Intimidation Of Law Blogger Tied To Alabama GOP Primary

from alan.com

rob_riley_5oclockshadowFollowing a week of intimidation and attempted unlawful service of papers on a law blogger whose national profile is rapidly on the rise, more pieces of the story are falling into place.

People who follow Alabama politics might well have put two and two together to figure out what was behind an apparent intimidation campaign targeting Roger Shuler, whose outspoken blog Legal Schnauzer has pulled no punches on matters of corruption in Alabama’s legal and judicial community.

Last Thursday, Shuler confirmed that one Rob Riley had filed a civil case against him, which explains a litany of visits and one very questionable “traffic stop” by local law enforcement:

New court documents suggest Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed a fraudulent defamation lawsuit against me in an intimidation campaign designed to clean up his record for a run at the U.S. House seat that Spencer Bachus is vacating.

My wife and I received documents in the mail on Saturday indicating Riley is seeking to have us held in contempt of court for reporting last Thursday on the lawsuit he has filed against us in Shelby County Circuit Court. Riley claims we have violated a preliminary injunction, with which we have not been served and for which we were not a party to any hearing. Riley also seeks to have all posts about his extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke removed from Legal Schnauzer–and Riley wants all of this done in secret, with the case file sealed and no reporting allowed to the public. …

The motion in question states in pertinent part:

… This case involves a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary and Permanent Injunctions based on highly defamatory false information about Petitioner being disseminated by Respondents into the public sphere. Said information subjects Petitioner to immediate and irreparable harm in the form of contempt and ridicule in the city, county, and state in which he lives. Filing court records that can be obtained by reporters or the general public will perpetuate the very harm this action seeks to avoid.

What are we to take from this? Here are a few things that come to my mind:

  1. Riley claims he has been defamed, but he has so little confidence in his case that he doesn’t want anyone to know about it.
  2. Riley specifically wants to make sure that the press, mainstream and otherwise, never knows about anything involved in the case.
  3. Riley seeks to make an end run around the American notion of a free press. He seeks an injunction against reporting on a lawsuit he filed in a public forum, but he wants it all conducted in a private manner.
  4. Riley claims that he is subjected to “immediate and irreparable harm.” But I first wrote about his affair with Liberty Duke on January 24, 2013. If the alleged harm is so immediate, why did he wait until now to seek legal redress?
  5. If the lawsuit was filed on July 23, 2013, why was Riley just getting around to serving it last week? Was Riley allowed to file the case under seal, and if so, why? If that’s the case, why was it unsealed briefly now, with an immediate attempt to seal it again? Is the stamped date accurate, or did someone in the Shelby County Courthouse stamp a phony date on it to obscure the real motives behind the lawsuit?

Shuler’s latest post provides the most likely answer to that question:

New court documents suggest Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed a fraudulent defamation lawsuit against me in an intimidation campaign designed to clean up his record for a run at the U.S. House seat that Spencer Bachus is vacating.

My wife and I received documents in the mail on Saturday indicating Riley is seeking to have us held in contempt of court for reporting last Thursday on the lawsuit he has filed against us in Shelby County Circuit Court. Riley claims we have violated a preliminary injunction, with which we have not been served and for which we were not a party to any hearing. Riley also seeks to have all posts about his extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke removed from Legal Schnauzer–and Riley wants all of this done in secret, with the case file sealed and no reporting allowed to the public.

Never mind that my wife and I have not been lawfully served with Riley’s complaint, so the court has no jurisdiction over us. We only found out about the case when Shelby County deputy Mike DeHart violated any number of federal and state laws when he conducted a bogus traffic stop in order to “serve” us with the Riley papers. Also, never mind that the “prior restraint” doctrine, which grows out of the First Amendment right to free speech, generally forbids preliminary injunctions in defamation cases.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. Rob Riley’s legal tactics are not unlike those of Tea Party Republicans who have realized that they have overplayed their hand with the government shutdown and a possible debt default and cannot dig themselves out of the hole they made.

In both cases, their actions are too little, too late.

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