Thursday, January 16, 2014

ACTION ALERT! -- How to help ReFORM-AL fight HB 21

Legislative sessions have begun, so now is the time to fight HB 21, the anti-clustering law. ReFORM-AL is in the process of analyzing HB 21. This bill is more complex than the prior bill. Below is a brief summary of HB 21:
  1. HB 21 will prevent more than one registrant from living at the same address unless the two are related. This may potentially cause problems at apartment complexes, because the bill defines a "cluster" as two or more registrants in any location;
  2. HB 21 will place strict limitations on transitional housing: high yearly fees, restrictions on the number of registrants, and constant renewal of  licenses for running transitional housing; and
  3. HB 21 will give Sheriffs great discretion in allowing transitional housing in the community. If a sheriff does not approve, there will be no grievance procedure or court remedy. In addition, this bill gives the sheriff the power to conduct warrantless searches even if the registrants are not on probation or parole.

It is obvious Wallace's intent is to make the establishment of traditional housing an impossible task. 

The bad news is I will only be given about a 48 hours notice to prepare once the public hearing is set. It could be next week, it could be May. Last year, it was at the end of February. But because it COULD be next week, we need to act now. Here is how you can help. 

IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN THE MONTGOMERY AREA: If you are an activist who cannot come to Montgomery AL on a moment's notice, I suggest writing the legislators on the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. I have created a page containing the contact info for each of the NINE committee members.

If you live out of state you should not have to state you don't live in Alabama. Just state you're a concerned citizen. Or, pick a city and claim you live there. 

Click on the link to view the Committee contact info:


If you can attend, I could really use people willing to attend and testify before the committee. As soon as I am given a date, I will post another action alert. Remember, I will likely be given about two or three days' notice. So check back often. Please call me at 513-238-2873 and tell me you wish to be there in person. You don't have to know all the stats, I need people who can give testimony on how these laws can affect you. Emotional testimony is needed. 

OTHER SUPPORTERS: If you can support my efforts by making a donation to offset the costs of traveling to Montgomery, please do so. Donations can be sent here:

By Paypal:

By Mail: Derek Logue
2559 Eden Ave. #14
Cincinnati, OH 45219

NOTE: From what was explained to me, committee hearings are posted every day on "ALISON" (Alabama Legislation Information System On-Line). So Alison should be seen on  a weekly basis until the session ends around mid-May. Click on the link below, then on the next screen (It will say ALISON in giant letters), look on the left side of the screen and click on "Committee Meetings." On the next screen, select "House" then "Get Results" and scroll down until you see the "PS&HS." When HB 21 comes up it will be listed there.

The schedule for the upcoming week is typically posted on a Friday. Thus, I will literally only have the weekend and maybe one extra day to schedule my trip. So at beat I get 3 day's notice. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

ACLU Stops Suspicionless Home Searches in Etowah County, Alabama

Some small changes will be made to compliance checks in Etowah county. Not much of a change, really-- the main change would be sheriff's deputies cannot demand to be let indoors without written consent, except in certain circumstances.

ACLU Stops Suspicionless Home Searches in Etowah County, Alabama

January 13, 2014
CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, and the law firm Jaffe & Drennan reached a unique settlement Friday in Doe v. Entrekin with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, stopping its officers from conducting unannounced, suspicionless, and warrantless searches of a family’s home. The sheriff’s office had been performing such searches at the homes of everyone registered for a sexual offense, without exception, ostensibly to verify their residence. Similar programs exist across Alabama and the nation. Under the terms of the settlement, the sheriff’s office will conduct all in-person residence verifications outside a registrant’s home. Officers may not enter the home without the registrant’s written consent at the time of the verification, unless the officers have a warrant or an emergency makes entry necessary.

"The officers had absolutely no authority for these traumatic invasions of their privacy," said Brandon Buskey, ACLU attorney. "Our plaintiffs’ home had been searched numerous times. The registrant has always complied with the state law, and there has never been any reason to believe otherwise. Through this settlement, we have placed important limits on the sheriff’s office’s power in Etowah County that we hope to see throughout the state."

The ACLU’s clients, a family living in Etowah County, were subjected to the sheriff’s office searches because one family member is a registrant. The sheriff’s office conducted these searches even though this plaintiff registers in person at the sheriff’s office four times a year in accordance with state law – a requirement he must fulfill for the rest of his life; the offense occurred when he was 14 years old; he is not on probation or parole; and the state of Alabama determined he is at low risk of reoffending.

The settlement requires the sheriff’s office to make additional changes for registrants who, like the plaintiff, committed their offenses as juveniles, who are no longer on probation or parole, and whom the state has determined to be low risk. For these registrants, the sheriff’s office will be limited to quarterly phone verifications after an initial in-person interview. Officers may conduct subsequent in-person verifications outside the home only if they cannot reach the registrant by phone within the quarter after leaving a message, or if there is reason to believe the registrant is not complying with state law. To protect registrants’ privacy, officers conducting such in-person verifications must be wearing civilian clothing and using an unmarked car.

"For low-risk juveniles, our settlement requires officers to contact the person by phone first, and only if that proves unsuccessful over the course of three months can the officers talk to the person outside the home," Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, explained. "The settlement is a significant improvement over the old way: demanding entry into a family’s house and threatening arrest if they don’t comply."

Additional information about the case is available at:

Additional information about the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project is available at:

Additional information about the ACLU of Alabama is available at:

The full complaint can be found HERE:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions

This isn't often I discuss issues not directly related to "sex offender" topics. But this story is unique and it concerns our 1st Amendment Rights in general.

Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — 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.

A former sports reporter and a former employee in a university’s publications department, Mr. Shuler, 57, was arrested in late October on a contempt charge in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by the son of a former governor. The circumstances surrounding that arrest, including a judge’s order that many legal experts described as unconstitutional and behavior by Mr. Shuler that some of the same experts described as self-defeating posturing, have made for an exceptionally messy test of constitutional law.

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Posts on Roger Shuler’s blog, Legal Schnauzer, have prompted many defamation suits. His refusal to cooperate in one recent case has led to his being jailed since October and has drawn international attention. Shelby County Jail
“You’ve got a situation where sometimes there’s no good guys,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who writes about and practices First Amendment law.

Mr. Shuler is no stranger to defamation suits, as one might surmise from reading his blog. He started it in 2007 to document a property dispute with his neighbor that blew up into a legal war and ended with the neighbor’s lawyer becoming a part-owner of Mr. Shuler’s house, which is in Birmingham. Later, the blog branched out to expose what he alleged were the corrupt machinations of powerful figures, mostly Republicans, and with a particular animus toward former Gov. Bob Riley.

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, Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke sought an injunction in state court against such posts, citing Mr. Shuler and his wife, Carol, in defamation suits. A judge issued a temporary restraining order in September barring the Shulers from publishing “any defamatory statement” about Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke and demanding that the offending posts be immediately removed.

Such a sweeping order struck some lawyers as far too broad, and Mr. Shuler says he did not even know about it.

The Shulers refused to answer the door when officials came to serve court papers, stating their suspicions in blog posts that the visits were part of an “intimidation and harassment campaign” stemming from the reporting on another topic.

One afternoon as the Shulers drove to the local library, where Mr. Shuler had been writing his blog since they could no longer pay for their Internet connection, a member of the Sheriff’s Department pulled them over, saying they had run a stop sign. The officer then served them the papers, which the Shulers refused to accept, contending that service under such a pretext was improper.

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

The Shulers missed a hearing the next day, and 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.

“It seems to me that the judge’s order was really way out of bounds,” said David Gespass, a civil rights lawyer in Birmingham, who was further troubled by the judge’s initial decision to keep the case under seal.

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Carol Shuler in the basement of her home in Birmingham, Ala. She is facing the same defamation suit that has her husband, Roger, in jail on a contempt charge. Cary Norton for The New York Times
Mr. Shuler continued blogging. On Oct. 23, the police followed Mr. Shuler as he pulled into his driveway, arrested him in his garage and took him to jail on charges of contempt and resisting arrest.

In the hyperpartisan corners of the blogosphere where Mr. Shuler was already known, there was shock. Even some of his dedicated foes were alarmed.

The National Bloggers Club, a group led by the Republican activist Ali Akbar, who has also threatened to sue Mr. Shuler for defamation, released a statement condemning Mr. Shuler’s “rumormonger cyberbullying” but also criticizing the injunction as creating a potential chilling effect on blogging.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a “friend of the court” brief, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to the judge.

On Nov. 14, the judge held a hearing, and Mr. Shuler, who was representing himself, took the stand, insisting that the court had no jurisdiction over him and calling the court a joke. The judge decided that the hearing had “served as a trial on the merits” and made his final ruling: Mr. Shuler was forbidden to publish anything about Mr. Riley or Ms. Duke involving an affair, an abortion or payoffs; was to pay them nearly $34,000 for legal fees; and was to remove the offending posts or remain in jail.

Mr. Riley said Mr. Shuler’s refusal to engage with the legal process had given the judge the leeway to make a final ruling.

“If someone can continually ignore the judge just by saying, ‘You don’t have jurisdiction over me,’ then the whole system breaks down,” Mr. Riley said, adding that Mr. Shuler could not plead ignorance of the legal process. “This is not the first time Roger Shuler has been in court.”

But Mr. White and others say that before a judge can take the step of banning speech, libel must be proved at trial, or at least over a litigation process more involved than a quick succession of hearings, with the only evidence presented by the plaintiffs.

“Idiocy is not a zero-sum game,” Mr. White said. “I think you can say that what the court is doing is unconstitutional and troublesome and also that Shuler is his own worst enemy.”

So while the furor has all but dissipated, Mr. Shuler remains in jail, unwilling to take down his posts but also unwilling to hire a lawyer and contest his incarceration in the state courts.

“This is flat-out court corruption, and it’s criminal,” he said in an interview from prison.

His wife spoke of collecting damages when this is over, but Mr. Shuler is thinking beyond civil remedies this time: He is planning to bring federal criminal charges against the judge.

A version of this article appears in print on January 12, 2014, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New pre-filed bills in the House. Session begins Jan. 14

There are a couple of bills that were recently prefiled. One bill we should strongly support-- HB 134, which will put a muzzle on mugshot extortion publications. I haven't read the Trafficking bill in its entirety but I am concerned anytime I see civil forfeiture in any bill.

For now, our efforts should focus on stopping HB 21.

HB 133: Wallace Judiciary -- 1/10/2014
Human trafficking, Uniform Act on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking, adoption, Secs. 13A-6-150 to 13A-6-160, inclusive, 13A-6-170 repealed

About HB 133:It mainly discusses rules for laws dealing with "human trafficking."

Verdict: ReFORM-AL offers no opinion at this time, though civil forfeiture laws are always a concern due to potential for abuse.

HB 134:  England Public Safety and Homeland Security-- 1/10/2014
Websites containing personal information of persons convicted of crimes, required to remove information at no charge upon request, civil penalties, presumption of defamation

About HB 134: This bill will prevent mugshot websites or magazines from extorting people through posting their information publicly and demanding a fee to remove the offending mugshots.

VERDICT: ReFORM-AL strongly supports this bill

Monday, January 6, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT: Voting for the 2013 Shiitake Awards has begun!

The finalists have been announced and it is time to start voting for the 2013 Shiitake Awards.

For those unfamiliar with the Shiitake Awards, this is a Once Fallen project that spotlights the dumbest and worst sex offender-related stories of the year, and each year I host an awards show in the spirit of the "Razzies" to showcase the worst news story, journalist, politician, law, and state of the year. It is a fun project, voting only takes a minute, and it showcases the worst 2013 had to offer.

To cast your vote for the 2013 Shiitake Awards, go here:

If you want to see the list of candidates for the 2013 Shiitake Awards before you vote, go here:

To listen to or download the podcast of the Selection Show from ReFORM-Radio, go here:

Voting ends January 31, 2014.

Alabama candidates include Randy Christian of the Jefferson Co. Sheriff's office for Dumbest Quote, and Alabama is in the running for worst state of 2013.