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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

A Clique of Federal Judges in Alabama is Engaging in Judicial Tyranny Against Attorneys for LGBTQ Clients and Their Causes

Updated: 1 hour ago

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on June 8, 2024

Alabama Federal Judges Jeffery Beaverstock (left), W. Keith Watkins (center), and R. David Proctor (right).

An Editorial Opinion

[Author's Note: I saved this editorial opinion for Pride Month (June 1-30, 2024). “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer" (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. As a social justice advocate, I have been a staunch defender of LGBTQ rights in Alabama since 1979. I have also experienced and fought judicial tyranny in Alabama my entire legal career.]

Judicial Tyranny in Alabama's Federal Courts.


Federal judges in Alabama have a long, ugly, pervasive, and well-documented history of engaging in vicious acts of judicial tyranny against in-state and out-of-state attorneys for disfavored civil rights groups/litigants.  Today, the newest victims of this judicial tyranny are eleven attorneys who served as legal advocates for LGBTQ clients and their civil rights causes in Alabama.

The targeted attorneys are being harassed and railroaded in the same way COINTELPRO-era participating judges in Alabama abused and railroaded civil rights lawyers for the state's black citizens in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

While the formal, centralized COINTELPRO program ended in 1971, the informal decentralized program has continued in Alabama for more than five decades. A key component of this COINTELPRO-style judicial tyranny is the purposeful suppression of any organized civil rights activity exercised by the disfavored group that threatens Old-South social norms and a predetermined "Order of the Day" in the state.

Historically, the primary disfavorable groups in Alabama have been blacks, women, and LGBTQ citizens. Since 1819, the constitutional and civil rights of these groups have been suppressed in Alabama from the "cradle to the grave."

In recent years, the segment of the LGBTQ community that has been most disfavored in Alabama today is its transgender citizens. As discussed in this article, transgender Alabamians and their attorneys are catching pure hell from a small clique of tyrannical federal judges in the state who are determined to choke the life out of LGBTQ rights and activism in Alabama.

Early Purveyors of Judicial Tyranny in Alabama


In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Judges Daniel H. Thomas (1951 to 2000) and William Brevard Hand (1971-2008) were early purveyors of judicial tyranny against civil rights attorneys and their clients.


In the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Judge Robert Varner (1971 to 2006) was the lone judicial tyrant until he was joined in his reign of tyranny by Mark E. Fuller (2002 to 2015).  Fuller was forced to resign his judgeship in disgrace in 2015 after I outed him as a serial wife-beater, pompous courthouse philanderer, and hardcore perjurer.


The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama was packed with judicial tyrants.  Judges Seybourn H. Lynne (1948 to 2000), Frank H. “Big Red” McFadden (1969 to 1982), Jimmy H. Hancock (1973 to 2020), and Edwin L. Nelson (1974 to 2003) inflicted as much harm as they could on civil rights attorneys and their clients.


All of these federal judges harassed and threatened in-state and out-of-state civil rights lawyers just in an unrelenting and creative fashion.  They were nasty, unreformed racists, sexists, and LGBTQ bigots. 


Daniel Thomas was an original COINTELPRO-participating judge.  The other judges joined Thomas in providing a sanctuary within the halls of their courthouses for federal, state, and local bigots to wallow with comfort in an orgy of prejudices against the state's disfavorable citizens.  


Judges Thomas, Hand, Varner, Lynne, McFadden, Hancock, and Nelson were notorious for their use of the N-word in public and private settings.  They also treated female attorneys like coffee-fetching second-class citizens. LGBTQ Americans were laughed at and called "faggots,""dikes," and "queers."

I never tolerated their bigotry, or reveled in their degradations of disfavored groups, or laughed at their despicable jokes. I fought their bigotry every step of the way.


These federal judges often threatened stiff sanctions against me and other civil rights attorneys if we lost our cases for members of the disfavored groups.  This is why we fought like hell to win our cases on appeal.

These judicial tyrants also despised their colleagues on the federal bench like Judges Virgil Pittman (Mobile), Frank M. Johnson, Jr., and Myron H. Thompson (Montgomery), and Sam C. Pointer, Jr., and U.W. Clemon (Birmingham), all of whom were/are fair-minded and nationally respected jurists.


Chief Judge Frank McFadden Practiced Extreme Judicial Tyranny


Frank "Big Red" McFadden, a Mississippi native, practiced an extremist form of judicial tyranny.  During the trial of an employment discrimination case involving one of my clients (Douglas L. Pope) in 1977, McFadden shouted the following statements to me in his judicial chambers after he ordered everybody else, including the court reporter, to leave the room:


"I don't give a shit what your evidence shows. I am not going to put that nigger in a principalship.  By the time you appeal my ruling, win on appeal, and the case is remanded to me for further proceedings, [Douglas] Pope will be too old under state law to work in the school system. Now, get out of here!"


Before the trial restarted, I told McFadden I wanted to put something on the record that occurrred in his chambers .  He just looked at me in disbelief.  I dictated to the court reporter everything McFadden said to me in his chambers.  McFadden turned extremely red and was livid.  He started banging his gavel and threatened to get physical with me.  There was pure hatred in his eyes for Mr. Pope and me.


As McFadden predicted, I won Douglas Pope’s case on appeal, but not before Mr. Pope reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 for public school educators in Alabama.


A New Wave of Judicial Tyranny in Alabama


There is now a new wave of judicial tyranny in Alabama. It is aimed at attorneys who represent LGBTQ clients and their causes and it is just as vicious as the original brand of COINTELPRO judicial tyranny.


On October 3, 2023, U.S. District Court Judges Jeffery U. Beaverstock (Mobile), W. Keith Watkins (Montgomery), and R. David Proctor (Birmingham) authored a heavy-handed 53-page “Final Report of Inquiry,” which was filed “Under Seal.”  The Report concerns the litigation-related conduct of 39 attorneys who performed some degree of work on three LGBTQ rights cases that were filed in Alabama's federal courts on behalf for its transgender citizens.

All three judges are George W. Bush/Donald J. Trump appointees.  Their inquiry was made without any party or client filing a formal complaint with the U.S. District Court or with any state bar association against the targeted attorneys. 


The inquiry centered on conduct the panel of judges suspected was “judge shopping.”  Plaintiffs and defense trial lawyers in Alabama (and the rest of America) routinely refer to the same conduct as “litigation strategy” that advances the clients’ interests within the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and federal statutes governing litigation in federal courts.  This "litigation strategy" is practiced by plaintiffs and defense attorneys alike throughout the state.  However, only attorneys for LGBTQ plaintiffs were targeted for the panel's heightened judicial scrutiny of this conduct.


After numerous highly questionable star-chamber proceedings, the Report concluded that various acts of “misconduct” were committed by eleven of the 39 originally targeted LGBTQ rights attorneys.  The Report claims these eleven attorneysintentionally attempted to direct their cases to a judge they considered favorable and, in particular, to avoid Judge [Liles] Burke.”  Judge Burke, an ultra-conservative, right-wing Donald Trump appointee, is well-known for his aversion to the enforcement of LGBTQ rights.

The targeted attorneys strongly objected to closed-door star-chamber proceedings and hotly disputed the panel's judicial findings.


The eleven targeted attorneys and their law firms/employers at the time are:

  • Melody Eagan, Lightfoot, Franklin & White

  • Jeffrey Doss, Lightfoot, Franklin & White

  • Scott McCoy, Southern Poverty Law Center

  • Jennifer Levi, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders

  • Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights

  • James Esseks, ACLU Foundation

  • Kathleen Hartnett, Cooley LLP

  • Michael Shortnacy, King & Spalding

  • LaTisha Faulks, ACLU of Alabama Foundation

  • Asaf Orr, National Center for Lesbian Rights

  • Carl Charles, Lambda Legal


These eleven attorneys are highly skilled, very accomplished, and widely respected in the legal profession. Their LGBTQ clients, however, are despised in Alabama. These attorneys are obviously being punished for effectively representing disfavored LGBTQ clients and their causes in Alabama's MAGA-controlled federal judiciary.


The Threat of Court-Imposed Sanctions Looms Over the Eleven Targeted Attorneys Like a Hangman’s Noose


Judges Beaverstock, Watkins, and Proctor sent their Report to U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke (Huntsville) for a final disposition of the matter. Burke may impose the following sanctions upon the eleven attorneys cited in the Report for alleged "misconduct:" (a) a criminal referral, (b) a referral to the state bar associations that licensed the targeted attorneys, (c) suspension or disbarment from all federal courts, and/or (d) hefty monetary fines.

IMAGES: U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke.

The purpose of this exercise in judicial tyranny is to terrorize the eleven targeted attorneys in such a way that no attorney, in or outside of Alabama, will ever touch a LGBTQ rights case for transgender citizens in the state again.  This kind of judicial tyranny is pervasive in Afghanistan, Ghana, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other nations where LGBTQ rights are repressed under the threat of death, but it has no place in American society.

The Report represents a modern-day use of old Alabama judicial tyrannical tactics for (a) inflicting the maximum harm possible on despised LGBTQ litigants and (b) producing a “chilling effect” on the enforcement of civil rights for this disfavored group of Americans. 


Once again, judicial tyranny has reared its ugly head in Alabama and now reigns in the state’s three federal court districts. I have never stood silent in the face of judicial tyranny, and I will not do so today!

May LGBTQ citizens in Alabama celebrate Pride Month with joy in your hearts! Whether judicial tyrants in Alabama like it, or not, you have earned the right to be respected as full-fledged American citizens, with all of the rights and privileges bestowed upon you by the U.S. Constitution and our federal and state statutes.

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
10 juin

The best way to stop judicial tyranny on the federal bench is to confront it directly. These judges like to operate in star-chamber proceedings. They also love to impose gag orders on the victims of their abuse. This way, the victims will suffer in silence. To check this runnaway judicial tyranny, the oppressed victims of this panel's abuse in this case must keep the matter under the bright lights of public scrutiny.


Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
09 juin

I understand that my article has upset certain members of the federal bench in Alabama. They think it is inappropriate for me to closely scrutinize their actions on the bench. Obviously, I disagree. These federal judges have lifetime tenure in their jobs. They operate as monarchs within their judicial fiefdoms. They even require members the Bar Association and public to call them, "Your Honor," whether they are honorable or not. As such, their actions must be subjected to heightened scrutiny to minimize and/or prevent judicial tyranny. What is more, there is a dark side to the federal judiciary that always gets swept under the rug. All I do is pull the rug back so you can see the dir…


Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
08 juin

No American living under the protection of the United States flag deserves to be subjected to judicial tyranny or second-class citizenship. Whenever I see this kind of judicial tyranny, I am going to call it out publicly.

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