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General News    H2'ed 5/4/09

Interview with Legal Schnauzer's Roger Shuler, Part Two

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We're back with the second part of our interview Legal Schnauzer's Roger Shuler.

Tell us about your involvement in the Siegelman case, Roger.  Are you at all hopeful about the Obama administration taking up the case and doing right by the former Alabama governor?

My interest in the Siegelman case was a matter of location, timing, and connections. I live in Siegelman's home state and was following the case closely for several years before I ever started a blog. The political angle of the Siegelman prosecution was becoming a national story just as I started Legal Schnauzer.

A lot of my work on the Siegelman case, so far, has been interpretive. The national leader on the story has been Scott Horton, of Harper's,  an Alabama native. Without him, I doubt that the story ever would have gained legs. Glynn Wilson, at Locust Fork News, has done critical original reporting, particularly on the role of whistleblower Jill Simpson. And Larisa Alexandrovna, at Raw Story, has done splendid investigative work, providing critical detail and context to the overall story.

My role has been to take their work and bring it home to a local level. I've shown how the Siegelman case connects to my case in Alabama state courts and what it means when a state has fundamentally corrupt state courts. I've tried to show how national justice issues can filter down to affect regular folks.

Don Siegelman has said many times that his case is not just about him. In fact, he has said that he is hardly alone in being abused by the justice system. "If they can do this to a former governor, what can they do to you?" Siegelman once said. Part of Legal Schnauzer's mission is to show that Siegelman is absolutely right about the broad nature of this problem.

What do you think of the new administration? 

I've been disappointed so far. Obama's statement about "looking forward, not backward" is poorly thought out and could come back to haunt his presidency. Turning a blind eye to corruption is not the kind of "change" many people voted for.

It's not Obama's place to sweep Bush wrongdoing under the carpet.

I think Obama certainly can clean up the Justice Department, to a great degree. But we also must determine exactly what happened under Bush and hold people accountable for wrongdoing.

It's critical that people understand: We have political prisoners in the United States in 2009. I know of at least three--Paul Minor [big Democratic donor] and his two codefendants in Mississippi. And Don Siegelman might be headed back to prison. This is the kind of stuff that happened in Stalin's Soviet Union.

If Obama tries to move forward while obstructing the truth of the past eight years, I think it will cost him large chunks of his progressive base, the people who put him in office.

Regarding your last point, historically, we've seen that when a Democratic president doesn't go after wrongdoings in the previous administration, those wrongdoers claim undeserved credibility and come back in future presidencies to do more wrong.

I think that is a hugely important point. Robert Parry, at Consortium News (and an OpEd News contributor) has a great new piece about the Democrats' "battered wife syndrome."  And I think he's right. Democrats have allowed themselves to be bullied for so long that they don't know how to fight back.

Bill Clinton's decision not to pursue the GOP wrongdoing of the 80s essentially kept the Reagan/Bush "brand" intact. And that led to the disastrous George W. Bush presidency, which Obama now is trying to clean up.

As Don Siegelman has said, if they get away with politicizing the justice department now, they will do it again later.

Your life has been plagued by bad experiences with the Alabama legal system:  both with your neighbor, and with your unlawful termination at UAB.  Has this made you completely cynical? Do you think it's possible to reform Alabama and reverse the politicization of justice there (and elsewhere)?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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