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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Alabama Kangaroo Court Parades Liberal Commentator In Chains, Continues Indefinite Jailing

Banjo playing Alabama judges make "Deliverance" toothless inbreds look like Supreme Court justices - a stark reminder that "The 4th Estate" is DOA in Amerika

JUSTICE INTEGRITY PROJECT
By Andrew Kreig
11/15/2013

Alabama authorities paraded a shackled liberal pundit into court, where he was denounced Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing and forced to argue his case while bound. 
 
 
Jailed investigative journalist, political prisoner Roger Shuler
The defendant was Roger Shuler, a 56-year-old commentator jailed on contempt of court charges Oct. 23 for publishing columns about a politically powerful GOP attorney.

Shuler reports on Deep South legal affairs via his own Legal Schnauzer blog site and several others that are nationally prominent. OpEd News, Salon and FireDogLake frequently republish his columns, which are widely disseminated in progressive circles in Alabama.


Shuler specializes in political muckraking about scandals in the Deep South legal community. The reports often focus on claims that ordinary litigants are being unfairly treated in the courts. Also, he writes about financial corruption involving taxpayer dollars, illicit sex among conspirators and their minions, and cover-up to uphold family values image necessary for election success. Most focus on reports of wrongdoing by Republicans. But former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis and Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney and powerful force within the state Democratic Party, have been frequent targets of Shuler's also.
 
 
"Judge" Claud Neilson
Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, shown at left in an older file photo, presided this week at a hearing in the sealed case against Shuler. The handcuffed Shuler was shackled at the ankle and waist and vilified because of news coverage by the local CBS television affiliate and elsewhere regarding his Oct. 23 arrest, according to the defendant’s his wife, Carol Shuler.

 
 
"They gave him grief over coverage," she told me during a phone interview the evening of Nov. 14. "But what do they expect him to do? He's been in jail without bond." 
 
 
Carol Schuler
She said she did not know whether it was the judge or plaintiff lawyers in a libel suit -- or all of them -- who denounced her husband because news coverage of her husband's arrest and beating. Her understanding is that her husband remained tightly shackled throughout the hearing

She said her information was from brief phone calls from her husband, who remains jailed and without a lawyer, and from a friend who was able to attend the hearing. Court personnel barred others who tried to observe, she said.
 
 
That illustrates the extraordinary level of secrecy pervading the case, which the judge has ordered sealed. Shuler told his wife that he was beaten and MACED by four deputies during the October arrest in the family garage. Neilson is a retired judge who was recruited from Demopolis, a third of the way across the state, to deliver his brand of justice to the litigants.

According to her account:

Neilson threatened to have her arrested even though her husband said he was the one who had written disputed news reports and his wife had no ability to spike them. 
 
 
"That's your problem," the judge reputedly told Shuler when Shuler said that from a jail cell he had no ability to remove his investigative reports even if he wanted to do so. The judge said he plans to hold Shuler in jail indefinitely and wants Carol Shuler arrested also on a contempt of court charge. Roger Shuler said his wife has never written for the site until receiving a few emergency lessons via phone in order to write short news updates about the case.

 
 
"This judge is saying I can't even write about my husband?" Carol Shuler told me in wonderment Nov. 15. "What kind of judge is this? Any why did they have to go across the state to get him? They could have gotten a judge from right here."
 
Carol Shuler has cowered at home since her husband's arrest in fear that she will be arrested on the same contempt charge stemming from the libel suit, thereby ending the couple’s access to the world.
 
 
Bob Riley
The Alabama political establishment has reacted harshly to Roger Shuler's publication of columns alleging a sex scandal involving Robert Riley Jr., a wealthy and politically prominent attorney who is the son of a two-term GOP former governor Bob Riley (2003-2011).

Former Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003) was Alabama's leading Democrat until the Riley political machine helped imprison him on highly dubious corruption charges. Riley went to the governor's mansion in 2003 when 3,000 electronic votes switched sides in Baldwin County after polls closed on Election Day in 2004.


My forthcoming book, Presidential Puppetry, describes how the votes were stolen. Siegelman is now imprisoned in Louisiana as part of a long term pattern by Alabama judges to keep political targets away from family, supporters and the media. He sent me a column from his prison last week for publication on the Justice Integrity Project site. 
 
 
Former Gov. Don Siegelman
It it, Siegelman praised Shuler as being one of the few Alabama journalists with the courage to fight political corruption led in recent years by the younger Riley in alliance with court officials and Karl Rove who helped transform Alabama's elected judiciary from overwhelmingly Democratic in the 1990s to Republican currently. 
 
Rove has denied any wrongdoing in Alabama or elsewhere regarding use of the courts for political purposes, as in the 2006 political purge of those U.S. attorneys who would not prosecute Democrats on dubious grounds.

 
In the 1990s, Rove was a consultant for Alabama Republicans along with William Canary, who later became head the Business Council of Alabama and campaign manager for Bob Riley. 
 

Leura Canary
Canary's wife, Alabama U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, led the Montgomery-based office that convicted Siegelman in his second trial before a federal judge who controlled a company receiving $300 million in federal contracts from the Bush administration. 

The Obama administration continued the Bush appointee Leura Canary in office well into the spring of 2010. The Obama administration's actions in maintaining dubious Bush-era prosecutions and personnel have long puzzled political observers.
 
 
Rove thumbs nose at U.S. courts, Congress
To report on such matters ignored by Alabama's Republican-oriented mainstream press and broadcasters, Shuler started his blog in his spare time in 2007 while working at the University of Alabama communications office.

Based on sources this year, Shuler wrote that the younger Riley had an affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Riley and Duke denied the claims, and sued Shuler for libel last July. The judge took the planitiffs' side early in the case by ruling in a one-sided hearing that the articles were false. Shuler did not appear at the hearing or present evidence.
 
 
Journalist's wives now threatened with jail
Neilson ordered Shuler to remove the articles from public view. The judge included Carol Shuler in the command even though the Shulers say she learned how to post items on Roger’s main site, Legal Schnauzer, only after his jailing.

The case illustrates Alabama's return to a former era of police state tactics enforced by one-party rule and virtually ignored by the national media.

In the days of segregation, the dominant Democratic Party backed by such entities at White Citizens Councils and the Ku Klux Klan, used strong-arm police powers to enforce segregation and prevent blacks from voting. 
 
 
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a minister in the state capitol of Montgomery, led campaigns of peaceful protest often disrupted by police and other white violence. 
 
 
In the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that an Alabama police commissioner could not collect a $500,000 damage judgment because of relatively minor errors in a newspaper ad run by civil rights proponents. The judgment led to dismissal of nearly $300 million in similar inflated damage awards across the Deep South against media organizations. The decision thus established the current standard for reporting about public figures, thereby enabling national coverage of the civil rights movement and modern reporting on public figures on all topics. 
 
 
Shelby kangaroo courthouse
Alabama courts appear to be disregarding that precedent, among others, by taking a plaintiff’s side so early in a libel case. The order forbidding publication (known as “prior restraint”) and the secret court violate other traditions long established in Alabama and elsewhere.
 
 
Shelby County is a generally prosperous white suburb just to the south of Birmingham, its courthouse shown above in a photo by Roger Shuler. 
 
 
Bull Connor "hit parade"
During the 1960s struggles to overcome segregation, Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor unleashed dogs on peaceful protesters who included children. The race hatred led to the bombing of a black church that killed four children, and ultimately passage of federal civil rights laws by Congress and Supreme Court protections for the media and the public’s right to know.


Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore brought Neilson out of retirement in order to provide justice as a special judge sitting on the Riley-Duke lawsuit against the Shulers. Moore is the Alabama jurist who defied the U.S. Supreme Court in order to install the Ten Commandments on courthouse property in 2003. 
 
 
Neilson is well-known in Alabama for his surprise verdict in dismissing corruption charges against former Circuit Judge Herman Thomas, who had been accused of spanking prisoners under his control and demanding homosexual acts in return for promises of leniency. Neilson dismissed remaining charges after a jury acquitted Thomas of some charges and remained deadlocked on others.
 

Both Riley, a reputed likely candidate for a congressional seat in 2014, and Duke have denied Shuler's claims in court papers. Their lawyers have failed to respond to my request for comment.

Shelby County has achieved fame nationally among ultra-conservatives by winning a 5-4 Supreme Court decision last June voiding part of the Voting Rights Act. Until the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Justice Department was able to provide extra scrutiny on Deep South localities known for strategies to suppress voting on a racial basis.

The Supreme Court’s activist Republican majority ruled in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that, in essence, it knew conditions in Southern states better than Congress, which reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. The Republican majority ruled that bigotry in access to polls appeared to be so much less than during the 1960s that Congress violated the constitution by trying to allow extra federal supervision by the Justice Department. 
 
 
The court pointed to the election of some black officials as evidence that the federal government should not have the power to intervene in historic state’s rights.

In the Deep South, black members of congress are nearly all Democrats from gerrymandered districts that lump blacks together, helping keep nearby districts safely white and Republican. Alabama has just one major Democratic official in federal or state office, Terri Sewell, who represents the gerrymandered Seventh District stretching across the Black Belt with slivers to encompass parts of Birmingham and Montgomery.

Riley is rumored to be considering a run for the nearby Sixth District following the retirement of incumbent Republican Spencer Bacchus.

Shelby County authorities were angered by the news coverage afforded the case. My view is that the nation's media and legal professionals have not provided nearly enough coverage or intervention in this case. A few outlets have provided in-depth coverage, a few more have provided news briefs. Most have ignored the situation.

I see two next steps. One is for an enterprising columnist to obtain on the record quotations from journalism, free speech and civil liberties organizations about why they have not gotten involved more -- or at all. I have gone to several of my groups without success, as reported in my previous columns. It's probably counterproductive for me to probe my own organizations but someone should do it.
 
 
Justice, like The 4th Estate, now DOA in U.S.
My next initiative is to make it easier for busy or apathetic professionals to understand the stakes by speaking at the National Press Club and elsewhere about these topics.

The press club forum is at 7 p.m. in Washington, DC in the John Peter Zenger Room, which is named for one of the nation's pioneering fighting journalists attacked by authorities. The topic is "The Powers Behind the Presidential Throne" analyzing why elected officials even at the highest levels are beholden in many cases to hidden backers.

 
 
 
During my segment, I'll announce the hardcover launch of my book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters, and the research roots in the kind of corruption so evident in Alabama's courts.

Other speakers include Marta Steele, author of Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: How the People Lost and Won, 2000-2008. A recent reviewer of Puppetry, she will discuss, "The Election Integrity movement's rise and nonstop battle to win back the people's vote."

Also speaking will be longtime Washington civic leader John Edward Hurley, a director of the Justice Integrity Project. Hurley is a former White House correspondent, executive director of the Confederate Memorial Museum, and commander of the American Legion's post based at the National Press Club.

He will draw on more than five decades of Washington experience, including study of Alabama's recent politics, to warn of the danger to society when courts seek to enforce "law" as a technical realm separate from equitable and moral principles.

Other topics will include reflections on the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, and strategies by thought leaders to confine public discussions to talking points officially approved. Visitors to this site know that our project has been publishing a Readers Guide to the many new books, movies and events regarding the JFK murder.

Next in the series -- and topic for the the forum Tuesday -- will be a dramatic current example of such censorship. The City of Dallas has tried for many months to restrict access to the assassination site on Nov. 22 to those who support the controversial Warren Commission finding that the murder was by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.

Please join us at the press club for this no-cost, lively discussion, or to suggest a similar forum soon in your area or via your local media. 
 
 
Andrew Kreig
Andrew Kreig is Justice Integrity Project Executive Director and co-founder. Andrew Kreig has two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC. An author and longtime investigative reporter, his primary focus since 2008 has been exploring allegations of official corruption and other misconduct in federal agencies. He has been a consultant and volunteer leader in advising several non-profit groups fostering cutting-edge applications within the communications industries.
 

In 2008, Kreig became a senior fellow with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and an affiliated research fellow with the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law. 
 
As president and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its worldwide advocacy that helped create the broadband wireless industry. Previously, he was WCAI vice president and general counsel, an associate at Latham & Watkins, law clerk to a federal judge, author of the book Spiked about the newspaper business and a longtime reporter for the Hartford Courant.


Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World from the mid-1990s and currently, he holds law degrees from the University of Chicago School of Law and from Yale Law School. Reared in New York City, his undergraduate degree in history is from Cornell University, where he was a student newspaper editor, rowing team member, and Golden Gloves boxer. 



  

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