Alabama's 90 More Days For Blogger As NY Times Flubs Libel Story

Jailed Alabama reporter-blogger Roger Shuler,  received a 90-day sentence Jan. 14 promptly after losing a quickie trial earlier that day.

As the state's judicial system continued to crush a defendant being held indefinitely, Shelby County District Judge Ronald Jackson found Shuler guilty of resisting arrest Oct. 23 in his garage.

Shuler, shown below in his mug shot photo and face swollen from a beating, has been since then without bond on charges of contempt of court for his writing and refusal to spike his stories.

Roger ShulerShuler, 57, alleges that he was beaten without cause in his garage Oct. 23 by an arresting officer who failed to show a warrant for showing that the reporter was being arrested for contempt of court.

But Shelby County District Judge Ronald Jackson accepted the version of Shelby Count him, worked in tandem with politically connected lawyers to destroy him for his reporting.

Shuler, 57, alleges that he was beaten without cause in his garage Oct. 23 by an arresting officer who failed to show a warrant for showing that the reporter was being arrested for contempt of court.

But Shelby County District Judgeaccepted the version of Shelby County deputy Deputy Christopher Blevins who said he had to use force to subdue Shuler after fearing that Shuler was reaching into his pocket for a weapon. Shuler is shown puffy-eyed in a mug shot at right taken after the arrest, which involved a total of four deputies.  

The judge suspended the term unless Shuler pays court costs of some $2,000. But Shuler is jobless, without savings, and is being held indefinitely in without bond on a contempt on contempt charges by another judge, Claud Neilson, who was brought of out retirement especially to deal with Shuler, his wife Carol, and a libel suit brought against him by politically connected Alabamans.

On Jan. 12, the New York Times published a 1,200-word article citing the libel case as a threat to the public’s First Amendment protections.

One news peg was that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a year-end list of more than 200 journalists jailed because of their writing. Shuler was the only victim in the Western Hemisphere.

The Times, however, reported the story in way so biased as to thwart reader understanding and press freedom. For example, the newspaper described Shuler and his wife as refusing to obtain a lawyer.

“We’d love to get a lawyer,” Carol Shuler told me in a phone interview Jan. 14, “but we don’t have any money to hire one.”

Further, the Times reported Shuler using “fuzzy sources” to write about sex scandal, and being conspiracy-minded, contemptuous of court procedures, and “no stranger to defamation suits.”

In essence, Times reporter Campbell Roberts portrayed Shuler a borderline kook whose bad habits prompted the court system’s mistreatment. The report – while helpful in bringing the shocking legal abuses to a wider audience – sought also to draw an untenable distinction between the authority-based reporting of the Times and the world of bloggers.

My column today uses these events to show that the court system’s prosecution of Shuler and the state of press freedom is far worse than the Times reported.  

Additionally, the Shuler case shows that even the nation’s best-funded and most prestigious general circulation newspaper excluded key facts from its coverage, thereby fostering the rollback of First Amendment rights that the article ostensibly seeks to vindicate.  

Further, a close examination of the methods of the Times, other outlets and indeed Shuler’s would show a number of shortcomings.

The lesson is that readers need multiple sources of information because each outlet has its strengths, weaknesses and bias. The Times, for example, has many strengths of course, but is highly dependent on official statements and records from authority figures, especially those involved with the law.  Moreover, the paper has an institutional interest in drawing sharp distinctions between its style of reporting and that of alternative outlets.

The Times and similar outlets, however, are highly vulnerable to misinformation if legal procedures are manipulated in ways that the typical reporter and supervisory editor have neither time, space nor other incentive to explore.

To overcome such obstacles, a reporter and news outlet would need to question authority – a stance the mainstream media are increasingly reluctant to take across the full range of government issues.

So are national media and legal organizations. Only a few groups have reported – much less protested – Shuler’s treatment even though it violates long-standing court precedents forbidding “prior restraint” of news articles and commentary. CPJ and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have protested Shuler’s treatment, but very few others have even covered it in their internal publications.

Yet the stakes are very high nationally. In the Shuler case and a number of other high-profile cases, Alabama state courts have challenged the long-standing First Amendment and due process legal precedents that enabled, among other things, national coverage of the civil rights movement five decades ago.

With minimal protest by legal groups aside from the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Alabama courts are rolling back the clock more than five decades to re-establish the kind of legal framework that allowed the jailing of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and imposition of millions of dollars of inflated libel awards against national news organizations, including the New York Times.

This is documented in my original column on the Shuler history.

In this environment, bloggers have been the major conduit to report the facts. The Shuler case, however, not only removes the Deep South’s leading watchdog from action but serves as a warning against any other writers so inclined within jurisdictions seeking to turn back the clock on U.S. Supreme Court law to a period before the 1960s decisions, such as the 9-0 free press landmark, New York Times v. Sullivan, overturning a crippling libel verdict won against the newspaper by an Alabama police chief.


ignored longstanding requirements for public courtrooms and due process.  The Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a friend of the court brief in protest.  

As disclosure, I have been trying with little success to persuade several other journalism groups to which I belong to take an interest in Shuler’s plight. For the most part, they either ignored my requests or they complain that they lack of funding or staff to do anything. As a member, I feel foreclosed from reporting on their timid postures but would encourage someone else to put their leaders on the record.  

Furthermore, I have worked cooperatively with Shuler for nearly five years on columns revealing injustices in Deep South courts, and documented the national implications.  

Perhaps most dramatic has been the frame-up by Alabama Republicans of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state’s leading Democrat.  Siegelman, governor from 1999 to 2003, is serving a long prison sentence for 1999 conduct that is not even a crime, according to many law professors and former prosecutors. Among the latter are 113 former state attorneys general from more than 40 states. A number of high-profile Republicans also have protested the frame-up treatment, including former Congressman Parker Griffith.  The Obama administration has gone along with the prosecution, which is a sinister story in itself that I describe in my new book, Presidential Puppetry.

Shuler has documented the Siegelman frame-up in well over a hundred columns showing how a Republican plot orchestrated by Karl Rove and his allies helped judges, prosecutors and other personnel steal the 2002 gubernatorial election by flipping votes in Baldwin County, imprison Siegelman on trumped evidence, smear Siegelman enough to destroy the state’s Democratic Party, and thereby elect Republican Bob Riley to two terms from 2003 to 2011.  

Relevant also is that Alabama Republicans hired Karl Rove to help transformer Alabama’s judiciary in the 1990s. As documented by the Atlantic in 2004, Alabama’s Supreme Court by then had switched from all-Democratic to all-Republican.  Relevant to the Shuler case, Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore became nationally famous for flouting U.S. Supreme Court holdings on religion. (Moore brought Claud Neilsen out of retirement to deal with Shuler as a special judge handling the Shuler libel case.)

Similar patterns have occurred in state and federal elective offices, although not so extreme. All major statewide offices have been held by Republicans in recent years, and all congressional seats are held by Republicans aside from one heavily gerrymandered district grouping African-American and Democratic votes together, thereby helping keeping Republican control elsewhere.

Much of that realignment of Alabama state politics reflects normal voting realignments congruent with longterm pro-Republican trends visible in other Deep South states, and nationally.


My view is thus that of a commentator trying to be fair, but not necessarily objective in the formula of the Times by soft-peddling criticism of authorities and .

Authorities have held Shuler without bond in the Shelby County jail since his arrest for failure to spike his news reports alleging that prominent Alabama attorney Robert Riley Jr. and lobbyist Liberty Duke had an affair while married.

Riley and Duke filed a defamation suit in July, and denied Shuler’s claims in affidavits. The plaintiffs obtained a judge specially appointed for their case, and seal the proceeding from public view. Without even a trial, they won an injunction against Shuler’s reporting by a judge who told Shuler he will remain jailed forever unless his spikes his stories.

Carol Shuler  points to compelling evidence minimized by the Times reporter that her husband has been targeted by a coordinated campaign through the court system not unlike that inflicted by allies of Karl Rove on American’s most notorious political prisoner, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat in office from 1999 to 2003.  Shuler, via his Legal Schnauzer blog site of investigative commentary on the court system, is the nation’s most prolific blog defender of Siegelman, who is now serving a long prison term for conduct in 1999 that 113 former state attorneys generals described as a non-crime.

This campaign is like authorities used libel and contempt of court rulings some five decades ago to stop the civil rights movement in that same section of central Alabama.


Also, obert Riley Jr., the son of the former governor, had impregnated a lobbyist named Liberty Duke and secretly paid for an abortion. Both denied it, and Ms. Duke swore in an affidavit that they had never even been alone in the same room.

In July, Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke sought an injunction in state court against such posts, citing Mr. Shuler and his wife, Carol, in defamation suits. A judge issued a temporary restraining order in September barring the Shulers from publishing “any defamatory statement” about Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke and demanding that the offending posts be immediately removed.

Such a sweeping order struck some lawyers as far too broad, and Mr. Shuler says he did not even know about it.

The Shulers refused to answer the door when officials came to serve court papers, stating their suspicions in blog posts that the visits were part of an “intimidation and harassment campaign” stemming from the reporting on another topic.

One afternoon as the Shulers drove to the local library, where Mr. Shuler had been writing his blog since they could no longer pay for their Internet connection, a member of the Sheriff’s Department pulled them over, saying they had run a stop sign. The officer then served them the papers, which the Shulers refused to accept, contending that service under such a pretext was improper.

“We were both throwing the papers out of the windows as we were driving off,” Ms. Shuler said in an interview.

The Shulers missed a hearing the next day, and the restraining order was superseded by a similarly worded preliminary injunction, which some free-speech advocates saw as a clear violation of Mr. Shuler’s First Amendment rights.

“It seems to me that the judge’s order was really way out of bounds,” said David Gespass, a civil rights lawyer in Birmingham, who was further troubled by the judge’s initial decision to keep the case under seal.

Carol Shuler in the basement of her home in Birmingham, Ala. She is facing the same defamation suit that has her husband, Roger, in jail on a contempt charge. Cary Norton for The New York Times

Mr. Shuler continued blogging. On Oct. 23, the police followed Mr. Shuler as he pulled into his driveway, arrested him in his garage and took him to jail on charges of contempt and resisting arrest.

In the hyperpartisan corners of the blogosphere where Mr. Shuler was already known, there was shock. Even some of his dedicated foes were alarmed.

The National Bloggers Club, a group led by the Republican activist Ali Akbar, who has also threatened to sue Mr. Shuler for defamation, released a statement condemning Mr. Shuler’s “rumormonger cyberbullying” but also criticizing the injunction as creating a potential chilling effect on blogging.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a “friend of the court” brief, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to the judge.

On Nov. 14, the judge held a hearing, and Mr. Shuler, who was representing himself, took the stand, insisting that the court had no jurisdiction over him and calling the court a joke. The judge decided that the hearing had “served as a trial on the merits” and made his final ruling: Mr. Shuler was forbidden to publish anything about Mr. Riley or Ms. Duke involving an affair, an abortion or payoffs; was to pay them nearly $34,000 for legal fees; and was to remove the offending posts or remain in jail.

Mr. Riley said Mr. Shuler’s refusal to engage with the legal process had given the judge the leeway to make a final ruling.

“If someone can continually ignore the judge just by saying, ‘You don’t have jurisdiction over me,’ then the whole system breaks down,” Mr. Riley said, adding that Mr. Shuler could not plead ignorance of the legal process. “This is not the first time Roger Shuler has been in court.”

But Mr. White and others say that before a judge can take the step of banning speech, libel must be proved at trial, or at least over a litigation process more involved than a quick succession of hearings, with the only evidence presented by the plaintiffs.

“Idiocy is not a zero-sum game,” Mr. White said. “I think you can say that what the court is doing is unconstitutional and troublesome and also that Shuler is his own worst enemy.”

So while the furor has all but dissipated, Mr. Shuler remains in jail, unwilling to take down his posts but also unwilling to hire a lawyer and contest his incarceration in the state courts.

“This is flat-out court corruption, and it’s criminal,” he said in an interview from prison.

His wife spoke of collecting damages when this is over, but Mr. Shuler is thinking beyond civil remedies this time: He is planning to bring federal criminal charges against the judge.

Business Insider, Law & Order More: Alabama Journalists First Amendment
Alabama Blogger May Be The Only Person Jailed For Journalism In The Western Hemisphere, Pamela Engel, Jan. 13, 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/roger-shuler-legal-schnauzer-troubles-2014-1#ixzz2qNrUFQEQ

An Alabama blogger who's been jailed indefinitely after writing salacious posts about local Republican politicians is the only person in the Western Hemisphere on a prominent list of imprisoned journalists, The New York Times reports. Roger Shuler's blog, Legal Schnauzer, is polarizing, and his allegations are "fuzzily sourced," The Times reports. But civil rights experts are saying the judge who threw Shuler in jail is violating his First Amendment rights. Shuler is being jailed for refusing to comply with an order related to a defamation suit over his posts accusing the former governor's son of impregnating a lobbyist and secretly paying for an abortion. The ex-governor's son, Robert Riley Jr., denied the accusations and went to court to get an injunction that would prevent Shuler from writing more about the alleged affair. A judge issued that order and demanded that the posts about Riley be deleted from Shuler's site, but Shuler dodged officials trying to serve the court papers. Police arrested him in October on charges of contempt and resisting arrest. Schuler, who represented himself in court, refused to acknowledge the judge's jurisdiction. The judge eventually ruled that Shuler was barred from publishing anything else about Riley's alleged affair and had to take down the posts and pay him and his supposed mistress $34,000 to cover legal fees. Shuler refused to take down the posts, so he's still in jail. Some legal experts say that the judge's order was far too broad, and that it could violate Shuler's First Amendment rights. Think Progress named Shuler's case one of the 10 travesties of justice in 2013. His wife wrote about the Times article on Shuler's blog. She quoted him saying:  

"This is a profoundly important issue and while I'm disturbed about some of the inaccurate reporting in it, I applaud Campbell Robertson and The New York Times for their effort to shine light on an issue that the public needs to know about. This an important part of the process to educate readers worldwide about exactly what is going on in Alabama courts. And we will be taking a much closer look at issues that are raised in the days ahead."

The offending posts containing thinly-sourced allegations about Riley's alleged affair are still up on Shuler's blog. You can read them here and here.

Jailed Alabama reporter-blogger Roger Shuler received a 90-day suspended entence Jan. 14 promptly after losing a quickie trial earlier in the day on a resisting arrest charge.  

Shuler, 57, alleges that he was beaten without cause in his garage Oct. 23 by an arresting officer who failed to show a warrant indicating that the reporter was being arrested for contempt of court in a libel case.

But the judge accepted the version of a Shelby County deputy supported by three back-up officers that no could be provided, and he had to use force to subdue the writer, who is shown puffy-eyed in a mug shot at right taken after the arrest.

Two days earlier, New York Times published a 1,200-word article citing the libel case as a threat to the public’s First Amendment protections. One news peg was that the Committee to Protect Journalists recently published a list of more than 200 jailed for their work. Shuler was the only victim in the Western Hemisphere.

The Times, however, reported the story in a slanted fashion article whose shortcomings  undercut reader understanding and press freedom. For example, the newspaper described Shuler as refusing to obtain a lawyer.  “We’d love to get a lawyer,” Carol Shuler told me in a phone interview Jan. 14, however, “but we don’t have any money for one.”

Further, the Times reported Shuler using “fuzzy sources” to write about sex scandal, and being conspiracy-minded, contemptuous of court procedures, and “no stranger to defamation suits.”

In essence, the Times portrayed Shuler a borderline kook whose bad habits prompted the court system’s mistreatment.

My column today uses these events to show that the court system’s prosecution of Shuler and the state of press freedom generally is worse than the Times reported.  
This deeper look at the Shuler case shows that even the nation’s best-funded and most prestigious general circulation newspaper excludes key facts from its coverage, thereby fostering the rollback of First Amendment rights that the article ostensibly seeks to vindicate.

To do so, however, would put the reporter and newspaper in a position of questioning authority – a stance the media are increasingly reluctant to take across the full range of government issues. So are national media and legal organizations. Only a few groups have reported – much less protested – Shuler’s treatment even though it violates long-standing court precedents forbidding suppression of news articles. Alabama also has ignored requirements for public courtrooms and due process.  

The prosecution of jailed Alabama reporter-blogger Roger Shuler raises significant First Amendment issues, according to a news report published by the New York Times on Jan. 12.

Coverage in the Sunday edition of the nation's most influential general circulation newspaper clearly helps the embattled reporter, who has been jailed since October because a state judge wants Shuler to spike his columns about a politically prominent Alabama attorney, Robert Riley, Jr.

However, the Times reporter Campbell Robertson tried so hard to defer to be neutral in coverage that he ended up deferring to authorities, unfairly treating Shuler and, more importantly, failing to provide readers a full portrait of the situation.

Robertson reported, for example, that Shuler does not want an attorney. My understanding from Shuler's wife Carol, however, is that the family desperately wants and needs an attorney (for a criminal trial scheduled Jan. 14, among other things), but cannot afford one.

The story's flaws paralleled similar shortcomings elsewhere in journalism circles, especially by several national media organizations that have failed to take an interest in Shuler's plight even though his jailing in a secret proceeding on an unlimited sentence should raise concerns for journalists elsewhere.

Indeed, Shuler is the only journalist in the entire Western Hemisphere that the nonpartisan New York-based Committee of the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) listed among more than 200 jailed elsewhere around the world. The CPJ listing helped prompt the New York Times coverage.

To be sure, any attempt to critique a story by an experienced reporter at the Times runs a strong risk of being ineffective, if not smacking of hubris. Indeed, the New Orleans-based Robertson is a native of Alabama in the  small town of Montevallo, located about 20 miles south of Shuler's Jan. 14 trial in the Shelby County courthouse on a charge of resisting arrest.

But the issues involved in Shuler's case deserve wide discussion, which necessarily includes the possibility that elite individuals or institutions might err occasionally in judgments. I do not claim to immune from error, including that occasioned by bias.

Here at the outset, I'll disclose that I've know and respected Shuler's work for year even though I do not know the specifics of his evidence that Riley was involved in an extramarital affair four years ago with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Riley and Duke denied an affair, leading to a libel suit they filed last July and an ex parte injunction in October by Circuit Court Judge Claud (sic) Neilsen ordering Shuler to remove his coverge or face indefinite jailing on contempt of court charges.

For the sake of discussion, let's assume that Riley and Duke correctly stated that they never had an affair and that Shuler was wrong to report falsely that they did. Even so, the Alabama court does not appear to be following longstanding legal procedures in adjudicating the case. Instead, it has been consistently biased against Shuler, his due process and First Amendment rights, and the public's right to know under settled law.

Here's why:

 Shelby County Collage

 
 
 
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Cornad Black

Justice Integrity Project, Alabama Kangaroo Court Parades Liberal Commentator in Chains, Continues Indefinite Jailing, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 15, 2013. Alabama authorities paraded a shackled liberal pundit into court, where he was denounced Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing.

Justice Integrity Project, Corruption-Fighting Reporter Arrested, Beaten, Jailed In Alabama As Deputies Seek Wife's Arrest, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 25, 2013. The prominent investigative blogger Roger Shuler was arrested and beaten by Shelby County sheriff's deputies at his Alabama garage upon returning home Oct. 23.

Related News Coverage

Birmingham News, Shelby County blogger sentenced to 90 days for resisting arrest, remains in jail without bond on contempt charges, Kelsey Stein, Jan. 15, 2014. Blogger Roger Shuler was arrested for contempt of court and resisting arrest after he violated a court order, but some legal experts say the order was unconstitutional. A Shelby County blogger remains in jail after a judge found him guilty of resisting arrest when a deputy tried to take him

Columbia Journalism Review,The 2nd-worst year for jailed journalists, CPJ’s annual census of imprisoned journalists makes sober reading, Edirin Oputu, Dec. 18, 2013. Two hundred and eleven journalists are in jail around the world, the second-worst year on record since the Committee to Protect Journalists began its annual census in 1990. This year marks a slight improvement on 2012’s record high of 232, but the figures—which cover all reporters imprisoned as of December—still make depressing reading. The report was released December 18. Turkey was the world’s leading jailer of journalists for the second year running, closely followed by Iran and China. Altogether, the three countries accounted for more than half of all reporters behind bars in 2013. The number of journalists in Turkish prisons fell from 49 to 40 this year: Some were freed pending trial, while others—defendants in pre-trial detentions—were released for time served. Dozens of Kurdish reporters were detained on terror-related charges; other journalists were imprisoned for allegedly supporting anti-government groups. Turkey’s anti-terror and penal laws allow its government to conflate covering banned groups with becoming active members of them, according to the CPJ. Only one journalist is behind bars in the Americas: Independent blogger Roger Shuler is in jail in Alabama, held in contempt of court for refusing to remove information from his blog that a judge had ruled defamatory. Shuler is shown at right.

Think Progress, Ten Travesties Of Justice In 2013, Nicole Flatow, Dec. 23, 2013. Every year, stories emerge that serve as a reminder that the American system of justice means injustice for too many, with some receiving little or no punishment for egregious offenses, while others receive harsh or faulty punishment for much less. Here are some of the worst injustices of 2013:

Committee to Protect Journalists, Second worst year on record for jailed journalists, Elana Beiser, Dec. 18, 2013. For the second consecutive year, Turkey was the world’s leading jailer of journalists, followed closely by Iran and China. The number of journalists in prison globally decreased from a year earlier but remains close to historical highs. Turkey, Iran, and China accounted for more than half of all journalists imprisoned around the world in 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census, CPJ identified 211 journalists jailed for their work, the second worst year on record after 2012, when 232 journalists were behind bars. The single journalist behind bars in the Americas was in the United States. Roger Shuler, an independent blogger specializing in allegations of corruption and scandal in Republican circles in Alabama, was being held on contempt of court for refusing to comply with an injunction regarding content ruled defamatory. In recent years, journalist jailings in the Americas have become increasingly rare, with one Cuban documented in prison in 2012 and none throughout the region in 2011.  

OpEdNews, Holiday Greeting From Prison, Don Siegelman, Dec. 23, 2013. My Dear Friends, This has been my third Holiday Season in federal prison. If the Creator set a purpose for everything, then I know my job: To fight for justice! He has given me a personal, hands-on view of the tragedies created by our criminal justice system. It is not balanced or fair. It is not seeking truth or justice. Our system pursues convictions with an "anything goes" attitude! The President and the Attorney General have spoken out, allowing changes for some...so let's encourage them to be even bolder, to seek justice for all...Oh, yes we can! We cannot give up on true justice.

OpEd News, Let Roger Shuler Go Before Christmas -- The Only Journalist Held Indefinitely In The US, Jill Simpson and Jim March, Dec. 23, 2013. The Committee to Protect Journalists who are defending journalists worldwide recently announced their 2013 list of reporters imprisoned illegally around the world.  As to be expected Turkey, Iran and China were at the top of the list but shamefully this time the USofA made the list as well due to the jailing of an Internet blogger named Roger Shuler in the state of Alabama.

Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler Convicted of Resisting Arrest Despite Police Brutality and No Evidence of Arrest Warrant, Jan. 15, 2014. Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler was convicted yesterday of resisting arrest in a trial where the prosecution failed to produce any evidence of an arrest warrant. District Judge Ron Jackson made the guilty finding in a misdemeanor bench trial and issued a 90-day suspended sentence. During the discovery phase of the trial, Shuler requested copies of any arrest warrants in the case and related documents. The prosecution produced three documents none of which appeared to be an arrest warrant. When Shuler pressed Jackson on the issue, the judge admitted that the prosecution had produced no warrants. "Evidence in the trial shows I was arrested without a warrant," Shuler said. "It's either that or the prosecution withheld evidence. Either way it points to grave misconduct by either deputies, prosecutors, or both. It also points to the fact that my arrest and incarceration have been unlawful, grossly so, from the very get go. How can Judge Jackson find that I was guilty of resisting arrest when there was no evidence of an arrest warrant at all? Well that's just another chapter in the story of grotesque corruption in Shelby County courts. Yesterday's trial produced much more shocking evidence and we'll be discussing those in upcoming posts."

Legal Schnauzer, New York Times Covers Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Shuler Only Jailed Journalist in U.S., Carol Shuler, Jan. 13, 2014http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2014/01/new-york-times-covers-legal-schnauzer.html Multiple legal experts said Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler is the victim of unconstitutional actions by an Alabama judge in an article published yesterday in the New York Times. The article, reporter Campbell Robertson, appeared on page A14 of the Sunday, Jan. 12 issue of the nation's most prestigious newspaper. The article came after an almost three hour interview with Carol Shuler and an hour's worth of four separate interviews with Roger Shuler via telephone from the Shelby County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since Oct. 23 due to a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley.  Shuler said the article is a major victory for his contention that there are no grounds for an order of civil contempt against him and resulting incarceration. Shuler noted that the article contains a number of glaring inaccuracies, but overall he said that he is pleased with the attention the New York Times has shined on the issue of terroristic threats against journalists and bloggers and those who support free speech. Following is one excerpt from the article that includes an expert's assertion that the actions of Alabama Circuit Judge Claud Neilson are unconstitutional.

Salon.com, Jailing of an Alabama blogger: It’s worse than we thought, Natasha Lennard, Jan. 14, 2014. A New York Times report on the imprisonment of a journalist may have underplayed how chilling the case is. On Monday I highlighted the case of Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger currently under indefinite detention in a state prison after refusing to remove items from his blog in adherence to an injunction ruling. His detention is a striking abrogation of First Amendment protections. Shuler’s is the only name listed from the Western Hemisphere in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ list of imprisoned news workers around the world. While the presence of a U.S. blogger in a U.S. prison because of his work is troubling enough from a constitutional standpoint, there is even more to Shuler’s story than was first suggested in early reports. A New York Times report on Shuler may have underplayed some chilling factors relating to the blogger’s situation. The Times story gave the strong impression that Shuler has regularly engaged in salacious and defamatory writing about Alabama lawmakers and policymakers. Carol Shuler, Roger’s wife, spoke to Salon and claimed this was an erroneous characterization. She noted that her husband had never been sued for defamation, until two suits were filed against him at the same time.

“This is our first defamation case since starting the blog in June 2007,” Carol Shuler told Salon, noting that one other defamation suit was filed at exactly the same time as the suit by Robert Riley Jr. (son of the former governor), which landed Shuler in jail. “They both hit at the same time and we think they are linked in effort to shut us down by the power brokers in this state. But other than that we have never been sued for defamation,” Shuler stated. Shuler has a reputation for exposing corruption and hypocrisy within the Alabama state house and Legislature. It is certainly fair to say that his journalism has earned him some powerful enemies. With this in mind, it’s worth scrutinizing not only the blogger’s imprisonment, but the rulings that led up to it — a number of which have struck legal experts as overreaching.


For example, the judge issued a preliminary injunction against Shuler — a prior restraint order demanding that he write no more stories about the allegedly defamed parties. Prior restraint orders are rare and occupy a strange space with regard to constitutional law: They are a de facto muzzle; the burden of proof for issuing prior restraint must be high. It is not clear that the defamation claims against Shuler merited such a far-reaching preliminary injunction in the first place. Even before Shuler was jailed for contempt (for refusing to remove blog posts about Riley as ordered), the judge’s rulings may have crossed the line into First Amendment violations. That Shuler was then jailed for acting in contempt of the court’s contentious decision is thus beyond troubling.

Carol Shuler also strongly denied the Times’ suggestion that her husband was not helping himself out of prison by refusing legal counsel. “The Times article was entirely in error in suggesting that we are not seeking a lawyer,” she noted, adding, “My husband and I both told the [Times] reporter repeatedly that we were in fact very much wanting a lawyer and were in fact looking for one, however, we did not have the resources to pay an attorney. We hope to find a good First Amendment or constitutional law attorney who could represent us pro bono or by contingency.”

Thus while the Times stressed that Shuler’s imprisonment raised perturbing First Amendment questions, the characterization of the blogger as a gossip-monger with himself somewhat to blame for his predicament does disservice to the gravity of Shuler’s situation, while ignoring the possibility that Alabama power brokers may have had some hand in his severe punishment.

I will continue to keep close watch on this story as it develops and while Shuler remains indefinitely detained in an Alabama prison for exercising his purportedly protected right to free speech.
Natasha Lennard

Salon, Jailed in the U.S. for blogging: Whither the First Amendment?Natasha Lennard, Jan. 13, 2014.  Roger Shuler is a controversial writer who often crosses the line. His indefinite detention is chilling,

Liberaland, Jailed Blogger Roger Shuler Makes The New York Times, dave-dr-gonzo, Jan. 14, 2014. It only took the “newspaper of record” over two months to report that muckraking, controversial Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler has been thrown in jail in a move that is, to say the least, legally questionable.

PBC News and Comment, NY Times Covers Roger Shuler’s Illegal Detention, Peter B. Collins, Jan. 13, 2014.   NY Times finally runs a story on Roger Shuler, journalist detained in Alabama behind unconstitutional rulings, proceedings, with some key omissions. We break the story down, noting major omissions, and compliment Salon’s Natasha Lennard for deleting a comment about Shuler at my request.

"...Mr. Shuler, 57, was arrested in late October on a contempt charge in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by the son of a former governor. The circumstances surrounding that arrest, including a judge's order that many legal experts described as unconstitutional..."
Robertson notes that Shuler is the only incarcerated journalist in the Western Hemisphere and points out that other countries that have imprisoned journalists in 2013 include China, Iran and Egypt. Alabama lawyer David Gespass voiced serious concerns about what has happened to Shuler in the Shuler case, "It seems to me that the judge's order was really way out of bounds." What about inaccuracies in the story and other issues it raises? We will address those in a series of upcoming posts.
"This is a profoundly important issue and while I'm disturbed about some of the inaccurate reporting in it, I applaud Campbell Robertson and the New York Times for their effort to shine light on an issue that the public needs to know about. This an important part of the process to educate readers worldwide about exactly what is going on in Alabama courts. And we will be taking a much closer look at issues that are raised in the days ahead," Shuler said.  The full article can be read at this link:  Blogger's Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions.

Legal Schnauzer, New York Times Covers Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Shuler Only Jailed Journalist in U.S., Carol Shuler, Jan. 13, 2014. Multiple legal experts said Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler is the victim of unconstitutional actions by an Alabama judge in an article published yesterday in the New York Times. The article appeared in the nation's most prestigious newspaper. The article came after an almost three hour interview with Carol Shuler and an hour's worth of four separate interviews with Roger Shuler via telephone from the Shelby County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since Oct. 23 due to a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley.  Shuler said the article is a major victory for his contention that there are no grounds for an order of civil contempt against him and resulting incarceration. Shuler noted that the article contains a number of glaring inaccuracies, but overall he said that he is pleased with the attention the New York Times has shined on the issue of terroristic threats against journalists and bloggers and those who support free speech.

New York Times, Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions, Campbell Robertson, Jan. 11, 2014. For over six years, Roger Shuler has hounded figures of the state legal and political establishment on his blog, Legal Schnauzer, a hothouse of furious but often fuzzily sourced allegations of deep corruption and wide-ranging conspiracy. Some of these allegations he has tested in court, having sued his neighbor, his neighbor’s lawyer, his former employer, the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama State Bar and two county circuit judges, among others. Mostly, he has lost. But even those who longed for his muzzling, and there are many, did not see it coming like this: with Mr. Shuler sitting in jail indefinitely, and now on the list of imprisoned journalists worldwide kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists. There, in the company of jailed reporters in China, Iran and Egypt, is Mr. Shuler, the only person on the list in the Western Hemisphere. A former sports reporter and a former employee in a university’s publications department, Mr. Shuler, 57, was arrested in late October on a contempt charge in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by the son of a former governor. The circumstances surrounding that arrest, including a judge’s order that many legal experts described as unconstitutional and behavior by Mr. Shuler that some of the same experts described as self-defeating posturing, have made for an exceptionally messy test of constitutional law.

Jailed Alabama blogger Roger Shuler is scheduled forTruthdig via OpEdNews, Chris Hedges: The Trouble With Chris Christie, Chris Hedges, Jan. 13, 2014. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been Wall Street's anointed son for the presidency. He is backed by the most ruthless and corrupt figures in New Jersey politics, including the New Jersey multimillionaire and hard-line Democratic boss George Norcross III. Among his other supporters are many hedge fund managers and corporate executives and some of the nation's most retrograde billionaires, including the Koch brothers. The brewing scandal over the closing of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge apparently in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor's refusal to support the governor's 2013 re-election is a window into how federal agencies and the security and surveillance apparatus would be routinely employed in a Christie presidency to punish anyone who challenged this tiny cabal's grip on power. Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth. He is gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals.

New Orleans Times-Picayune / NOLO.com, N.Y. Times assigns full-time reporter to New Orleans, Gordon Russell, Aug. 3, 2009.  Making good on a promise to keep a national focus on New Orleans' halting recovery, the New York Times has named a full-time correspondent who will be stationed in the city, staffing a post that had been vacant since April. Campbell Robertson, a native of Montevallo, Ala., will fill the job held most recently by Adam Nossiter, who left to supervise the newspaper's coverage of West Africa. Robertson had been stationed in recent months in Iraq, though he spent some time in New Orleans immediately after Katrina. He will arrive in New Orleans this month. The announcement by the nation's most prestigious newspaper seems to signal that the narrative of New Orleans' laborious effort to rebuild itself from the ruin wrought by Katrina remains a story of national interest four years after the storm.

Legal Schnauzer, New York Times Covers Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Shuler Only Jailed Journalist in U.S., Carol Shuler, Jan. 13, 2014. Multiple legal experts said Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler is the victim of unconstitutional actions by an Alabama judge in an article published yesterday in the New York Times. The article appeared in the nation's most prestigious newspaper. The article came after an almost three hour interview with Carol Shuler and an hour's worth of four separate interviews with Roger Shuler via telephone from the Shelby County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since Oct. 23 due to a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley. Shuler said the article is a major victory for his contention that there are no grounds for an order of civil contempt against him and resulting incarceration. Shuler noted that the article contains a number of glaring inaccuracies, but overall he said that he is pleased with the attention the New York Times has shined on the issue of terroristic threats against journalists and bloggers and those who support free speech.

Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler Recounts Details of Harrowing Night of Police Brutality, Unlawful Arrest on Oct. 23, Carol Shuler, Jan. 2, 2014. The beating of a journalist in Ukraine recently made international news. Such thuggish tactics are not limited to the republics of the former Soviet Union and other developing countries. They can be found right here in Alabama. Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler was the victim of police brutality when he was unlawfully arrested because of a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley. Shuler was returning home from a visit to the North Shelby Library and a brief stop for dinner when a Shelby County police car almost crashed into him in his driveway at roughly 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 23. Deputy Chris Blevins apparently was trying to keep Shuler from entering his own garage and almost hit the Shuler vehicle and their house. Shuler had the garage door open and a free entry into the garage so he drove in and that's when the brutality started. Blevins entered the Shuler garage which is underneath their house even though the deputy did not show a search warrant or an arrest warrant of any kind. Blevins then proceeded to brutalize Shuler knocking him to the floor three times and spraying mace in his face and eventually pressed resisting arrest charges against Shuler even though there is no evidence that Shuler initiated contact with Blevins at all. "If a regular citizen had done to me what Chris Blevins did, the individual would be facing multiple counts of felony assault," Shuler said. "This is simple police brutality that I experienced and it's one of the most godawful experiences of my life. I've never been beaten like this. It left me with at least 10-12 cuts, abrasions and bruises on my arms, legs, torso and back. And according to Deputy Blevin's own incident report, he did not show a warrant. He claims he told me he had a warrant, but he didn't. That is a lie. He did not tell me that. And he initiated contact with me and I made no effort to turn away from him or to flee in any way. This is a scene right out of Hitler's Nazi Germany, but it happened right in our garage."

Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler, Only Jailed U.S. Journalist Per CPJ Census, Carol Shuler, Dec. 30, 2013. Receives Coverage at Al Jazeera America. As reported here in recent days, Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler made the list of jailed journalists compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Per the CPJ's article, "CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2013. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at www.cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody." In a census that is normally about jailed journalists in oppressive countries such as Turkey, Iran and China, Shuler is the only journalist unlawfully jailed in the Americas on a list of 211 journalists from around the globe.

GulfCoastNewsToday.com (Robertsdale, AL), Bah, humbug! I say to Alabama politics,  Bob Morgan, Dec. 24, 2013. It’s kind of hard to get into the Christmas spirit. I’m trying but I see a lot that’s bogus in this “Peace on earth, good will to men” thing. Case in point: Alabama political blogger Roger Shuler, who landed on the wrong square. Shuler’s in jail in Shelby County right now for alleging that a trio of Alabama power brokers — Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley, Atty. Gen. Luther Strange and federal judge Bill Pryor, all notable “family values” types — have been involved in certain indiscretions that don’t exactly spell out “f-a-m-i-l-y-v-a-l-u-e-s.” Personally, I don’t know if Shuler is on target with his allegations or not, but several things about Shuler’s jailing make me say, “Bah, humbug!” To begin with, Shuler was arrested at his home in Shelby County on Oct. 23 and his mugshot shows him with a black, swollen eye. A retired judge was brought out of moth balls and charged Shuler with contempt of court. The judge sealed the court record at Rob Riley’s request and ordered Shuler to take down all blogs pertaining to the alleged “family values” trio. Of course, Shuler can’t do that from jail. “That’s your problem,” the judge is alleged to have told Shuler in open court. Thus, Roger Shuler could be in jail in Shelby County until the cows come home. What’s happened to Shuler is called “prior restraint” and it’s unconstitutional according to the U.S. Supreme Court. After years of watching “Perry Mason,” here’s how I think the case should have been handled. Rob Riley brings a defamation lawsuit against Roger Shuler. Everybody involved swears to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and the court decides, after hearing everyone’s testimony, if Shuler defamed Riley and the others. (Seriously, it’s legally difficult to defame a politician for obvious reasons.) If Shuler is found guilty, then he’s ordered to take down the blogs and suffers whatever other reprisals the court decides.

Legal Schnauzer, PayPal Donations Help Support the Fight for Justice in the Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 20, 2013. Since Roger's brutal beating and unlawful arrest on Oct 23, we have been humbled by the large number of people who wanted to help us and who've offered to lend their support in a variety of ways in our ongoing fight for justice. Many of those kind individuals have chosen to support this fight by way of the Legal Schnauzer PayPal donation button, which can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.

Legal Schnauzer, Nov. 14 Court Hearing in Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case Results in "Final Order," Carol Shuler, Nov. 19, 2013. The Nov. 14 "Permanent Injunction" hearing in the Legal Schnauzer first amendment case was carried out under murky circumstances and held at a secretive location which served to keep it from the disapproving eyes of a concerned public. However the telephone interview with Roger Shuler filled in many details of what transpired during this kangaroo court proceeding. This bizarre hearing subsequently resulted in a "Final Order" that we received in the U.S. mail sometime over the weekend. Ironically, this "Final Order" proves that we could not have possibly been expected to be in attendance at the Petitions for Preliminary Injunctions as the hearing itself was also held on September 29, 2013. This was the exact same day as the bogus traffic stop where Officer DeHart testified under oath that our unlawful so-called service of the civil suit took place. The "final order" also grants the Petitioners exorbitant attorney's fees in the amounts of $24,425 for Riley and $9,450 for Duke. Pretty steep attorney's fees for a case that only lasted a grand total of six weeks!

Legal Schnauzer, Legal Schnauzer Discusses his First Amendment Case from Jail and the Bizarre Nov. 14 Court Hearing, Nov. 18, 2013. On Friday, we provided a brief update on the Nov. 14 hearing on "permanent injunctions" in the Legal Schnauzer first amendment case. And not surprisingly, it was indeed a kangaroo court, though possibly even worse than we had anticipated. We reported that Shelby County Courthouse officials turned away the majority of the people who attempted to appear at the mysterious and strange proceedings by claiming it was closed to the public. However, some supporters were able to gain access to the previously undisclosed location. I was not present at this hearing, but I did interview Roger Shuler by phone who revealed some alarming details. Some key highlights are as follows:

1. Roger Shuler--shackled at the ankles, waist and wrist--was led by four sheriff deputies from the jail to the courthouse. Once in the courtroom, he remained shackled throughout the duration of the hearing even when speaking and attempting to question the opposing counsel who was under oath.
2. The court and the other side were livid about the widespread media coverage of their unconstitutional courtroom circus and shenanigans. Apparently, they believe they have total control of the press all over the entire world and not just here at Legal Schnauzer. They should be free to break the law with reckless abandon and trample the U.S. Constitution without shame and all global media outlets should simply turn a blind eye to their misdeeds.
3. The court and the other side blamed me, Mrs. Schnauzer, for the media coverage and threatened me with arrest.
4. Roger Shuler told the court he had no way to remove anything from the blog while still in jail in order to comply with their unconstitutional injunction. The court simply said that was his problem and in essence that he would be in jail indefinitely.
5. The court and the other side threatened us with monetary sanctions.
6. The other side never requested a struck jury upon the filing of the underlying alleged "defamation" case. This means it is a bench trial and the final outcome will be decided by the judge only.
7. The other side filed a motion to remove the seal on the underlying alleged "defamation" case.

Legal Schnauzer, Bizarre Nov. 14 Hearing on "Permanent Injunctions" in Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 15, 2013. Here is a brief update regarding the Nov. 14 hearing on "permanent injunctions."

Justice Integrity Project, Are Media MIA In Blogger's Beating, Arrest? Andrew Kreig, Nov. 12, 2013. News coverage continued this week in erratic fashion regarding the Oct. 23 arrest and continued jailing of Alabama political commentator Roger Shuler, a longtime journalist and muckraking blogger.

Atlantic, Karl Rove in a Corner, Joshua Green Nov. 1, 2004.  Karl Rove is at his most formidable when running close races, and his skills would be notable even if he used no extreme methods. But he does use them. His campaign history shows his willingness, when challenged, to employ savage tactics. It is the close races that establish the reputations of great political strategists, and few have ever been closer than the 2000 presidential election. From the tumult of the lengthy recount, the absentee-ballot dispute, the charges of voter fraud, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court decision, George W. Bush emerged victorious by a margin of 537 votes in Florida—enough to elevate him to the presidency, and his chief strategist, Karl Rove, to the status of legend.

Oped News, Imprisoned Former Alabama Gov. Siegelman Backs Jailed Blogger, Denounces Corruption, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 8, 2013. Editor's Note: Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003), now imprisoned in Louisiana, sent me at the Justice Integrity Project the guest column below that opposes the jailing of Alabama reporter/blogger Roger Shuler on contempt of court charges arising out of a defamation suit in Shelby County. "Roger Shuler," Siegelman wrote, "has written time and time again exposing Rob Riley, the former governor's son's insidious and sinister connections to money making schemes. Rob Riley, as Shuler told the story, was one of the powers behind the scenes working with Karl Rove and my prosecutor's husband.

Wayne Madsen Report, The Kafka courts of Alabama, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 14, 2013 (Subscription required.) Journalism is now a crime punishable by indefinite jailing in Alabama. Secret courts and trials, star chambers, and illegal detention may be the stuff of a Franz Kafka trial. But in Alabama, the court proceedings against an investigative journalist have reached and surpassed Kafkaesque dimensions.

Shelby Cnty. v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 186 L. Ed. 2d 651 (Decided June 25, 2013.) The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting, "an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution." Petitioner Shelby County, in the covered jurisdiction of Alabama, sued the Attorney General in Federal District Court in Washington, D. C., seeking a declaratory judgment that sections 4(b) and 5 are facially unconstitutional, as well as a permanent injunction against their enforcement. The District Court upheld the Act, finding that the evidence before Congress in 2006 was sufficient to justify reauthorizing § 5 and continuing § 4(b)'s coverage formula. The D. C. Circuit affirmed. After surveying the evidence in the record, that court accepted Congress's conclusion that § 2 litigation remained inadequate in the covered jurisdictions to protect the rights of minority voters, that § 5 was therefore still necessary, and that the coverage formula continued to pass constitutional muster. Held: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional; its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to pre-clearance. [Citations omitted.]

Popehat, Update On Prior Restraint of Alabama Blogger Roger Shuler, Ken White, Nov. 13, 2013. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger. There are two significant developments in the case: one good, one bad. The Good: Mrs. Shuler reports that the ACLU has sought leave to file an amicus brief questioning the preliminary injunction, and has submitted a proposed brief. The ACLU's point is a good one: the fact that Shuler is saying nasty and potentially defamatory things is not an "extraordinary circumstance" justifying the Alabama court's decision to disregard the imposing wall of precedent against prior restraint. It's not an extraordinary circumstance, in part, because the marketplace of ideas provides pre-trial remedies.

Alyona MinkovskiLegal Schnauzer, Media Coverage of Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case Gains Traction with HuffPost Live! Interview, Carol Shuler, Nov. 12, 2013. The media coverage of Roger Shuler's beating and unlawful arrest on Oct. 23 gained some major traction recently with an insightful video interview with Alyona Minkovski, left, of HuffPost Live! The host of the daily Freedom Watch Zone broadcast of the Huffington Post interviewed me and Andrew Kreig of the Justice Integrity Project of Washington, D.C. Minkovski asked why the media had not provided more coverage to such a remarkable attack on the free press. Kreig emphasized that the state of Alabama's "kangaroo" court proceedings and bizarre actions grossly violate well-established national constitutional law both on free speech and freedom of the press, as well as, the rights to due process that any litigant deserves in court. Kreig further noted that many mainstream media organizations face daunting financial pressures and have reduced staff as a result. The remaining employees are fearful of controversy and the risk of possible job loss and thus are typically very reluctant to report in any aggressive or adverse way on public officials and their wrongdoings. Also in the interview with Minkovski, I had the opportunity to describe exactly what happened to Roger on the evening of Oct. 23 when he was assaulted by four Shelby County sheriff's deputies in our garage and badly beaten and unlawfully arrested. At no time, was he ever told by any of these deputies that he was under arrest, being charged with anything, shown or even told about a warrant of any kind nor ever read his rights! He was merely attacked inside the four walls of our home, beaten up and abducted into the night.

Huffington Post, Life In Prison For A Grain Of Cocaine: The Rise Of Extreme Sentences, Saki Knafo and Ryan Reilly, Nov. 12, 2013. These 32 People Are Spending Their Lives In Prison For Nonviolent Crimes 

WIAT-TV Birmingham (CBS 42 News), Jailed Blogger in Court, Mike McClanahan, Nov. 12, 2013. Tuesday morning Roger Shuler appeared in Shelby County District Court to answer a charge of resisting arresting. During his court appearance, Judge Ronald Jackson asked if Shuler had an attorney. Shuler replied no. The judge then asked if Shuler wanted the court to appoint an attorney for him. Shuler again replied no. After the hearing he was taken back to the Shelby County Jail where he’s been held since his arrest on Oct. 23th, almost three weeks ago. The warrant on file in court records for Shuler’s District Court case shows charges of contempt of court and resisting arrest. The contempt charge reportedly refers to Shuler's refusal to take down allegedly defamatory posts about Rob Riley and a lobbyist from Shuler's website Legal Schnauzer. Documents relating to defamation claims, an injunction and TRO, and motion/order to file all case documents under seal are posted on the site, but not accessible through public court record databases. Shuler's wife claims there has been no final judgment on the accuracy of the posts and that her husband hasn’t had his day in court. 

Legal Schnauzer, Rob Riley Had An Affair With Lobbyist Liberty Duke, Leading to Pregnancy And Payments For Abortion, July 2, 2013. A prominent Alabama Republican had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist that led to a pregnancy and payments for the woman to have an abortion. Homewood attorney Rob Riley, the son of former GOP governor Bob Riley (2002-2010) had an affair with Liberty Duke, a lobbyist based in Clanton, Alabama. When Ms. Duke became pregnant, Republican insiders paid her to have an abortion and stay quiet on the subject, multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer. Total payments reportedly were in the $250,000 to $300,000 range.  Who was involved in the payment of hush money to cover up Rob Riley's transgressions? Our sources are not certain about the financial flow chart, but it appears the funds came from Alabama GOP sources rather than coming directly from Riley. This raises a number of prickly ethical questions for a party that has consistently framed itself as "pro life" and "pro family" and against abortion rights. Liberty Duke did not respond to a voice message seeking comment. In a series of telephone interviews with Legal Schnauzer, Riley admitted knowing Liberty Duke, but denied having an affair with her. During our conversations, Riley angrily hung up on me multiple times.

Democratic Underground, Gulag Justice? Alabama Blogger Jailed in Secretive Scandal, Johnny Canuck, Nov. 13, 2013. In a case troubling to free speech advocates, an Alabama journalist who blogged about allegations of a sordid affair between a powerful Republican scion and a lobbyist has been arrested and now sits in jail on contempt charges. The case is rooted in Shuler’s allegations of an affair in about 2006 between a scion of one of Alabama’s elite political families, Robert Riley, Jr., and Liberty Duke, a registered lobbyist in Alabama. Riley is a Birmingham lawyer and son of Bob Riley, a nationally prominent Republican who served as governor of Alabama from 2002 to 2010. Shuler reported on his “Legal Schnauzer” blog that Duke got pregnant, and “Republican insiders” paid her as much as $300,000 to have an abortion and to “stay quiet on the subject.” Both Riley and Duke were married with children at the time of the alleged affair, though Duke was soon sued for divorce by her husband. In addition to the First Amendment ramifications, the case has implications beyond state borders.

 
Posts on Roger Shuler’s blog, Legal Schnauzer, have prompted many defamation suits. His refusal to cooperate in one recent case has led to his being jailed since October and has drawn international attention. Shelby County Jail

“You’ve got a situation where sometimes there’s no good guys,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who writes about and practices First Amendment law.

Mr. Shuler is no stranger to defamation suits, as one might surmise from reading his blog. He started it in 2007 to document a property dispute with his neighbor that blew up into a legal war and ended with the neighbor’s lawyer becoming a part-owner of Mr. Shuler’s house, which is in Birmingham. Later, the blog branched out to expose what he alleged were the corrupt machinations of powerful figures, mostly Republicans, and with a particular animus toward former Gov. Bob Riley.


His allegations are frequently salacious, including a recent assertion that a federal judge had appeared in a gay pornographic magazine and a theory that several suicides were actually a string of politically motivated murders. Starting in January 2013, Mr. Shuler, citing unidentified sources, began writing that Robert Riley Jr., the son of the former governor, had impregnated a lobbyist named Liberty Duke and secretly paid for an abortion. Both denied it, and Ms. Duke swore in an affidavit that they had never even been alone in the same room.

In July, Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke sought an injunction in state court against such posts, citing Mr. Shuler and his wife, Carol, in defamation suits. A judge issued a temporary restraining order in September barring the Shulers from publishing “any defamatory statement” about Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke and demanding that the offending posts be immediately removed.

Such a sweeping order struck some lawyers as far too broad, and Mr. Shuler says he did not even know about it.

The Shulers refused to answer the door when officials came to serve court papers, stating their suspicions in blog posts that the visits were part of an “intimidation and harassment campaign” stemming from the reporting on another topic.

One afternoon as the Shulers drove to the local library, where Mr. Shuler had been writing his blog since they could no longer pay for their Internet connection, a member of the Sheriff’s Department pulled them over, saying they had run a stop sign. The officer then served them the papers, which the Shulers refused to accept, contending that service under such a pretext was improper.

“We were both throwing the papers out of the windows as we were driving off,” Ms. Shuler said in an interview.  The Shulers missed a hearing the next day, and the restraining order was superseded by a similarly worded preliminary injunction, which some free-speech advocates saw as a clear violation of Mr. Shuler’s First Amendment rights. “It seems to me that the judge’s order was really way out of bounds,” said David Gespass, a civil rights lawyer in Birmingham, who was further troubled by the judge’s initial decision to keep the case under seal.

Mr. Shuler continued blogging. On Oct. 23, the police followed Mr. Shuler as he pulled into his driveway, arrested him in his garage and took him to jail on charges of contempt and resisting arrest.

In the hyperpartisan corners of the blogosphere where Mr. Shuler was already known, there was shock. Even some of his dedicated foes were alarmed.

The National Bloggers Club, a group led by the Republican activist Ali Akbar, who has also threatened to sue Mr. Shuler for defamation, released a statement condemning Mr. Shuler’s “rumormonger cyberbullying” but also criticizing the injunction as creating a potential chilling effect on blogging.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a “friend of the court” brief, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to the judge.

On Nov. 14, the judge held a hearing, and Mr. Shuler, who was representing himself, took the stand, insisting that the court had no jurisdiction over him and calling the court a joke. The judge decided that the hearing had “served as a trial on the merits” and made his final ruling: Mr. Shuler was forbidden to publish anything about Mr. Riley or Ms. Duke involving an affair, an abortion or payoffs; was to pay them nearly $34,000 for legal fees; and was to remove the offending posts or remain in jail.

Mr. Riley said Mr. Shuler’s refusal to engage with the legal process had given the judge the leeway to make a final ruling.

“If someone can continually ignore the judge just by saying, ‘You don’t have jurisdiction over me,’ then the whole system breaks down,” Mr. Riley said, adding that Mr. Shuler could not plead ignorance of the legal process. “This is not the first time Roger Shuler has been in court.”

But Mr. White and others say that before a judge can take the step of banning speech, libel must be proved at trial, or at least over a litigation process more involved than a quick succession of hearings, with the only evidence presented by the plaintiffs.

“Idiocy is not a zero-sum game,” Mr. White said. “I think you can say that what the court is doing is unconstitutional and troublesome and also that Shuler is his own worst enemy.”

So while the furor has all but dissipated, Mr. Shuler remains in jail, unwilling to take down his posts but also unwilling to hire a lawyer and contest his incarceration in the state courts.

“This is flat-out court corruption, and it’s criminal,” he said in an interview from prison.

His wife spoke of collecting damages when this is over, but Mr. Shuler is thinking beyond civil remedies this time: He is planning to bring federal criminal charges against the judge.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

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Washington Post, Drone usage by police agencies increases in U.S., Craig Whitlock and Craig Timberg, Jan. 14, 2014. Drone usage by police agencies increases in U.S.

Washington Post, How an appeals court decision could change your Internet speed, access, Cecilia Kang, Jan. 14, 2014. The court’s ruling Tuesday will allow firms to sell faster download speeds to the highest bidder.

CNN, Ex-cops acquitted in beating death of homeless man in California, Chuck Conder, Jan. 14, 2014. A jury has acquitted two former Fullerton, California, police officers on trial in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill and homeless man. The verdict was read in a Santa Ana courtroom Monday afternoon. "I'm just horrified. They got away with murdering my son," Cathy Thomas, the victim's mother, told reporters after the verdict was read.

Washington Post, Surveillance-court judges oppose group’s NSA proposals, Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 14, 2014. White House panel’s ideas would cut the secret court’s effectiveness, letter claims as Obama weighs reforms.

Gawker, Howard Kurtz Lied About Business Ties To Fox News Contributor, Staff report, Jan. 14, 2014. Fox News anchor Howard Kurtz has repeatedly claimed, most famously during a live interrogation on CNN, that his relationship with Fox News contributor Lauren Ashburn amounted to a “limited venture” for which the MediaBuzz host was compensated on a piecemeal “freelance basis.” Yet in a grant proposal submitted by Maryland Public Television to the Knight Foundation on December 10, 2010, Kurtz is listed, along with Ashburn, as a salaried “co-host” of the Daily Download’s 60-second “digital reviews,” which aired on public television, and a “daily blogger” at the Download’s website. One year after that submission, Knight awarded Maryland Public Television $230,000, the majority of which went to Ashburn’s own media company, which helped pay for Kurtz’s extracurricular position.