marital obligation to each other and was free to pursue his life as he so chose. We both have deep regrets about that time period though as divorce simply does not bring out the best in anyone but Craig did nothing wrong and never violated his vows to me. And divorcing him is the greatest mistake of my life.

    If you must go forward, what you must also consider is where we are today and that is truly the story, if you are looking for one. It is of redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness. It is of two people who genuinely never stopped loving each other and through grace and time found a way to be together again – which is what we have been working towards for some time now, culminating with me moving back into the family home this past Memorial Day. Craig and I are deeply committed to each other and unconditionally devoted to rebuilding our family together. To healing wounds and finding new opportunities. To loving each other better than we did before and to focusing on the future and all the wonderful things that lie ahead. To supporting our children as they launch into adulthood and to being there as their parents no matter what. To creating a life where we each have the other’s back and to supporting one another through the difficult times, like the one you have created today.

    So if you want an interesting story to tell, I’ve just told you one. And if you are a man of integrity, honor, and grace – like Craig O’Dear is – and intent on pursuing a post on your blog then you will focus on our family’s future, rather than our past. We respectfully ask that you refrain from pursuing your post and move on. There is only a good news story here and it is one that inspires hope, a renewed belief in humanity, and the power of forgiveness. Thank you.


    Stephanie O'Dear

    I feel the need to respond to a few of Ms. O'Dear's statements:

    1. In the second paragraph, she references my right "to force our hand." Force their hand about what? I'm not sure what that means.

    2.  In the same paragraph, Ms. O'Dear says my post will "slander a family." I was required to take a course in Communications Law at MU, and I suspect Ms. O'Dear was, too. She should know that slander is a legal term with a specific meaning, and my reporting does not meet that standard -- not even close.

    3. In the third paragraph she states that I'm "suggesting" Mr. O'Dear participated at Ashley Madison. My post isn't "suggesting" anything in that regard; it is directly stating that Mr. O'Dear's name is on the list of paying AM customers -- and he does not deny that.

    4. Ms. O'Dear further says Mr. O'Dear never violated his vows to her, but my post never says he did. It says only that he was a paying customer at AM, a site designed specifically (according to its own marketing) to facilitate extramarital affairs. And that is true.

    5. Ms. O'Dear says she and Mr. O'Dear are committed to helping each other through "difficult times, like the one you have created today." I'm glad to hear they are committed to working through difficult times; Lord knows, my wife, Carol, and I have experienced 16 years' worth of difficult times, thanks largely to corrupt individuals in Mr. O'Dear's profession. Aside from that, I applaud the O'Dears' commitment to move forward together. But I would suggest they realize that I'm not the one who signed up for Ashley Madison -- and I'm hardly the only journalist who has reported on this story. As far as I know, I am the only journalist to drill beneath the surface and report on the numerous prominent professionals and elites who signed up for the site. That's the kind of reporting I was taught at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and it has served me well for 35-plus years.

    6. Ms. O'Dear notes that if I'm "a man of integrity, honor, and grace," I will focus on her family's future rather than its past. Well, I've done just that, by publishing her statement in full -- along with the statement of Mr. O'Dear.

    0 0

    Iqbal and Twombly lead to dismissal of valid cases.
    (From orrick.com)
    The most important legal story of the past 10 years probably has flown beneath the radar of almost every American who is not working in the legal industry. If I were to poll 10,000 random Americans and ask them what "Iqbal" and "Twombly" mean, they probably would look at me as if I were crazed.

    But those words apply to two U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases that have denied access to courts for hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of everyday Americans -- black, white, brown, yellow, middle class, lower class. The cases attack the rights of plaintiffs only, while providing an escape hatch for elites connected to corporations, institutions, the moneyed, and the powerful.

    "Iqbal" and "Twombly" come to mind because my wife, Carol, and I are dealing with their implications right now -- in a federal lawsuit connected to the wrongful foreclosure on our home of  25 years in Birmingham. We call it "The House Case," to distinguish it from "The Jail Case," a second federal lawsuit we've filed regarding my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County.

    But we are focusing only on "The House Case" for now because that is where "Iqbal" and "Twombly" are raising their ugly heads. If you ever are wronged in a federal matter -- employment discrimination, civil rights, police misconduct, diversity litigation (involving entities in multiple states), and so on -- you probably will hear those two words early and often. You should know, right up front, that corporate elites and right-wing judges foisted them upon us in order to greatly decrease your chances of achieving justice.

    How does it work? We start with a little background and a brief history lesson. A Motion to Dismiss, filed by defendants, attempts to end a lawsuit before it starts. Such a motion essentially says, "The complaint is so deficient on its face that it must be tossed out immediately, so that we defendants will not be forced to endure discovery, summary judgment, and certainly not a trial on the merits." The two words highlighted in yellow are the key to a Motion to Dismiss. Defendants, especially those who actually are liable for wrongdoing, want to avoid discovery (interrogatories, depositions, production of documents, etc.) at all costs.

    For roughly 70 years, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) made that a long shot for defendants. The rule required only that a plaintiff produce "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." That's a pretty low bar that, if cleared, allows a plaintiff to prove his case via discovery, with an eye toward clearing a second hurdle, summary judgment. If that is cleared, you are looking at hurdle No. 3 -- a trial on the merits.

    The bar for plaintiffs remained relatively low when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a case styled Conley v. Gibson in 1957. It held that "a court cannot dismiss a complaint unless it is apparent that the plaintiff could prove 'no set of facts' that would entitle him to relief."

    Was this fair? Absolutely. To launch a federal case never has been easy or inexpensive. These days, a plaintiff must pay a filing fee of around $500. To hire an attorney often requires an up-front fee, or retainer, of $5,000 or more. Those are factors that already discourage plaintiffs from filing frivolous lawsuits. Aside from that, the system long has included built-in rules that discourage the filing of baseless claims. If the complaint is short on specifics, defendants can file a Motion for a More Definitive Statement. If the plaintiff fails to deliver, his case can be dismissed. Rule 11 FRCP holds that a plaintiff's lawyer (and his client) can be hit with sanctions for failing to investigate a claim before filing a lawsuit that proves to be baseless.

    Despite all of these safeguards, someone got the notion in the mid 2000s that federal courts were being flooded with frivolous lawsuits. I've been in federal courthouses dozens of times and seen no signs that they are being flooded with anything. About 90 percent of U.S. lawsuits are filed in state courts, and they can be crowded, loud, dingy places. By comparison, federal courthouses are like well-scrubbed monasteries.

    The bogus concerns about bogus lawsuits led SCOTUS in 2007 to issue Bell Atlantic v. Twombly. It overturned Conley v. Gibson and ushered in an era of "heightened pleading standards." Unfortunately, Twombly presents a slight problem: No one seems to have a clue what it means. Here is the gist of the holding:

    We do not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Because the plaintiffs here have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed.

    So now, a plaintiff did not have to plead a heightened level of specifics, but he did have to plead enough facts to make his claim "plausible," as opposed to "conceivable." Anyone have a clue what that means? What's the difference between "conceivable" and "plausible"?

    In 2010, SCOTUS issued Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which added two components to Twombly: (1) The heightened pleading standards of Twombly apply to all federal lawsuits, not jut antitrust cases such as Twombly; (2) A court must accept factual allegations in a complaint as true, but that does not apply to legal conclusions.

    No wonder the ABA Journal published a 2011 piece titled "For Federal Plaintiffs, Twombly and Iqbal Still Present a Catch-22." From the article:

    Twombly and Iqbal are widely cited by defense lawyers as a means of getting frivolous complaints dismissed before the costly factual discovery stage. But plaintiffs say judges are using the standard as a docket-management tool, precluding legitimate claims from being heard. . . .

    For plaintiffs, Twombly and Iqbal create an unfair burden. If they are expected to present detailed facts from the outset, rather than acquiring them through pretrial discovery, they may have to foot the bill to investigate on their own. That, they say, creates at best an unfair burden just to have a case heard on the merits, and at worst a complete barrier to the courthouse.

    Where intent or discriminatory purpose is at issue, the cases present the circular logic of catch-22. In civil rights claims or motive-based torts—or in claims where the defendant’s conduct is by nature concealed, like fraud or antitrust—evidence is in the hands of the defense. Discovery remains the only opportunity to gather this kind of evidence. Yet if a meritorious claim can never get past the pleading stage, discovery—many claimants’ primary chance to uncover facts—is not even an option.

    Prior to 2007, many defense lawyers would not file a Motion to Dismiss (MTD) because they knew it was unlikely to succeed. Now, almost any federal lawsuit will draw an MTD (multiple ones if more than one defendant is involved) because Iqbal and Twombly have made it a worthwhile proposition -- made it possible to deny plaintiffs even the hope of having a case heard.

    How is all of this hitting home for Carol and me? "The House Case" includes 29 defendants, and if my counting is correct, each one has filed an MTD. Under the law, there is no way in hell any of these motions can be granted. (More on that in an upcoming post.) But we still have to face the possibility that some, even all, of our claims could be dismissed by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, who already has shown a tendency to cheat us.

    This much we've seen for sure: When you have that many MTDs filed in one case, you are likely to see outrageous misstatements of fact and law. We have answered every nutty claim that has come our way, and in a series of upcoming posts, we will show what it's like to fight back against defendants who have been emboldened by Iqbal and Twombly.

    (To be continued)

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    Bill Smith III
    (From businessalabama.com)
    The CEO of a Birmingham-based coffee company, one of Alabama's oldest businesses, appears as a paying customer at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, records show.

    William E. "Bill" Smith III, who was named CEO of Royal Cup Coffee in 2014. heads a company that has been privately held and family controlled for more than 100 years. Smith succeeded his uncle, Hatton C.V. Smith, becoming the fourth member of the Smith family to head Royal Cup.

    A July 2015 article in Business Alabama provides perspective on Royal Cup's services and longevity. From the article, titled "Not Your Average Cup of Joe," by reporter Jessica Armstrong:

    Be it at The Ritz-Carlton or the Waffle House, any time you’re served coffee there’s a good chance it is Royal Cup, one of Alabama’s oldest businesses, which has remained privately held and family controlled for more than 100 years.

    Founded in 1896, the Birmingham-based company is a leading coffee importer, roaster and distributor of premium coffee and tea serving the away-from-home market — fine and casual restaurants, hotels, resorts, clubs, offices and healthcare facilities.

    Just how long ago is 1896? To put it in historical perspective, that year Utah became the 45th state, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was launched and Henry Ford unveiled his first automobile. Management expert Jim Collins, who studies corporate longevity, calls companies that survive 100 years or longer “a special and rarefied group.”

    Where has Royal Cup been and where is it headed? This is from a Birmingham Business Journal article about William E. Smith III's appointment as CEO:

    Bill Smith III has worked at the company for over 20 years, serving as Atlanta’s territory manager and later as vice president of the operations departments. He has also led the commercial and office coffee division.

    Royal Cup serves numerous markets, from resorts, hotels and offices to convenience stores and general consumers. They have distribution centers in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. They source from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

    The company, which has announced a $30 million expansion, was the 19th largest private company in Birmingham last year, with more than $340 million in revenue.

    The Smith family has owned Birmingham-based Royal Cup since 1950, when William E. Smith and a group of investors purchased the company from the estate of the founder, Henry Batterton of the Batterton Coffee Co.

    Bill Smith III seems to keep a low profile about his personal life, and we have not yet been able to determine his marital status, parental status, etc. We sought comment from him for this post, but he has not responded to our queries.


    (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)

    (4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

    (5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)

    (9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

    (10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

    (11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

    (12) Russell Byrne -- VP for information systems, Bromberg's, Birmingham (10/17/16)

    (13) Rob Waudby -- district manager, Skyline Steel, Birmingham (10/24/16)

    (14) Paul Wells -- VP, Protective Life, Birmingham (10/25/16)

    (15) Brian Shulman -- CEO, LTS Education Systems, Birmingham (10/26/16)

    (16) Peyton Lacy -- attorney, Ogletree Deakins, Birmingham (11/1/16)

    (17)James Dixon -- managing director, Sterne Agee, Birmingham (11/7/16)

    (18) Craig O'Dear -- partner, Bryan Cave law firm, Kansas City, MO (11/16/16)

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    Carol and I are reunited at our former home in
    Birmingham after my arrest for blogging and
    a five-month stay in an Alabama jail
    (By Michael Donahue)
    We have stated here many times that Legal Schnauzer is a community effort, that readers have provided tips and documents that proved critical in our investigative reports; they have provided financial support via PayPal and the Donate button in the upper right-hand corner of our blog; and many readers have become friends, providing emotional support at times when we needed it most.

    Now a reader and friend has taken a major step by setting up a GoFundMe page for my wife, Carol, and me -- with the goal of providing desperately needed funds for basic living expenses as we seek to continue our investigative reporting in the face of hurdles that should not happen in a healthy democracy.

    Timothy Smith, a liberal Democrat from the red state of Louisiana, set up the GoFundMe page, and we are deeply grateful for his efforts. Tim became aware of our reporting, which already has helped bring down a number of corrupt Alabama officials -- including former U.S. Judge Mark Fuller (who ramrodded the Don Siegelman political prosecution), former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, former gubernatorial adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and former University of Alabama legal counsel and Gov. Robert Bentley aide Cooper Shattuck. The Bentley administration itself is teetering because of our reporting about the governor's extramarital affair with Mason -- a story we broke ahead of any other news outlet, seven months before the mainstream media started taking a serious look into the matter.

    Tim knows that our reporting is on the verge of becoming a major factor on the national stage. We broke the story of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, a homophobe who once posed nude for photos that appeared in the 1990s at the gay-porn site badpuppy.com. We now have come into possession of a second Pryor nude photo, just as president-elect Donald Trump appears set to nominate the Mobile native to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. We also are about to break explosive stories about another Mobile product -- Trump attorney general pick, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

    What drove Tim Smith to establish a GoFundMe page for a couple he never has met in person? Here is how Tim explains it on the page:

    Progressive journalist (and former UAB Editor) Roger Shuler and his wife Carol need help with basic living expenses.

    I'm Timothy Smith, a Democrat living in the very red state of Louisiana. I became interested in Roger Shuler's work back in 2013, when I started reading some of his exposés of the corrupt Republican machine in Alabama.

    Most of Roger Shuler's work has been published at Roger's blog, Legal Schnauzer, which he began in 2007. [ http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com]

    I recently became reintroduced to Roger's work after a series of stories related to the possible nomination of Mr. Pryor, and the brief gay porn modeling career of a young gentleman described on the gay porn website BadPuppy.com as "Bill Pryor".

    Tim has extensive knowledge about the abuse Carol and I have suffered because of my reporting, which never has been proven, as a matter of law, to be false or defamatory -- despite two lawsuits, brought at almost the same time by GOP political operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

    Tim knows that deputies beat me up inside our own home in Birmingham and essentially conducted a kidnapping (with no apparent warrant) that led to my five-month stay in the Shelby County Jail. Tim knows about the wrongful foreclosure on our Alabama home of 25 years, forcing our move to Missouri -- where deputies, during an unlawful eviction at our apartment, broke Carol's arm so severely that it required trauma surgery. From the GoFundMe page:

    Here is a brief synopsis of the timeline of events leading to the wrongful incarceration and police brutality against Alabama blogger Roger Shuler and his wife, Carol. Roger was beaten, falsely arrested, and falsely imprisoned for five months due to his expose of corrupt Republican officials in his home state of Alabama. He has never been charged with any crime. Roger and Carol have both lost their jobs, their home and their life.

    September 2013
    Roger Shuler, at Legal Schnauzer blog, breaks story about nude, gay-porn photographs in the background of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, now considered a possible SCOTUS nominee under Donald Trump. The Pryor porn story starts to get national attention via Above the Law, the No. 1 law blog in U.S.

    Less than one week after the Pryor story breaks, Shelby County, Alabama, deputies begin making regular visits to the Shulers' home -- at least four visits in three days.

    Because Carol and I have managed to keep Legal Schnauzer alive, even while I was in jail, the general public and many readers probably do not know how badly our lives have been turned upside down.  Our survival is a week-to-week proposition, as Tim explains:

    Since all of the legal shenanigans the Shulers have suffered since Roger's published exposés of the corrupt Republican machine in Alabama, they have lost their home in Alabama and are currently living in a pay-by-the-week motel in another state.

    All donation received are for the Shulers' basic living expenses, including housing, food, medicine, and other basic household needs. The Shulers are in desperate need of our help as soon as possible, and need access to these funds immediately. Please help as much as you are able. Thank you.

    My vocabulary does not include the words, it seems, to adequately express our gratitude for Tim Smith's assistance -- and for the help other readers have provided over the almost 10 years of Legal Schnauzer.

    We hope you will consider donating at the GoFundMe page Tim set up. And we hope that, together, we can help restore justice to legal and political systems that now are badly broken.

    GoFundMe page for Roger and Carol Shuler

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
    Your IP : - Country : - City:
    Your ISP TRACKS Your Online Activity! Hide your IP ADDRESS with a VPN!
    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    Alex Jones (right) and Donald Trump surrogate Roger Stone
    (From mediamatters.org)
    The evolving Donald Trump administration is leading us into a "post-truth world," according to a recent article at The Washington Post. We've seen signs of that here at Legal Schnauzer -- probably because of our reporting on Trump's Alabama allies, Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor -- and Trump has not even taken office.

    What exactly is a "post-truth world"? Reporter Margaret Sullivan, in an article titled "The post-truth world of the Trump administration is scarier than you think," pointed at Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes to explain it:

    On live radio . . . Scottie Nell Hughes sounded breezy as she drove a stake into the heart of knowable reality:

    “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts,” she declared on “The Diane Rehm Show.”

    Hughes, a frequent surrogate for President-elect Donald Trump and a paid commentator for CNN during the campaign, kept defending that assertion, although not with much clarity of expression. Rehm had pressed her about Trump’s recent evidence-free assertion on Twitter that he, not Hillary Clinton, would have won the popular vote if millions of immigrants had not voted illegally.

    Sullivan seemed dumbfounded to hear those words come from the mouth of a fairly prominent political figure:

    (The apparent gen­esis of Trump’s claim was Infowars.com, a site that traffics in conspiracy theories and is run by Alex Jones, who says the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff members at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., was a government-sponsored hoax.)

    What matters now, Hughes argued, is not whether (Trump's) fraud claim is true. No, what matters is who believes it.

    “Mr. Trump’s tweets, amongst a certain crowd, a large — a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — in his — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there’s no facts to back it up.”

    (Note: Longtime Trump surrogate and adviser Roger Stone is a regular guest on the Alex Jones program. Stone perhaps is best known as a dirty trickster from the Richard Nixon years and also is credited with launching the "Brooks Brothers riot" from the Bush v. Gore election of 2000.)

    Bill Pryor, a Mobile native currently on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is considered a likely Trump nominee for a spot on the U.S. Supreme Court. In a post dated November 17, 2016, we reviewed our reporting about the homophobic Pryor's ties to 1990s gay pornography via the Web site badpuppy.comand noted that a second nude photo of Pryor has surfaced recently. The next day, I reported on Trump's nomination of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be attorney general and noted the hefty baggage that Sessions carries -- some of it professional, which cost him a federal judgeship in the 1980s, and some of a more personal nature.

    When those posts were published, along with notice that more alarming revelations on Pryor and Sessions were coming soon, it unleashed a deluge of nutty comments that, indeed, seemed to come directly from a post-truth world. Most of them were based on raw emotion, foul language (or both), and I deleted most of them or sent them to spam.

    Given the timing of the comments, after the Pryor and Sessions posts, it seems pretty clear they come from Trumpistas. We even have some hard evidence that they came from folks associated with Trump.

    I've pulled a few of the comments out of the dust bins to give you an idea of what a "post-truth world" might look like -- and it's not a pretty sight. We will take a look at the "mindset" of certain Trump supporters in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

    0 0

    Iqbal and Twombly have greatly increased the chances
    that legitimate claims will be dismissed in
    federal court before they even get started.
    (From orrick.com)
    A pair of abominable U.S. Supreme Court decisions -- known collectively as "Iqbal" and "Twombly" -- have denied access to federal courts for hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of everyday Americans. If that weren't bad enough, the cases have helped clog the courts over the past 10 years or so with dubious Motions to Dismiss, many of which resort to gross misstatements of fact and law in an effort to get defendants off the hook before a lawsuit even starts.

    My wife, Carol, and I have seen evidence of this firsthand, as Motions to Dismiss flow in from our federal lawsuit about the wrongful foreclosure on our Birmingham home of 25 years. ("The House Case," as distinguished from "The Jail Case,"which also is pending and involves my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County.) In addition to federal and constitutional issues, "The House Case" involves a number of state-tort claims, including defamation, tortious interference, and invasion of privacy.

    This is the first in a series of posts where we will reveal the con games some defense lawyers play in an effort to keep their clients, many of then elite individuals or organizations, from being held accountable for wrongdoing. We will call this "The Real World of Iqbal and Twombly," two cases that hardly anyone can decipher and which should have been overridden by Congressional action some time ago.

    To put it bluntly, there is no way in hell "The House Case" can be dismissed, in whole and probably not in part. But that hasn't kept members of the defense bar from filing outlandish motions toward that very end -- and in the process, they have caused months of delay in a case that already should be deep into discovery, which defendants likely want to avoid at all costs.

    For the first trick in our series, we will show that numerous defense lawyers in the case don't even know the fundamental law of "Iqbal" and "Twombly," as it relates in the Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida). To illustrate this, we will borrow from a Motion to Dismiss (MTD) filed by Hearst Corporation, publisher of the women's fashion magazine Marie Claire,which published a defamatory article about me in October 2015.

    In addition to a couple of its in-house lawyers, Hearst is represented by the Birmingham firm of Lightfoot Franklin and White. From the Hearst MTD:

    Plaintiffs’ defamation claim against the Hearst Defendants is deficient as a matter of law and should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must include sufficient “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff has failed to allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,” including when the complaint does no more than provide “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007).

    What is happening here? Hearst and its lawyers are trying to hold us to the ill-defined "heightened pleading standards" of Iqbal and Twombly. But Hearst and all of the other defendants who made similar arguments have a slight problem -- there is no heightened pleading standard in the Eleventh Circuit.

    We know that from a case styled Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 710 (11th Cir. 2010), which holds:

    We conclude that the district court erred in applying a heightened pleading standard to Randall's complaint. After Iqbal it is clear that there is no "heightened pleading standard" as it relates to cases governed by Rule 8(a)(2), including civil rights complaints.

    Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) has determined the bar that plaintiffs must clear to survive a Motion to Dismiss -- and it has applied since the federal rules were adopted in 1938. Rule 8 holds that a plaintiff must provide:

    "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."

    That's the standard in the Eleventh Circuit, and our complaint easily meets it. (The Complaint is embedded at the end of this post, along with the Hearst Motion to Dismiss.) I would argue that we also easily meet the Iqbal and Twombly"plausibility standard," but that is a moot point because Rule 8 holds sway for almost all cases in the Eleventh Circuit.

    I'm not the only one who knows what the actual pleading standard is in the Eleventh Circuit. U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, who is handling both of our pending cases, has indicated he knows it, too. That comes from Proctor's memorandum opinion in a case styled Bey v. Abrams, ND Alabama (2015). Here are Proctor's words from Bey: (Note: Proctor's language is a confusing mishmash of findings from Iqbal and Twombly, and Randall. But he acknowledges the Randall finding and seems to indicate it is binding law.)

    To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a `probability requirement,'" the complaint must demonstrate "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. A plausible claim for relief requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. After Iqbal, which applied the Twombly pleading standard in a civil rights/qualified immunity context, "there is no longer a `heightened pleading' standard in `cases governed by Rule 8(a)(2), including civil rights [cases]' under § 1983." Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262, 1266 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 710 (11th Cir. 2010))

    While Proctor's opinion hardly is a model of clarity, the bottom line is this: There is no heightened pleading standard in the Eleventh Circuit, and our case is governed by the "short and plain statement" standard of Rule 8.

    This is one of many instances where defense lawyers have tried to muddy the waters in "The House Case." We will look at other examples shortly.

    (To be continued)

    0 0

    Dr. Mark Hayden appeared
    chipper on the morning of
    his arrest. He now seeks
    release from the Jefferson
    County Jail
    An Alabama physician was arrested two weeks ago, and he still is being held in the Jefferson County Jail, on contempt-of-court charges that appear dubious at best.

    Dr. Mark Hayden was arrested on November 28 while working in the emergency room at Bullock County Hospital in Union Springs. Two days ago, he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking release based on the claim that he was arrested "on a sham warrant that did not allege a crime -- no misdemeanor, no felony." Hayden wound up in jail because of various civil claims that are multi-jurisdictional in nature. In his habeas corpus petition, Hayden states that he recently received a default judgment in Clark County, Nevada (where Las Vegas is located), establishing facts in his favor. Alabama courts apparently ignored that finding and ordered his arrest anyway.

    Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo ordered Hayden's arrest based, in part, on a permanent injunction that prohibited Hayden from engaging in litigation on certain issues in other jurisdictions. Does Graffeo have the authority to make such a ruling, one that forbids a party from seeking justice in what appear to be proper jurisdictions, both state and federal? Graffeo does not cite any valid, on-point law in his order that justifies such an action.

    Hayden's arrest grew from a lawsuit styled William B. Cashion and Western Steel Inc. v. Steven Mark Hayden, et al, CV-2012-209. The lawsuit and associated cases have crossed multiple jurisdictional lines -- from Jefferson and Elmore counties in Alabama, Clark County in Nevada, along with at least three federal claims in the Northern and Middle districts of Alabama. From an earlier post, here's how we explained issues in the Cashion case:

    At the heart of the controversy is William B. Cashion, an 84-year-old businessman (he probably is 87 now) who is co-founder of Bessemer-based Western Steel Inc. (WSI) and a shareholder in several other Alabama corporate entities. In 2007, while in the midst of a divorce, Cashion executed a durable power of attorney, designating his nephew, Dr. Steven Mark Hayden, as his agent and attorney-in-fact.

    Cashion remarried in 2008, and his new wife, Frankie B. Cashion, states in court documents that her husband became obsessed with investments in Alabama gold mines that supposedly were to generate large sums of revenue. Mrs. Cashion states in an affidavit that her husband invested almost $7 million in the gold-mining project before she was able to stop him."He is at risk of selling interest in his fraudulent gold mine to other investors which would be based on fraudulent assays. . . . , " Mrs. Cashion states. "His family, friends, and business are being harmed by his poor judgment."

    In 2011, Dr. Steven Hayden used his authority as power of attorney to form the William B. Cashion Nevada Spendthrift Trust (WBC Trust), and all of Cashion's stock in WSI was transferred to the Trust. Angela Rae Hayden, Steven Hayden's wife, serves as trustee of the WBC Trust, and the Haydens live in Wetumpka, Alabama, where he practices family and emergency medicine.

    Bottom line: Dr. Hayden took action as power of attorney to keep his elderly uncle from throwing more money at gold-mining projects that, according to court documents, had produced no gold. The goal, documents suggest, was to keep Cashion's losses in the $7-million neighborhood.

    In 2012, Cashion filed a lawsuit in Clark County, Nevada, seeking to have the WBC Trust declared invalid, but that case was dismissed with prejudice. Cashion then filed a similar case in the Birmingham division of the Jefferson County Court, even though court documents show that none of the parties lived or operated a business in that division. Hayden and the trust argued the proper venue was Elmore County, where the alleged gold mine and related businesses were located.

    Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance Jr., operating a Commercial Litigation Docket (CLD) that since has been declared unconstitutional, made a series of favorable rulings for Cashion (and his lawyers from the Birmingham firm Maynard Cooper and Gale) while the case was assigned to another judge. How can a judge make rulings, favoring a wealthy party, when the case isn't even assigned to him -- and how can those rulings stand when the CLD has been discontinued on the grounds that it is unconstitutional? Those are just two of many troubling questions raised by the various Cashion cases, which cover five jurisdictions.

    For now, the most troubling questions are these: Why is Dr. Mark Hayden, who lives and operates a private practice in Wetumpka, in jail? Why was his wife, Angela Rae Hayden, arrested in October 2015 on identical grounds -- taken from her home, where she is the primary caregiver for the couple's 10-year-old autistic son?

    Here is how Dr. Hayden explains his arrest in the habeas corpus petition:

    They want me locked up indefinitely because I will not provide documents of the Cashion Family Trust.  

    Hayden further states that the trust has been dismissed and is not even a party to the Alabama litigation. How can Hayden be ordered to produce documents from an entity that is not a party to the case in question? How can Hayden be ordered by a judge in one jurisdiction not to pursue litigation in another jurisdiction?

    The answer to those questions are not clear, but Judge Graffeo seems to be on shaky ground regarding the second question.  In his Order of Contempt, Graffeo cites Ex Parte Franklin, 792 So. 2d 444 (Ala Ct Crim App, 2001) to support his claim that "courts have an inherent power to regulate the activities of abusive litigants by imposing carefully tailored restrictions under the appropriate circumstances." (Both the Order of Contempt and Dr. Hayden's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus are embedded at the end of this post.)

    But that directly contradicts what the Franklin court actually held. In fact, the Franklin court overturned a trial court's order to the Houston County clerk to prohibit the filing of any further petitions by Franklin. a prisoner who was seeking to prove his innocence via newly discovered evidence. From the appellate ruling in Franklin:

    "Courts have an `inherent power . . . to regulate the activities of abusive litigants by imposing carefully tailored restrictions under the appropriate circumstances.' Cotner v. Hopkins, 795 F.2d 900, 902 (10th Cir. 1986). While those conditions may be `onerous,' they `cannot be so burdensome, however, as to deny a litigant meaningful access to the courts.' Cotner, 795 F.2d at 902.

    You will notice that Graffeo cites the first sentence in Franklin's key finding, while ignoring the second sentence -- which appears to forbid his restrictions on Dr. Mark Hayden. Does that suggest Graffeo knowingly is operating outside the law, arresting Dr. Hayden (and his wife) with no lawful grounds for doing so?

    To be sure, the Cashion litigation has followed a long and winding road, across five jurisdictions, and we do not currently have access to all of the court records. But Graffeo's reliance on Franklin clearly is off target, which suggests the permanent junction is faulty, and Graffeo has no lawful grounds to order Dr. Hayden's arrest. It also suggests Graffeo is favoring a prominent Birmingham law firm and its wealthy client over a doctor and his wife from Elmore County.

    We will continue to research the facts and law surrounding the case, and we will seek more information about Dr. Mark Hayden's status as a prisoner at the Jefferson County Jail. For now, it appears he essentially has been kidnapped for holding documents that he is entitled to hold and seeking litigation that he is entitled to seek.

    0 0

    Alex Jones (right) and Trump mouthpiece Roger Stone
    What were the nutty, creepy comments that we received after our recent reports on Donald Trump nominee Jeff Sessions and likely nominee Bill Pryor? Are the comments connected to longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, a frequent guest on the Alex Jones InfoWars show and admitted associate of the WikiLeaks operation that produced hacked e-mails from the Hillary Clinton campaign?

    We will save that second question for another day? But we will dive right in on the first question and note that the deluge of comments, most of which I deleted or sent to spam, seem to come in several categories -- rants about the defamation lawsuit GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison brought against me, rants about the first nude Bill Pryor photo (a second one is coming), rants about our reporting on "Luv Guv" Bentley and his adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason, rants about alleged violations here of the Child Protection Act (related to the Pryor photo), bogus claims of e-mail communications with me, and harassing, profanity-filled tirades.

    I ran a few of these comments and tried to engage the sender in fact or reason-based dialogue. It soon became apparent that was a waste of time.

    Arecent Washington Post article helped explain that. Reporter Margaret Sullivan noted that Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes was introducing a "post-truth world," one where facts do not matter. Based on comments we've seen from apparent Trumpistas, the "post-truth world" already is here. Here are several examples:

    I. The Jessica Garrison Lawsuit

    (1) Trumpista (sent 12/2/16) --  "They already served you, and YOU are the one responsible for updating your mailing address. . . . They served you at your self-provided last known address, and that was sufficient. (The) judge did not accept (your) lawyer's shuffling excuses, and you lost because you didn't notify the court or check the docket. Frankly, I think you failed to update the court deliberately, in hopes you would delay proceedings.

    The Truth -- The first sentence tells you this anonymous commenter (they all are anonymous or appear to use fake names) is clueless. The issue in the Garrison case is not that I wasn't served originally; it's that I never received notice of Garrison's default-judgment application and hearing. Alabama law requires that a plaintiff (Garrison) provide three days' notice -- the burden is on Garrison, not me -- and it's undisputed that Garrison provided zero notice; the docket indicates she did not even try. That's why I did not appear for the hearing, why her default-judgment was entered without opposition, and why it now is void. Notice that the Trumpista relies on emotion and unsupported assertions and zero citations to law. That's a style we've seen over and over.

    (2) Trumpista (sent 12/3/16) -- "If the (default) motion didn't reach you it's because you avoided it. And the judge didn't give you any slack. His ruling isn't void or voidable, because his ruling is a discretionary one. It doesn't really matter, of course, whether the judgment is void or voidable, because you are judgment proof. You might have collection attempts made in the future if you ever inherit anything or win a lottery. They've got 20 years to collect.

    The Truth -- Alabama law could not be more clear on this. Without proper notice to defendant, an order of default is void, and it is not a matter of judicial discretion. Alabama law says such an order "is void, not merely voidable." (See Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing.) In fact, the order can be attacked as void at any time; there is no time limit on having the order declared a nullity. (See McConico v. Patterson.) Again, notice the Trumpista makes no citation to law; I suspect that's because the law does not matter to her and her brethren. She only cares about coming out on top in a corrupt world and harassing those who don't share her warped worldview.

    II. The First Nude Bill Pryor Photograph (It's not him, it's not him!)

    Trumpista (sent 11/25/16) -- "You can see what I've told you. Natural (hair) parts do not change over time by themselves. Pryor would have no reason to force a part change, the mid face is not the same, it's visible, measurable, and philtrums grow longer, not shorter with age. Pryor's ears are set higher. He has deviations in his nasal cartilage not visible in the pic of the adolescent nude. The nasal bridge and eye socket are different. You are a liar if you pretend measurable differences are not visible.

    "You don't have anyone who investigated the photo on tape saying there was a finding that the picture was of him. You can't, because there was no such finding, and the picture is of someone else."

    The Truth -- This person was asked to give her name, contact information, and any expertise upon which the claims are made. Of course, that information was not forthcoming. I have multiple law-enforcement officials and legal insiders -- some of them on tape -- stating that they were involved in an investigation of the Pryor photos when they first surfaced, they traced the photos to Monroe, Louisiana, (where Pryor went to college), and it is, in fact, the Bill Pryor who now is a federal judge. The commenter, by the way, has no answer for the fact that both the young and older Pryor have strabismus (crossed eyes) and attached ear lobes, relatively rare conditions.

    III. "Luv Guv" Bentley and his main squeeze, Rebekah Caldwell Mason

    Trumpista (sent 11/30/16) -- "My husband and I pay our taxes, Mr. Shuler, allowing people like you to live off social services. Oh, don't think we don't know all about your current circumstances. Confidential my ass. You sick fuck.

    "I don't usually swear, but when someone is a sick fuck -- like Roger Shuler -- I call them a sick fuck. Seriously, I've never been so sympathetic toward redneck police before reading about what has happened to Shuler.

    :Shuler needs an ethics checker. I never claimed to be intelligent, but I'm not an old pervy prick like you, Shuler."

    The Truth -- Now, that was enlightening, wasn't it? That was attached to a post about Bentley and Mason, although I don't know why. After all, Bentley supported John Kasich, not Trump. Anyway, it's nice to know that a person who uses the term "sick fuck" over and over doesn't normally swear. Must be one of Trump's supporters from the religious right.

    IV. The nude Pryor photo is of an under-aged teen, pointing to a violation of the Child Protection Act

    Trumpista (sent 11/28/16) -- "We are legally and morally obligated to report content online that we reasonably believe does not comply with the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act. Period, full stop. You cannot prove that the nude image you published is of a person 18 years of age or older. This is not in dispute at all.

    "We will keep reporting your site, FOREVER, to make sure that your abusive exploitation of children and adults is flagged by Google, Bing, and everyone else. I think you can expect us to never give up.

    "You produce fake news that abuses women and children."

    The Truth -- This came from a repeat commenter who calls herself "Sarah." I have multiple law-enforcement and legal figures on tape saying the photo was taken while THE Bill Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now Louisiana Monroe) and, like most college students, he was 18 or over. The Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act " places stringent record-keeping requirements on the producers of actual, sexually explicit materials. The guidelines for enforcing these laws . . . require producers of sexually explicit material to obtain proof of age for every model they shoot, and retain those records." Is Legal Schnauzer a "producer of sexually explicit material," one who "shoots models"? Not exactly. I pointed this out to "Sarah," but she wasn't interested in hearing it because it is . . . the truth.

    V. I'm telling you that we communicated via e-mail, and you said ugly things to me!

    Trumpista (sent 11/28/16) -- "I've engaged Mr. Shuler twice now through email about important issues, and each time he has ended up demanding to know "who I am working for" and my home address. Well, he has my real name (twice now!) but not my address, because we all know what he will do with that information: try and connect me with his other "enemies" in his vast, impossible conspiracy, and then sexually smear me (I'm a woman).

    The Truth -- This was another missive from "Sarah." I told her I had no memory of communicating with someone who went only by the first name of Sarah, and that I had checked my records and found no such communications. I asked "Sarah" to send me copies of such e-mails and -- surprise, surprise -- I'm still waiting for them.

    VI. Cursing and harassing up a storm

    Trumpista (sent 11/30/16) -- "I don't usually swear, but when someone is a sick fuck -- like Roger Shuler -- I call them a sick fuck."

    The Truth -- I don't have anything to add. Just had to repeat that classic.

    Trumpista (sent 11/29/16) -- "Coward. You endanger children. Coward. You whore out your wife. Coward. You lie. You lie. Coward. You hate children."

    The Truth -- Something tells me this person thinks I'm a coward. And "you whore out your wife"? Where on earth did that come from? As you can see, this person is more than a little unhinged, and I've received several dozen similar comments.

    So, the "post-truth" world is coming? My mailbox says it's already here.

    0 0

    Bill Pryor, from badpuppy.com
    Federal circuit judge and former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor is among President-Elect Donald Trump's top two choices to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a new report at al.com. The news comes as we are set to publish a second nude photograph of Pryor from his picture gallery that appeared at the gay-pornography site badpuppy.com in the late 1990s.

    Pryor, from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida), and Diane Sykes, from the Seventh Circuit (covering Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) lead Trump's list SCOTUS possibilities. The Eleventh Circuit is based in Atlanta, but Pryor's duty station is at the Hugo Black Courthouse in Birmingham, and he resides in Vestavia Hills.

    We have reported several times recently that Pryor probably is at or near the top of Trump's list because of Pryor's close ties to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is the president-elect's choice to be attorney general.

    Pryor is an ardent opponent of gay rights, even though his nude image (taken while he was in college at Northeast Louisiana University, now Louisiana Monroe) has appeared at multiple gay-porn print publications, along with digital sites -- the most prominent being Bad Puppy, which is considered a "super store" of gay porn. We broke the story of Pryor's ties to gay porn in September 2013, and roughly one month later, Alabama deputies kidnapped me from our own home and tossed me in the Shelby County Jail for five months. Was that due to my reporting on Pryor (and perhaps other reports I was working on)? I have no doubt the answer is yes.

    In recent weeks, I've tracked down multiple individuals who knew Pryor from his days in Louisiana. They report that the nude photos are, in fact, of THE Bill Pryor, and they report extensive details about their relationships with him. One of those relationships was of an intimate nature, and the man involved is willing to provide details.

    That suggests Pryor is little more than a glorified organized-crime figure. We also are preparing one or more revealing posts about dubious associations in Sessions' past -- ties that the Alabama mainstream press (MSM) has ignored for years.

    Today's report about Pryor's standing in TrumpWorld, which originated with CNN, confirms our reporting that he was a strong candidate to replace Scalia. From al.com's version of the report:

    Donald Trump has reportedly narrowed his Supreme Court choices down to two candidates: Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Sykes and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge - and former Alabama Attorney General - William "Bill" Pryor.

    The two judges have emerged from a list of 20 possible replacement for late Justice Antonin Scalia, CNN reported. Trump transition aide Jason Miller would not confirm the report, only saying the Supreme Court vacancy is "actively being discussed."

    "The President-elect, he had previously put out a list of 20 very qualified individuals from which he would select. I know that they have continued to narrow that list down," Miller said. "He himself has said that's probably a shorter list of five or six folks that are near the top of that, that's being narrowed down to. And again, but this is another one where it's an absolute utmost priority, so we need to make sure we get this one right."

    Pryor holds such extremist, right-wing views -- and his qualifications are so thin (he had never been a judge at any level, not even traffic court) -- that it required a recess appointment from George W. Bush to get the Alabamian's foot inside the federal judiciary door. It long has been reported that the appointment was a reward for Pryor (while Alabama AG) launching an investigation of Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, which led to a dubious federal prosecution that has Siegelman now residing at a U.S. prison in Oakdale, Louisiana.

    Judge Bill Pryor
    From today's al.com story:

    Pryor, 54, is a Mobile native and Tulane Law School graduate. He served as Alabama's Attorney General from 1997-2004, becoming the youngest state AG in the U.S. In 2005, Pryor was nominated by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals and was appointed after a contentious hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Pryor was eventually confirmed on a 53 to 45 vote after a brokered deal between Republicans and Democrats.

    From the original CNN story:

    Pryor, a staunch conservative, called Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision making abortion legal, the "worst abomination in the history of constitutional law."

    The 54-year-old Tulane Law University grad sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Neither CNN nor al.com mentioned Pryor's ties to gay porn, even though my original reporting received widespread attention in the Web press. The issue could prove to be Pryor's largest hurdle to reaching SCOTUS. Evidence suggests Pryor failed to disclose his nude photographs -- all federal nominees are asked if there is anything in their past that could embarrass them or the president who nominated them -- and that likely would mean he lied to the FBI and to Congress. That is a crime that Pryor apparently has gotten away with once. Is he ready to follow that risky path again?

    The answer to that question almost certainly is yes, given Pryor's ambition, sense of entitlement, hunger for power, and greatly inflated assessment of his abilities. But we soon will be publishing more information about his Bad Puppy days. It will be interesting to see if the MSM, Congressional leaders, Democrat opponents, or others take notice. It should disqualify Pryor on the spot for SCOTUS, and a serious investigation likely would get him tossed off the bench and prosecuted for multiple felonies.

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