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- 07/11/13--08:44: _Records Show That B...
- 07/15/13--03:32: _Town That Was Shake...
- 07/15/13--09:05: _RealtySouth Agent A...
- 07/16/13--03:35: _Luther Strange's St...
- 07/16/13--08:45: _Federal Judge Henry...
- 07/17/13--03:20: _AG Luther Strange H...
- 07/18/13--03:27: _AL Judge Dorothea B...
- 07/18/13--08:25: _Man Who Claims To H...
- 07/22/13--03:20: _RealtySouth Agent A...
- 07/23/13--03:14: _Luther Strange's Mi...
- 07/23/13--10:16: _MS Federal Judge He...
- 07/24/13--03:15: _Did Republican Rob ...
- 07/24/13--09:00: _Has Bonnie Cahalane...
- 07/25/13--03:20: _Man Who Claimed To ...
- 07/25/13--09:52: _Allegations of Brib...
- 07/26/13--11:18: _Has White Judicial ...
- 07/29/13--03:07: _Luther Strange And ...
- 07/30/13--03:28: _Bradley Arant Law F...
- 07/31/13--03:07: _Here Is The Real Re...
- 07/31/13--08:25: _Luther Strange Refu...
In the pending disciplinary action against Alabama Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste, it probably would be hard to find a more perfect comparator than Suzanne Childers, who perhaps is best known for toting a gun to court. Both women sat as judges in the Domestic Relations Division of Jefferson County. Both did not hesitate to use contempt powers in cases where it appeared parties were ignoring court orders.
The record presents one glaring difference between the two women--Batiste is black, and Childers is white. Here is another difference: Batiste is facing possible sanctions from the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) for allegedly making excessive use of her contempt powers; Childers never faced such an inquiry, even though records show her use of contempt power dwarfed that of Batiste.
Does that suggest the AJIC is going after Batiste because of the color of her skin? Put more bluntly, does it mean the AJIC is a racist organization?
A review of documents in the Batiste case could lead a reasonable person to conclude that the answer to both questions is yes.
Julian McPhillips, the Montgomery-based attorney who represents Batiste, puts the discrimination question front and center in a Motion for Summary Judgment that calls for the charges against Batiste to be dropped. (See summary judgment motion at the end of this post.)
Central to Batiste's defense is her contention that AJIC rules preclude investigation of a judge for alleged erroneous rulings, absent evidence of bad faith. And Batiste claims that the AJIC does not even make firm allegations of bad faith, much less present any evidence of it. From the summary judgment motion:
Even though the AJIC only sparsely hints at bad faith, in the alternative, the fact is that the AJIC cannot point to one shred of evidence that Judge Batiste did engage in bad faith. As such, the AJIC does not meet the requirement of its own rules, which state:
"It (AJIC) does not review either final judgments or allegations of legal error or abuse of judicial discretion during a court proceeding absent evidence of bad faith."
As has been amply argued in the preceding pages of this motion and brief, there is a total absence of bad faith on the part of Judge Batiste, and as a result Judge Batiste is due to receive summary judgment in her favor on this issue.
As aforestated, all the complaints against her revolve around her allegedly misguided or misinformed use of the contempt power in a court proceeding. The AJIC Rules do not allow the AJIC or the Court of the Judiciary to review either "allegations of legal error or abuse of judicial discretion during a court proceeding absent evidence of bad faith." But that is what the AJIC has done. Hence, Judge Batiste is entitled to summary judgment.
McPhillips makes a powerful case. He argues that, even if Batiste mistakenly used her contempt powers, that does not mean she did so in bad faith--and the AJIC has neither alleged nor shown that she acted in bad faith. Based on the commission's own rules, it is not allowed to investigate Batiste's actions, much less impose discipline upon her.
Finally, reflecting on a standard for measuring Judge Batiste's good faith, when compared to other judges, are five copies of orders from a white female judge, Suzanne Childers, all in 2011-2012 (the same time period Batiste is being questioned about), wherein Judge Childers confined parties, respectively, for 325 days, 520 days, 310 days, 355 days, and 255 days. By contrast, the most Judge Batiste ever ordered someone confined was for 12 days, and usually no more than 2-3 days. (See Exhibits H, I, J, K and L.)
Those numbers are staggering, so let's put them in perspective. Childers confined one party for more than one year, three others for almost one year each, and another for almost nine months.
But Dorothea Batiste is the one on trial for excessive use of contempt power?
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, recently overturned a key section of the Voting Rights Act by more or less stating that we no longer have reason to worry much about mistreatment of racial minorities in Alabama.
You never would know it from studying the case of Dorothea Batiste.
|Ted Rollins (right) with Copper Beech|
founder Jack McWhirter at
So why are State College and the massive university in its midst throwing out the welcome mat for Ted Rollins, the CEO who has a documented history of being a child abuser? Rollins and his Charlotte-based company, Campus Crest Communities, are set to open The Grove at State College, which is one of about 40 such student-housing complexes the company has built around the country.
On top of that, Campus Crest announced earlier this year the purchase of Copper Beech Townhome Communities, which has been a major player in the student-housing sector for 20 years. Copper Beech just happens to be based in State College, PA, and its founders, John and Jeannette McWhirter, are among Penn State's largest donors in recent years.
It's likely that many residents of State College would not recognize the name Ted Rollins. And they almost certainly know little or nothing about his background. But the man--and his ugly history as a child abuser--now have a major presence in the town where Jerry Sandusky conducted his dirty work. We know him here in Alabama, of course, from his central role in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, which stands as the most grotesque example of judicial corruption we have encountered in the civil arena.
Ted Rollins' ties to State College, PA, came to mind when Penn State announced last Friday that it has reached tentative agreements to pay out millions of dollars to victims in the Sandusky case. From a report at espn.com:
Penn State could soon be paying out millions of dollars to victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after disclosing Friday it had tentative agreements with some of the young men who say he sexually abused them.
The school does not plan to comment on specifics until the deals are made final, which could happen in the coming weeks. University president Rodney Erickson called getting approval for settlement offers "another important step toward the resolution of claims from Sandusky's victims."
Penn State is working "toward the resolution" of the horrific Sandusky scandal, but at the same time, it is welcoming a student-housing company that is led by a man who is a proven child abuser. Last week's announcement about settlements in the Sandusky case came one month before The Grove at State College is to open in August for the start of the 2013-14 academic year. And it came roughly four months after Campus Crest announced its acquisition of Copper Beech.
Do residents of State College, and officials at Penn State, recognize the irony in this flurry of activity? It's possible that they simply are ignorant about Ted Rollins' background, but it is hardly a secret. We've written about it extensively here at Legal Schnauzer, and our reports have been picked up at a number of national Web sites.
Here are just a few of the posts we've written about Ted Rollins' record as a child abuser:
Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins Once Beat His Stepson To A Bloody Pulp (April 17, 2012)
Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins Has A Conviction For Assault In His Background (May 2, 2012)
How Was Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins Convicted Of "Simple Assault" In North Carolina? (May 10, 2012)
For the record, the Ted Rollins story does not end with the mere physical abuse of his stepson. He also was investigated for child sexual abuse, based on a report from an anonymous citizen. Here are some of our posts on that subject:
Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins Was Investigated For The Sexual Abuse Of His Stepson (September 12, 2012)
Towels Soiled With Feces Point To Child Sexual Abuse Involving CEO Ted Rollins (September 13, 2012)
The bottom line? A state investigation in North Carolina led to no action against Ted Rollins. No steps were taken to protect his apparent victim.
Residents of State College, PA, and supporters of Penn State should be familiar with that kind of story. Jerry Sandusky first was investigated for inappropriate conduct with a child in 1998, but nothing came of it. More than 13 years passed, with an untold number of additional victims, before Sandusky finally was held accountable.
Some of the evidence against Ted Rollins can be viewed in black and white, as in the following court documents from Franklin County, North Carolina. Perhaps Penn State officials should become familiar with them.
(To be continued)
Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds ordered Bonnie Cahalane jailed as part of the fallout from a divorce case styled Wyatt v. Wyatt, and then orchestrated an agreement for the sale of Ms. Cahalane's house while she was under threat of being returned to jail if she did not comply.
Court documents show that Amber Darnell, of RealtySouth, is listed as the agent for the Cahalane property. I called Ms. Darnell recently and informed her that both Ms. Cahalane's incarceration and the resulting sales agreement were contrary to black-letter Alabama law.
Ms. Darnell's response, in so many words, was that she is just doing what she's told, and the sale will proceed. (See video at the end of this post.)
"I've been told not to discuss anything with you because of this court order," Darnell said. "So I have no response on anything."
Darnell said she wasn't aware of Cahalane's incarceration, and it had nothing to do with her. "That's confidential information . . . all I'm trying to do is sell the house."
I reminded Darnell that it is actually is public information, from court records, and asked for the name of her superior at RealtySouth. She said it is Patty Bingham, and I stated that the company is unlawfully selling a house, one that essentially is being stolen from its owner.
Does that concern Amber Darnell or anyone else at RealtySouth? I couldn't tell that it does. Darnell claimed that Cahalane had agreed to the sales arrangement, but I said that came when she was wearing prison clothes and under the duress of being unlawfully returned to jail. A contract under such circumstances, by law, is void--but that didn't seem to bother Amber Darnell.
"I'm doing what the court has asked me to do," she said.
I noted that Ms. Cahalane likely will have grounds for a civil-rights complaint in the future, and that could expose RealtySouth to substantial liability.
Ms. Darnell's response? "All I can do is do what they've told me to do."
(To be continued)
That's because Strange praised the high court's decision to gut VRA at the same time he was being sued under VRA.
It's hard to imagine a more flagrant display of hypocrisy from a public official. But given what we are learning about Strange's personal life, perhaps we should not be surprised at anything he might say or do.
This is the same Luther Strange who argued back in January that the VictoryLand casino should not be granted a liquor license because the facility and its owner, Milton McGregor, have "a sordid past."
Based on our roughly three-month investigation of Strange's personal affairs, we can safely say that Strange knows a thing or two about sordid activities. We will be providing details in a multi-part series of posts that begins tomorrow.
The public already has plenty of evidence about Strange's tendency to make deceptive public statements that are hypocritical and, at times, downright dishonest. Consider his words on the Supreme Court's ruling on the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder. This is from an NPR report titled "In Alabama, Voting Decision Seen As A Sign of Progress, Setback":
The 5-4 decision declared unconstitutional a section of the law that established a formula to identify state and local governments that were required to get approval from the federal government before they made changes to their voting laws. The Supreme Court said Congress can change that part of the law — Section 4 — to reflect "current conditions" if it wants to continue to enforce it.
Luther Strange, Alabama's Republican attorney general, calls the ruling historic.
"What I'm most pleased about [is] it's a recognition of the tremendous amount of progress that we've made in Alabama over the last 50 years," he says.
Strange did not stop there. From NPR:
Strange says there's no doubt that federal oversight was needed in the 1960s. But times have changed.
"To treat Alabama the way all the other states are treated is a huge victory — symbolically, I think, and practically," he says.
"Big Luther" apparently neglected to mention one tiny detail: At the time he spoke those words, he was the defendant in a federal lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act.
In a case styled Johnny Ford, et al v. Luther Strange, et al, the mayor of Tuskegee and other residents of Macon County allege that Strange and Governor Robert Bentley violated the Voting Rights Act by usurping the authority of the county sheriff when Strange's office raided and closed the VictoryLand casino in February.
Plaintiffs' lawyer Donald LaRoche, of Brockton, Massachusetts, alleges that racism and thuggish Republican Party politics drove the VictoryLand raid, which heaped "economic devastation" upon residents of majority-black Macon County. From the complaint:
Beginning in 2003, white political leaders of the Alabama and National Republican Party . . . , including but not limited to Governor Bob Riley, initiated plans to elect white Republicans to the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government in the State of Alabama, allegedly referred to as "Operation 2010."
In order to raise funds to accomplish their goal, Alabama Republican leaders and elected officials entered into a scheme with the Mississippi Choctaw Indians Casino Operators . . . and later the Alabama Poarch Band of Creek Indian Casino Operators. . . .
This scheme included eliminating competition to Indian Gaming from non-Indian Gaming, including "VictoryLand" located in Macon County, Alabama. Eliminating VictoryLand served the dual goals of both by providing Indian Gaming a monopoly in Alabama and shutting off potential non-Indian Gaming . . . contributions that Republican political leaders feared could be used to thwart their political plans.
Strange, of course, is a card-carrying member of the Bob Riley machine, via mutual ties to the Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant. Machine members consistently have claimed they oppose gambling, in all forms, on a moral basis. We already have shown that one machine member, the former governor's son Rob Riley, has feet of clay when it comes to issues of private morals.
We are about to show the same thing regarding Luther Strange.
(To be continued)
|U.S. Judge Henry Wingate|
How could Wingate, a black Republican who apparently qualifies as Mississippi's version of Clarence Thomas, still be in charge of Minor's fate? After all, Wingate presided over multiple criminal trials in the Minor matter; how could he possibly serve as an impartial arbiter in a related civil matter?
The answer is, "He can't, but he's doing it anyway--in what's left of our so-called U.S. justice system."
As part of the fallout from the criminal case, insurance giant USF&G sued Minor and his one-time client, Peoples Bank of Biloxi, Mississippi. The basic claim is that Minor and the bank benefited from actions that were found to be unlawful. The civil case was filed in 2003, but it was put on hold pending the criminal matter. When Minor was released from prison earlier this year, the civil case kicked into high gear.
A reasonable citizen might ask, "How could the same judge hear both cases? He's heard the evidence, he's issued orders on various matters . . . how could he possibly be an impartial arbiter in the civil matter when he's already ruled on pretty much the same issues in the criminal matter?"
Under the law, such a citizen is asking all of the right questions. Per 28 U.S. Code 455, a federal judge must disqualify himself in "any proceeding where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." That means Wingate was required by law to step down from the Minor civil case, without being asked. But so far, the judge has resisted all of Minor's efforts to get him off the case.
Even if Wingate had handled the criminal case in an impeccable manner, he should not be hearing the related civil matter. But Wingate's recalcitrance becomes especially troubling when you consider that he butchered the criminal case in almost every way imaginable.
Here are just two of many posts we've written about the botch job Wingate committed on U.S. v. Minor, et al:
Henry Wingate: Portrait of a Corrupt Judge (January 28, 2008)
Judge In Paul Minor Case Continues His Evil Ways (June 14, 2011)
We are not alone in our critique of Wingate's actions. Columbia University law professor Scott Horton called some of Wingate's rulings in the criminal case "breathtaking" and "unconscionable" in a 2007 article for Harper's.
USF&G's lawyers, from the Jackson, Mississippi, firm of McCraney, Montagnet, Quin & Noble, almost surely know they have no legal basis for the civil claim. They apparently have the judge in their hip pocket, however, so the case is proceeding apace.
Consider just some of the facts and law connected to the criminal case:
* USF&G claims that it was the victim of a fraudulent scheme involving Minor and former Mississippi Chancery Judge Wes Teel in the underlying Peoples Bank case. But USF&G voluntarily settled the case, and Teel did not even issue a final ruling in the matter. He did favor Peoples Bank at summary judgment on the issue of liability, but that finding was in line with prevailing Mississippi law at the time. Where is fraud in a case that USF&G voluntarily settled?
* At the heart of USF&G's civil complaint is the contention that it was the victim of a bribery scheme involving Minor and Teel. But the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned all of the bribery-related convictions in 2009. The remaining convictions essentially rested on an honest-services fraud charge.
* In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Skilling v. U.S., 28 S. Ct. 2896 (2010), honest-services convictions can stand only in cases where bribes or kickbacks are involved. As already shown, the bribery convictions in the Minor criminal case were overturned. And kickbacks were not even alleged.
That leaves us asking this question about the USF&G civil case: Where's the beef? The case rests on . . . well, almost nothing. But the firm is seeking $12.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages anyway.
Minor probably has grounds to seek Rule 11 sanctions against USF&G lawyers for bringing a nonmeritorious case for the purposes of harassment. He also probably has grounds for an abuse of process claim against USF&G and its attorneys.
With Henry Wingate on the case, what are the chances that a Ronald Reagan appointee would hold an insurance company and its lawyers accountable for bringing a baseless civil complaint?
The chances are slim, but the public should pay close attention to Henry Wingate's actions in USF&G v. Minor. It's a classic study of a federal judge who is so arrogant that he doesn't even try to hide his favoritism toward a corporate litigant. And the corporation seems happy to benefit from the law being bent like a pretzel.
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|Luther Strange and|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Jessica Medeiros Garrison divorced Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison in October 2009, roughly one year before Strange won his race for attorney general. Their son, Michael Lee Garrison, was born on March 27, 2007. The Garrisons became entangled in a protracted court battle over custody, and Luther Strange's name plays a prominent role in that case.
Strange has been married to his wife, Melissa, for more than 30 years, and they have two sons. In a 2010 campaign video, Melissa Strange talks at length about her husband's integrity and his determination to "do what's right." (See video at the end of this post.)
The Stranges for years owned a home at 3210 Briarcliff Road in Mountain Brook, but sources say Luther Strange has purchased a house in The Waters development in the Pike Road community, near Montgomery.
Revelations about an extramarital affair call into question any moral authority Luther Strange might claim as the state's chief law-enforcement officer. One of the grounds he has cited for aggressive actions against the VictoryLand casino in Macon County is his claim that the facility and owner Milton McGregor have "a sordid past."
Now it appears that Strange's past, and present, are a bit sordid. Neither Luther Strange nor Jessica Medeiros Garrison responded to interview requests for this story.
Sexual fidelity is not the only issue at the heart of the Luther Strange/Jessica Garrison story. It also involves curious financial transactions, which have benefited Ms. Garrison and raised questions about the AG's judgment. That is particularly relevant in light of the ethics and campaign-finance charges Strange has brought against former Democratic state senator Lowell Barron.
Who is Jessica Medeiros Garrison? She is a University of Alabama graduate who worked on Strange's failed 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor. She was his campaign manager in 2010, even though she had no previous experience in such a high-level position. Like Strange, Garrison has voiced powerful opposition to gambling in Alabama.
Garrison was a partner at the Tuscaloosa law firm of Phelps Jenkins Gibson & Fowler, which has powerful ties to University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr., before accepting a position as chief counsel for Luther Strange in January 2011.
Complications from her custody case led Garrison to decline that position and move to Birmingham, where she serves in an "of counsel" role with the firm Balch & Bingham. She lives at 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook, not far from the former Luther Strange residence.
Garrison's rise in Republican political circles might have grown from her ties to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions and former Attorney General William H. Pryor, currently a federal judge on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. This is from a 2011 Tuscaloosa News article titled "Local Attorney To Join AG's Staff: Jessica Garrison To Be Chief Counsel For Luther Strange":
Garrison previously served in the attorney general’s office under Sessions and Pryor. She was director of Public Relations and Legislative Affairs for Pryor and was an intern and assistant director of Public Relations and Legislative Affairs for Sessions.
“It’s a true honor to return to the attorney general’s staff under the leadership of Luther Strange at a historical time for our state government,” she said. “Defending our state’s rights, protecting families and restoring honesty and integrity to the office are among our top priorities."
Garrison earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, where she was president of the Student Government Association, and a juris doctorate from the UA School of Law. She clerked for then-Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Scott Coogler, who is now a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Alabama, and in 1998 joined Phelps, Jenkins, Gibson & Fowler, where she had been a partner since 2008.
Jessica Medeiros Garrison says that she and Luther Strange wanted to restore "honesty and integrity" to the office of attorney general. In a series of future posts, we will examine how such high-minded words square with reality.
Speaking of honesty and integrity, those words show up in the Luther Strange campaign video below.
(To be continued)
Vowell became aware of Batiste's visit to the AG's office in Montgomery, and his resulting anger helped spur a campaign of complaints against Batiste to the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC), according to court documents filed yesterday.
Attorney Julian McPhillips urges the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to drop the charges against Batiste, claiming she is the victim of a vindictive prosecution that kicked into high gear when Vowell learned of her AG complaint. (See motion, including summary of Batiste's complaint to AG, at the end of this post.)
A subpoena to Jesse Seroyer, of the Alabama Attorney General's office, produced an "Investigative Report Form" on Batiste's complaint regarding Vowell. McPhillips obtained a copy of the report yesterday and promptly filed a motion asking the Court of the Judiciary to drop the case against his client.
Batiste filed an EEOC complaint, alleging sexual harassment against Vowell, on April 26, 2013. That came just one week after the AJIC formally brought charges against Batiste, and it suggested Batiste might have filed the harassment claims only after learning of the AJIC charges.
The Attorney General's report, however, shows that Batiste first complained about Vowell some seven months before she learned of the AJIC charges. In an affidavit filed with her EEOC complaint, Batiste states that she did not learn Vowell was leading a campaign against her with the AJIC until spring 2013.
Based on the AG's report, it appears Batiste made official complaints about Vowell long before she knew he had launched a campaign against her with the AJIC.
"This is dynamite in the sense that . . . it confirms and corroborates her complaints," McPhillips. "This shows that, back in October, she didn't know what to do. . . . She didn't know how to handle it, so she came down and made a complaint, and three different people heard it. . . . "
What about the specifics of Batiste complaint from last October? Here is part of the AG's report:
Judge Batiste related that the presiding judge in the 10th circuit, the Hon. J. Scott Vowell, had countermanded her judicial authority as a domestic relations judge on several occasions and had made inappropriate sexual advances toward her on several occasions.
How ugly did Vowell's behavior become? Again, from the report:
Judge Vowell continued to badger Judge Batiste about her cases and requested frequent personal meetings. Judge Vowell began a routine in which he would call on Fridays to Judge Batiste's office and demand a personal meeting. Judge Batiste advised that during these meetings Judge Vowell was "touchy-feely and always whispering in her ear." This type of behavior began a few months after Judge Batiste took office. She recalled that the first time Judge Vowell acted inappropriately, he placed his hands around her hips when they were alone and told her, "Ain't you a good looking thing. . . . "
Judge Batiste said this type of sexually harassing behavior occurred on [such] a frequent basis that she began to be afraid of being left alone with Judge Vowell. . . .
In regards to the sexual harassment, Judge Batiste advised that she had only told members of her immediate family about Judge Vowell's inappropriate advances. Judge Batiste advised that she was embarrassed to tell people about the sexual-harassment issues due to the fact that "it's not supposed to happen to me. I'm a judge."
A recent federal case in the Northern District of Alabama, styled U.S. v. Brown, 862 F. Supp. 2d 1276 (2012), addresses both selective prosecution and vindictive prosecution. McPhillips argues that both issues are present in the JIC case against Batiste. From the Brown ruling:
Brown has alleged both selective prosecution and vindictive prosecution. Vindictive prosecution is distinguishable from selective prosecution in that vindictive prosecution arises when the severity of the charges against a defendant is increased after the defendant exercises a constitutional right after criminal charges have begun, while selective prosecution occurs when a person is prosecuted based on an immutable personal characteristic, such as race or religion, or in response to some constitutionally-protected act that a person has done prior to the criminal charge being brought against him.
In the motion filed yesterday, McPhillips argues that his client suffered because she exercised her constitutional right to file a complaint with the Alabama Attorney General's office--and that goes to the vindictive nature of Scott Vowell's claims against her. From the McPhillips motion:
Judge Batiste requests that this court consider Judge Batiste's third affirmative defense of sexual harassment and retaliation to be amplified to include vindictive prosecution by Scott Vowell, who has used the AJIC and his close friends on the AJIC to punish Judge Batiste for her sexual harassment allegations to the Alabama Attorney General's office.
Evidence of that can be found on CEO Ted Rollins' iPhone, according to an unknown caller to Legal Schnauzer. The man claimed the iPhone came into his possession when Campus Crest gave away office equipment to individuals working on the renovation.
"Our company had around $400,000 in charges that [Campus Crest] didn't plan on spending, so . . . they divided the $400,000 up among other projects across the country. [That way] the stockholders wouldn't realize what they were actually spending on the office renovation." (See video at the end of this post.)
The iPhone includes contact info for a number of celebrities, including musician Rosanne Cash, basketball great Julius Erving, and pro wrestler Hulk Hogan. Just for fun, the caller said, he called the number for Rosanne Cash to see what would happen. When she answered the phone and identified herself as "Rosanne," the guy got flustered and said he must have the wrong number. "I called Julius Erving, too," the man said.
As for less famous people, photos of Birmingham resident Theresea Kilgore show up throughout the iPhone's contents, the man said. Kilgore has been a curious character in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case. We described Kilgore's role in attending a settlement conference and encouraging Sherry Carroll Rollins to accept several outrageously low-ball figures. That was in a post titled "Here Is More Evidence That CEO Ted Rollins Lied Under Oath To Reduce His Child-Support Payments."
Why would Theresea Kilgore show up in photos, apparently taken at locations around the country, on Ted Rollins' cell phone? We have no idea. "She's in a lot of pictures," the caller said. "She went on a lot of vacations with them."
The man again expressed alarm about images on the phone that he considered to be child pornography. "If I turn this phone over to authorities, [Ted Rollins] will be arrested immediately."
I expressed doubt about that because, based on descriptions of the images, I'm wasn't sure they amounted to child pornography.
The man admits that one reason he called me is that he had a contentious relationship with a Campus Crest employee and ultimately felt he had been treated badly on the renovation project.
What was the outcome of all this? Our story will be winding down with the next post in our series.
(To be continued)
Previously in the series:
How Did An iPhone Belong To CEO Ted Rollins Come To Play Central Role In Curious Con Game? (July 9, 2013)
Amber Darnell, of RealtySouth, is listed in court documents as the agent for the sale of a house belonging to Clanton resident Bonnie Cahalane.
I contacted Darnell recently and informed her that Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds had unlawfully ordered Cahalane jailed for five months last year as part of the fallout from a divorce case styled Wyatt v. Wyatt. The judge then orchestrated an agreement for the sale of Ms. Cahalane's house while she was under threat of being returned to jail if she did not comply.
When I informed Darnell that both the incarceration and resulting sales agreement were contrary to black-letter Alabama, she didn't much seem to care. "I'm just doing what the court has told me to do," she said.
Darnell, however, did seem to care about any unsightly publicity that might come from the sale. (See video at the end of this post.) Here is part of our exchange:
"There's nothing I've said that you would need to publish."
"Well, that's for me to decide."
"No, it's not because I'm the one who's verbally saying it. And there's not anything I've said or anything that you need to publish."
"I will publish what I feel needs to be done."
Darnell then referenced a statement I had made earlier about Cahalane's right not to be unlawfully incarcerated or be the victim of court-ordered theft. Somehow, Darnell equated that to her own alleged right not to be quoted about the sale of a house for which she is the listed agent:
"You're so concerned about someone else's rights, but when it comes to my rights, you're not worried about mine?"
"What rights of yours [have I violated]? I told you who I am and asked a few questions."
"And I said what I need to say and said you don't need to publish anything at this point."
"Well, you don't have that right, to tell me whether or not to publish. I make that decision."
Since that approach didn't seem to be working, Darnell decided to try insults:
"I've read your blog--it was brought to my attention by the ex husband (Harold Wyatt)--I know you are attacking RealtySouth and anyone you can attack."
"I'm publishing information that is right from the court file. You are the listed agent, and that's fact."
It seemed Darnell could use a refresher course on some basics of the law. So I decided to give her one:
"A woman is about to lose her house, and I consider that kind of important. The law is what's written; it's not what Sibley Reynolds says it is. . . . This is a judge who throws someone in jail for five months on a supposed debt? You just can't do that.
"Then you can't have a contract with the threat of the person going back to jail if she doesn't agree to it. That's Law School 101."
Darnell tried, without much success, to distance herself from inconvenient truths:
"I was not part of her being in jail. I don't know anything about that."
"How did the house come to be listed with you?"
"It was court ordered."
"I would encourage you to look beneath that court order because it's unlawful. I'm sure you wouldn't want to have your house taken from you unlawfully. I wouldn't want it done to me, and I don't want it done to Ms. [Cahalane]. We have lots of problems with judges who don't rule according to what the law says. That's what I'm trying to shine light on."
|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
Is this the sort of political back-scratching that grew from a longstanding extramarital affair between Strange and Garrison? Does their relationship go beyond questionable personal ethics to possible violations of campaign-finance laws? What kind of price has Jessica Medeiros Garrison been willing to pay in order to climb the ladder of high-level Republican politics in Alabama?
We sought to put those questions, and more, to both Garrison and Strange. But they did not respond to our requests for interviews.
Some insight, however, comes from a Verified Amended Petition for Modification of Custody filed on August 22, 2011, in Jessica Garrison's divorce from Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison. (See document at the end of this post.) The parties both lived in Tuscaloosa when the divorce was completed on October 21, 2009, and they reached a custody agreement for their son, Michael Lee Garrison (date of birth, 3/27/07).
Jessica Garrison managed Luther Strange's successful campaign in 2010 and was a partner at the Tuscaloosa law firm of Phelps Jenkins Gibson & Fowler when she accepted the position as Strange's chief counsel in January 2011. The new job, however, presented complications. From her petition for custody modification:
In January 2011, the Mother was offered a once-in-a-lifetime appointment as Chief Counsel and Deputy Attorney General at the Office of Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange. Her appointment followed her successful work as Luther Strange's Campaign Manager and required that she relocate to Montgomery, Alabama. The Mother duly notified the Father of her change in employment and intended relocation, expecting that given the short driving distance between Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, she and the Father would be able to work out an agreeable arrangement that would allow her to relocate with the child and still permit him generous time with their son. Instead, the Father objected to the relocation and communications between the parties deteriorated. Despite engaging in both therapeutic and formal mediation, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. The Mother never changed her principal residence to Montgomery.
What are the duties of the chief counsel for Luther Strange? The job intended for Jessica Garrison apparently went to former Bradley Arant lawyer Kevin L. Turner, and his LinkedIn profile describes the duties this way:
He serves as the principal adviser to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on all legal and administrative matters and is responsible for overseeing the operations of the office.
Turner only has been practicing law since September 2007, so it's hard to see how he is qualified to be principal adviser to the state's chief law-enforcement officer. The same might be said of Jessica Garrison, although she certainly is more experienced than Kevin Turner. Her only experience in a high-level state position came from working as an intern for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and working in public relations for former Attorney General William H. Pryor.
State law required Jessica Garrison to relocate within 60 miles of Tuscaloosa, and that forced a change in her career plans. From the petition for custody modification:
In an effort to minimize the conflict between the parties and to create a situation that might allow for the kind of compromise the Mother had initially envisioned, she secured alternate employment through the Republican Attorneys General Association [RAGA], effective July 27, 2011, that requires that she reside in Birmingham rather than Montgomery, and she has been hired to serve Of Counsel for the law firm of Balch & Bingham LLP in their Birmingham office. Birmingham, Alabama, is less than sixty miles from the Father's home in Tuscaloosa.
The change in job plans did not alter the close ties between Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange. RAGA is an affiliate of the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which has engaged in a number of curious financial maneuvers involving Indian gaming money, Luther Strange, and other high-level Republicans in Alabama.
We already know about the personal hanky panky involving Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange. We soon will be taking a closer look at their financial connections.
(To be continued)
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We have shown in a series of posts on the Minor criminal case that U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, based in Jackson, Mississippi, is breathtakingly corrupt. That issue takes on added urgency now that Minor has been released from prison and is facing a lawsuit from insurance giant USF&G that grew out of the criminal prosecution--and Wingate is in the dubious position of presiding over that case, too.
A lack of ethics is not the only troubling feature of Henry Wingate's "judicial temperament." A recent report from the Jackson Free Press (JFP) indicates the judge is lazy, incompetent, or both. In a piece by R.L. Nave, JFP reports that it obtained a March 22, 2013, report showing Wingate has a backlog of cases that is far larger than those of other judges.
The report shows Wingate had 49 cases on his docket, with 97 different motions pending longer than six months. Wingate's backlog far exceeds that of the judge with the second highest number of motions older than six months—Judge Carlton Reeves, with 17 six-month-old motions pending as of March. Judge Keith Starrett had six motions pending, while the other 11 federal judges had no cases older than six months, the report shows.
What does this mean for parties who come before Wingate? Nave spells it out in the JFP report:
On June 26, 2002, Roger Johnson was alone in a recreation room at the Hinds County Detention Center when a group of fellow prisoners attacked him. Johnson, who is serving a 30-year-sentence for armed robbery at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, filed a lawsuit in federal court against then-Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin and jail guard Delanio Sanders for failing to protect him from the assault.
That was May 2004.
Since Johnson filed his suit, Hinds County has a new sheriff, and Mississippi has a new governor, but one aspect of the lawsuit hasn't changed: It remains on the civil docket of U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate.
The judicial and legal establishment is well aware of Wingate's tendency to sit on cases. In 2010, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals scolded Wingate for taking more than six years to enter a final judgment in a civil case. From a law.com article about the Fifth Circuit's finding in the case:
In a footnote to its decision released earlier this month, the panel said, "the district court sat on the verdict for six and one half years before it entered a judgment. It is truly regrettable that the plaintiff has been denied his just recovery for these several years by the lack of judicial diligence."
If you live in the Southern District of Mississippi, Henry Wingate has the authority to take away your freedom--even if you committed no crime, as was the case with the Minor prosecution. He also has the authority to take away some, or all, of your assets--money and personal property that perhaps you have lawfully accumulated over your entire life.
We have put this sort of power in the hands of a man who cannot show the slightest hint of "judicial diligence"? That is a frightening proposition, and even lawyers in Wingate's district know it. From the JFP article:
The JFP contacted several attorneys who declined to speak on the record about Wingate's lack of urgency in dispensing with his cases, but the consensus among attorneys who practice in federal court seems to be that drawing Wingate is undesirable.
One attorney, who practices in federal court and did agree to speak but asked that we not use his or her name, said Wingate's delays "have a very harmful impact" on plaintiffs who are seeking relief through the courts.
"The old adage that 'justice delayed is justice denied' is very apt here," the attorney said.
One possibility might be a low sperm count. But the most likely answer, it seems, would be an elective vasectomy.
Since Riley raised the issue himself in our first interview--and it was one of the key points he made in denying the affair and its aftermath--we decided to call him back for clarification.
If Riley was talking about a vasectomy, that raises a number of questions:
* When did he have the procedure done and why?
* Who performed the procedure and were there any complications?
* Was his wife, Leslie McLeod Riley, aware he was having the procedure, and did she sign off on it?
* Given that they have four children, why did Riley and his wife decide that a possible fifth was out of the question?
It turns out that Riley was not anxious to discuss the matter. (See video at the end of this post.) After identifying myself and explaining that I had a few followup questions, here is how the conversation went:
Rob Riley (RR): I need to tape record this conversation with you, OK?
Legal Schnauzer (LS): That's fine . . .
RR: I've already told you that there is no truth to anything you've called me about before with respect to Liberty Duke. And I don't know of anything else I've got to say about it, but go ahead.
LS: You said when we spoke before that you had a medical procedure that would not have allowed you to father a child . . . Were you referring to a vasectomy?
RR: Roger, I told you I'm not going to entertain you with this nonsense anymore. You can base it on whatever you want, but it's true. I told you I'm not putting up with anymore of this crap.
LS: Well . . .
RR: Roger, goodbye.
I heard a click on the other end, so I immediately called back. I was put through to Riley's line and got his voice mail, where I left a message. It was not returned.
Do Rob Riley's various denials and explanations make sense? We will consider a number of published reports and public records as we examine that question in upcoming posts.
(To be continued)
Previously in the series:
Rob Riley Touts His Moral Standing On Gambling Before Abruptly Ending Interview On Sticky Affair (July 10, 2013)
Rob Riley Had An Affair With Lobbyist Liberty Duke, Leading To Pregnancy And Payments For Abortion (July 2, 2013)
Alabama GOPer Rob Riley Claims He Is Not Capable Of Causing A Pregnancy With Lobbyist Liberty Duke (July 8, 2013)
|Angie Avery and Jamie Collins|
Angie Avery Collins, of Clanton, is seeking a divorce from James Thomas "Jamie" Collins, but her estranged husband alleges in court documents that she engaged in an extramarital affair with a Chilton County sheriff's deputy named Shane Mayfield.
Jamie Collins states in a counterclaim that his wife's "course of conduct" created an "incompatibility of temperament" in the marriage. Jamie Collins goes on to state that the "bonds of trust have been severed."
This suggests that Angie Avery Collins is in a vulnerable position with her own pending divorce case. Does that explain, at least in part, Ms. Collins' weak representation of Bonnie Cahalane? Did Angie Avery Collins fail to fight for Bonnie Cahalane's personal freedom, and her property rights, because she wanted to gain favor with the Chilton County judicial establishment for her own divorce case.
I tried to arrange an interview with Ms. Collins to explore such issues, but she has refused to take questions on her divorce case and its possible impact on the Bonnie Cahalane matter.
A timeline of events raises serious questions about Angie Avery Collins' loyalty to her client in Wyatt v. Wyatt, where Bonnie Cahalane sought a divorce from Harold Jay Wyatt. The comment to Rule 1.7 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure states the following about a lawyer's duty to her client:
Loyalty is an essential element in the lawyer’s relationship to a client. An impermissible conflict of interest may exist before representation is undertaken, in which event the representation should be declined. . . .
If such a conflict arises after representation has been undertaken, the lawyer should withdraw from the representation.
Has Angie Avery Collins followed through on her professional obligations? Let's consider the following timeline:
* July 12, 2012--Angie and Jamie Collins are separated;
* July 26, 2012--Bonnie Cahalane Wyatt is incarcerated due to her failure to pay an alleged property-related debt in Wyatt v. Wyatt;
* September 11, 2012--Angie Collins files for divorce from Jamie Collins;
* September 28, 2012--Jamie Collins responds with a counterclaim for divorce;
* December 14, 2012--A court document is filed in which Jamie Collins raises specific issues of infidelity involving his wife and Shane Mayfield;
* December 18, 2012--Bonnie Cahalane is released from jail when she "agrees" to sell her house to helped settle an alleged debt to Harold Wyatt. This agreement was reached while Cahalane was under the duress of returning to jail if she did not give her OK. Under such conditions any agreement or contract is void.
The Collins divorce originally was assigned to Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds, the same judge who unlawfully threw Bonnie Cahalane in jail and coerced into an agreement for the sale of her house. The divorce case since has been assigned to a judge from Talladega County, upon Jamie Collins' motion to recuse all Chilton County judges because of their working relationships with Angie Collins.
Does Ms. Collins possess the wherewithal to stand up to Judge Reynolds, or anyone else in the Alabama judicial hierarchy, when she's in a weak position with her own divorce case? The answer appears to be no.
Black-letter Alabama law--perhaps best stated in a case styled Dolberry v. Dolberry, 920 So. 2d 573 (Ala. Civ. App., 2005) --holds that a party is not subject to contempt and incarceration because of a property-related debt from dissolution of a marriage. Did Angie Collins cite Dolberry, or similar cases, to help keep her client out of jail? We've studied the record and see no sign that she did.
Another fundamental legal concept--well stated in a case styled Claybrook v. Claybrook (Ala. Civ. App., 2010)--holds that a contract is void when it is reached under duress. Did Angie Collins cite Claybrook, or similar cases, to protect her client's property rights? Again, the answer appears to be no.
That brings us back to issues that Angie Collins' faces in her own divorce case. And that brings us to a Chilton County sheriff's deputy named Shane Mayfield.
(To be continued)
The caller said he worked for a construction/renovation company, and Rollins' Campus Crest Communities is the firm's largest customer. Someone at Campus Crest caused the caller to be fired from his job, so when the man realized he was in possession of Ted Rollins' old cell phone . . . well, he did some searching on the Web, discovered my blog, and thought I might be interested in the phone.
While scrolling through information on the phone, the caller said he learned a lot about Campus Crest. He saw documents about a lawsuit in Alabama, apparently at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, about a girl whose apartment had been broken into--and her parents were alleging lax security and negligent supervision at the complex. (See video at the end of this post.)
The man gave me the impression that he felt the phone had journalistic value, because of Ted Rollins' status as CEO of a major Wall Street-supported company, and he wanted to send me the phone. I told him that I didn't see a problem with that, as long as the phone had, in fact, been given to him, and thus, was his property.
It turns out the man was interested in more than journalism--he wanted to turn a profit. In an e-mail, he offered to give me the phone in exchange for $750. I said, no thanks, and that was the end of it.
Who was the guy? I don't know. He used an e-mail email@example.com apparently was designed to hide his identity.
What were his real motivations? I don't know, but my No. 1 guess is that he was trying to pull some sort of scam on me, perhaps at the instigation of someone connected to Ted Rollins. I notified Ted Rollins via e-mail about the episode, on the off chance that the man was trying to pull a scam on him. I received no reply, so that makes me think I was the likely target.
As for alleged pornographic images on the phone, referenced in an earlier post, I doubt that they existed. And if they did, I'm not sure they qualified as child pornography, based on the description I was given. The caller seemed to think that Ted Rollins was at risk of criminal prosecution because of the images, but I find that unlikely.
Was wrongdoing involved in all of this? I think it's possible. To make false representations, in an effort to sell a cell phone that probably does not exist or is not in your possession, might qualify as attempted wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1343.
I intend to research that issue further before deciding what, if anything, I should do about this.
Previously in the series:
How Did An iPhone Belong To CEO Ted Rollins Come To Play Central Role In Curious Con Game? (July 9, 2013)
A Glimpse at Information on Ted Rollins' Cell Phone Raises Questions About Alabama Divorce Case (July 11, 2013)
Man Who Claims To Have CEO Ted Rollins' iPhone Describes Scheme To Deceive Stockholders (July 18, 2013)
|Robert Vance Jr.|
Just when you think our "justice system" can't get any uglier, up pops a case like William B. Cashion and Western Steel Inc. v. Steven Mark Hayden, et al (Case No. CV-2012-209). After pondering some of the sordid details in this case, you might feel compelled to cleanse yourself with an industrial strength shower. (See key documents in Part 1 and Part 2 of a renewed motion for recusal, at the end of this post.)
Where to begin? Well, let's start with evidence of attempted bribery. From page 8 of Part 1 in the recusal motion:
At some point the office of Judge Robert Vance received cash from Western Steel and/or William Cashion.
Defendant Steven Mark Hayden (“Hayden”) was asked about his knowledge of these funds. Hayden testified that he knew only what he was told by Defendant, Frankie Cashion (“Frankie”). . . .
Hayden later filed a motion with the Court requesting disclosure regarding the bribe. . . .
From the deposition it is clear that Plaintiffs’ counsel had information regarding the details of this bribe.
Vance admits in the record that cash came his way--and yet, he has resisted all requests for him to step down from the case. Exhibits 8-11 in Part 2 of the recusal motion provide key evidence. From the motion:
At a subsequent hearing Judge Vance was asked about the aforementioned cash. . . . Judge Vance revealed that he had transmitted the funds to the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified as well.
Now we know that the bribery issue is serious enough for the FBI to be on alert--and the funds apparently came from the plaintiffs--but defendants are supposed to feel good about their chances of fair treatment in the case?
More details about the apparent bribe can be found in Exhibit 12. (See pages 31-33 of Exhibit 12 in Part 2 of the recusal motion below.) Vance says he received $500--five $100 bills--in an envelope that was sent to his home, apparently from Western Steel Inc. Vance described the envelope as "suspicious" and turned it over to authorities, who apparently have opened no case on the matter.
Plaintiff William B. Cashion is co-founder of Bessemer-based Western Steel Inc., and the record suggests he has a history of bribing public officials. Evidence includes an e-mail from Malcolm "Sandy" Wadsworth, one of Cashion's business associates, who says Cashion never has intended to use legitimate legal process in court cases that grew from his questionable investments in an Alabama gold mine.
The Wadsworth e-mail can be found as Exhibit A in Part 1 of the recusal motion below, and it says in part:
The Cashion team was completely against any peace discussions, they are happy with war, they are eager to fight and bent on destroying Mark Hayden in a Jefferson County Circuit Court. . . . (It was suggested that the deck is strongly stacked in Mr. Cashion’s favor in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. Mr. Cashion has bragged to the Wadsworths about how he has influenced Judges to rule in his favor during two previous court battles. He also told the Wadsworths that this is what you have to do if you desire to win in an Alabama Court.)
The Wadswoth e-mail goes on to state:
“The Cashion team is not playing fair and [is] bent on destruction … Mr. Cashion believes in the divine right of money and he believes because he has it he can do whatever he wants, no matter the cost to others.”
Consider some of the disturbing language in the Wadsworth e-mail:
* "Mr. Cashion believes in the divine right of money . . . "
* "[Cashion] also told the Wadsworths that this is what you have to do if you desire to win in an Alabama court case."
Is William B. Cashion trying to "buy justice" in Judge Robert Vance Jr.'s court room? It sure looks that way, but that is not the most disturbing aspect of this case. Mr. Cashion is well into his 80s, he is a private citizen, and court documents suggest he might not be of sound mind.
But that is not the case with Robert Vance Jr. He is an elected official who appears to be Cashion's enabler. Vance is using public resources to subvert the 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.
William B. Cashion might be an old, mean-spirited, guy, but the public's main concern should be with the actions of Judge Robert Vance Jr.
(To be continued)
Previously in the series:
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. Faces Lawsuit Seeking $25 Million in Damages (May 20, 2013)
Federal Lawsuit Claims AL Judge Robert Vance Jr. Favors Large Law Firm That Backs Him Financially (May 30, 2013)
With $25 Million Federal Lawsuit As A Backdrop, Judge Robert Vance Jr. Resists Calls For His Recusal (June 20, 2013)
Federal Court Cites Immunity In Granting Dismissal Of A $25-Million Federal Lawsuit Against Judge Robert Vance (July 8, 2013)
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Batiste claims that retired Jefferson County Circuit Judge J. Scott Vowell brought charges against her with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment against him to the Alabama Attorney General's Office. Those claims are central to Batiste's defense, but Chief Judge J. Michael Joiner has ruled that she cannot raise them.
"We are going into this with our hands tied," Batiste's lawyer, Julian McPhillips, said. (See link to video at the end of this post.)
That Mike Joiner presides over the Court of the Judiciary, and the Batiste case, should be a major concern to Alabama citizens. Before Governor Robert Bentley appointed him to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, Joiner served as a circuit judge in Shelby County. That's where my wife and I first encountered him and quickly learned that he is thoroughly corrupt.
Joiner was the original judge on a groundless lawsuit filed against me by our troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity. We would come to find out that McGarity has an extensive criminal record, with at least eight convictions on his record. McGarity somehow managed to get a job as a bar-code operator at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, even though the company is supposed to conduct stringent background checks because of its status as a federal Medicare contractor. How did Mike McGarity and his lengthy criminal history slip through the cracks? We intend to put that question to Koko Mackin, vice president for corporate communications and community relations at BC/BS of Alabama.
We also discovered that McGarity has three older brothers who all have criminal records--although two of them, Marshall (suicide) and Bill (AIDS), have died. A third brother, Charles Alan McGarity, has the most "impressive" criminal history of all, with felony convictions for theft and grand larceny standing out on his record.
Mike McGarity's lawsuit against me, under black-letter Alabama law, had to be dismissed on a motion for summary judgment (MSJ) within roughly eight months time. On our first MSJ, McGarity filed no timely or relevant evidence in response to our sworn, material facts, which meant we had to prevail. (See Voyager Guar. Ins. Co. v. Brown, 631 So. 2d 848, (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1993.) But Joiner ruled against us, violating his oath to uphold the law in the process.
On our second MSJ, McGarity filed no response at all--no answer to our MSJ (which raised issues that had not been raised on the first one); no evidence to counter our sworn, material facts; nothing. Summary judgment can't possibly be denied under search circumstances. Alabama law states that summary judgment is a nondiscretionary ruling. And when the nonmoving party presents no evidence to counter facts presented by the moving party, the facts on record are considered to be uncontroverted and summary judgment MUST be granted. We cited the relevant law in a previous post:
Rule 56(e) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure makes it clear. So does Alabama case law: When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing." Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993).
Law doesn't get more simple than that, but Mike Joiner couldn't get it right and denied our second MSJ. That's like having a college math professor who doesn't know that 2 + 2=4.
It's not that Joiner is confoundingly dense, of course. It's that he's corrupt. He ruled against us because McGarity's attorney was William E. Swatek, of Pelham. And as we have reported on numerous occasions, Swatek has a 30-year history of unethical behavior with the Alabama State Bar. He's been disciplined at least three times, including a suspension of his license, and he was tried for perjury in a criminal trial from the early 1980s. Public records show that Swatek unquestionably was guilty as charged, but an Alabama jury somehow voted to acquit.
Joiner stepped down from my case, upon my recusal motion, only after we discovered that he and Swatek are regular golf buddies. Under the law, Joiner was obligated to disclose that conflict at the outset, but he did not do it.
Alabama courtrooms are riddled with rogue judges, but none can be worse than Mike Joiner. And yet, he sits as chief judge of the Alabama Court of Judiciary, he will sit in judgment next week of Judge Dorothea Batiste--and he already has made evidentiary rulings that will keep her from raising key points in her defense.
That means Mike Joiner is a lapdog for the Alabama judicial establishment, led by Scott Vowell, and Judge Batiste almost certainly will be removed from the bench. Overwhelming evidence suggests Batiste is being railroaded and treated in a far more harsh fashion than her colleagues who are white or male--or perform according to Scott Vowell's bidding.
Officially, Batiste is in trouble for making excessive use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases. That almost certainly is not the real reason for the charges against her, and the mainstream Alabama press is showing signs of awakening to this unconscionable situation. Consider this from WSFA television station in Montgomery:
"I have known throughout all of this, people were going off into conference rooms, meeting together after hearings, coming up with strategies with how to remove me," Batiste said.
Batiste took office in 2011. She said it didn't take long for problems to arise with the presiding judge. She claims the judge harassed her racially and sexually. She also claims he tried to influence the outcome of certain cases.She said she complained to state officials.
"As that got back to the presiding judge, and the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, which we think we acting as his agent, then certainly the heat was turned up on her greatly," said Julian McPhillips, Batiste's attorney.The presiding judge has since retired. The court ruled those harassment claims will not be factor during the trial, which begins on Monday.
With Mike Joiner sitting as chief judge, and Scott Vowell likely pulling strings from a booth off stage, justice almost certainly will not be served in the case of Dorothea Batiste.
Video: WSFA report on Dorothea Batiste case
Legal expenses for the AG's office have risen from $0 in Fiscal Year 2008 to more than $270,000 in FY 2013, which ends September 30. Most of that spending has gone to outside lawyers, according to a report by Mary Sell, Montgomery Bureau chief for The Decatur Daily.
No one has benefited more from Strange's crusade against gambling than Bradley Arant. From Mary Sell's report:
Alabama’s attorney general has paid private attorneys about $360,000 in the past two years to help in his fight against electronic bingo and illegal gambling in the state.
It’s one of several cases for which the office has solicited help on the state’s behalf.
The amount the attorney general’s office has spent on outside legal services has risen in recent years, from $0 in fiscal 2008 to about $70,000 in 2009 and to about $271,000 this fiscal year, according to www.open.alabama.gov, a website run by the state comptroller’s office.
The expenses do not include those involving in-house attorneys.
Bradley Arant has a history of cashing in on the state's crusade against non-Indian gaming. Multiple press reports show that the firm sucked up more than $10 million in taxpayer dollars during the last two years of former Governor Bob Riley's administration, when gambling issues took center stage. Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, is a shareholder at Bradley Arant, and Luther Strange is a long-time Riley ally.
Mary Sell provides more details on Bradley Arant's tendency to feed at the public trough during Republican administrations that supposedly are morally opposed to gambling:
These are not the first gambling-related fees Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings has had with the state.
In 2010, The Associated Press reported then-Gov. Bob Riley’s administration paid the firm $536,115 to assist the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The firm also worked for King when he served as attorney general.
The firm declined last week to discuss its contracts with the state.
Imagine that . . . Bradley Arant is happy to take public money, but it declines to discuss its haul in a public forum. We've had experience with that here at Legal Schnauzer. We have sought interviews with multiple Bradley Arant lawyers about Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins and his connections to child abuse, perjury, and other unethical acts related to the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case in Shelby County. Bradley Arant is Rollins' chief corporate law firm and played a key role in preparing his company's Wall Street IPO, but the firm has steadfastly refused to respond to our interview requests.
One member of Luther Strange's staff would discuss the AG's private-lawyer expenditures with The Decatur Daily, and that was Chief Deputy Attorney General Kevin Turner. He holds a position that was intended for Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who managed Strange's 2010 campaign and has carried on a long-running affair with the AG.
Before joining Strange's staff, Turner worked at . . . Bradley Arant. From Mary Sell's report:
The attorney general’s office contends the numbers are misleading because they include fees for expert witnesses and money paid to other states during multi-state litigation. But much of that money in recent years has gone to attorneys working on cases such as the ongoing gambling litigation, defending the state’s redistricting plans, deferred compensation plans and defending the office from lawsuits filed by former employees, according to documents obtained by The Decatur Daily.
“In general, when we hire outside law firms, there are two possible reasons: One, for expertise and specialized skills, or there is a workload issue where we don’t have the manpower in the office to dedicate sufficient hours to that particular case,” said Kevin Turner, chief deputy attorney general. Turner sat down with the newspaper last week to discuss the expenditures.
Sell noted the irony of a former Bradley Arant lawyer serving as the AG's spokesperson on issues involving payments to Bradley Arant:
Turner explained when it comes to contracts with private attorneys, the attorney general has the decision-making power.
“There is no formal bid requirement on those contracts, so we determine who we think is best to handle the particular subject matter, and then the governor’s office approves the rate which they are paid,” Turner said. He’s a former associate at Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings, but said he has no interest in the firm now.
“Basically, we pick the lawyer and the governor’s office sets the rate,” he said.
Is Luther Strange proving to be a responsible steward of public dollars? At least one state official answers with a resounding no:
Some think expenses like the more than $364,000 for private attorneys to fight gambling in the state are unnecessary.
“This is a waste of taxpayer money,” Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said. “If the attorney general feels strongly about it, he should be handling the case himself, with staff attorneys that taxpayers are already paying for.”
Bedford, an attorney, said after years of legal fights and lost jobs, there still are electronic bingo casinos operating in the state. He said he recently saw several in Greene County.
“So, what’s the $300,000 going for?” said Bedford, who previously sponsored legislation to tax, expand and regulate electronic bingo casinos. It did not pass.
The Bradley Arant law firm, of Birmingham, has contributed $21,000 to Attorney General Luther Strange during and after his 2010 campaign. In return, the firm has received $364,000 in public dollars to help Strange's office with gambling-related issues.
If my math is correct--and that's always a big "if"--Bradley Arant has experienced a 1,730 percent return on its investment with Luther Strange. By most any standard, that is a tidy profit--and it's about to get even better.
According to a recent report from Mary Sell, of The Decatur Daily, Bradley Arant is about to rake in even more taxpayer dollars. Earlier this month, the attorney general's office entered into another $100,000 contract with the downtown Birmingham firm. If that contract is paid in full without another donation, it would run Bradley Arant's return on investment up to about 2,200 percent.
How is this happening? A review of recent Alabama history probably explains it.
Before leaving office in early 2011, former Governor Bob Riley cut a deal with Luther Strange. Riley was to support Strange for governor and raise $2 million for his campaign, while Strange was to "protect" Riley's children and direct any business he could to them. The flow of public dollars from the AG's office to Bradley Arant appears to be one way Strange is holding up his end of the bargain. After all, Riley's daughter (Minda Riley Campbell) is married to Bradley Arant partner Rob Campbell--and Riley's son (Homewood lawyer Rob Riley) has strong ties to Bradley Arant, especially to partner Matthew Lembke.
Lembke and Michael Pennington are among the Bradley Arant lawyers to work on electronic-bingo issues. That reminds us of the federal Alabama bingo trial, for which Bob Riley managed to escape testifying, in part, by taking a curious motorcycle trip to Alaska. That trip, of course, concluded with Riley having a crash near Fairbanks, and we recently discovered that the accident report is available online. (See report at the end of this post.)
Who tried to ensure that Bob Riley was excused from testifying after his motorcycle crash? It was our friends from Bradley Arant, as we reported in June 2011:
Attorneys for Bob Riley did not waste any time in notifying a federal court that the former governor would be temporarily unavailable to testify in the ongoing Alabama electronic-bingo trial. . . .
Michael Pennington and Matthew Lembke, of the Birmingham firm Bradley Arant, represent Riley and filed the post-crash motion. Bradley Arant employs Rob Campbell, Riley's son-in-law, and received millions of dollars in taxpayer funds during the Riley governorship. Dave Stewart, Riley's former chief of staff who has been quoted in news reports about the motorcycle crash, now works at Bradley Arant.
The story of Bob Riley's motorcycle crash never has added up. But the story of Luther Strange's cash pipeline to Bradley Arant is crystal clear. That probably is why the law firm itself declined to take questions for The Decatur Daily's report. The chairman of the firm's Political Action Committee (PAC) did take questions and, not surprisingly, he found absolutely nothing wrong with Strange's former law firm raking in piles of taxpayer dollars.
How to summarize the PAC chairman's response? It was more or less this: "Hey, we've got great lawyers, so we must be worth it." Here are the specifics from Mary Sell's report:
The Birmingham law firm has been sought out to help the attorney general’s office represent the state in the ongoing “electronic gambling dispute.” That assistance has cost Alabama more than $364,000 since 2011.
A representative for the firm said it makes contributions to causes and candidates around the state and files the proper paperwork.
“We don’t see a conflict,” said Mike Denniston, partner and chairman of the firm’s PAC. “The attorney general’s office, like any other agency, has the ability to choose outside counsel.
“We feel like if we weren’t doing good work, they wouldn’t continue to hire us and keep us on.”
Are Bradley Arant lawyers really doing good work on the "electronic gambling dispute," from a taxpayer's perspective? Is the firm's sweetheart arrangement with Luther Strange unethical, maybe even criminal?
We will take a look at those questions in an upcoming post.
Meanwhile, let's check out the accident report from Bob Riley's infamous motorcycle dump in the Alaska wilderness:
For one thing, lawyers are compensated for their service as special masters. But perhaps more importantly, the part-time jobs allow lawyers to cut favors for each other, in ways that can greatly affect the outcomes of cases . . . and prove lucrative for law firms.
Batiste, apparently thinking a judge actually should do the job of overseeing divorce cases, decided to ax the special masters program in her court. When that happened, certain lawyers let out squeals that apparently could be heard throughout the Alabama legal community. Among the divorce lawyers to squawk the loudest were Steve Arnold, Randy Nichols, and Wendy Brooks Crew--although they hardly were alone.
The lawyers complained about Batiste to Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell (now retired), and that is what prompted him to lead the charge against her with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC), which suspended her with pay. The AJIC complaint led to this week's trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, where Batiste faces possible removal from the bench.
A special masters program, administered correctly, serves a valid purpose, our source says--especially on a domestic-relations docket where each judge has roughly 3,000 active files. In theory, a special master should rule on preliminary matters--issues related to insurance are common in divorce cases--while allowing the judge to focus on core issues.
But the special masters program in Jefferson County had grown out of control, with masters often ruling on core matters such as custody and child support, while cutting each other favors and issuing orders that might not square with the facts and law of a case. In some instances, our source says, masters would conduct ex parte meetings on critical issues, outside the presence of one party and its counsel.
When Batiste took office, she saw a problem and decided to fix it. In the process, she stepped on some powerful toes, and the owners of those toes went to Scott Vowell.
Why would Vowell undermine a sitting judge at the behest of whining lawyers? It appears that Vowell has some unconventional issues in his personal life--issues that have been well known for years among members of the bar, but are to be kept from public scrutiny. During his years as presiding judge, Vowell and local lawyers reached a devilish agreement--lawyers would keep Vowell's secrets and provide him with power, and Vowell would let them have pretty much anything they wanted.
This arrangement served to significantly pad the bottom lines of divorce lawyers, and if some mothers, fathers, and children suffered because of tainted rulings . . . well, that was just too bad. Scott Vowell and members of the domestic-relations bar, it seems, did not care.
What, by the way, is unconventional about Scott Vowell's personal life? We will be taking a close look at that question in upcoming posts.
As for the Batiste case, AJIC prosecutor Griffin Sikes said in his opening statement on Monday, "This case is about due process of law."
In fact, the case is about lawyer fees, and it has nothing to do with due process, our source says. Did Dorothea Batiste go overboard on some of her contempt findings? Perhaps, but that's not the reason she is in trouble. Scott Vowell definitely knows it, presiding judge J. Michael Joiner almost certainly knows it, and Griffin Sikes probably knows it.
How bad is Jefferson County domestic-relations court? Our source puts it in perspective:
"It's like a doctor using his knowledge to kill people rather than to cure. What goes on in that court is contrary to everything you are taught in law school. You have lawyers using their knowledge of the law to harm people, even children."
The Batiste trial is expected to continue through today.
|Luther Strange and|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Strange spoke last week at the Dothan Rotary Club and the Houston County Bar Association, refusing to speak with reporters after both events. As Strange was leaving the bar association talk on Tuesday, a reporter for rickeystokesnews.com approached Strange with some questions, only to receive insults about his family in return. (See video at the end of this post.)
Rickey Stokes provides details in a post titled "Luther Strange Takes Digs At My Deceased Dad, My Mother With Alzheimer's, and Me." Here is how Stokes describes his encounter with our state's chief law-enforcement officer:
On Tuesday Strange spoke to the Houston County Bar Association breakfast at Dothan Country Club. Strange made sure he avoided me while he was there. As Strange started to leave I was between the door and the black Ford Expedition used to haul him around. As Strange passed me I asked for a interview and was persistent. After Strange sit down in the Ford Expedition used to haul him around in, he exited the vehicle to downgrade me and my parents.
Strange exited and said he did not interview with people who did not tell the truth, that his parents raised him to tell the truth and apparently I was not raised that way and he would be praying for me. With that said Strange returned to the Ford Expedition used to haul him around in with his Executive Security Agent closing the door. I told Strange he was a chicken for not interviewing and he drove off.
Strange had promised at some point to answer Stokes' questions, but something made him change his mind. What got under Luther Strange's skin? For one, Stokes had criticized Strange's response to the hostage/school bus standoff at Midland City in January. For another, Strange apparently is bothered by our reporting on his long-running affair with former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison and . . . well, here is Rickey Stokes' perspective:
Second, Strange took offense to the fact I linked to the Legal Schnauzer article where it made reference to allegations that Luther Strange had an extramarital affair with one of his campaign staff persons.
Rickey Stokes did not make the accusation, nor did I find the article. The article was pointed out to me and it needed to be posted. So I linked the article.
I do not know if Strange had an affair, nor did I intend to ask him about it, well until he was avoiding me.
Stokes has other thoughts on why Strange wanted to avoid his questions:
If the information of the Legal Schnauzer is not true, then what is wrong with saying "that is an outright lie, not true at all". Or, are you afraid to answer because you will deny and are afraid of what proof there might be out there that someone might have?
So if you avoid the person out of fear of being asked the tough question, then you can use you Executive Security as a shield and not have to answer. The truth should be the truth, right?
So, Luther is hiding.
The irony of having an adulterer lecture you about honesty surely was not lost on Rickey Stokes. Neither, I'm sure, was the irony of having an adulterer offer you his prayers.
Rickey Stokes has Luther Strange figured out--and that's why the AG wants no part of his questions. Here is a video of their recent confrontation:
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