Alabama blogger jailed after violating prior restraint over articles that alleged high-profile affair

Jamie Schuman | Prior Restraints | News | October 25, 2013

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was arrested Wednesday after allegedly violating a judge’s order that he not publish stories about a supposed affair involving the son of a former state governor, according to a news report and his wife Carol Shuler.

Police charged the blogger with contempt of court and resisting arrest, Carol Shuler said in an interview Friday. Roger Shuler has run “Legal Schnauzer,” a blog focused on exposing political corruption, since 2007. He is being held on a $1,000 bond on the resisting arrest charge, but bond was not set for the two contempt charges, his wife said. She also alleged that he was physically roughed up by police during his arrest.

Shuler had written a series of stories claiming that Robert Riley, Jr., son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley, had an affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Riley is an attorney who has been mentioned by news outlets in the state as a potential candidate for a soon-to-be vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat.

Riley filed a lawsuit this summer in the Circuit Court of Shelby County (Ala.) against both Roger and Carol Shuler alleging that the reports that they published are false and defamatory, according to an article on Legal Schnauzer. The record is under seal, a clerk at the court said Friday, but Legal Schnauzer has posted a number of the filings. Duke also filed suit against the couple.

The court issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction this fall, which banned the Shulers from posting “any defamatory statement” about Riley and Jones, including any statement that they “had an extramarital affair, that Petitioner Riley fathered a child out of wedlock with Petitioner Duke or anyone else, that Ms. Duke had an abortion” or that Riley paid Duke funds relating to the alleged affair.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prior restraints, which are government restrictions of speech prior to publication, are presumptively unconstitutional.

After Shuler continued to write stories about Riley and Duke, they filed motions asking the court to hold the couple in contempt for violating the orders not to publish.

Roger Shuler worked for the Birmingham Post-Herald for more than a decade, and was a university editor for about 20 years.

Carol Shuler, who has helped research for Legal Schnauzer, said she and her husband thought the suit was “completely absurd” when they were served and that they did not attend certain court hearings. She said they stand by the truthfulness of the reporting. “We just knew it was bogus,” Shuler said of the suit.