A federal lawsuit that listed several Jefferson County attorneys and judges as defendants in an alleged “criminal enterprise” has been dismissed without prejudice.
United States District Judge R. David Proctor said in his ruling that plaintiffs could appeal, but he feels the plaintiff’s current complaint is a “shotgun pleading.”
The plaintiffs in the case, T. Peake and D. Deaton, are a married couple, and both individuals are currently seeking custody of their children from previous marriages. The lawsuit claimed a racketeering scheme was in place in Jefferson County courts. They claimed certain judges, attorneys, and other players extorted and defrauded those seeking custody of their children by prolonging cases to make more money.
There were 47 defendants named in the 31-count lawsuit. They were accused of associating with “The Enterprise.” Several defendants, including well-known and reputable law firms in Jefferson County, denied the allegations to 1819 News after the lawsuit was filed. They said they never represented the plaintiffs in the case and vowed to fight to protect their integrity.
Proctor gave several reasons for dismissing the case, including that each count “adopts the allegations of all proceeding counts.” He said it is standard procedure to allow the plaintiff to amend their complaint, but they haven’t. He also said the federal court cannot take up the state custody issue.
“Although Plaintiffs assert in their Complaint that they ‘do not seek reversal of state court orders,’ they acknowledge that they ‘seek access to a proper and unbiased court to hear these issues affecting minor children on their merits,” Proctor wrote in an opinion. “They also request ‘[a]n order declaring that all Defendants’ acts or omissions’ related to the state law cases are unconstitutional. But these issues were heard and decided in the state court and it is crystal clear that Plaintiffs now want a re-do in this court and an order holding that the state court’s decisions were tainted by the allegedly unconstitutional actions of Defendants.”
In conclusion, the judge said the court could not have jurisdiction over the matter due to “principles of comity, equity and federalism.”
The full opinion can be read below.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Scott Tindle, said after filing the lawsuit, he began to hear from even more families impacted by similar issues within Jefferson County family courts. However, the complaint has been brought to the Judiciary Inquiry Commission, the Alabama State Bar, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court, to no avail.
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