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

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    Liberty Duke
    Alabama lobbyist Liberty Duke has failed to make any defense to allegations in a federal lawsuit that she essentially stole roughly $9,000 of excess foreclosure funds that, by law, belong to us.

    Duke, representing herself, made three procedural arguments in a Motion to Dismiss (MTD). But she had no response to allegations that she essentially stole our money. That means our claim cannot, under the law, be dismissed. Her procedural arguments also fall well short of the mark. (Duke's MTD, and our response to it, are embedded at the end of this post.)

    Until now, Duke is best known for her relationship with GOP operative Rob "Uday" Riley, and their joint effort to have me unlawfully incarcerated for five months in Shelby County. She might wind up being even better known as a thief.

    I use the term "essentially stole" above because, for now, this is a civil matter, and the general civil term for theft is "conversion." We, however, have found a case in Florida that involved almost identical facts to our case, and it was treated as a criminal matter. In fact, a Florida lawyer who engineered the scam was convicted of embezzlement and wound up with a 10-year prison sentence.

    Could a similar fate await Liberty Duke, plus the lawyers and mortgage bankers who helped her secure our money? We will address that question in an upcoming post.

    For now, our focus is on Duke's Motion to Dismiss, and like almost all the other MTDs filed in our "House Case," it makes improper reliance on "Iqbal" and "Twombly," the two U.S. Supreme Court cases that have made it easier for defendants to get often valid lawsuits dismissed before they even start.

    Duke claims that my wife, Carol, and I failed to meet the "heightened pleading standards" of Iqbal and Twombly. But, as we've already shown, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) has rejected heightened pleading standards, holding that the matter is governed (as it has been for almost 70 years) by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    In fact, we recently discovered a second Eleventh Circuit case on the subject; it is styled Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262, 1266 (11th Cir. 2014). From Saunders:

    Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). After Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-69, 685-86, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), 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. Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 710 (11th Cir.2010).

    Based partly on Randall v. Scott, the Eleventh Circuit overturned the trial court's dismissal in Saunders, which involved civil rights and police brutality issues.

    What about allegations in our lawsuit that Liberty Duke stole about $9,000 of excess foreclosure funds that belong to us, apparently with help from Huntsville lawyer Robert Wermuth, officials from Chase Mortgage, and perhaps others. This is from our complaint:

    A friend helped the Shulers obtain a copy of the foreclosure deed, which showed the house drew a price about $9,000 above the amount owed on the mortgage. That amount, therefore, was the Shuler’s equity, and it was due to be paid to them. But Wermuth and Stephens Millirons never fulfilled their duties to disburse the funds to the Shulers. Instead, Roger Shuler had to contact the firm, only to be told that the money had been sent to Liberty Duke, as an alleged creditor in the Riley/Duke lawsuit. There never was a trial or final judgment in the Riley/Duke case, so Liberty Duke could not possibly have any lawful claim to the Shulers’ equity funds. She basically stole almost $9,000 from the Shulers . . .

    You might think it would be important for Liberty Duke to respond to such a serious allegation, one that might turn out to be criminal, as well as civil. But she does not mention it in her MTD. My understanding is that a court must take our allegations on that issue as uncontroverted. I take it as an admission that Liberty Duke stole our money -- and she has taken no steps to make sure it is returned to its rightful owners.

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    Will Pringle
    (From csattorneys.com
    An attorney who has practiced at two prominent downtown-Birmingham law firms appears as a paying customer at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site.

    William R. "Will" Pringle has worked at Christian and Small (CS) and Wiggins Childs Quinn and Pantazis (WCQP). Pringle started at CS in 2004, working primarily in transportation, premises liability, and labor and employment, becoming a partner in 2010. He became co-chair of the CS technology and emerging growth companies practice group in 2012.

    He moved to WCQP, now known as Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb (WCPFG) in 2014, and his time there was brief. WCPFG is the largest employment-discrimination/civil rights law firm in the state, so that likely was Pringle's focus while he was there.

    Pringle now is head of the WRP Law firm, which does not appear to have a Web site, and serves as general counsel for the State Traditions apparel company, based in Birmingham.

    Catherine Pringle
    Will Pringle is married to Catherine Cooper Pringle, and images from her Facebook page indicate they have three young children. Mrs. Pringle earned a degree in interior design from the University of Alabama, and now has her own company, Catherine Pringle Design.

    According to public records, the Pringles live at 2932 Brook Hollow Lane in Mountain Brook. Their home has an appraised value of $568,200.

    We sought comment from Will Pringle for this post, but he has not responded.


    (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)

    (19) Bill Smith III -- CEO, Royal Cup Coffee, Birmingham (11/12/16)

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    Ronnie Cottrell
    (From tiderinsider.com)
    If you ever are a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit, how might a defense attorney concoct a bogus Motion to Dismiss that could deny you even a chance for justice? It is much easier for the defense to pull off such a scam, in the post "Iqbal" and "Twombly" world that has turned pleading standards on their heads in the past 10 years or so. The two U.S. Supreme Court findings are so confusing and poorly reasoned that many plaintiffs' lawyers have no idea what they mean, and you can bet their clients are stumbling in the dark, too.

    Defense lawyers in our ongoing "House Case" are so prone to chicanery they argue, in essence, that I have more notoriety, because of my blog, than a University of Alabama football coach -- and an equal amount of notoriety to another UA coach. No kidding. And that is supposed to help bolster their case. I will explain how in a moment. First, let's consider this:

    In the courtroom world, confusion usually benefits the defense -- certainly in a criminal case, and even in a civil case. Here is an instance where defense lawyers try to create confusion in an effort to get their clients (likely corporate, institutional, or moneyed types) off the hook without having to face discovery that could reveal their misconduct. This example comes straight from our own recent experience in a case styled Shuler, et al v. Garrison, et al, which we call "The House Case" because it deals with the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham (plus associated issues, such as defamation) and to distinguish it from a second pending case, Shuler, et al v. Duke, et al ("The Jail Case"), which largely involves my wrongful incarceration for five months in Shelby County.

    "The House Case" provides a classic example of how desperate defendants are to avoid discovery and the possibility it might unmask their unlawful acts and expose their liability. The case shows that defense lawyers are trying, without any discovery or facts to support their claim, to have me declared a public figure -- or at the very least, a limited-purpose public figure -- which raises the plaintiff's bar in a defamation case to proving "actual malice." That standard, in essence, means the publisher knew the article was false -- or had reckless disregard for the truth -- and it's much more difficult to prove than the standard for a private person.

    So, it's important for defendants to make a flimsy effort at showing I am at least a limited-purpose public figure. In the process, they prove that they are con artists -- and lazy con artists at that.

    In a reply brief to her Motion to Dismiss (Document 107 for those with access to PACER), al.com reporter Leada Gore uses 2 1/2 pages of an eight-page document in an attempt to show that I'm a public figure. (Our response to Doc. 107 and related matters is embedded at the end of this post.)

    Gore cites 13 cases, and every one of them involves a case that went to summary judgment (involving discovery) or a trial on the merits (which involves both discovery and evidence presented at trial). Bottom line: Gore, and her lawyers from the Birmingham firm Lightfoot Franklin and White try to show I'm a public figure at the Motion Dismiss stage by citing more than a dozen cases that had nothing to do with Motions to Dismiss. In every case that Gore cites, discovery was required to determine the plaintiff's public-figure status. But she wants that status affixed to me, without any discovery at all.

    Leada Gore
    (From al.com)
    In essence, she wants a judge to guess at it -- in hopes she will get lucky, while citing no law that shows it's supposed to be done that way. As a side benefit for Gore, if the scam works, she would not have to answer pesky questions under oath or turn over documents related to her reporting on the Garrison case.

    Her lawyers more or less admit they are engaging in con artistry. On page one of their document, they cite Cottrell v. NCAA, 975 So. 2d 306 (Ala., 2007) for its holding that "two University of Alabama assistant football coaches were, in fact, limited-purpose public figures." That, not surprisingly, isn't true. One of the Alabama coaches, Ronnie Cottrell, was found to be a limited-purpose public figure; the other coach, Ivy Williams, was not.

    The flimflammery from Gore's lawyers does not stop with that "mistake." They write: "Although the legal determination in that case (Cottrell) was rendered on a full record, here, Plaintiff's own allegations are enough to determine that Mr. Shuler is at least a limited-purpose public figure."

    Yeah, right. Do lawyers the Lightfoot lawyers provide a single citation from Alabama state law or Eleventh Circuit federal law to support that claim? Nope. The law plainly shows that a determination regarding public-figure status must be made with the assistance of fact-finding, via discovery. But Leada Gore's lawyers don't want to go there.

    The Lightfoot gang actually thinks that, because of what Jessica Garrison has called my "ridiculous little blog," I have more notoriety than one former member of the University of Alabama football coaching staff (Ivy Williams) and equal notoriety of a second former member (Ronnie Cottrell)? Maybe this should be called the Lighthead law firm.

    This would be an interesting test: Send out notice that two UA football coaches will appear at a prominent spot in downtown Birmingham to take questions from the public -- and at the same time, in another prominent downtown location, the publisher of the Legal Schnauzer blog will be taking questions. See which one draws the bigger crowd.

    Finally, the Lightfoot lawyers prove they are a lazy bunch. Most of the 13 cases they cite are drawn directly from a case styled San Antonio Exp. News v. Dracos, 922 SW 2d 242 - Tex: Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 1996. The firm probably will bill Leada Gore or her employer (Alabama Media Group) several thousand dollars -- maybe $10,000 or more -- for preparing an eight-page document that largely was a cut-and-paste job. And it did not even involve accurate citations to law.

    I probably am not a public figure, limited-purpose or otherwise, but I certainly do not become one just because of vague, conclusory statements from Leada Gore's lazy lawyers. That determination cannot be made without fact-finding -- and Gore's lawyers are desperate to avoid that.

    (To be continued)

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    David Guttery
    (From keystonefingrp.com)
    A senior account manager with a Birmingham-based wealth-management company is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, records show.

    David R. Guttery, a registered financial consultant (RFC) at Nowlin and Associates, has met the "high standards of education, experience, and integrity" in his field. Records from Ashley Madison, however, show that Guttery has actively tried to cheat on his wife, perhaps raising questions about the "integrity" part of his certification.

    It's hard to imagine a field where trust is more central than with wealth management and financial consulting. Clients essentially put their financial futures in Guttery's hands. If he screws up or acts in a reckless manner, his clients can be ruined. Perhaps clients have grounds for putting trust in Guttery, but public records indicate his wife, Maria, does not.

    At Nowlin and Associates, Guttery answers to founder and managing director Charles E. Nowlin and senior vice president Justin R. Craft.

    Here is information about Guttery's professional status, from the Nowlin and Associates Web site. It notes that he is president of the Keystone Financial Group in Trussville, which is affiliated with the Nowlin firm. That means Guttery provides financial services for at least two firms:

    David is an Investment Advisory Representative (IAR) and holds the designations of Registered Financial Consultant (RFC®), and Chartered Asset Manager. He is also a member of the American Academy of Financial Management. He is a 1991 graduate of the University of Alabama and is the President of The Keystone Financial Group in Trussville, Alabama, which is affiliated with Nowlin and Associates in Birmingham.

    This is from Guttery's biography at the Keystone Financial Group Web site:

    Maria and Brandon Guttery
    (From facebook.com)
    Biography --
    *1991 Graduate of the Manderson School of Commerce and Business Administration, The University of Alabama, BS Finance.

    *Native of Florence, Alabama.

    *David, and his family currently reside in Trussville, Alabama.

    *Past four term President and two term Treasurer of former Home Owners' Association.

    *Member of Clearbranch United Methodist Church, past chairman of the finance committee, and current praise team member.

    *Trussville Sports and Recreation Youth League Basketball Coach

    *Trussville Parks and Recreation Department Board

    *Founder and Director of the Trussville Recreational Youth Sports Foundation (TRYS Foundation)

    Here is more about Guttery's background, showing that he and Maria Walters Guttery have one son, Brandon:

    David's community involvement includes serving the Clearbranch United Methodist Church of Trussville as the vice chairman of its finance committee and as a member of its Praise Team. He also serves upon the Advisory Board of the Trussville City Schools Foundation. In the winter time, David is a youth league basketball coach with Trussville Parks and Recreation. David and his wife Maria have one son, Brandon.

    Here is a link to Maria Walters Guttery's Facebook page. It appears that David Guttery has a lot going for him, much to be thankful for. So why has he fooled around on Ashley Madison. We sought comment from him for this article, but he has not responded.


    (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)

    (19) Bill Smith III -- CEO, Royal Cup Coffee, Birmingham (12/12/16)

    (20) Willl Pringle -- attorney, WRP Law Firm, Birmingham (12/19/16)

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    Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange
    (From marieclaire.com)
    Alabama GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison filed at least three default-judgment applications in her defamation lawsuit against the Legal Schnauzer blog and me. Two were filed while I was wrongfully incarcerated in Shelby County because of the Rob Riley/Liberty Duke case. At least one more was filed within roughly six months after my wife, Carol, and I had been forced to leave our home of 25 years in Birmingham because of a likely wrongful foreclosure that left us in Missouri, where we currently reside.

    This information comes from the docket in the Garrison case (Number CV-2013-903427.00), which was produced among responsive pleadings in our pending federal lawsuit against Garrison, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, and others in a wrongful foreclosure/defamation action. We call it "The House Case," as opposed to "The Jail Case," which is on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit because of trial judge R. David Proctor and his refusal to follow black-letter law that requires court clerks to execute service for in forma pauperis (indigent) litigants such as us. (Docket from the Garrison v. Shuler state case is embedded at the end of this post.)

    The docket, which I don't think I've ever seen because I either was in jail, in the midst of a fighting a foreclosure, or forced to live like a refugee in Missouri, is filled with interesting information -- even though some of it is not perfectly clear. I'm still trying to digest the information, so I'm not certain about all it reveals. But here is some of what we learn:

    * There is no sign that I ever received three days' notice from Garrison of her default application and hearing, as required by Alabama law -- spelled out in a case styled Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing (Ala. Civ. App., 2010). As we've been reporting for months, the docket shows Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment is void, as a matter of law, and can be attacked as such at any time.

    * While the docket hardly is a model of clarity, it appears to show that Garrison and her lawyer, Bill Baxley, never even sent notification of the default application/hearing, and it certainly was not received. What does this suggest? It suggests, to me, that Garrison and Baxley intentionally avoided notification because they did not want me at the default hearing. Obviously, it's easier to prevail on such a matter when you have no opposition.

    * The court record suggests Garrison's lawsuit was about obtaining a default judgment all along -- and nothing else. Why? The docket shows she first applied for a default judgment on October 21, 2013, less than one month from my arrest (on September 23, 2013) related to the Riley/Duke case. I had not been lawfully served -- and Judge Don Blankenship eventually would agree, granting my motion to quash service -- and I had not even had the 30 days provided by law to answer the complaint, but Garrison filed for a default judgment anyway. Does that mean she was trying to use my incarceration to her advantage? It sure looks that way to me.

    Garrison next filed for a default judgment on February 20, 2014, again while I was in jail. I never received notice of a default application or hearing while in jail, and the docket reflects that.

    * All this time, there is no sign in the docket that Garrison was trying to prove her defamation claim in the usual way -- via a scheduling meeting, a discovery schedule, or any actual discovery. There was no sign of any effort to prove my reporting about her extramarital affair with Luther Strange was false or defamatory. Does that mean they knew my reporting was not false or defamatory, and Garrison had no grounds for her lawsuit? That's what the docket strongly suggests -- and the filing of such an abusive lawsuit is the kind of thing that can cost a lawyer her bar card.

    * Garrison filed for default No. 3 on September 17, 2014, roughly two months after we had been forced to vacate our home because of a foreclosure that almost certainly was contrary to law? Does this indicate the foreclosure and the default (and possibly my incarceration) were all a coordinated effort among Garrison, Baxley, Riley, Duke, and likely others -- designed to get Carol and me out of town so Garrison could get her $3.5-million judgment with no opposition? The answer appears to be yes, suggesting Garrison (like any good Republican) likes to cheat. The docket suggests her lawsuit was the legal equivalent of catching fish in a barrel.

    * A hearing on default application No. 3 -- again, with no sign of notice to me -- was set for October 15, 2014, but the docket shows that was continued. It does not show a new date, and in fact, the docket does not show that a hearing ever was scheduled or conducted. An entry on December 16, 2014 reads "disposed by separate order." That suggests default was granted, but news apparently did not get to Garrison because, on January 7, 2015, she filed a motion for an order rendering judgment by default. The record shows such an order was rendered and entered six days later, on January 13, 2015.

    How big a mess is all of this? The docket shows that three default applications were filed, and the opposing party never received notice on any of them. While Baxley and Garrison have whined in court documents that they couldn't find me to provide notice, they sought default twice while I was in jail -- so they certainly knew where I was then. (Gee, Baxley and Garrison wouldn't lie, would they?) The docket suggests default was granted, even though there is no sign that a hearing was conducted.

    So how did Blankenship come up with the $3.5-million figure for damages? Well, the docket and other documents produced in "The House Case" shine interesting light on that, as we will explain in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Stalking is a peculiar issue in our "House Case"
    (From lithub.com)
    What do students learn in law school? Based on personal experience, I would say many of them learn how to cheat people, including their own clients. Members of the bar have almost endless techniques for cheating people -- maybe more than any other profession in the world -- and documents in our pending "House Case" reveal a particularly sneaky form of underhandedness. We are filing it under the heading "When in doubt, leave it out."

    It comes from Hearst Corporation, publishers of the Marie Claire women's fashion magazine that published an article in October 2015 that included several false and defamatory statements about me. Hearst is represented in the proceeding by a couple of in-house lawyers from New York City, plus two or three from Birmingham's Lightfoot Franklin and White firm. Get a load of a scheme they presented in their Motion to Dismiss for the "House Case."

    The article in question was an "as told to" piece that Alabama GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison dreamed up, apparently with no questioning from writer Liz Welch, about experiences surrounding the $3.5-million default judgment she received against me. The article contains at least three statements that are false and defamatory: (1) That I reported Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange was the biological father of Garrison's child; (2) That Garrison claimed I was stalking her, and stalking is a crime; (3) That the court proceedings involved a trial.

    For now, let's focus on item No. 2. Hearst lawyers claimed that the statement they published regarding stalking could not be defamatory because it was in the form of a question. (Kind of like on Jeopardy!, I guess.) Here's how the Hearst lawyers explained the law: (Their brief, and our response to it, are embedded at the end of this post.)

    A prerequisite to establishing a prima facie defamation claim is the publication of a false statement of fact. See, e.g., Corporate Am. Car Wash Sys. v. City of Birmingham, 165 F. Supp. 3d 1117, 1127 (N.D. Ala. 2016). “A statement of fact is not shielded from an action for defamation by being prefaced with the words ‘in my opinion,’ but if it is plain that the speaker is expressing a subjective view, an interpretation, a theory, conjecture, or surmise, rather than claiming to be in possession of objectively verifiable facts, the statement is not actionable.” Marshall v. Planz, 13 F. Supp. 2d 1246, 1257 (M.D. Ala. 1998) (quoting Haynes v. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 8 F.3d 1222, 1227 (7th Cir. 1993)).

    Is that an accurate statement of the law? Knowing the Hearst grew, I'd say that's debatable. But this much is certain: The citation relies on two cases from Alabama district courts, which generally do not produce binding law. Law that sets precedent comes from circuit courts, such as the U.S. Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida), or the U.S. Supreme Court.

    For now, we are going to overlook such technicalities and assume the statement is at least somewhat close to the actual law. Let's look at how Hearst spins things:

    Here, in the Article Ms. Garrison does not state as a matter of fact that Mr. Shuler was stalking her. To the contrary, she informs the readers about her concern when Mr. Shuler posted a photograph of her home on his blog, and wondered: “Had he been at my house? Was he stalking me?” She is clearly expressing “conjecture or surmise, rather than claiming to be in possession of objectively verifiable facts, [and thus] the statement is not actionable.” Id.

    That's swell and peachy, but here's the catch: Hearst did not provide the full Garrison quote from the Marie Claire article. The full quote apparently caused them doubt, so they left it out -- probably figuring the court would be no wiser. Here is the full Garrison quote on the subject of stalking from the article:

    “Shuler posted photos of my home on his website, which felt like a threat, not to mention a huge violation of privacy. Had he been at my house? Was he stalking me? I installed a home security system and put the police on notice. . . .

    Does Garrison live in a world of hysteria? Apparently so, because the photos in question came from a real-estate Web site and almost certainly were taken well before Garrison ever lived there. I didn't take them, and any reasonably grounded person could have determined that in a matter of seconds on the Web. The sentence "Was he stalking me?" is, in fact, in the form of a question. But look at the highlighted part above, the part Hearst's lawyers conveniently left out of their motion.

    Taken in context with the full quote, it's clear Garrison is not concerned about a general stalker or prowler. She's concerned about me, the guy who never had any significant interaction with law enforcement (other than maybe one or two traffic tickets) until I started reporting accurately on this blog about legal and political corruption in Alabama. Garrison says she installed a home security system because of me, and she put the police on notice because of me. It's not just a question. Here's how we responded to the Hearst argument:

    Re: Hearst’s claim that Garrison’s statement about Roger Shuler stalking her was a question posed in the article and not a statement of fact: On pp. 12-13, Hearst claims Garrison’s statement is a question, a matter of conjecture. But Hearst fails to cite the full statement. Here it is: “Shuler posted photos of my home on his website, which felt like a threat, not to mention a huge violation of privacy. Had he been at my house? Was he stalking me? I installed a home security system and put the police on notice. . . . “ The highlighted section clearly is not a question or a matter of conjecture. Garrison and Liz Welch tell Marie Claire’s readers that Garrison installed a home security system and put police on notice out of concerns about stalking. And it was not just a general concern; it specifically was about Roger Shuler. Stalking, of course, is a crime, which makes this a case of defamation per se, where false statements are considered harmful on their face.

    That last sentence is important. If defamation per se is proven, damages are assumed. And to publicly accuse a man of stalking, in today's environment of heightened sensitivities on gender issues, is serious business.

    I have no way of knowing what a court might do on this, or any other, issue. Defamation presents a particularly complex and tricky form of law. For example, someone once said that trying to determine a public figure in a defamation case is like "trying to nail a jellyfish to a wall."

    So, I will refrain from reaching too far on conclusions. But this much seems clear: The Hearst Motion to Dismiss almost certainly is due to be denied (on a number of grounds), and I am entitled to discovery that should reveal more information about what Jessica Garrison said to others (friends and neighbors, plus law enforcement) about the notion of me stalking her.

    The whole point of Hearst's deceitful motion is to avoid discovery. Well, by law, that effort should fail.

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    Jeff Sessions: CNN report raises questions about
    prosecutorial misconduct
    (From cnn.com)
    Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's planned nominee as U.S. attorney general, led an Alabama law-enforcement office that engaged in "pronounced and persistent" prosecutorial misconduct, according to a report yesterday from CNN.

    Sessions was Alabama attorney general from 1994-97, and you might expect the CNN report to make major news in his home state. But so far, we can find no coverage, at least among newspapers, in any of the state's four major media markets.

    Ironically, the CNN report touches on unlawful rulings in our pending federal lawsuit over my five-month incarceration in the Shelby County Jail, which made me the first U.S. journalist since 2006 to be jailed -- apparently the first one in U.S. history to be jailed because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case, which is an unlawful prior restraint.

    How does the CNN report hit our little corner of the world? Well, it doesn't do it directly. But it shines light on the connections between Sessions and U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, who has repeatedly violated black-letter law regarding our in forma pauperis (indigent) status in what we call "The Jail Case," currently on appeal before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit. Proctor also is handling "The House Case," which involves the wrongful foreclosure on our Birmingham home of 25 years (plus related issues, such as defamation and unjust enrichment).

    We will provide details about the Sessions-Proctor relationship, and how it could explain Proctor's corrupt actions, in an upcoming post. We also will show how the case at the center of the CNN report adds to evidence that Sessions holds racially dubious views -- and so does Proctor.

    For now, let's focus on the accusations against Sessions and his office, which grew from a tangled set of civil and criminal matters involving two Birmingham corporate entities -- USX Corp. and Tieco Inc. Allegations in the cases, which lasted for roughly five years, are convoluted, but here is the gist of it:

    USX alleged that Tieco engaged in fraud and other wrongdoing, essentially stealing funds via accounting trickery and other deceitful methods. Tieco filed a counterclaim, alleging that USX unlawfully used a criminal prosecution to help collect an alleged debt. Tieco also alleged that USX's lawyers from the Birmingham firm Burr Forman conspired with the Attorney General's office (and Jeff Sessions) to improperly seize Tieco's business records.

    During a criminal proceeding, former Jefferson County Circuit Judge James S. Garrett was unimpressed (to say the least) with the conduct of Sessions and his henchmen. From the CNN report:

    As Sen. Jeff Sessions awaits a confirmation hearing in hopes of becoming the next US attorney general, a blistering legal opinion on a case he oversaw as Alabama's top prosecutor two decades ago could emerge as an issue for the nominee.

    The 1997 "order and opinion" by an Alabama judge accused the state attorney general's office, which had been headed by Sessions, of the worst prosecutorial misconduct he'd ever seen.

    "The court finds that even having been given every benefit of the doubt, the misconduct of the Attorney General in this case far surpasses in both extensiveness and measure the totality of any prosecutorial misconduct ever previously presented to or witnessed by this court," wrote James S. Garrett, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge.

    The misconduct was "so pronounced and persistent," Garrett wrote, that "it permeates the entire atmosphere of this prosecution."

    Garrett went on to dismiss the criminal case against Tieco, but not before blasting Sessions and his team in a memorandum opinion. From CNN:

    A year after the high-profile indictments, Garrett found that the case was rife with prosecutorial misconduct, including failures to turn over exculpatory evidence, deceptive testimony by assistants or agents of the Attorney General and "flagrant disregard of the constitutional rights of those accused."

    "This court can only conclude it is dealing with either intentional and deliberate misconduct or conduct so reckless and improper as to constitute conscious disregard for the lawful duties of the Attorney General and the integrity and dignity of this court and this Judge."

    An ethics complaint against Sessions was dismissed, and he stepped down as attorney general after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.

    Retired Jeffco Judge James S. Garrett (right), who now
    lives in Lithia, Florida
    (From plantcitybar.com)
    On the civil side, a federal jury found for Tieco and awarded more than $7 million in damages, plus almost $1.5 million in attorney fees. In 2001, long after Sessions had left the AG's office, an Eleventh Circuit panel reversed the damages and attorney-fees finding for Tieco and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

    The appellate panel found that Garrett's opinion in the criminal case had improperly been entered as evidence in the civil case. The appellate court found that Garrett's opinion was "inadmissible hearsay."

    That more or less put Garrett's harsh words behind Sessions for about 15 years. But CNN's report has dug them back up. Soon, the nation will learn if its attorney general will be a man who was involved in what Judge James S. Garrett (a Republican, by the way) found to be the worst prosecutorial misconduct he had ever witnessed.

    (To be continued)

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    Dr. Mark Hayden
    Dr. Mark Hayden, an Alabama physician, who was arrested in late November on a dubious civil-contempt charge, has regained his freedom. Hayden was released from the Jefferson County Jail on Friday after a habeas corpus hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge John England. (Order related to habeas corpus is embedded at the end of this post.)

    Details about Hayden's release are murky at this time. It appears that England released him, although an order dated December 21, 2016 (two days before Hayden's release) does not specifically mention release. Did Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mike Graffeo, who signed the writ of arrest, order the release? It's possible, but we do not have access to the full case files -- and they involve both state and federal jurisdiction -- so many questions remain unanswered.

    The main point is this: Dr. Mark Hayden is a free man, and we will have more details in the coming days.

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    Liberty Duke
    Alabama lobbyist Liberty Duke, for the second time, has failed to make a valid defense to allegations in a federal lawsuit that she essentially stole about $9,000 in excess foreclosure funds that lawfully belong to us. We do learn from Duke's most recent filing that the funds did, in fact, go to her. Are they still in her possession? We don't know, but our guess is that she's already spent the money.

    If that's the case, and we have our way, she's going to have to find some funds (and then some) to compensate us for what amounts to civil theft. Our research indicates it could be criminal theft, and we are looking at filing a complaint -- against Duke and others responsible -- with the appropriate law-enforcement agency.

    In a Motion to Dismiss (MTD) filed on December 1, Duke offered no defense at all -- in fact, she did not mention the excess foreclosure funds. After we responded to her MTD, Duke filed a reply that mentions the funds, but again, offers no valid defense. This time, Duke admits that the funds went to her, but she cites no law showing they were supposed to wind up in her hands,

    For one thing, Duke's reply was due to be filed by December 19, per an order from U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor. It was filed on December 22, meaning it was three days late and is due to be denied in its entirety. (Court's order and Duke's reply are embedded at the end of this post.)

    Even if you ignore the timeliness problem with Duke's reply, she still offers no defense that holds up. From her reply:

    The Plaintiffs continue to allege that Defendant Duke "essentially stole 'converted' roughly $9,000 in excess foreclosure funds" from them. . . . There are no other allegations of anything Duke did that would give rise to a cause of action against her.

    These allegations in the Plaintiffs' Complaint do not "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."Twombly 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (sic). Again, it's not the inclusion of Duke in a list that warrants her dismissal but rather the Plaintiffs' failure to comply with basic pleading standards.

    The claim that "there are no other allegations" against Duke is plainly false. But even if it were true, a rational person might conclude that claims Duke stole thousands of dollars are serious, on their own. That Duke seems incapable of understanding would make me chuckle -- if it wasn't my money we are talking about. (Note: Duke's citation to Twombly is incorrect. The opinion was issued in 2007, not 1955.)

    The closest Duke comes to presenting an actual defense is to haul out the infamous Twombly case for the proposition that it requires heightened pleading standards. But we already have shown, in court documents and at this blog, that no such standards are required in the Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida), per a case styled Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 710 (11th Cir. 2010).

    Duke does make one other reference to the excess foreclosure funds. From her reply:

    With regard to Count Five, the only item allegedly converted by the Defendants, including Duke, is the proceeds from the foreclosure sale. Again, Duke received funds in satisfaction of a valid judgment against the Plaintiffs. There is no evidence that the judgment was invalidated prior to the receipt of funds. Therefore, the conversion count must fail.

    We learn two important facts here:

    (1) Duke admits she received the funds. Huntsville attorney Robert Wermuth, who represented Chase Mortgage in the foreclosure, told me via e-mail that the funds went to Duke, and we now know he actually told the truth about that.

    (2) Like Wermuth, Duke can cite no law that shows she was entitled to receive the funds. The actual law on the issue can be found at a case styled Cheryl Williams v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (S.D., Alabama, 2015). Wermuth and Duke seem blissfully unaware of the findings in Williams, which are based on a 1968 Alabama state-court ruling, which provides binding precedent in our case -- and it's not exactly new law:

    [A] mortgagee (Chase) is, in a sense, a trustee for the mortgagor (Carol and me), and is charged with the `duty of fairness and good faith in its execution to the end that the mortgagor's property may be disposed of to his pecuniary advantage in the satisfaction of his debt.'" Springer, 562 So. 2d at 139 (quoting J.H. Morris, Inc. v. Indian Hills, Inc., 212 So. 2d 831, 843 (Ala. 1968) (emphasis added)). Thus, "[t]he mortgagee, as trustee for the mortgagor, is obligated to apply that profit realized after foreclosure and during the redemption period to the reduction of the mortgagor's debt.

    Translation: The money is ours, and we've been deprived of it for more than two years. Liberty Duke does not come close to showing otherwise.

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    Dr. Mark Hayden
    An Alabama physician, who was arrested in late November on a dubious civil-contempt charge, has regained his freedom. Dr. Mark Hayden was released from the Jefferson County Jail last Friday after a habeas corpus hearing before U.S. Magistrate John England.

    Details about Hayden's release are murky at this time. It appears that England released him, although an order dated December 21, 2016 (two days before Hayden's release) does not specifically mention release. Did Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mike Graffeo, who signed the writ of arrest, order the release? It's possible, but we do not have access to the full case files -- and they involve both state and federal jurisdiction -- so many questions remain unanswered. (England's order is embedded at the end of this post.)

    We do know this: The arrest matter is styled Steven Mark Hayden v. Mike Hale (Jefferson County Sheriff), and court documents/proceedings suggest Legal Schnauzer played a role in gaining Hayden's release. Hayden himself told me, "Roger, you got me out of jail!"

    We're not sure if that is true, but if it is true at least in part, we are happy to have helped justice prevail -- and it proves to be a pretty darned nice Christmas present here in the Schnauzer household. This much is certain: We are pleased Dr. Mark Hayden has regained his freedom, especially since he never should have been jailed in the first place.

    If Mark Hayden's words to me are true, that means he's at least the second person we've helped get released from an Alabama jail. The other was Bonnie Cahalane, who was unlawfully incarcerated in the Chilton County Jail due to an alleged debt from her divorce case.

    Dorothea Batiste, a black, female judge in Jefferson County, apparently was not at risk of going to jail. But Alabama's white judicial elites, including retired Jeffco judge Scott Vowell, were trying to run her off the bench. My reporting on the matter likely helped save her seat -- Batiste indicated to me she believed that to be the case. She will leave the bench in January after losing in the November 2016 election.

    Hayden . . . Cahalane . . . Batiste. All were victims of unjust jailings or removal proceedings. All had relatively positive outcomes after we reported on their cases. Those, like GOP insider Jessica Medieros Garrison, who consider Legal Schnauzer to be a "ridiculous little blog" . . . well, the evidence suggests they are way off base.

    In the third sentence of his order, Judge England references a blog post that he had received via e-mail, apparently from Dr. Hayden's wife, Angela. Document 3-1, attached to the order, is a link to our post on the Hayden case. Mark Hayden told us that during a state hearing last Wednesday, Judge Graffeo mentioned Legal Schnauzer and seemed quite disturbed that his order of arrest had made it into the Web press.

    Here is the main point: Dr. Hayden was in the Jefferson County Jail, where I spent a week during my five-month incarceration in 2013-14. I can confirm, with firsthand knowledge, that the Jeffco Jail richly deserves its reputation as one of the nation's worst (and most dangerous) jails. People have died in that jail, and I have no doubt people will continue to die in that jail. It's dangerous, wretched, nasty conditions have been the subject of litigation.

    It's possible that Dr. Hayden was on the same unit where I was housed. Dr. Hayden said he was on the sixth floor, and I was either on the sixth or fifth floor. Inmates told me that I had the pleasure of being on the "(relatively) good guy's unit," which was considered the best and safest spot in the jail. They said the higher up you went, the worse it got. As I recall, the 10th floor was at the top, and inmates said it was an "absolute zoo."

    During the week I was in the Jeffco Jail, I got the distinct impression that my life meant zero to anyone on the jail staff -- and I was only there because of gross incompetence or corruption from Judge Don Blankenship, related to the Jessica Garrison case. I imagine Dr. Mark Hayden had the same thoughts. I am hardly a picky eater, but food at the Jeffco Jail reminded me of something you might see in a pig's trough on a farm. Having grown up in the Missouri Ozarks, I've seen a few pig troughs on farms.

    What's next in the Hayden case? England's order indicates that Hayden might not be home free. Hale apparently will be given 30 days or so to show the court why Hayden is due to be held. That means Homewood attorney Rob "Uday" Riley could appear on stage left, because he is Sheriff Hale's attorney. Any brief Riley produces is likely to be filled with misstatements of fact and law. We know from personal experience that he and other members of the Riley Jackson Firm are dreadful attorneys, the kind who care not one iota about justice or the law.

    From the England order:

    Petitioner (Hayden) should be aware there will be no ruling on his petition until it is fully briefed; Respondent (Hale) is entitled to explain why he contends Petitioner is lawfully in custody and must be given adequate time to do so.

    We will keep you updated on the Dr. Mark Hayden case as details become available.

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    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    Fritz Seyferth
    Like many Americans, I have watched parts of several college football bowl games in recent days. Each time I view the action, I'm reminded of a university that was deprived of its opportunity to join the bowl party. That's because the university, for now, no longer has a football program -- at least one that is allowed to compete on the field.

    I'm talking about the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). Because of a glaring lack of leadership, the Blazers football program has been in cold storage for two years. The Blazers are due to resume action in 2017, but how did UAB -- arguably the state's most important institution and its chief economic driver -- lose its program, in a city that bills itself as "The Football Capital of the South"?

    Well, I've identified a man who probably could have kept that from happening. His name is Fritz Seyferth, and without ignorant decision-making from the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, he probably would have been a leading candidate to replace Gene Bartow as athletics director, when "The Father of UAB Sports" retired in 2000.

    If Seyfurth had been hired to succeed a UAB legend, here is what I think would have happened:

    * Blazer football never would have been discontinued;

    * Poor decisions, like the hiring of Neil Callaway to replace Watson Brown as head football coach, would not have been made;

    * UAB would be in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) -- along with peer metropolitan schools such as Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston, South Florida, Central Florida, Tulane, and SMU -- instead of a watered-down Conference USA.

    * UAB would be playing in a 2016 bowl game and probably would have received multiple such bids since its only appearance, in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl.

    Who is Fritz Seyferth? He played football at the University of Michigan, where he rose from walk-on to standout fullback under Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler and earned a degree in industrial and operations engineering. After enjoying a brief career in the Canadian Football League, earning an MBA at the University of Connecticut, and serving a stint with Arthur Young and Company, Seyferth returned to Michigan to work in athletics administration. He was at UM for 20 years, retiring in 2000 as executive associate athletics director. Seyferth started a consulting firm called Fritz Seyferth and Associates, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and remains the firm's principal at age 66.

    While running his consulting company in its first seven years, Seyferth also served as development director for the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular Center, helping to raise $105 million in private gifts.

    What could have connected Seyferth to UAB? In 1997, UAB was looking for a new president after J. Claude Bennett stepped down following revelations that he was using state employees to work at his private residence. The search came down to two candidates -- W. Ann Reynolds, who was provost of City University of New York (CUNY) and Bernard Machen, who was provost at the University of Michigan.

    I worked as an editor at UAB then -- I was a university employee from 1989 to 2008 -- and remember the search well. In fact, here is how I reported on the matter in a 2009 Legal Schnauzer post:

    The choice seemed clearcut. Reynolds had an impressive resume, but she also had a history of causing uproars on several campuses. Word was that she had gone through something like 18 secretaries in a short time at CUNY. I later heard from a trusted source in human resources at UAB that those stories were true, give or take a secretary or two.

    Meanwhile, Machen appeared to be a perfect fit. He is a dentist by training, and UAB has one of the top dental schools in the country. UAB has a tradition of strong dentist/leaders. Both McCallum and Joseph Volker, UAB's first president, rose to the top spot through the School of Dentistry.

    Machen reportedly had family in the South, and that made the UAB job particularly attractive to him. In the Publications Office, where I worked, word was that it was a done deal--Machen would be UAB's new president. We were so sure of it that we did not even attend Reynolds' public interview session with the board. I was right there on the front row for the Machen session, sure I was hearing from our next president.

    But in a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the UA board hired Reynolds.

    How did that happen? A trusted source provided insight, which I included in the 2009 post:

    Michigan was going through a tumultuous stretch at the time, and Machen had been pretty much holding the campus together, handling two or three jobs over several months. The UAB interviews were in the spring, and when board members asked Machen when he could start, he made the mistake of being honest. Machen reportedly said the heavy workload at Michigan had left him tired, and he would like to take some time to recharge his batteries before starting at UAB. Plus, he had a number of loose ends to tie up at Ann Arbor. Machen suggested that he start at UAB in the fall, around the time the school year started.

    When asked the same question, Reynolds said she could start right away. In fact, she couldn't wait to get to UAB. Of course that was because, according to reports at the time, she was about to be ousted at CUNY.

    According to my source, board members said something like, "This guy from Michigan sounds worn out. We need this energetic gal from New York."

    And so Ann Reynolds was hired as president of UAB. Perhaps the only worse personnel decision of the past 25 years was the "election" of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000.

    How badly did the UA board botch the hiring? A few months after being rejected at UAB, Machen was hired as president at the University of Utah. He stayed in that position for six years, before being hired as president at the University of Florida in 2006. Machen seems to have received generally high marks in both positions, and he retired from UF in January 2015. On the football front, Machen hired Urban Meyer as head coach at both schools, and Meyer now is in the College Football Playoff with Ohio State.

    Reynolds wound up antagonizing people across the UAB campus, helped launch the Brittany Benefield scandal (perhaps the most embarrassing episode in the university's history), and finally was forced out of office, leading her to file a lawsuit against the UA System. She has not been heard from in higher education for years.

    What if Machen had been hired at UAB? By 2000, Bartow was announcing his retirement as the only AD in university history. At the same time, Seyferth was retiring from the athletics department at Michigan, but he was only 50 years old. One of Bartow's close coaching friends, Steve Fisher (now at San Diego State), had worked under Machen at Michigan and given him high marks.

    Bernard Machen
    If Machen had been UAB's president, and was charged with finding Gene Bartow's successor, would he have looked to the University of Michigan, his old school? The answer probably is yes, and with Seyferth serving as UM's No. 2 guy in athletics, he might have been a chief target for Machen.

    Seyferth would have made a lot of sense for UAB. Given the length of his tenure at Michigan, Seyferth probably worked with every sport in one of the nation's most renowned athletics programs. But his history indicates Seyferth is a football guy, and UAB (with its basketball reputation set under Bartow) needed someone to help its young football program take flight.

    For much of his time at Michigan, Seyferth worked under the late Don Canham, who generally is considered one of the most innovative ADs in U.S. history. Canham was considered a pioneer in marketing and promotion of athletics; in fact, one of his first achievements at Michigan was to turn around the Wolverines' sagging attendance in football. Canham also hired Schembechler, whom Seyferth lists as his No. 1 mentor.

    Did some of that marketing and promotion savvy rub off on Seyferth? If so, that likely would have caught UAB's attention. Seyferth has a background in systems engineering, and that probably would have been attractive to UAB, too. From his bio at Fritz Seyferth and Associates:

    The foundation of FS and A is built on Fritz’s rich background and being a part of “teams” that have succeeded at the highest level. Fritz uniquely combines a systems engineering mindset with a deep understanding of what enables organizations to thrive. . . .

    After leaving Arthur Young and Company in NYC to join his former coach Bo Schembechler’s football staff, the study of what made a great leader like Bo successful began. Bo built a legacy that continues to grow. Fritz has identified the human science behind Bo’s enduring success and now shares this with leaders for their personal journey.

    Does Seyferth sound like a fit in a science-rich environment like UAB? I think he does -- or maybe I should say, "He would have been." Would Seyferth have been the perfect AD? No. Would he have made mistakes? Yes. Would he have ticked off some people? Probably. But would UAB athletics in general -- and football in particular -- be much better off if he (and Bernard Machen) had been hired? The answer, in my mind, is yes.

    After having been cheated out of my job at UAB, I sometimes wonder why I still care about the place. But I do. And while I'm living like a refugee in Missouri, I still care about Birmingham and hope to return there someday -- sooner, rather than later. After all, my misfortune was not caused by UAB as an institution; it was caused by a few ethically-challenged individuals and driven by a UA board that included corrupt governor Bob Riley.

    Come to think of it, Fritz Seyferth and I have something in common. He was denied an opportunity, perhaps, because of the UA board's nutty decision to pass on Bernard Machen. I was denied my position at a university where I had invested 20 years (including accumulated leave time) because the UA board caved to the desires of a corrupt governor -- and his even worse son, Rob "Uday" Riley.

    Heck, Seyferth is only 66 years old, and I tend these days to think that's not so old. Maybe he still has something to offer UAB; perhaps he would be the guy to help Coach Bill Clark breathe life back into a program that crooked trustees like Paul Bryant Jr. tried to suffocate.

    What kind of potential does UAB football have? One clue comes from checking the NFL's rushing statistics. The No. 7 rusher, with 1,178 yards, is Jordan Howard, of the Chicago Bears. He is listed as a product of Indiana University, but he is from Gardendale, Alabama, and spent his first two seasons at UAB -- gaining a school-record 1,587 yards in 2014 -- and only transferred to Indiana when the Blazers' program was disbanded.

    Going back a little farther, UAB has turned out NFL standouts like defensive lineman Josh Evans, linebacker Bryan Thomas, wide receiver Roddy White, quarterback Joe Webb, and defensive back Dainon Sidney. That list doesn't even include the player many consider the best in UAB history -- quarterback Darrell Hackney, who (perhaps because he was a tad short) never quite made it in the NFL. As a former sportswriter, I've seen a lot of college football games -- SEC, Big 12, etc. -- and I've still never seen anyone throw as pretty a ball as Darrell Hackney.

    Would Fritz Seyferth like to help guide a program that turns out that kind of talent? Would he like to tackle one more big challenge in sports? I don't know, but I would like to see him get the opportunity. I really wish he had gotten the opportunity 16 years ago. If he had, I think UAB now would enjoy an enhanced reputation as a comprehensive university in the Deep South, a university that could help lead a backward state reach its enormous potential.

    Here is a video of Seyferth conducting a seminar on interviewing and hiring in athletics:

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    (From newsbusters.org)
    Perhaps the most head-scratching news event over the holidays involves an apparent effort, in both the U.S. and UK, to debunk the story of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    The biggest head-scratcher of all is that it involves Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, whom I've long considered one of the finest investigative journalists still walking the planet. So what is with Taibbi's December 31 piece titled "Something About This Russia Story Stinks," which might charitably be called "flimsy" (at best) and "nonsensical" (at worst)? And what is with Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. who has been in the debunking business for several weeks now at his www.craigmurray.org.uk blog? Murray, a long-time associate of Julian Assange, seems to be a serious fellow -- but his reports on the Russia-interference story seem to be long on intrigue and short on solid reporting or analysis.

    Is Taibbi following Murray's lead, without knowing where it's headed? That is unclear, but Taibbi seems to be shrugging off what could be the biggest political story of our lifetimes, what some have called the "Crime of the Century."

    Taibbi's main concern seems to be that journalists will again find themselves on the wrong end of what he calls an "Iraq-WMD faceplant." That is a reference to the faulty weapons of mass destruction intelligence that led the United States into war with Iraq. What does that have to do with the current story about alleged Russian interference that helped put the wildly unqualified Donald Trump on the front step of the White House? We're not sure, but Taibbi says his journalistic colleagues are queasy about reporting on another story that could rest, they think, on shaky intelligence. After noting sanctions that President Obama imposed late last week on Russia, Taibbi writes:

    This dramatic story puts the news media in a jackpot. Absent independent verification, reporters will have to rely upon the secret assessments of intelligence agencies to cover the story at all.

    Many reporters I know are quietly freaking out about having to go through that again. We all remember the WMD fiasco. "It's déjà vu all over again" is how one friend put it.

    So, angst among reporters somehow means a story isn't true, or isn't worth pursuing? Does that mean the CIA/Homeland Security assessment of October 7 is filled with holes, even though President Obama clearly does not see it that way?  Does that mean that an FBI/Homeland Security report of December 29 also has no merit?

    The December 29 report, Taibbi notes, "details how Russian civilian and military intelligence services (termed "RIS" in the report) twice breached the defenses of 'a U.S. political party,' presumably the Democrats." He then proceeds to brush it off:

    This report is long on jargon but short on specifics. More than half of it is just a list of suggestions for preventive measures.

    At one point we learn that the code name the U.S. intelligence community has given to Russian cyber shenanigans is GRIZZLY STEPPE, a sexy enough detail.

    But we don't learn much at all about what led our government to determine a) that these hacks were directed by the Russian government, or b) they were undertaken with the aim of influencing the election, and in particular to help elect Donald Trump.

    Those are reasonable quibbles, but do they mean the Russian story has no legs, that it "stinks"? It's hard to see how. Less than two months have passed since the election, and we're dealing with a possible international crime involving sophisticated computer-related machinations (and yes, even jargon). That's supposed to be fully resolved in the time it takes Donald Trump to knock out a few mindless Tweets?

    Taibbi seems nonplussed that the whole thing hasn't been wrapped up with a colorful bow by now. And oh, there is that Iraq-WMD thing:

    The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.

    If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.

    But do we know this is the beginning and end of the U.S. response? Could further investigation, which clearly is needed, yield a more firm response? Could it even prompt efforts to block or force Trump from the White House? Taibbi acts as if the story is over, when perhaps it has barely begun.

    At its heart, Taibbi's piece is about journalism -- how it's produced, how it's received -- not about a possible international crime of incomprehensible scope:

    This has led to widespread confusion among news audiences over whether the Russians hacked the DNC emails (a story that has at least been backed by some evidence, even if it hasn't always been great evidence), or whether Russians hacked vote tallies in critical states (a far more outlandish tale backed by no credible evidence).

    As noted in The Intercept and other outlets, an Economist/YouGov poll conducted this month shows that 50 percent of all Clinton voters believe the Russians hacked vote tallies.

    This number is nearly as disturbing as the 62 percent of Trump voters who believe the preposterous, unsourced Trump/Alex Jones contention that "millions" of undocumented immigrants voted in the election.

    That is quite a slap at Hillary Clinton supporters, comparing them to Trump and Alex Jones. But is it unreasonable for Clinton supporters to ask a few questions, such as:

    * Exit polls, pretty much across the board, showed our candidate solidly ahead going into election day. How did exit polls, which have proven reliable in the past, get it so wrong this time?

    * The narrative going into election day was that Trump needed to win almost all of a string of states -- Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. What are the odds of a candidate actually winning all of those states, under such circumstances? Has anything like it happened in American history?

    In the end, Taibbi admits we might have a huge story on our hands:

    Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

    On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d'etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

    But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.

    The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence "assessment" to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power?

    That last paragraph is a real knee-slapper. Democrats need to "delegitimize" a Trump administration? Isn't Donald Trump capable of doing that on his own? Does Trump really need help creating "embarrassing political situations"?

    Perhaps without knowing it, Taibbi gets to the heart of the matter. Americans need to know their elections produce "legitimate" results. We need to know Donald Trump is in the White House for "legitimate" reasons, not because Vladimir Putin put him there.

    I still think Matt Taibbi is one of our best journalists, but he flopped badly with this story. One could even say it "stinks."

    As for Craig Murray, the British fellow who seems to be blazing a trail for Taibbi, we will examine his work in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Jessica Garrison and son: "Go, Jeb"
    (From facebook.com)
    A recent post on her Facebook page suggests Alabama GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison is trying to jump on the Donald Trump train, now that it seems to be a winning proposition. That's odd because photos elsewhere on the page indicate Garrison has been a Jeb Bush supporter for some time.

    Does that mean our gal Jessica -- best known for her extramarital affair with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange -- is a political "two-timer," especially when it seems to her benefit?

    The Facebook post in question does not amount to much; it simply is a photo of Garrison in a lovey-dovey pose with U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor. She has worked for both men in Alabama and has called Pryor her "mentor."

    What was the purpose of the post? Well, I can't read Garrison's mind (and I sure would not want to try), but the post was dated November 20, which is two days after President-Elect Trump announced that Sessions would be his nominee as U.S. attorney general. One day after the Garrison post, on November 21, a "content warning" began to appear at Legal Schnauzer following our report about an explosion of interest on the Web about reporting here on Pryor's connections to 1990s gay-pornography via badpuppy.com. We also reported that a second nude photo of Pryor had surfaced, just in time for a possible confirmation hearing if he is nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    For several weeks we predicted that, because of his ties to Sessions, Pryor would be a top candidate as Trump's choice to fill the vacant seat left by the late Antonin Scalia. Sure enough, on December 16, CNN and al.com reported that Pryor was one of two top candidates for the appointment, along with Diane Sykes from the Seventh Circuit.

    So Garrison just happened to run a photo of herself with one Trump nominee and a likely Trump nominee. Gee, could Jessica be angling for a job in Washington, D.C., with the Trump administration -- even though she's under a child-custody order not to move more than 60 miles from her ex husband's home in Tuscaloosa? Could Jessica be looking for ways around that order, perhaps working for Sessions or Pryor from her home in Mountain Brook?

    We will save that question for another day, but Garrison's post seems to have had the desired effect among her Facebook sycophants. Consider these comments from "friends" and responses from Garrison:

    Peggy Harris Hollis: Girl, you really get around with the greatest people!

    Jessica: I just choose to work for people I respect. Lucky to have had the opportunity to work for both of these great Americans.

    Does that mean she respects Donald Trump, who is set to become "Pussy Grabber in Chief" on January 20. Bejeebus!! Here's another comment and response:

    Neecie Tarrant: If you don't go to D.C., Jessica, please consider public service in Sessions' seat. Is that possible?

    Jessica (blushing): Not in the cards for me at this point in my life. But I am certainly willing to help good people that want to serve. (Notice that Garrison doesn't say: "Holy crap, Batman! how could anyone think I'm remotely qualified to be a U.S. Senator? Does this "friend" have foam rubber for brains?" Nope Garrison gives the impression that she has the bona fides to be a U.S. Senator, but it's just not a convenient time for her now -- as in, "I have a kid, dammit!")

    Speaking of kids, notice the photo above of Garrison and her little sprout, Michael. Note the head gear they are toting -- it says "Jeb" as in "Bush." Looks like Jess was all in for "Jeb," until he put the nation asleep during the GOP primaries and got crushed, run over by the Trump Train. Now, it looks like Jess might be angling for some kind of job with the world's most powerful "Pussy Grabber." After all, he's a man she can respect, and Jess has a long history of standing up for the rights of women.

    I guess that includes the right for women to have their genitalia grabbed by some clown with a quick stiffy, especially if he's rich, and famous, and has the coloring of a Cheeto.

    Is Jessica a loyal gal? Well last time I checked, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush weren't too fond of each other. From a recent Los Angeles Times articleabout the two GOP "giants":

    As Donald Trump softens his harsh rhetoric on immigration, Jeb Bush has issued his own critique: The GOP nominee is “morphing” and Bush doesn’t like it.

    "All the things that Donald Trump railed against, he seems to be morphing into — it’s kind of disturbing," Bush, who was trounced by Trump in the Republican primaries this year, said Thursday on WABC Radio.

    Trump repeatedly castigated the former governor of Florida last spring for his call for a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.

    In rallies and debates, Trump relentlessly called Bush “weak” and slammed his immigration plan as amnesty. He vowed instead to round up and deport everyone in the country illegally.

    Would Jessica roll on Jeb Bush, without even a sloppy kiss goodbye? And what about Luther Strange, to whom she has pledged her everlasting fidelity?

    Garrison has acknowledged, under oath, in court documents that reports about her affair with Strange likely have caused some in the GOP firmament to view her as "damaged goods." She and Strange both have said under oath that he had to take extraordinary steps to sweep the story under the bedspread and help save her job with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) -- a job she no longer has, by the way.

    More on that inside story coming soon.

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    Craig Murray
    (From quiletti.com)
    Former British ambassador Craig Murray seems to be the father of the "Russia Didn't Do It" narrative that is taking hold regarding alleged interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi brought the narrative to a broad audience with a December 31 article titled "Something About This Russia Story Stinks." Before that, Robert Parry of Consortium News published at least two articles (on December 12 and December 29) along the same lines.

    But Murray, a noted confidant of Wikileaks' Julian Assange, seems to have given birth to the notion that the whole contretemps is the result of a "leak" from a disgruntled Democratic National Committee (DNC) employee, not a "hack" from Russian interests, under the direction of Vladimir Putin.

    A consistent theme from Murray, Perry, and Taibbi is that intelligence reports pointing to Russian hacks -- and resulting mainstream press accounts, especially at The New York Times and Washington Post -- are light on evidence and short on fact-based analysis. The same, unfortunately, could be said of the reporting from Murray, Perry, and Taibbi.

    Best we can tell, the "Russia Didn't Do It" angle originated with Murray's December 11 post titled "The CIA's Absence of Conviction." This seems to be the gist of it:

    I have watched incredulous as the CIA’s blatant lie has grown and grown as a media story – blatant because the CIA has made no attempt whatsoever to substantiate it. There is no Russian involvement in the leaks of emails showing Clinton’s corruption. Yes this rubbish has been the lead today in the Washington Post in the US and the Guardian here, and was the lead item on the BBC main news. I suspect it is leading the American broadcasts also.

    A little simple logic demolishes the CIA’s claims. The CIA claim they “know the individuals” involved. Yet under Obama the USA has been absolutely ruthless in its persecution of whistleblowers, and its pursuit of foreign hackers through extradition. We are supposed to believe that in the most vital instance imaginable, an attempt by a foreign power to destabilise a US election, even though the CIA knows who the individuals are, nobody is going to be arrested or extradited, or (if in Russia) made subject to yet more banking and other restrictions against Russian individuals? Plainly it stinks. The anonymous source claims of “We know who it was, it was the Russians” are beneath contempt.

    Murray, like Taibbi, seems to want this complex, international case tied up in a neat box -- right now, dammit. Not even two months have passed since election day, and we're supposed to expect arrests and extraditions already?

    Murray is a lot of things -- historian, former ambassador, human-rights activist -- but he does not claim to be a journalist. We can cut him some slack, and that is good because he needs it; his posts have little in the way of journalistic underpinnings. Consider this from the December 11 post:

    As Julian Assange has made crystal clear, the leaks did not come from the Russians. As I have explained countless times, they are not hacks, they are insider leaks – there is a major difference between the two. And it should be said again and again, that if Hillary Clinton had not connived with the DNC to fix the primary schedule to disadvantage Bernie, if she had not received advance notice of live debate questions to use against Bernie, if she had not accepted massive donations to the Clinton foundation and family members in return for foreign policy influence, if she had not failed to distance herself from some very weird and troubling people, then none of this would have happened.

    OK, Murray claims the DNC e-mails surfaced because of a leak from an insider. But what does that highlighted section mean? What do Bernie Sanders, the Democratic primaries, and "very weird and troubling people" have to do with Russian interference? Is Murray just a sore BernieBot? He totally loses me with this one.

    Then, consider Murray's latest, a December 31 piece titled "Exit Obama In a Cloud of Disillusion, Delusion, and Deceit." Here's the crux:

    Anybody who believes the latest report issued by Obama as “proof” provides anything of the sort is very easily impressed by some entirely meaningless diagrams. William Binney, who was Technical Director at the NSA and actually designed their surveillance capabilities, has advised me by email. It is plain from the report itself that the Russian groups discussed have been under targeted NSA surveillance for a period longer than the time frame for the DNC and Podesta leaks. It is therefore inconceivable that the NSA would not have detected and traced those particular data flows and they would be saved. In other words, the NSA would have the actual hack on record, would be able to recognise the emails themselves and tell you exactly the second the transmission or transmissions took place and how they were routed. They would be able to give you date, time and IP addresses. In fact, not only do they produce no evidence of this kind, they do not even claim to have this kind of definite evidence.

    OK, that's interesting information, and William Binney seems to be a knowledgeable fellow. Murray says the NSA has all kinds of technical ability to crack this case -- and that's heartening to hear -- but he claims that since they haven't released the date yet, there can be no case. One, however, does not necessarily follow the other. This is a sensitive matter, one that could set off all kinds of geopolitical, social, and financial unrest -- not to mention the possibility of physical war. Maybe the NSA is not ready to release its finding, perhaps other agencies want them to hold off, seeing that this likely is a matter for international law enforcement.

    Murray's most intriguing insights come from a December 14 Washington Times article:

    A WikiLeaks figure is claiming that he received leaked Clinton campaign emails from a “disgusted” Democratic whistleblower, while the White House continued to blame Russian hackers Wednesday for meddling in the presidential election and asserted that Donald Trump was “obviously aware” of Moscow’s efforts on his behalf.

    Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a close associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said in the report by the Daily Mail that he flew to Washington for a clandestine handoff with one of the email sources in September. He said he received a package in a wooded area near American University.

    “Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians,” Mr. Murray told the British newspaper. “The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.”

    So, a ticked-off Democratic insider leaked the Clinton campaign e-mails? If that's the case, much still needs to be learned about the leaker and the "clandestine handoff" in the woods near American University. For example, Murray seems to claim the package was delivered by an American. But could that mean Russians paid someone to serve as a plant inside the DNC?

    Murray's tale seems to be right out of a Robert Ludlum novel. But it does not preclude Russian interference. What about James Comey's unprecedented public statements regarding the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails? What about Matt Taibbi, who acknowledges evidence points toward Russian involvement in the DNC hack, but still pooh-poohs the broader story? What about the notion, which no one in the MSM seems to want to touch, that Russians hacked the actual vote totals on election day?

    We will turn to that subject in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    A trailer has been released for a documentary about the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The film, titled "Atticus v. The Architect: The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman," will hit theaters in selected cities over the next few weeks.

    Steve Wimberly is producer/director, and a GoFundMe (GFM) campaign has generated almost $100,000 for the project,

    Wimberly reports the film has obtained Independent Documentary Association status, which allows all future contributions to be tax deductible.

    Here is part of how the GFM page describes the film:

    We will reveal the dark underbelly of Republican politics. It will explain how Karl Rove ("The Architect") used his senior executive position in the Bush White House to “get rid of Siegelman” because Republicans simply couldn’t beat him at the polls. Rove began by arranging for loyal Republican operatives, and Siegelman’s political adversaries, to be appointed as federal prosecutors.

    The federal prosecutor that indicted Gov. Siegelman (Leura Canary) was married to the campaign manager of his opponent (Bill Canary)!

    Those prosecutors quickly indicted Siegelman with fake, made-up charges alleging actions that, according to hundreds of legal experts – both Republican and Democrat – have never been crimes in the history of American jurisprudence. Then, to make those false charges stick, a Republican “hanging judge" with numerous personal, political, and financial conflicts was suspiciously selected to preside over the trial.

    The corrupt judge in the case, Mark Fuller, since has been forced from the bench for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room in summer 2014. Documents related to Fuller's divorce from his first wife indicate extramarital sex, drugs, and violence had been a part of his life for some time:

    Before the trial, Gov. Siegelman caught Mark Fuller misappropriating over $300,000 in state retirement funds. The embarrassed Fuller, now a federal judge, vowed payback. Fuller got his chance when he was assigned to preside over Gov. Siegelman's trial.

    Inside this excessively biased courtroom, Rove's henchmen got away with a staggering array of judicial misconduct: lying to the jury, bribing the judge, scripting witness testimony, threatening the witness if he didn’t comply, multiple improper jury instructions, jury tampering, and allowing admittance of false evidence.

    Under threat of impeachment, Judge Mark Fuller resigned from the federal bench for beating his wife. An investigation found that he had beat his wife on numerous occasions and lied to investigators.

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    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    Dr. Mark Hayden
    An Alabama physician is under threat of being arrested again, less than two weeks after his release from a 25-day stay in the Jefferson County Jail -- over a civil matter.

    Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo reissued a writ of arrest for Dr. Mark Hayden at 4:39 p.m. yesterday, at the request of William Cashion, Hayden's wealthy, octogenarian uncle.

    Cashion and his attorneys from the Birmingham firm Maynard Cooper and Gale filed a motion to alter an order that suspended Hayden's previous arrest and granted his release. Cashion argues that Hayden has failed to produce certain documents related to Cashion's company, Western Steel Inc. of Bessemer, and failed to pay a $75,000 bond, per a previous order from Graffeo. (The reissued writ of arrest and the suspension of arrest/order to pay bond are embedded at the end of this post.)

    Hayden, who has a private practice in Wetumpka and was arrested previously while on duty at the Bullock County Hospital emergency room, has argued in court that the documents are not in his possession, they belong to a Nevada trust, and he does not have the authority to take them.

    We do not have access to the full case file, so it's difficult to determine what is driving Graffeo's effort to re-arrest a physician against whom there are no criminal charges -- demanding that he produce documents he might not be able produce.

    It is clear, however, that Hayden sent an e-mail on December 28, 2016, to five individuals (including Graffeo) that he intended to pursue a federal lawsuit for civil-rights violations, plus false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, and other state claims. (The e-mail appears near the end of the reissued writ of arrest, embedded below.)

    Judges generally are immune from suit for actions taken in their official capacities. But if Hayden alleges and is able to prove that Graffeo engaged in a criminal conspiracy (perhaps with Cashion and his lawyers) that would point to activity outside Graffeo's official duties -- and it might remove his immune status.

    Did Graffeo order Hayden's re-arrest in retaliation for the threatened lawsuit? Was Hayden wise, or not so wise, to send such an e-mail? We don't have answers to those questions -- but we have quite a few additional questions.

    Most prominent among them: What law authorizes Graffeo to order Hayden to make payment of a $75,000 bond? Graffeo cites no such law in his order.

    Hayden states in a reply that he has contacted several bond companies, and they have refused to pay bond on what appears to be a garnishment procedure. Hayden also argues that collection of an alleged debt by imprisonment of a contemptor violates the U.S. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S. Code 1692e.

    Another question: Hayden was released after a December 23 habeas corpus petition before U.S. Magistrate John England, who stated that he had issued an order on December 16, giving Sheriff Mike Hale 30 days to respond and show grounds for keeping Hayden in custody. The 30 days for Hale's response have not expired, so why is Hayden under threat of re-arrest?

    It remains unclear who released Hayden the first time. Graffeo's order suspending the arrest is dated December 28, 2016. But Hayden already had been out of jail for five days by that date, making it appear that England released him,

    Are the state and federal courts uncoordinated to an almost comical degree in this case? Is Graffeo openly defying a federal magistrate's order? England's order is fuzzy, but it seems to suggest that Hayden will remain free, unless Hale shows good cause by January 15, for keeping Hayden in custody. Does Graffeo have any grounds for seeking to have Hayden arrested again, in light of England's order?

    If so, what is the point of a federal habeas corpus proceeding? What good does it do if a state judge can openly defy it or ignore it?

    At the moment, I have more questions than answers about this long-and-winding case, one even Graffeo calls "tortured." But it appears to me the court system, and Cashion's lawyers, have caused the case to be tortured.

    In the early days of the case, Judge Robert Vance Jr. made multiple rulings, favoring Maynard Cooper and Gale, when the case was not even assigned to him. Cashion's lawyers apparently were determined to have the case heard in the Birmingham division of the 10th Judicial Circuit, even though no party lives or operates a business in the division. (Perhaps they considered Vance a friendly judge?)

    Hayden has been forced to fight a series of dubious rulings made under the Commercial Litigation Docket (CDL), concocted by former presiding judge Scott Vowell to send high-dollar cases to Vance, even though the CDL has been declared unconstitutional and disbanded. Hayden has been on the receiving end of unfavorable rulings by the wrong judge, in the wrong venue, under a judicial scheme that has been declared unconstitutional. Does that sound fair?

    The record is clear that Mark Hayden is a law-abiding citizen who provides badly needed medical care in rural Alabama. The scarcity of doctors in rural areas across the country has been a major problem for years, one the UAB School of Medicine (and many others) have tried mightily to address. Hayden is a UAB graduate who is on the front line, trying to make rural Alabama a healthier place.

    And yet, he's already been handcuffed and shackled once and hauled from his ER duties for a court case that involves no known crime -- at least not on his part. It appears Judge Graffeo is harassing Hayden because of the latter's threat of a federal lawsuit -- or maybe because Cashion has enough money to buy the "justice" he wants.

    Is that what Americans want from their judges? Doesn't Graffeo have something more useful he could be doing?

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    Vladimir Putin
    (From thehill.com)
    What if Russian hackers manipulated vote tabulations to give Donald Trump a "victory" on U.S. election day 2016? What if Russian President Vladimir Putin essentially picked our president for us?

    The Senate Armed Services Committee conducted a hearing this morning in which intelligence officials said they are convinced Russia was behind hacking of the presidential election. But even intel officials, and committee members, seemed reluctant to address the notion that Russian hacks might have altered vote totals.

    Questions on that subject are disarming -- and their potential repercussions so unsettling -- that many media outlets (and public officials) apparently don't want to touch them.

    Consider Matt Taibbi, one of the finest journalists of his generation, and his treatment of the issue in a recent article at Rolling Stone:

    Adding to the problem is that in the last months of the campaign, and also in the time since the election, we've seen an epidemic of factually loose, clearly politically motivated reporting about Russia. Democrat-leaning pundits have been unnervingly quick to use phrases like "Russia hacked the election."

    This has led to widespread confusion among news audiences over whether the Russians hacked the DNC emails (a story that has at least been backed by some evidence, even if it hasn't always been great evidence), or whether Russians hacked vote tallies in critical states (a far more outlandish tale backed by no credible evidence).

    The second link in the highlighted section above goes to a CNN article titled "Russia's role is shocking, but there is no evidence the vote was hacked." It is not a news article; it's an opinion piece by Joshua A. Douglas, a professor and election-law expert at the University of Kentucky College of Law. From the article:

    The revelations that Russia actively sought to influence the American election and help Donald Trump become the next president are shocking, mind-blowing and downright scary. But here is something they are not: evidence that the Russians hacked voting machines or changed the Election Day count. Unsubstantiated assertions that Russia actually manipulated the vote tally are themselves dangerous. . . .

    Understanding what happened is vitally important, so the intelligence community should act quickly to assuage Americans' concerns.

    But saying that Russia sought to influence the campaign and help Trump's chances is not the same as saying that Russia actually manipulated the voting process.

    Indeed, the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration have both said that they do not have any evidence that Russia hacked voting machines or altered voting technology. A federal judge, in rejecting Jill Stein's lawsuit seeking a statewide recount in Pennsylvania, also pointed to a lack of evidence of election machine hacking.

    This is mostly horse manure. Douglas says "understanding what happened is vitally important," but then he hints that we shouldn't look too hard because what we find might be upsetting, even "dangerous." I can't think of anything more dangerous than having Donald Trump in the White House, so I'm willing to take a risk on a serious investigation that could turn up hard evidence of election-day vote manipulation.

    What are Joshua A. Douglas' credentials? His bio suggests he has right-wing bona fides. He clerked for U.S. Circuit Judge Edward C. Prado (Fifth Circuit), a George W. Bush appointee. He practiced litigation at the corporate, conservative law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld, which has ties to Karl Rove and other unsavory GOPers. Does that mean Douglas' opinion should be roundly rejected? No. Does it mean his opinion piece, especially since it makes no attempt at seeking evidence. should be the last word on the subject? Absolutely not.

    As for this morning's hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper touched on the vote-manipulation issue in a cursory fashion. From CNN:

    Clapper said that the hacking did not succeed in changing any vote tallies, but that it was impossible for intelligence to assess how the information released from the breaches affected voters' attitudes.

    How does Clapper know vote tallies weren't changed, and why wasn't the subject discussed in a more in-depth manner? That remains unclear.

    Meanwhile, let's consider a few issues that hang in the air as Inauguration Day looms:

    (1) The December 29 joint FBI/Homeland Security analysis was more significant than Matt Taibbi, and others, have let on.

    From a December 30 report at Salon:

    The 13-page joint analysis . . . was the first such report ever to attribute malicious cyber activity to a particular country or actors.

    It was also the first time the U.S. has officially and specifically tied intrusions into the Democratic National Committee to hackers with the Russian civilian and military intelligence services, the FSB and GRU, expanding on an Oct. 7 accusation by the Obama administration.

    The report said the intelligence services were involved in “an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens.” It added, “In some cases, (the Russian intelligence services’) actors masqueraded as third parties, hiding behind false online personas designed to cause the victim to misattribute the source of the attack.”

    (2) Key media companies that produce vote totals easily could be hacked

    From a November 7 article at mcclatchydc.com:

    Experts have been warning for months that hackers could try to disrupt Tuesday’s election by penetrating local voting systems. But another target could prove easier to hack: U.S. media outlets offering election night results.

    Upguard, a Mountain View, California, company that assesses how well companies are protecting themselves from hackers, has found that three major news organizations – The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and CBS News – tallied “pretty abysmal” scores on key criteria to thwart breaches.

    All three are key sources of election night results, with the AP perhaps the largest provider of election tabulations in the country.

    (3) We know voter-registration lists in certain states were hacked and . . . again, what about the Associated Press, and its poorly secured system?

    From an October 18 article at New York Magazine:

    It’s now clearly established that someone hacked voter-registration databases in Arizona and Illinois during the primary season. No one is sure, however, whether said hackers were testing the vulnerability of election-related systems or just wanted some rich personal data from one or both states. But it was worrisome in either event.

    Reporter Ed Kilgore then turns his attention to concerns about AP:

    But even those who are telling us all to chill about the election’s being hacked concede that malicious interference with the system, even on a relatively small scale, can create chaos and uncertainty. And that is why an emerging fear involves the possibility of a hack not of actual votes or even the counting of votes, but of the reporting of votes to media on Election Night. What if somebody messed with those Associated Press reports everybody uses to figure out who has won in particular states and counties? Politico has now raised that particular alarm:

    "[T]he security community is worried The Associated Press’ army of reporters could get hacked and the wire service — the newsroom that produces the results data on which the entire media world relies — inadvertently starts releasing manipulated election tallies or that cybercriminals penetrate CNN’s internal networks and change Wolf Blitzer’s teleprompter."

    Messing with Wolf Blitzer's teleprompter? Now, that is serious business -- sort of the equivalent of giving Walter Cronkite a wedgie during coverage of a major event in the '60s or '70s. It would be a case of going "straight to the source," and experts say it would not be hard to pull off, given AP's dismal scores on cyber-security checks.

    (4) The Jill Stein recounts made no determination, one way or another, about possible vote manipulation

    From a December 26 Associated Press report:

    Jill Stein’s bid to recount votes in Pennsylvania was in trouble even before a federal judge shot it down Dec. 12. That’s because the Green Party candidate’s effort stood little chance of detecting potential fraud or error in the vote — there was basically nothing to recount.

    Pennsylvania is one of 11 states where the majority of voters use antiquated machines that store votes electronically, without printed ballots or other paper-based backups that could be used to double-check the balloting. There’s almost no way to know if they’ve accurately recorded individual votes — or if anyone tampered with the count.

    Large swaths of the country seem to believe the Stein recounts put the vote-manipulation issue to rest. In fact, they did not come close to doing that.

    Will today's Senate hearing be a step toward unearthing evidence about the extent of Russian hacks? We don't know for sure, but we did learn this, as reported by CNN:

    Meanwhile, a broad array of Democrats are calling for a public airing of Russia's efforts to sway the election. Senior Senate Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday to investigate the election interference.

    Perhaps Democrats feel they have yet to receive the full story from intelligence officials. I suspect the Dems are right about that.

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    Roger Stone, left, and Alex Jones
    (From infowars.com)
    Evidence in our spam folder here at Legal Schnauzer suggests a Donald Trump ally and former Richard Nixon dirty trickster somehow is involved in a series of harassing, profanity-filled e-mails we started receiving about seven weeks ago.

    The ugly e-mails started around the middle of November after we wrote posts about two Alabamians -- Jeff Sessions (Trump's pick for U.S. attorney general) and Bill Pryor (a Sessions protege and likely Trump nominee for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court).

    Who is the notorious Trump ally, known as "The High Priest of political hijinks," who appears to be involved with the dozens of nasty missives we've received -- most of which I've deleted or sent to spam because they are so utterly devoid of taste, rational thought, meaningful discourse (or all three)? We are talking about Roger Stone, who has been involved with every Republican campaign or administration since Nixon and perhaps now is best known as a regular guest on Alex Jones' conspiracy-filled InfoWars show.

    Stone's possible intrusion at our blog becomes more intriguing when you consider that he once joined with fellow GOP henchmen Charles Black and Paul Manafort to form a lobbying firm called Black Manafort Stone and Kelly; the firm eventually was home to the late Republican thug Lee Atwater. When you consider that former Stone partner Paul Manafort served as Trump's campaign manager until being fired for his close connections to former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych -- and we learned as recently as yesterday that intelligence officials have determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help Trump -- well, you can see how Roger Stone could be heavily in the news over the next several months.

    Would Stone, or someone close to him, actually have time to mess around with our little blog? After all, this is the guy credited with orchestrating "The Brooks Brothers Riot," which helped give us eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. Stone even has ties to Watergate; some surely would say Stone is too much of a heavyweight to mess with Legal Schnauzer. But there is evidence to suggest it is true. How do we know?

    "Sarah Jameson"
    (From facebook.com)
    Quite a few of the argumentative and ugly e-mails came from someone who has gone by the name "Sarah." I tried engaging "Sarah" a few times in rational back-and-forth, but that proved to be an exercise in futility. So I started deleting or sending most of her comments to spam. Such e-mails generally have an identifier attached, such as "Anonymous" or "Sarah," if the person chooses to use a first name -- which might or might not be her actual name.

    I've received so many such e-mails in recent weeks -- maybe more than 200 -- that I occasionally scroll through the spam folder just to keep a rough track of how many have arrived. During one recent scroll, I noticed that at least one spam e-mail had more than a one-word identifier; it had two words -- "Sarah Jameson."

    That was enough to make me go "hmmm." A Google search produced the Facebook page for a Sarah Jameson, who apparently lives in Plantation, Florida. That is in Broward County, close to Stone's home in Oakland Park. What does the "Sarah Jameson"Facebook page reveal? It's devoted almost entirely to videos and memes of Donald Trump and Roger Stone -- mostly Stone, also known as "The dapper don of dirty deeds."

    There is a video of Stone hawking his books. Here is Stone touting the choice of Steve Bannon as Trump's chief strategist. There is Stone being touted as a "genius" in an interview after Trump's "victory."

    "Sarah Jameson" sure seems to dig Roger Stone. In fact, she apparently has no time for anything else. She only has 18 Facebook friends, and I know squirrels in the forest who have bigger followings than that.

    The Facebook page makes me wonder if "Sarah Jameson" is even real. Did someone pick clip art of an anonymous young blonde woman and use it to create a fake page, one that actually is run by Roger Stone or one of his surrogates.

    My best guess is that Stone is concerned about our unflattering reports (both completed posts and those that are coming) about Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor and is trying to harass me into inaction or avoidance. I would suggest that Stone come up with something better than that, because his current track is not going to work.

    I don't think it's so odd that Trump and his surrogates would focus on Alabama. Sessions, one of his closest advisers during the campaign, is from Alabama. One of Trump's likely high-court nominees is from Alabama. And one of Trump's top campaign stops was in Mobile, Alabama.

    As a progressive blogger from Alabama, who has been unlawfully jailed for my reporting on GOP corruption, perhaps I am a thorn -- maybe small, maybe big -- in their side. And so, Roger Stone has been assigned, or taken it upon himself, to mess with me.

    Well, two can play that game. Just for fun, I sent "Sarah Jameson" a friend request on Facebook. To my great surprise, she has not accepted.

    You could call it Roger vs. Roger -- and we will see what turn it takes next. Below is a video of Alex Jones and Roger Stone discussing the "likelihood" that Hillary Clinton would steal the election. Was it designed to distract from evidence that Trump, with help from Russian operatives, was about to actually steal the election?

    0 0

    James Clapper
    (From businessinsider.com)
    James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, stated before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Russian hackers did not change vote totals in the 2016 presidential election. How definitive was Clapper's statement, coming in response to a question from committee chairman John McCain? The answer is "not very."

    Let's review the brief exchange, which started at the 34:53 mark in the YouTube video of the full hearing, embedded at the end of this post:

    McCain: So, really what you're talking about is if they succeeded in changing the results of an election, which none of us believes they were, that probably has to constitute an attack on the United States of America because of the effects if they had succeeded.

    Clapper:We cannot say . . . they did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort. (McCain talks over Clapper briefly.) We have no way of gauging the impact . . . on choices the electorate made. . . . Whether or not that constitutes an act of war is a very heavy policy call that the intelligence community can't make, but in my view, it's of great gravity.

    Speaking of gravity, let's consider what is being discussed here. It's undoubtedly the single most important question hanging over the United States at the moment: Did Americans elect Donald Trump or did Russian hackers, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, manipulate vote totals to "select" Donald Trump? It was by far the key question to be addressed at yesterday's hearing, and yet exactly one minute from an almost 2 hour, 40 minute hearing was devoted to it.

    Let's analyze what seems to be happening in the McCain/Clapper exchange:

    * McCain asks a leading question, raising the notion of Russia succeeding at changing the results of the election, but adding, "None of us believes they were." That's the kind of sweeping generality that McCain cannot possibly prove and almost certainly is not accurate. But yet, it probably had an impact on Clapper's answer.

    * Clapper starts to say something along the lines of, "We cannot say whether Russian hacks changed the election result." But then he catches himself and says, "They did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort." Those are two very different statements, and Clapper clearly started out to say the former and changed course to say the latter.

    Think of the many obvious questions that could have been asked as followups, by either McCain or someone else on the committee:

    (1) Mr. Clapper, how do you know Russian hackers did not change the vote totals?

    (2) Please describe, in detail, the investigative process that was used to reach this determination.

    (3) What are the key technical findings that caused you to reach your conclusion? Have you even had time, less than two months, to fully investigate such a complex situation?

    (4) Are you saying that Russia tried to change vote totals, but the U.S. thwarted them? If so, how did we thwart them? Did our firewalls and other protective devices work as they should have? Were our systems more secure than many press reports have led us to believe?

    (5) What about the possibility of a hack on vote tabulations at the Associated Press, which reportedly had very poor cyber-security protocols in place. Did you check on that, and if so, what did you find?

    (6) Going into the election, experts reported that Trump essentially had to win all of the following states -- Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He pulled off what seems to be an electoral miracle. What are the chances of that happening? Have you checked in each of those states to make sure vote manipulation did not occur?

    (7) If Russia was involved in election interference, including hacking the DNC, why would they not go ahead and hack vote totals? I can think of only three reasons they wouldn't do it: (a) They were afraid to do it; (b) They did not have the capability to do it; (c) They had a sudden attack of conscience and decided it was improper to take their chicanery that far. Do you have reason to believe any of those three scenarios took place?

    (8) Intercepts reportedly caught Russian officials celebrating and congratulating themselves after announcement of Trump's victory. Congratulating themselves for what? It sounds like they were congratulating themselves for some definitive steps they took to get Trump elected. Of all such possible steps, isn't the only one certain to work involve changing the vote totals? Just messing with the minds of American voters was not certain to succeed, was it? If not, then vote manipulation was required, correct? Even after all the pre-election mind games, polls showed Hillary Clinton winning fairly comfortably going into Election Day. Was vote manipulation the final arrow in the Russian quiver to make sure Donald Trump became president?

    I could come up with many more similar questions . . . but, you get the idea -- and I'm just one guy with a blog from Alabama. Perhaps it will be proven that Russian did not manipulate the vote. But right now, evidence suggests U.S. officialdom has made no serious effort to find out.

    0 0

    Jeff Sessions
    (From cnn.com)
    The judge who is handling both of our pending federal lawsuits represented Jeff Sessions during the case that prompted an Alabama state judge to allege the Attorney General's office engaged in "pronounced and persistent" prosecutorial misconduct under Sessions.

    R. David Proctor's appearance in the case came during an episode that should add to the evidence that Sessions (and Proctor, for that matter) has backward and divisive views on race. Those views already have cost Sessions a federal judgeship in the 1980s. Could the latest information help torpedo Sessions's shot at confirmation as Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. attorney general? The Senate Judiciary Committee certainly should review them in depth -- and Sessions confirmation hearing begins tomorrow.

    The new revelations grow from the same mid-1990s case -- USX Co. v. Tieco Inc. -- that prompted Jefferson County Judge James S. Garrett (now retired) to write that Sessions and his subordinates had engaged in the worst prosecutorial misconduct he had ever seen -- including failure to turn over exculpatory evidence, deceptive testimony, and "blatant disregard of the constitutional rights of those accused." (CNN broke that portion of the story in a piece dated December 22, 2016.)

    That was from a criminal proceeding in USX v. Tieco, but the case also involved civil matters, mostly in federal court. That's where Sessions and Proctor apparently engaged in some race-based underhandedness.

    We don't have access to the full record in the Tieco civil matter, but it appears Judge U.W. Clemon originally was assigned to the case. Clemon is a historic figure. He confronted infamous public-safety commissioner Bull Conner over Birmingham's segregation laws, marched with Martin Luther King, desegregated the Birmingham Public Library, and sued Paul "Bear" Bryant to desegregate the University of Alabama football team. He filed employment-discrimination lawsuits against some of the largest employers in Alabama.

    In 1980, Jimmy Carter appointed Clemon to the bench in the Northern District of Alabama, making him the state's first black federal judge. Clemon had a history of, and a reputation for, seeking justice for victims of civil-rights violations. To white right-wingers like Sessions and Proctor, they probably considered Clemon to view their positions unfavorably.

    U.W. Clemon
    (From atlantablackstar.com)
    Is that true? I've never seen any signs to support it, although I have seen signs that Clemon was more likely than most Alabama judges to give civil-rights plaintiffs (many of them black) a fair shake. True or not, Sessions and Proctor designed a scheme to get Clemon off the Tieco civil case.

    At the time, a relatively new law firm had formed in Birmingham called Lehr Middlebrooks Price and Proctor. The last name in that lineup stood for R. David Proctor, now a federal judge handling our cases. The third name stood for Terry Price, who just happened to be Judge Clemon's nephew (the middle son of the judge's oldest sister).

    Did Sessions and his chief investigator, Edward F. McFadden, hire Lehr Middlebrooks to defend them to create a conflict that would force Clemon off the case? The judge addressed that question in a memorandum opinion dated June 21, 1966:

    On June 17, 1996, counsel for defendants filed a "Motion for Hearing Concerning Representation 1461*1461 of Counterclaim Defendants Pursuant to Robinson v. Boeing." This Court treats the document as a Motion To Disqualify the new Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Lehr, Middlebrooks, Price and Proctor — one of whose partners is this judge's nephew, Terry Price.

    The motion raises the pregnant question of whether the disqualification of this judge was a motivating factor in the decision of counterclaim defendant Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Chief Investigator to hire that law firm.

    On yesterday, June 20, 1996, Terry Price entered his appearance for Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the State of Alabama; and for Edward F. McFadden, Chief Investigator for the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Alabama.

    Section 455(b)(5)(ii) of the United States Judicial Code (Title 28) requires a judge to disqualify himself if a person within the third degree of relationship to him is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding. Terry Price, being the middle son of the oldest sister of this judge, falls into that category.

    An opinion from the Fifth Circuit said a judge should be on the lookout for those who might seek to use Sec. 455 in an abusive fashion. From Clemon's opinion on that subject:

    As the Fifth Circuit has observed and held:

    ".... If after seeing who the judge is or weighing his rulings for a period of years, a litigant could in effect veto the [assignment] and obtain a new judge by the simple expedient of finding one of the judge's relatives who is willing to act as counsel, it would become possible for any party to disrupt preparation for, or, indeed, the trial itself. The drafters of § 455 warned that `each judge must be alert to avoid the possibility that those who would seek his disqualification are in fact seeking to avoid the consequences of his expected adverse decision. . . . In light of Congress' intent and the needs of judicial efficiency, we hold that counsel may not be chosen solely or primarily for the purpose of disqualifying the judge. The district court threatened with such maneuvers need not confine itself to grievance proceedings against errant counsel. `A motion to disqualify counsel is a proper method for a party-litigant to bring the issue of conflict of interest or a breach of ethical duties to the attention of the court.' [footnote omitted]. Indeed, `a District court is obliged to take measures against unethical conduct occurring in connection with any proceeding before it.'"Woods v. Covington County Bank, 537 F.2d 804, 810 (5th Cir.1976)

    Notice the terms applied to those who would resort to such a scam to disqualify a judge -- "breach of ethical duties" and "unethical conduct." In the Tieco case, it appears those terms could be affixed to Jeff Sessions, now nominated as U.S. attorney general, and R. David Proctor, now a federal judge hearing our two cases.

    Did the Sessions/Proctor scheme work? The answer appears to be yes, at least in part. From Clemon's memorandum opinion:

    Since this judge is automatically precluded from hearing the Motion to Disqualify the law firm chosen by the Attorney General and his Chief Investigator, consistent with Robinson v. Boeing, 79 F.3d 1053 (11th Cir.1996), the motion is hereby referred to the Clerk of this Court for reassignment to another judge of the Court consistent with the routine practices of the Court.[2] In the meanwhile, this judge shall proceed no further.

    Based on those words, it appears Clemon stepped down and did not return to the case. If so, did the cheaters (Sessions and Proctor) win? That's how it looks from here. These headlines from the time period suggest the same thing:

    * "A Company Suing Attorney General Jeff Sessions Has Accused Him Of Hiring The Nephew Of A Birmingham Federal Judge In Order To Make The Judge Step Down From The Case." [Associated Press, 6/20/96]

    * “Tieco Inc., Which Sued [Jeff] Sessions On A Civil Rights Violation Claim, Has Asked That Another Judge Review The Matter To See If U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon’s Nephew, Terry Price, Was Hired By Sessions To Get Clemon Off The Case.” [Associated Press, 6/20/96]

    * "Lawyer That Represented A Company That Sued Jeff Sessions: Sessions’ Hire Of Judge U.W. Clemon’s Nephew To Represent The Attorney General “Appears To Be A Tactical Move To Disqualify Judge Clemon From A Civil Rights Case.” [Associated Press, 6/20/96]

    * "A Company That Sued Jeff Sessions Claimed A Law Firm Hired To Represent The Attorney General In A Civil Rights Case Specialized In “Labor Law And [Had] No Special History Of Defending Civil Rights Cases Or The Attorney General” [Associated Press, 6/20/96]

    That last headline is particularly disarming, indicating that Attorney Terry Price had no expertise in matters present in the Tieco case. Did his main area of "expertise" consist of being Judge Clemon's nephew? Is that all Jeff Sessions and R. David Proctor cared about?

    If so, they engaged in clearly unethical conduct, under the law, and it should raise questions about their fitness to serve as U.S. attorney general and district judge.

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