Who Will Hold Them Accountable? –
The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
There is so much rotten egg on so many faces in Alabama this week it is hard to decide where to begin.
But I guess the biggest news is the egg all over the faces of just about every major law firm in Alabama, including and especially the Jere Beasley’s firm Beasley-Allen and the Alabama Association for Justice, formerly the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association.
It is widely known in legal circles that law firms pumped millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of Ten Commandments Judge Roy Moore to get him back on the state Supreme Court, simply because he was not an advocate of tort reform and they thought he would allow some of their jury awards for punitive damages to stand. Beasley allegedly got Moore to promise that he would not grandstand on the Ten Commandments issue again if they backed his campaign to return to public office.
According to numerous legal sources, it was working. The other Republican justices on the state Supreme Court were so afraid of Judge Roy Moore that they had begun going along and letting cases stand after many years of tossing them out of court like flies on old barbecue in the picnic garbage can.
But now the entire legal system in Alabama is in the pickle jar again. The problem is, Moore did not make a promise not to grandstand on the issue of gay marriage, so his defiance of the federal courts has landed him in hot water again.
After recieving numerous complaints from citizens and organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore on Friday with violating the state’s judicial ethics laws and suspended him with pay.
He could be removed from the bench again for defying a federal court ruling in Mobile that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court making same sex marriage legal in Alabama. Moore had ordered probate judges around the state not to grant marriage licenses to gay couples and claimed the federal courts had no authority in his jurisdiction.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constituaionality of the law in June, paving the way for the right of same-sex couples to marry.
“Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority,” the complaint against him reads. “Moore knowingly ordered (probate judges) to commit violations… knowingly subjecting them to potential prosecution and removal from office.”
The complaint makes clear that Moore’s order “was contrary to clear and determined law about which there is no confusion or unsettled question.”
Moore stood in defiance of judicial authority again, issuing a statement saying the commission has no authority over administrative orders or the court’s ability to prohibit probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
“We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail,” he said.
Moore, a right-wing Christian Republican, was removed from office in 2003 after a federal judge ruled he was placing himself above the law by refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument hand-carved out of granite he snuck into the state Supreme Court building in the middle of the night.
But he won the chief justice job back in 2012 with the help of the state’s trial lawyers, vowing not to do anything to create further friction with the federal courts, according to the Reuters wire service.
Mike Hubbard Case
But that’s not the only egg to go around.
This past week, every two bit blogger and Facebook headline chaser moved a story claiming Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had reached a plea deal with prosecutors to turn state’s evidence against other corrupt Republicans in Alabama.
The news was so all over the place that Hubbard’s attorney, former Alabama Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley, felt he had to defy a judge’s gag order not to talk about the case to come out publicly and deny the rumor that a deal had been struck.
“There’s not a grain of truth to it,” Baxley said on Wednesday. “There hasn’t been a deal, and there won’t be a deal.”
Many news organizations, including Newhouse’s al dot com, moved news stories and Tweeted the story, then had to come back and say it wasn’t true.
The story was promulgated by Roger Shuler, the Legal Schnauzer blogger who is in cahoots with Donald Watkins, a lawyer, banker and “political gadfly” according to al dot com, “who has used his Facebook page as a platform for lobbing grenades at various Alabama politicians, including Hubbard and Gov. Robert Bentley.”
They have also been at the center of the alleged sex scandal involving Bentley, which so far has turned up no evidence of sex, only an old recording with Bentley making inappropriate remarks to his aid Rebekah Mason.
Watkins often brags that his “Facebook news team” has another news exclusive, and posts a copyright notice on his Facebook posts, in defiance of the rules of Facebook, which claims ownership of everything posted on the social networking site. He finally admitted that his “news team” includes Shuler for the first time after a tea party blog called Yellowhammer and al dot com jumped on the Bentley sex scandal band wagon.
Al dot com blogger Kyle Whitmire, who had tweeted a story already about the plea deal, reported that Watkins made the claim about the plea deal on Facebook last month, then reported it on Tuesday as fact, including many specifics of the deal.
It sounded plausible. Hubbard was to have agreed to spend 18 months in prison in exchange for testifying against Bentley, former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh.
But none of it was true.
This just goes to show you that you can’t depend on the anonymous comment and e-mail rumor mill in Alabama. It takes a real reporter with authentic human sources to cover the legal and political system, not partisan bloggers with an axe to grind trying to make something happen by posting sensational nonsense on Facebook.
The problem is, in this world of free-for-all blogging and tweeting, there is no accountability. No one will be fired for reporting false information as true. Only the public can hold them accountable — by finding out the truth and refusing to follow the so-called news organizations, bloggers and Facebook posters whose information proves to be wrong.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.