American blogger imprisoned for life in wildly unconstitutional muzzling of unpopular speech

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: American blogger, indefinite imprisonment, unconstitutional censorship

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(NaturalNews) Day by day, our Constitution matters less, as governments on the local, state and federal levels become more hostile to it and, in the process, more hostile to the American people.

Case in point: The number of people who are being penalized for speaking out against government officials is on the rise. That is especially troubling in a country whose founding document specifically recognizes, and protects, the right to do so. As reported by The New York Times:

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.

According to the paper, Shuler, 57, is a former sports reporter and a former employee of a university publications department. He was arrested in late October on a charge of contempt in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by the son of a former governor.

'Sometimes there's no good guys'

The Times said that the circumstances surrounding Shuler's arrest include a judge's order that a number of legal experts have said is unconstitutional, as well behavior by him that some of the same experts characterize as a self-defeating posture. But either way, his incarceration has created some difficult constitutional law.

"You've got a situation where sometimes there's no good guys," Ken White, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who writes about and practices First Amendment law, told the paper.

If you read his blog any length of time, it probably would not surprise you that Shuler has been involved in defamation lawsuits in the past. He began blogging in 2007 as a way to document a property dispute he was having with a neighbor that grew into a legal battle that wound up with the neighbor's lawyer becoming part-owner of Schuler's house in Birmingham, Ala.

And later, the blog sought to expose what Shuler alleged were corrupt practices of public, powerful figures - most of them Republicans - with real anger directed at Gov. Bob Riley.

More from the Times:

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 of 2013, Riley and Duke sought an injunction against Shuler in state court against his posts. In response, a judge issued a temporary restraining order in September barring Shuler and his wife from publishing "any defamatory statement" about Riley and Duke. He also ordered the offending posts removed.

Some lawyers saw the judge's action as overly broad by a wide margin. As for Shuler, he says he never even knew about the removal order.

The Times said the Shulers refused to answer their door when court officials came to serve them papers. In blog posts, they described the visits as just an "intimidation and harassment campaign" which was linked to a blog post about another topic.

'Judge's order really way out of bounds'

One afternoon, the Shulers were on their way to the local library, where Roger Shuler had been blogging since they could no longer afford to have the Internet at their home, a sheriff's deputy pulled them over, saying they had run a stop sign. At that, the officer then served them with the court papers (odd that the deputy had them, isn't it?), but the Shulers would not accept them, saying that the service under such conditions and pretext was not proper.

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

There was a hearing scheduled for the next day, which the Shulers missed. Also, "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," the Times said.

"It seems to me that the judge's order was really way out of bounds," David Gespass, a civil rights lawyer in Birmingham, said. He added that he was also bothered that the judge sought to keep the case under seal.

Shuler continued to blog, and on Oct. 23, police followed him into his driveway, where they arrested him for contempt and resisting arrest.

The rest of the story is here.


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