Three of the 47 defendants in a federal lawsuit alleging a widespread and sophisticated racketeering scheme in Jefferson County are asking to be removed from the case.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants were either a part of or participated, directly or indirectly, with an association called “The Enterprise.” The victims were families and children dealing with either divorces or custody proceedings.

Defendants Judge Patricia Stephens, Judge Alisha Ruffin May and Madison Brantley filed a motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit for the following reasons:

A. Plaintiffs’ Complaint Should Be Dismissed Because It Is an Impermissible Shotgun Pleading.

B. All Claims Should be Dismissed Because They Are Barred by Judicial Immunity.

C. Judge Stephens and Judge Ruffin May are Alternatively entitled to Eleventh Amendment Sovereign Immunity.

D. Judge Stephens, Judge Ruffin May and Brantley are Alternatively entitled to Qualified Immunity.

E. Judge Stephens, Judge Ruffin May and Brantley are Alternatively entitled to State Agent Immunity.

F. This Action is Barred by the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, or Alternatively, the Younger Abstention Doctrine.

Plaintiffs known as D. Deaton and T. Peake filed the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and their four children in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division.

Their attorney, Scott Tindle, told 1819 News that the defendants' actions had impacted his clients for four years. He said they had kept detailed records and proof of wrongdoing, strengthening the case.

“The Jefferson County Circuit Court Domestic Relations Division has an established and pervasive culture of corruption that has metastasized to certain judges, court appointees, attorneys, and ‘professionals’ acting at their direction to extort, defraud, tortiously injure, and deprive citizens of their constitutional rights for ill-gotten gains,” the lawsuit claims.

The complex lawsuit lists 31 counts, including RICO conspiracy, malpractice, fraud, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and abuse of process, among others. Not all defendants are accused on all counts.

“The Enterprise” is accused by the couple of fabricating legal fees and concealing information from state and federal agencies. They are also accused of making things worse between families in court to further litigation and increase profits.

The lawsuit states that Stephens, the presiding judge over Domestic Relations, directed “The Enterprise” and has been “left unchecked.”

However, a brief by the defense states the plaintiffs have made “no plausible allegations” about Stephens, Ruffin-May and Brantley.

“The Plaintiffs have proceeded to file a complaint that is one hundred eighty-six (186) pages long which includes fifty-one (51) listed defendants and thirty-one (31) counts against various combinations of the listed Defendants,” the brief states. “The complaint clearly falls short of the requirement to plead “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). Further, the complaint is comprised heavily of formulaic recitations of the elements of the causes of action and unwarranted factual deductions or legal conclusions masquerading as facts that are clearly insufficient to overcome the Defendants’ entitlement to Judicial Immunity, Sovereign Immunity, Qualified Immunity and State Agent Immunity. As such, all claims against the above-named Defendants should be dismissed.”

The Executive Committee for one of the law firms involved in the case, Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt, L.L.C., denied the allegations.

"The plaintiffs in this lawsuit and their attorney have made allegations in their complaint against fifty defendants including our firm and three of our attorneys," the statement read. "Neither this firm nor any attorney in our firm have ever represented the plaintiffs. Our firm does represent the ex-husband of one of the plaintiffs in a business dispute that she filed against him. We adamantly deny the plaintiffs’ allegations in the lawsuit against our firm and its attorneys. The claims against us are demonstrably false, and we will vigorously defend and protect the reputation of our firm and its attorneys."

The complaint was previously brought to the Judiciary Inquiry Commission, the Alabama State Bar, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court, to no avail.

Crittenden Partners, P.C. Representatives, also involved, said the lawsuit is frivolous and all connected to legal drama between the plaintiffs and others that Crittenden has nothing to do with.

"The Plaintiffs are not, and have never been, clients of Crittenden Partners, P.C.," the statement read. "Our firm represents the ex-spouse of one of the Plaintiffs in a divorce modification action. We have been very successful in that action and have fought vigorously for our client.

"Our firm is one of the most well-respected domestic relations firms in Alabama. Unfortunately, our success comes with retaliatory behavior from opposing parties who are disgruntled with their own legal representation and outcomes. We have dealt with resentful opposing parties before, and our integrity and actions have consistently been confirmed by our Courts and the Alabama Bar. We are dedicated to advocating for our clients and will continue to represent our clients despite any efforts by their spouse or ex-spouse to intimidate, threaten or deter us.

"All of the allegations in the complaint are wildly false and simply put forth for the purpose of harassment. This frivolous lawsuit has been brought against fifty of the most prominent domestic relations attorneys, judges, and mental health providers in Alabama. After being unsuccessful in their litigation efforts in State Court, the disgruntled plaintiffs have made a last-ditch effort to slander and extract vengeance against the professionals associated with their cases. We anticipate that, similar to the State Court, the Federal Court will handle this matter appropriately."

Tindle told 1819 News that he believes the scheme has impacted many families but that until now, people have been terrified to speak out. Since the filing, he said he has heard from dozens of families who claim they had similar experiences with the court system in Jefferson County.

The accusations alleged in the lawsuit have not been proven in a court of law. Therefore, all parties are considered innocent at this time.

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