Alabama Court, Roger Shuler Continue To Thwart Roger Shuler's First Amendment Rights

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28 Responses

  1. Dustin says:

    This is a shame. Mainly because now someone will cite this to support silencing a critic. I don't think the would-be censor will be able to prevail doing so for very long, but it is a step in the wrong direction.

    I knew a victim of a censorious thug who failed in court and behaved like this in court. I didn't understand why he shot himself in the foot by behaving like a toddler when speaking to a judge, but it did make his little tragedy persist, and he did use that to elicit attention and sympathy. This guy turned out to be a huge liar about a lot of things, and even though the censorious thug was far more evil, it doesn't make the victim/weirdly self destructive guy a saint.

    There's a reason our justice system tends somewhat towards those who can keep their cool and speak earnestly for themselves. Most people who stand on a principle are eager to explain why. The law is imperfect, but on this it's generally on the right track.

  2. JS says:

    Isn't this basically a default judgment based on Shuler's failure to present a defense? That would be a merits decision, so the law on post-trial injunctions would seem to apply…

  3. Ivraatiems says:

    I'd love to see a transcript of that hearing, if there was a way to get one…

  4. Dion starfire says:

    We never got an answer to this question with the last Shuler post (prolly got lost in the shuffle) so I'll ask it again:

    Could a precedent resulting from an incompetent pro se litigant really be used as a persuasive argument, or would it just turn into a minor nuisance for anyone with competent council?

  5. Christenson says:

    Riley said those court records were unsealed… Any links?

  6. I don't see how it could be a strong citation in future attempts to silence speech. A competent defense can distinguish his/her case from Mr. Shuler's just by properly raising all the arguments that Mr. Shuler did not.

    At least that's my unfrozen caveman lawyer opinion.

  7. Patterico says:

    I don't know. I guess it matters to me, to some extent, whether the speech that Shuler is engaged in is actually defamatory. While I can agree that the Supreme Court says there should be no prior restraint on speech that has not already been judged to be defamatory, and I am willing to support that rule, I am less apt to get super-duper-disturbed by an injunction like this if the speech really is defamatory.

    Please note well: It's not a question of whether I agree with the speech or not, as I fervently believe in people's right to speak things with which I disagree. But I don't believe in people's right to defame.

    So to me, an important question is: is Shuler's speech in fact defamatory? Here, I don't know whether it is or not. But let's say, for example, that Shuler had said that Ken had a sexual relationship with Karl Rove. (He has said that Ali Akbar has had such a relationship with Rove, so the scenario is not as far fetched as it might seem on its face.) Technically, he cannot be prevented from repeating that again and again and again and again and again and again and again until a jury has judged that it is defamatory. But as a practical matter, I just can't get all that upset about it the judge tells him to shut his trap — IF I know for a fact that what he is saying is bullshit.

    I am not saying prior restraint law is wrong or that a judge should not do what is legally right. I am just saying that, if Shuler is actually defaming Riley, I can't bring myself to care about this injunction that much. And if I were a betting man, from what I know about Shuler, I would bet he is defaming Riley.

  8. Patterico says:

    And I agree with those who argue that the treatment of this asshole does not serve as much of a precedent for anything. If the court's orders are illegal (and it sounds like they are) they will be (and should be) struck down. If instead they are left in place because the douche does not appeal them, what precedent does that really set? I submit virtually nothing of consequence.

  9. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    I'm not sure it's all bad, all the time. Yes, in an ideal world the Court would have acted to protect Shuler's rights even with Shuler acting the ass, but we do not live in an ideal world. Self-nominated Activists, Crusaders, and so on have a long history of antagonizing courts to the point of undermining their own cases, and it sometimes seems to me that this is a tactic used by pillocks who know they have no case. The Chicago Seven may have been found Not Guilty of the conspiracy charges leveled against them, but their own fans have since maintained (with misplaced pride) that they were as guilty as a feline in a fish tank. They ended up in prison on multiple contempt charges, which were richly deserved. One has to wonder if that was their intent.

    If Shuler has cast himself as a martyr and is making sure that that prediction comes true, then by all means throw him into prison so hard that he bounces. It will make him happy, or at least teach him better, and keep the little moron off the streets where he doubtless constitutes a hazard to navigation.

    The precedent that this may establish is bad, I admit.

  10. Chris says:

    I, too, fail to see the precedent that this supposedly establishes. That an unopposed motion for an injunction will be granted? That a person who willfully violates that injunction instead of opposing it in court will be held in contempt of court? It's certainly possible that more defamation plaintiffs will attempt to get vague and sweeping injunctions in the mold of this case's preliminary injunction, but given the amount of publicity that this case has gotten and the likelihood that there will be actual, litigated opposition to such a motion I don't really see how this case could provide support in law or from a tactical standpoint.

  11. Ryan says:

    I'm not sure if Ken is using 'precedent' here in it's legally-binding sense of established case law, or the more informal idea of "if this can happen once, then it's that much easier that it can happen again." Maybe he can clear that up. I'm inclined to agree with the latter interpretation, but it simply does not appear to be something that can establish legal precedent (e.g. for the purpose of citation and support) in the future. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.

  12. CJK Fossman says:

    @C. S. P. Schofield

    Self-nominated Activists, Crusaders, and so on

    The self-nominated ones are definitely the worst kind. They should all apply for the proper Activist and Crusader licenses, and be sponsored by responsible parties such as Barbra Streisand or the Koch brothers.

  13. Dictatortot says:

    The $64K question for me is: even if this establishes some sort of precedent, how far should any principled 1st-amendment parties go in helping a man who doesn't want their help? The idea of freedom seems to imply not only rights, but the liberty to waive those rights for any reason, whether sound or loony.

    By now Shuler's made his desires clear. And at this stage, all these amicus briefs and "accept my pro bono help, goddammit" invites are starting to look like unseemly impositions on the man. Whatever the long-term consequences, hectoring the man into doing something he'd rather not do isn't sitting well with me; he appears to have made up his own mind and to understand the stakes for his own hide … even if he IS a couple sex offenders short of an anime convention.

  14. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    CJK Fossman,

    OK, I'm a grouch about political activism. I admit it. Too goddamned many people treat it as a hobby, which might be fine if they didn't affect policy. Anyone who becomes an activist because he has been directly touched by an issue isn't self-nominated. Life-nominated, maybe. That leaves hobbyists, and professional grievance pimps like Al (if I was white I'd be KKK) Sharpton.

    Schuler strikes me as self-nominated. Also as nutty as a health bar.

  15. nlp says:

    What annoys me about this type of pro se case (where the pro se side is the defendant rather than the plaintiff) is the thought of all those attorneys over the years who fought to establish the right to counsel for criminal defendants. Then someone like Shuler insists that he doesn't need an attorney because his rights are perfectly clear, and proceeds to flub his case. When Abe Fortis was arguing Gideon v Wainwright he mentioned that when Clarence Darrow, the most famous defense attorney of his era, was accused of jury tampering, the first thing Darrow thought was that he needed a lawyer.

    If a lawyer knows that he needs dispassionate legal advice, then why would a layman believe he can manage his own case?

  16. SarahW says:

    My take is rather Tallulah-in-the-lifeboat : "what are you going to do with people like that?" I am not so down with letting the mentally ill run amok when they have no respect for process (or are too delusional to have respect for it.) He really did thumb his nose at the court, and every chance so far to stake a claim and make a case in court. He was apparently unwilling to show up to court to even *assert* his claims were true or that his allegations/conclusions had some reasonable basis. If he wouldn't do it then, when would he EVER do it?

    It's very plain he has some sort of paranoid disorder with persecutory delusions. This is a man who believes his "criminal" next door neighbor was installed there to torment Shuler and drive him to ruin, by powerful forces of the university using the unethical means of concealing the B-dry system from that new owner.

    High functioning paranoids are not generally in the full jibber and drool mode expected in a madman. Sometimes they are like Shuler; they are self-absorbed, self-centered jerks, often vicious jerks, who hyper-connect unrelated things that annoy them into a grand conspiracy that pushes them into a central hero/victim/martyr/avenger role.

    That's what I think Shuler is. And though I don't see many people arguing with the prior restraint imposed, esp. WRT unconstitutional vagueness of the "go and sin no more" injunction, neither his inclinations or his actions are likely to be fettered by any "chilling language" about what he can say in the future. That's because he's nuts.

    If the law can't make him accept counsel, can't treat him, can't do anything but lock him up for what would get anyone else locked up, I don't know how to make a case for special considerations for his disability. I wish there were some. I wish the court could order a mental evaluation for his criminal charge at least. But, I've always thought the imperfections and faults in the courts handling of this matter were directly related to the difficulties of dealing with someone who is just not right in the head.

  17. Alabama...sigh says:

    If I may, I'd like to add a little context for the readers on the typical workings of the Shelby County, Alabama court.

    Think 8 month delay in getting a trial date. And I do not mean "oh you need a continuance because you drug your feet on discovery and need a new setting." Typically you show up ready for trial after having fully performed all pre-trial activities only to be told that trial setting was really to see if it would settle, but if you want an "actual" trial date then you can have one day in about 6-8 months and then if it goes over you might get another day in about 3 months, hopefully.

    As far as the concerns over precedent go, it really does not matter there. Upon denial of a motion based upon xyz, I asked for reconsideration because xyz had already been addressed on appeal, and was not a valid reason to deny my motion (keep in mind exact same issue). Where it really gets good is that the opinion from the appellate court on xyz issue was on an appeal from the same Judge. Try explaining that to a client …"well you see Mr. Doe, the upper court previously told the Judge he was wrong, but I guess he really didn't believe them…"

    Shuler's best bet is to get a local lawyer. They may not appreciate the constitution there, but they sure do love a good home-cooked meal. ;)

  18. Lizard says:

    Anyone who becomes an activist because he has been directly touched by an issue isn't self-nominated.

    Doesn't this lead, then, to the charge that someone doesn't support an issue on principle, but only because it's to their benefit? And, in turn, this tends to lead to attacks/assumptions that if someone supports an issue seemingly of no benefit to them, they must be hiding something/scamming/somehow gaining from it, and their support can be ignored because they're not honest about "what's in it for them".

    So, you get the classic Catch-22: Oh, you're affected by issue X? Then you're obviously biased and can't be objective. Go away. Oh, you're not affected by issue X? Then why are you involved with it? Either you're secretly going to benefit from it, or you're just looking for attention. Either way, go away.

    We see this in many of Ken's posts on women's issues. If a woman says something in support of women's rights, well, she's irrational and emotional and/or a man-hating lesbian. If a man says something in support of women's rights, he's doing it because he thinks all the man-hating lesbians will have sex with him if he shows them how sensitive and progressive he is. (Look, I didn't say these kinds of accusations make *sense*.)

    Generally speaking, most issues that require activism directly affect those people who are a)a numerical minority, b)lack influence and power, c)both. This means that without "self-nominated" activists who are not personally affected, but who do have the numbers, power, and influence to actually get the powers-that-be to listen, the chances of success for those directly affected are much lower. Patrick Stewart sums it up:

    (And, yeah, there's always a subset of activists who don't want "allies" (and who drive away anyone that doesn't meet some ridiculous litmus test of purity), they want to pure and true and all that rot, and that's a good sign they aren't activists because they want to solve a problem, they're activists because they enjoy feeling self-righteous and angry and would be very out of sorts if a problem got solved because they've defined their lives by the "struggle" as an end in itself, not a means to an end.)

  19. CJK Fossman says:

    It's very plain he has some sort of paranoid disorder with persecutory delusions.

    Can I get a diagnosis on my neighbor? I'll forward some of his emails or post them here if it helps.

  20. Patterico says:

    Reflecting on Ken's point, I think I understand it better. I think the idea is this: even speech that deserves no protection (like defamation) deserves a fair and constitutional process to determine whether it deserves protection.

  21. Ernie Menard says:

    nlp: "If a lawyer knows that he needs dispassionate legal advice, then why would a layman believe he can manage his own case?"

    Because some laymen can.

  22. SarahW says:

    But Shuler can't. He thinks he can because there is something wrong with him.

    @CJK Fossman – If your neighbor wanted to investigate your pre-purchase home inspection or lack of one in hopes of establishing his employer sold you the home without informing you of the B-dry system, that he might substantiate a suspicion that you and your barking dog and loud children were carefully selected as a device to break his peace and torment his days because Joe Seigelman's enemies were out to stop his exposure of the Judges law clerks connection to the Rileys something $$$, I might tender a "yeah he's nuts" diagnosis. No charge.

    @patterico I took that as his point and I agree with it. That said, I have trouble not noticing that Shuler won't play by rules and threw away all of his protections with both hands.

  23. SarahW says:

    I don't mean to be glib about what I think is wrong with Shuler. He's refusing counsel. In his blog he bitterly observes that they are, or have all been, turncoats who sell him down the river to powerful connected people arrayed against him. He seems positively convinced they will act against his interests.

  24. Shaheed says:

    This case is not about first amendment rights or freedom of speech.
    This case is about how the corrupt politically rich and powerful who can do anything they want, to someone who stands up for himself or for truth. There is no doubt the judicial system is corrupt and the judges are at the head. Moreover, Shuler is not crazy nor incompetent. He has exposed corruption from top to bottom. To one point, he exposed the family value politicians, that really do not have family value. Further, he has shown how the judges in the legal system are dictators and are ruled from outside of the system. In my opinion, this case goes further up the chain. Indeed, Mr. Shuler was fired from his job for reporting on the Don Siegelman case. A case that 100 AG's filed a friend of the court brief, but the SCOTUS declined to hear. He accused Rob Riley as the person behind his firing, but Riley kept quite. I guess he did not feel he was defamed. In addition, his wife was also fired from her job.
    IMP, Mr. Shuler has more knowledge of the law than most people. He has represented himself many times, and he knows the corrupt legal system works. To be sure, he knows how money and power grease the courts. The retired judge in this case is from Demopolis, Al, some 90 miles from Shelby county. He was appointed by Judge Roy Moore of the Al supreme court. The elite are aware that Mr. Shuler knows the law. Thus, they presented his service in a draconian way as to show that he ignored service. The police went to his home on 3-4 occasions to make it appear to the public that they were trying to service him. This was done in order to get the contempt charges.

    The elitists in our society are making an example of Mr. Shuler. Because he is independent. He does not have to answer to anyone. (i.e. his boss, political party, or his editor) Moreover Mr. Shuler has what some people may refer to as "BALL". He is not afraid and he is a thinker. He speaks the truth and the elitists do not want the truth to see daylight, because they are the Father of Lies. Jesus, peace be upon him, told the Pharisees and Roman soldiers, " I come to you in daylight but you come to me at night".

  25. Patterico says:

    Moreover Mr. Shuler has what some people may refer to as “BALL”.

    I demand that this sentence be immortalized as a Popehat Classic. You are libel. Govern yourselves accordingly.

  26. Lizard says:

    Dear Mr. or Ms. Shaheed:

    You're not helping.

    Sincerely, Lizard.

  27. Cvkvlv says:

    IMP, Mr. Shuler has more knowledge of the law than most people. He has represented himself many times, and he knows the corrupt legal system works.

    Don Quixote knew a little something about jousting, too.

  28. pst314 says:

    "Moreover Mr. Shuler has what some people may refer to as 'BALL'."

    Cue the song "Col Bogie":-D