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Imprisonment of Roger Shuler

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The imprisonment of Roger Shuler was an event in United States jurisprudence in 2013–2014 which attracted some notice both nationally and internationally for its application of Wikipedia:prior restraint and of imprisonment for defamation, both unusual under American law. Shuler was held for five months by the Wikipedia:State of Alabama.


Roger Shuler is an Alabama blogger. He started his blog, Legal Schnauzer, in 2007 to document a property dispute with his neighbor. Shuler later expanded the blog to cover Alabama politics. Shuler, a critic of the Wikipedia:Alabama Republican Party and former governor Wikipedia:Bob Riley in particular, has made several controversial allegations, such as that a federal judge had appeared in a pornographic magazine as a youth and that several Roglocal deaths reported as suicides were actually political murders,[1] although Shuler's wife has said that any characterization of Shuler as regularly engaging in salacious and defamatory writing about Alabama lawmakers and policymakers is false.[2]

Starting in January 2013, Mr. Shuler began writing that, according to anonymous sources, the son of Governor Riley had impregnated a woman and secretly paid for an abortion. (Riley's son and the woman deny the allegation, and the woman has sworn in an affidavit that they had never even been alone in the same room.)[1]

Injunction and imprisonmentEdit

In July 2013, Riley's son and the woman sued Shuler for defamation and asked for injunction against the publication of the material. In September 2013 a judge issued an order mandating that the offending material be removed from the website and barring Shuler from publishing any defamatory statement about Riley's son and the woman.[1]

Shuler refused to comply with the court orders or acknowledge their legitimacy – he did not appear at a number of hearings,[3] and threw the original papers from his car window (Shuler maintains that the orders were improperly served and thus invalid).[1]

Shuler was arrested, charged with contempt of court (and also with resisting arrest; Shuler says he was beaten) and jailed on October 23, 2013.[4] Shuler was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest on January 14, 2014, and given Wikipedia:probation on that charge[5] while remaining in jail on the contempt charge.

International supportEdit

The Wikipedia:Committee to Protect Journalists included Shuler in its December 2013 list of imprisoned journalists, describing him as "independent blogger specializing in allegations of corruption and scandal in Republican circles in Alabama".[6] At this time, Shuler was the only person in the Wikipedia:Americas on the CPJ list.[3][7] The Committee's Sara Rafsky claimed that "the sanctity of the [American] prohibition against censorship is now being challenged in a perplexing case which... could have wider implications for the press".[8]

First Amendment issuesEdit

In American law and legal tradition, Wikipedia:prior restraint – the prevention of materials being published at all, as opposed to penalties being assessed after publication – is usually only invoked for extraordinary reasons, such as protection of national security in wartime. The use of prior restraint in this case, and the judge's decision to keep the case under seal, caused some First Amendment experts to express concern.[1] Gregg P. Leslie, Legal Defense Director of the Wikipedia:Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said: Template:Centered pull quote

Even observers who were not supporters of Shuler and who allow that the material in question may well have been defamatory decried the use of prior restraint in the case. For instance, the National Bloggers Club released a statement condemning Shuler’s "rumormonger cyberbullying" but also criticizing the potential chilling effect of the injunction.[1] (an online news service set up by the Wikipedia:Birmingham News, the Wikipedia:Huntsville Times and the Mobile Wikipedia:Press-Register) described the situation thusly: Template:Centered pull quote First Amendment law expert Ken White summed up the situation as one where "there’s no good guys".[1] But Salon's Natasha Lennard defended not only Shuler's First Amendment rights but also his standing as a journalist, describing him as a person with "a reputation for exposing corruption and hypocrisy within the Alabama state house and Legislature" whose "journalism has earned him some powerful enemies".[2]

The Wikipedia:American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief contesting constitutionality of the injunction and also requesting that the case be unsealed, which it later was.[9]

Release and subsequent eventsEdit

Shuler remained imprisoned into 2014, and did not engage a lawyer or formally contest his incarceration.[1] Shuler later had the material under contention removed from his blog, and was consequently released from prison on March 26, 2014.[10] In his release order, the judge maintained that the injunction was permanent and that Shuler remains subject to its terms indefinitely.[9]

In June of 2014, an arrest warrant was issued for Shuler on the basis of a motion by the Shelby County District Attorney's Office to revoke Shuler's probation on his conviction for resisting arrest, as Shuler had failed to pay court ordered fees and fines and did not appear as ordered by the court.[5]


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  10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named rooney

Wikipedia:Category:2013 in law Wikipedia:Category:2013 in Alabama Wikipedia:Category:First Amendment to the United States Constitution Wikipedia:Category:Alabama law Wikipedia:Category:Imprisoned journalists

[Category:2013 in law]]

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