Alabama authorities paraded a shackled liberal pundit into court, where he was denounced Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing and forced to argue his case while bound.
The defendant was Roger Shuler, a 56-year-old commentator jailed on contempt of court charges Oct. 23 for publishing columns about a politically powerful GOP attorney.
Shuler reports on Deep South legal affairs via his own Legal Schnauzer blog site and several others that are nationally prominent. OpEd News, Salon, and FireDogLake frequently republish his columns, which are widely disseminated in progressive circles.
Shuler specializes in political muckraking about scandals in the Deep South legal community. The reports often focus on claims that ordinary litigants are being unfairly treated in the courts. Also, he writes about financial corruption involving taxpayer dollars, illicit sex among conspirators and their minions, and cover-up to uphold family values image necessary for election success. Most focus on reports of wrongdoing by Republicans. But former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis and Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney and powerful force within the state Democratic Party, have been frequent targets of Shuler’s also.
Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, shown at left in an older file photo, presided this week at a hearing in the sealed case against Shuler. The handcuffed Shuler, right, was shackled at the ankle and waist and vilified because of news coverage by the local CBS television affiliate and elsewhere regarding his Oct. 23 arrest, according to the defendant’s wife, Carol Shuler.
“They gave him grief over coverage,” she told me during a phone interview the evening of Nov. 14. “But what do they expect him to do? He’s been in jail without bond.”
She said she did not know whether it was the judge or plaintiff lawyers in a libel suit — or all of them — who denounced her husband because news coverage of her husband’s arrest and beating. Her understanding is that her husband remained tightly shackled throughout the hearing
She said her information was from brief phone calls from her husband, who remains jailed and without a lawyer, and from a friend who was able to attend the hearing. Court personnel barred others who tried to observe, she said.
That illustrates the extraordinary level of secrecy pervading the case, which the judge has ordered sealed. Shuler told his wife that he was beaten and MACED by four deputies during the October arrest in the family garage. Neilson is a retired judge who was recruited from Demopolis, a third of the way across the state, to deliver his brand of justice to the litigants.
According to her account:
Neilson threatened to have her arrested even though her husband said he was the one who had written disputed news reports and his wife had no ability to spike them.
“That’s your problem,” the judge reputedly told Shuler when Shuler said that from a jail cell he had no ability to remove his investigative reports even if he wanted to do so. The judge said he plans to hold Shuler in jail indefinitely and wants Carol Shuler arrested also on a contempt of court charge. Roger Shuler said his wife has never written for the site until receiving a few emergency lessons via phone in order to write short news updates about the case.
“This judge is saying I can’t even write about my husband?” Carol Shuler told me in wonderment Nov. 15. “What kind of judge is this? And why did they have to go across the state to get him? They could have gotten a judge from right here.”