Update On Prior Restraint of Alabama Blogger Roger Shuler

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29 Responses

  1. David says:

    Why is there no way to have someone declared incompetent to represent him/herself in court (I assume there is not, because I've never heard of one)? Shuler seems like he's going to insist on being his own attorney despite pro bono counsel being available, and he'll end up fined and/or in jail because of it – sure sounds like a danger to himself to me.

  2. Evan says:

    @David – Because everyone has a right to represent himself, because incompetent self-representation harms only the person choosing to do it (except for, yes, precedent…), and because any standard for declaring someone incompetent and forcibly appointing a lawyer for him is ripe for abuse. I've heard of multiple dictatorships appointing lawyers for dissidents who purposefully messed up their clients' cases. In my mind, preventing that from ever happening here is worth some bad precedents.

  3. David says:

    At the same time, we already have rules that can bar people from litigation entirely when they abuse the process, which seems like a much more extreme measure to me.

  4. En Passant says:

    Look: be a martyr and refuse legal counsel to make a point if you want. But don't confuse that with mounting an effective fight against injustice.

    That confusion is the line that separates zealous from stupid. It's usually a symptom of elephantiasis of the ego.

  5. Wick Deer says:

    Pro Se is Latin for loser.

  6. Hasdrubal says:

    So, a disastrous precedent resulting from an incompetent pro se litigant can be used as precedent. But, does that translate to a weak precedent? I.e. will thugs refer to this case when threatening others and seeking prior restraints, but that just forces competent lawyers to spend a line or two saying "It's a bad result from a nutty pro se litigant that flies in the face of settled law, nuff said. But, just because the other guy raised the issue (and he should have known better) see a, b, c, do you want me to give you more cause I have like 4 dozen others…"

    In other words, does a precedent set this way just turn into a minor nuisance for anyone with competent council, or could it lead to a persuasive argument?

  7. JeffM says:

    Is there any disastrous precedent looming?

    Shuler is in jail, as I understand it, for failing to show up in court to argue against the injunction, and, if the cops are to be believed, for starting a scuffle. Ignoring the scuffle, which is he said/ she said, I gather that it is not in dispute that Shuler neither opposed the injunction when and where he should have nor showed up in court when ordered.

    The precedent that you need to show up in court when ordered to do so is neither new nor disastrous.

    Finally, what precedent can this judge establish about prior restraint? I think the US Supreme Court has already established the relevant precedent.

    I am not a lawyer so maybe this is gross ignorance speaking, but no one has explained this case in a way that makes me understand what is so horrifying. A judge screwed up; he probably does it every day that he is sitting. There are remedies for that. Shuler appears to have screwed up too, and he is paying the price for that. What am I missing?

  8. Matt says:

    I've known of courts to appoint counsel in cases where the defendant didn't want it, but only on serious criminal matters. (The one I'm thinking of was a child pornography case I think.) And even in that case, the appointed counsel wasn't technically the lawyer of record – the client was pro se and the lawyer was there as some kind of weird adviser to him. Mostly it was just for the convenience of the court and in the hope that the trial could proceed in some kind of somewhat orderly fashion.

  9. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    It sounds like Mr. Shuler either doesn't know or doesn't believe the adage that you will not win an argument with a Judge in his own court. Granted, there are exceptions, but when one does win one does so by being extremely polite, making lawyer noises that the Judge finds soothing, and allowing the opposing council to annoy His Honor. Otherwise one wins on appeal, by subtly goading His Honor to do something that will annoy a higher court. Making Tom Paine speeches doesn't work, and is harder than Mr. Paine made it look, besides.

  10. Dion starfire says:

    In other words, does a precedent set this way just turn into a minor nuisance for anyone with competent council, or could it lead to a persuasive argument?

    That's a good question and one I'd also like to hear an answer to. Let's hope one of our more legally astute alumni can explain what we non-lawyers are missing.

  11. MrSpkr says:

    Given that this is a local state court, it will have zero value as precedent. In state court actions, local court decisions are generally not reported (published in a time of case law) and thus have nearly zero impact outside the case itself.

  12. Garrett says:

    @C. S. P. Schofield:

    when one does win one does so by being extremely polite, making lawyer noises that the Judge finds soothing, and allowing the opposing council to annoy His Honor.

    I am not a lawyer, but I always thought the first rule of Courtroom proceedings was "never piss off the judge".

  13. Suedeo says:

    Suggestion:

    IF citizen is formally charged with "resisting arrest"

    AND charges are later dropped without explanation

    THEN charging officer receives a disincentive (a fine / docked pay / a demerit in their job performance).

  14. StewBaby911 says:

    It was on the Addams family movie that Gomez sais
    "anyone who represents themselves in a court of law
    has a fool for a client"?

  15. mud man says:

    In general, can't you do amicus stuff, without being an actual party? If the judge will allow it? So you could make your written arguments part of the record, at least. Or does this count as annoying the judge? IANL, obviously.

  16. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:

    @StewBaby911,

    It was on the Addams family movie that Gomez sais
    "anyone who represents themselves in a court of law
    has a fool for a client"?

    That quote is a wee bit older than Gomez–it's most often attributed to Abraham Lincoln (although I've never seen actual proof that he said it first).

  17. mikhael says:

    Why is it surreal to be cited by the ACLU? Seems like a logical progression to me, since you advocate for civil liberties.

  18. Rob says:

    @mikhael: I think Ken is just having trouble with the notion that he's more than "internet famous" (i.e. known by people other than blog followers) now. ;)

  19. Eric says:

    At the risk of asking a dumb question or derailing the comments, what sort of "extraordinary circumstances" DO warrant prior restraint from the courts?

  20. Taliesyn says:

    @Eric:

    The first thing that comes to mind is an exhortation for immediate violence – things like calling for an assassination or assault, or for some sort of mob 'justice'/violence, things like that. Basically, actions that could easily cause a clear and present danger to people.

    That said, keep in mind IANAL, and I could be WAY off here.

  21. Paul Baxter says:

    Congrats on becoming part of the legal landscape!

  22. nlp says:

    Eric, I asked the same question in the earlier article on Shuler, and received this response:

    Some of the exceptions to prior restraint include:
    * matters related to an on-going trial (to protect integrity of the legal process),
    * national security (sorry, no counter for NSA gag orders here), or
    * when the speech is likely to place a person in imminent danger (e.g. domestic abuse cases).

  23. Helen Tansey says:

    Roger Alan Shuler posted to Rally for Roger Shuler

    I'm feeling very despondent. If I had been able to get online the first 10 days after this mess happened, I might be closer to having a good lawyer or two lined up. But instead, here I sit with no legal representation and a permanent injunction hearing of some sort at 10 a.m. tomorrow. No wonder I wish I could just die in my sleep….
    Share · 20 hours ago near Birmingham, AL ·

  24. Steve Lane says:

    Helen Tansey, Just so that people are not confused the quote you copied from Roger Alan Shuler was made by his wife Carol.
    Mr Popehat I guess you do not read as well as you seem to think. I have been following Rogers blog since the time he was outing the corruption in the prosecution of Don Siegelman. Roger does not make stuff up. Everything he has published he backs up with publicly available court documents, Information from the public record or from freely given interviews. He was shafted by the Alabama GOP mafia for his reporting on Don Siegelman and it cost him his job and his wife's job. That said Roger knew he was dealing with corrupt Judges and the corrupt Riley clan. He must have assumed that because they had no legitimate case against him that they could not touch him. He should have known by now that corruption does not give a damn for legitimacy and that applies multiple fold for corrupt Judges and police.

  25. Helen Tansey says:

    Thanks for correcting the record, Steve.

    I concur with your impression of Shuler's dogged work to expose the deeply corrupted Alabama political and judicial system. He's done some major heavy lifting with little to no support. He's a 'sunshine' guy who is meticulous in his documentation.

  26. Roger Shuler has excellent reporting skills but he has become increasingly paranoid since I started reading his groundbreaking coverage of the Siegelman case. Of course, they really are out to get him. Thus it's hard to know were his good reporting ends and his fear induced interpretations of what's going on begins. I do not believe Roger is intentionally making anything up. I believe he is a man of principle. However, I suspect that he needs medical treatment for his increasing paranoia, even if they really are out to get him.

    I hope Roger gets excellent legal representation. He needs it. The way this case has been handled to date is a threat to freedom of speech and all bloggers.

  1. November 14, 2013

    […] Article I, § 4, of the Alabama Constitution – “no law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press; and any person may speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty” – similarly prohibits prior restraint. (source) […]

  2. November 14, 2013

    […] Article I, § 4, of the Alabama Constitution – “no law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press; and any person may speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty” – similarly prohibits prior restraint. (source) […]

  3. December 19, 2013

    […] el censo, en América sólo hay un periodista preso: Roger Shuler, un bloguero independiente que fue acusado de desacato en el estado de Alabama, Estados Unidos, por […]