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General News    H3'ed 4/30/09

Good Riddance to a Bad Judge--One With Ties to the Siegelman case

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Message Roger Shuler
Good Riddance to a Bad Judge--One With Ties to the Siegelman Case
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
News came recently that Alabamians soon will have one less bad judge to worry about. That's because Jefferson County Circuit Judge Allwin Horn is retiring, effective June 1.

That's good news because we've seen Horn in action, and he's a lousy judge. It's frightening to think Horn has played a major role in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, one that has connections to the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

Former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy, the codefendant in Siegelman's criminal case, has long been embroiled in a civil case in state court. The case is styled Tucker v. Scrushy, and Horn has been right in the middle of it.

Tucker v. Scrushy started in 2002 when HealthSouth shareholder Wade Tucker filed a derivative claim on behalf of the company in state court. Several settlements have been announced in the consolidated case, but I believe it still has not been fully resolved.

Will Horn take more more action in the case prior to his June 1 retirement date? Stay tuned.

How do I know Horn is a bad judge? I've had the misfortune of watching him work in an up-close-and-personal way. I've been in his office two or three times for "conferences." Just thinking about that experience makes me want to take a shower.

How bad is Horn? So bad that he can't even follow his own orders. Here's the story:

Horn "handled" my legal malpractice case against Birmingham attorney Richard Poff. The case shouldn't have been all that difficult. Poff took $4,500 of my money, did virtually no work on my underlying case, and lied to me about how he planned to handle the matter.

Specifically, Poff had assured me that we would conduct discovery in the lawsuit involving my troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity. We would conduct depositions to provide information both for my defense and for the countersuit I had filed against McGarity.

After assuring me of that, Poff then became incommunicado for months. He failed to return numerous phone messages. He quit responding to e-mail messages. Finally, as the trial date was just a week or two away, Poff informed me that we didn't need to conduct any discovery, that we would go to trial without it.

For a lawyer to say he is going to trial without conducting discovery is like a football coach saying he's going to play a game without his offense. He will just let the other team have the ball all the time and try to win only with a defense. It's preposterous, and if Poff's actions don't amount to legal malpractice, it's hard to imagine what would.

I found out later that Poff was going through an ugly divorce at about the time he was representing me, and court papers in the divorce case indicate he had a gambling problem. Maybe that's where my $4,500 went.

In addition to his divorce, Poff also was going through bankruptcy, which complicated my legal-malpractice case against him. Court documents in the bankruptcy case also indicated Poff had a gambling problem. Yep, that's probably where my money went.

Poff sought to have my malpractice claim discharged as part of his bankruptcy case and, contrary to law, Horn let him get away with it.

How could that happen? Poff is pretty much a loathed figure in Birmingham legal circles because he blew the whistle on what appeared to be a corrupt local law firm in the 1990s. That tells you a lot about the legal profession. One of its members brings unethical behavior to light and winds up being hated for it.

I hired Poff strictly because of his role in the whistleblower case. I had already had one lawyer (Jesse P. Evans III and his sidekick Michael Odom) cheat me, so I was determined to get an honest lawyer this time. I figured Poff was the most honest guy around.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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