Sunday, April 24, 2011

24 APR 11: The Lone Ranger

"They're making a killing in there, buddy!" a man said to me Friday afternoon as he walked out of an office. Considering it was a court clerk's office, I reminded the man it would be quite a violation for them to be murdering people.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: I went to the Russell County Court Clerk's office to check on a reader's latest message to us. Maybe it's time to put a standard headline on all his messages: Hurtsboro still isn't perfect....

"Sir" Richard:

Here's a little something for your Sunday readers.

After making several unsuccessful attempts to stop Mayor Tapley from abusing his powers of office, I managaged to get him into Circuit Court with Judge Johnson presiding. It only took about ten (10) minuets for Judge Johnson to (a) threaten me with going to jail. (b) dismiss my complaint, and (c) assess me with all costs; including attorney's fee

He denied my motion to Strike the fees. So unless I was prepared to cough up $5,600.00 dollars I had no choice but to Appeal. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed Johnson's order with instructions.

Judge Johnson couldn't wait to establish a date for rehearing. As of today the case is set for rehearing next Wedneday (4-27-11} and Judge Johnson has given no indication that I'm going to get a Continuance.

My lawyer has moved to another part of the State and has withdrawn from the case. I have no prospect of getting legal representation in Russell County. No attorney is going to stand in front of Judge Johnson and tell him that I'm right, and he is wrong.

Today I filed a Motion to Recuse and included a list of all the things that Judge Johnson has done. I'm sure I'm not going to get any more action on this motion, than I have on the previous submissions - and I'm prepared for the worst. But, I assure you my good man; this issue will not die on the floor of Judge Johnson's Court

R.J. Schweiger.

Robert Schweiger begins this story in June 2010 -- but case CV 09-339 (mentioned in a different e-mail to us this past week) actually started months earlier. It's the former constable's most recent attempt to get court intervention in Hurtsboro city government. But so far, the only "cavalry" to come has been a fleet of Russell County garbage trucks.

This case actually dates from December 2009, after Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley was indicted by a grand jury and opened the results of a city audit. Robert Schweiger apparently reviewed the books, then took issue with the city using gasoline tax money to pay an $8,260 bill to a Tuscaloosa engineering company. I never realized Schweiger was such a loyal Auburn fan....

Robert Schweiger filed suit seeking a "cease and desist" order against Hurtsboro for using city gasoline tax money in this way. He argued the funds are supposed to be used for road projects - and to him, road design and surveying doesn't count. Schweiger probably could have called dozens of critics of the Phenix City "Streetscape" as supporting witnesses.

By the time Robert Schweiger dragged the Hurtsboro Mayor to court in June 2010, Russell County Judge Albert Johnson had dismissed the indictment [2 Dec 09]. Court records show Johnson warned Schweiger at one point NOT to keep bringing up that dismissal, or he'd be jailed. Sometimes I wish sportscasters faced the same punishment for whining over and over about bad calls.

We noted last month an Alabama appeals court found in Robert Schweiger's favor and ordered a rehearing of his case [20 Mar]. But now Schweiger has lost his lawyer, as Scott Crouse has moved to the Huntsville area. I'll assume Crouse was told where to check online for regular updates....

Yet when Scott Crouse filed his motion to withdraw from the case, he wrote Robert Schweiger "has obtained alternative counsel." Did Schweiger have someone else in mind? Or is HE really the "alternative" - an old-school version of that rock band Rage Against the Machine?

So now Robert Schweiger indicates to us he has no attorney for Wednesday's rehearing. I probably should require him to buy advertising space, to make such a public appeal for legal counsel - since this is supposed to be a humor blog, not a poor man's version of Craigslist.

(A man actually suggested last year I start a "clean" Columbus version of Craigslist, with some of my music on the home page to welcome visitors. But many big-name local websites already offer classified ad listings -- and it's easier to beat the Ledger-Enquirer to news about local media than someone's discounted 2002 Toyota.)

The court records show Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley hired the son of legendary Tuskegee civil rights attorney Fred Gray to be his attorney. So why can't Robert Schweiger find a similar big name - perhaps in Columbus? Frank Martin and Stacy Jackson are always looking for a case that would put their faces on TV....

Robert Schweiger attached with this e-mail his list of reasons why Judge Albert Johnson should recuse himself from the case. One issue is that Johnson took six months to bring his 2009 complaint to trial, but provided same-day service when the Hurtsboro Mayor sought a motion to postpone the rehearing in March. Maybe it's easier to postpone hearings when the docket is so filled with them.

But when the gasoline tax lawsuit originally was filed, Judge George Greene recused himself because he's a friend of Mayor Rayford Tapley's mother. That seemingly would leave Michael Bellamy as the only Russell County judge who could hear Robert Schweiger's case -- and Bellamy ruled against Schweiger in a 2008 small claims case [21 Mar 08]. Schweiger might as well drive directly to Montgomery.

Some of you may be wondering after all these years whether Hurtsboro has any good things at all. It's not that I'm not trying to find some. When I called City Magistrate Jim Baxley this past week about garbage service, I asked him what else was going on in town. "The sun came out today," was his answer. In a town the size of Hurtsboro, that could be a big story.

Oh yes -- about the man claiming the Russell County Court Clerk was "making a killing": he walked out after paying a $181 fine for driving 13 miles over the speed limit. He clearly wanted sympathy, but I told him that's why we should all be careful when we drive. If I said I actually try to stick to the speed limit, I would have looked SO condemning.

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