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AL Judge Dorothea Batiste Claims She's The Target Of A Vindictive Prosecution Directed By Scott Vowell

Posted on the 18 July 2013 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

AL Judge Dorothea Batiste Claims She's The Target Of A Vindictive Prosecution Directed By Scott Vowell

Dorothea Batiste

Suspended Jefferson County Judge Dorothea Batiste complained to the Alabama Attorney General's office last October that Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell was harassing her and pressuring her to change orders in divorce cases.

Vowell became aware of Batiste's visit to the AG's office in Montgomery, and his resulting anger helped spur a campaign of complaints against Batiste to the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC), according to court documents filed yesterday. 

Attorney Julian McPhillips urges the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to drop the charges against Batiste, claiming she is the victim of a vindictive prosecution that kicked into high gear when Vowell learned of her AG complaint. (See motion, including summary of Batiste's complaint to AG, at the end of this post.)

A subpoena to Jesse Seroyer, of the Alabama Attorney General's office, produced an "Investigative Report Form" on Batiste's complaint regarding Vowell. McPhillips obtained a copy of the report yesterday and promptly filed a motion asking the Court of the Judiciary to drop the case against his client.

Documents filed previously in the case show that Batiste filed an EEOC complaint, alleging sexual harassment against Vowell, on April 26, 2013. That came just one week after the AJIC formally filed charges against Batiste, and it suggests Batiste might have filed the harassment claims only after learning of the AJIC charges.

The Attorney General's report, however, shows that Batiste first complained about Vowell some seven months before she learned of the AJIC charges. In an affidavit filed with her EEOC complaint, Batiste states that she did not learn Vowell was leading a campaign against her with the AJIC until spring 2013. 

Based on the AG's report, it appears Batiste made official complaints about Vowell long before she knew he had launched a campaign against her with the AJIC.

"This is dynamite in the sense that . . . it confirms and corroborates her complaints," McPhillips. "This shows that, back in October, she didn't know what to do. . . . She didn't know how to handle it, so she came down and made a complaint, and three different people heard it. . . . "

What about the specifics of Batiste complaint from last October? Here is part of the AG's report:

Judge Batiste related that the presiding judge in the 10th circuit, the Hon. J. Scott Vowell, had countermanded her judicial authority as a domestic relations judge on several occasions and had made inappropriate sexual advances toward her on several occasions. 

How ugly did Vowell's behavior become? Again, from the report:

Judge Vowell continued to badger Judge Batiste about her cases and requested frequent personal meetings. Judge Vowell began a routine in which he would call on Fridays to Judge Batiste's office and demand a personal meeting. Judge Batiste advised that during these meetings Judge Vowell was "touchy-feely and always whispering in her ear." This type of behavior began a few months after Judge Batiste took office. She recalled that the first time Judge Vowell acted inappropriately, he placed his hands around her hips when they were alone and told her, "Ain't you a good looking thing. . . . "
Judge Batiste said this type of sexually harassing behavior occurred on [such] a frequent basis that she began to be afraid of being left alone with Judge Vowell. . . . 

In regards to the sexual harassment, Judge Batiste advised that she had only told members of her immediate family about Judge Vowell's inappropriate advances. Judge Batiste advised that she was embarrassed to tell people about the sexual-harassment issues due to the fact that "it's not supposed to happen to me. I'm a judge."

A recent federal case in the Northern District of Alabama, styled U.S. v. Brown, 862 F. Supp. 2d 1276 (2012), addresses both selective prosecution and vindictive prosecution. McPhillips argues that both issues are present in the JIC case against Batiste. From the Brown ruling:  

Brown has alleged both selective prosecution and vindictive prosecution. Vindictive prosecution is distinguishable from selective prosecution in that vindictive prosecution arises when the severity of the charges against a defendant is increased after the defendant exercises a constitutional right after criminal charges have begun, while selective prosecution occurs when a person is prosecuted based on an immutable personal characteristic, such as race or religion, or in response to some constitutionally-protected act that a person has done prior to the criminal charge being brought against him.

In the motion filed yesterday, McPhillips argues that his client suffered because she exercised her constitutional right to file a complaint with the Alabama Attorney General's office--and that goes to the vindictive nature of Scott Vowell's claims against her. From the McPhillips motion:

Judge Batiste requests that this court consider Judge Batiste's third affirmative defense of sexual harassment and retaliation to be amplified to include vindictive prosecution by Scott Vowell, who has used the AJIC and his close friends on the AJIC to punish Judge Batiste for her sexual harassment allegations to the Alabama Attorney General's office.

Dorothea Batiste Vindictive Prosecution by Roger Shuler

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