Friday, April 1, 2016

Civil Rights Attorney/Activist Julian McPhillips: "Civil Rights In My Bones" on Clayton "Wildcat" Thomason

Christal Cooper

                               Julian McPhillips at the Martin Luther King Jr Ceremony
                               January of 2015
Guest Blog by Julian McPhillips 
Excerpt from Civil Rights In My Bones
“Wildcat Versus Tamedog”
     Civil Rights in My Bones: More Colorful Stories from a Lawyer's Life and Work, 2005-2015 is a memoir by Julian L. McPhillips Jr. and published by New South Books.

In a career stretching over forty-plus years, the Montgomery, Alabama, attorney has earned a reputation as a determined advocate for the rights of consumers, victims of police abuse, falsely accused criminal defendants, the unborn, immigrants, and the environment.
A previous book, The People’s Lawyer The Colorful Life and Times of Julian L. McPhillips, Jr. covered his life and career up to 2005. 

Civil Rights in My Bones provides additional background about his family roots in Alabama, his parents’ political activism, his education and athletic competition as a champion amateur wrestler, his religious convictions, and his wife, children, and grandchildren.  Below is a excerpt from Civil Rights In My Bones tilted "Wildcat Versus Tamedog."

Wildcat Versus Tamedog by Julian McPhillips

       One of the most interesting clients I’ve ever seen represented is Steven Clayton “Wildcat” Thomason, a late 40’s African –American gentleman of many talents.

                                Clayton "Wildcat" Thomason performing.
                               Photograph attributed to Lane Ward and copyright granted by
                                Lane Ward.  

       With his straight long-black hair and an ancestry including Irish and American Indian forebears, Clayton, as he is more formally known, exudes charm and intelligence.  He is a gifted home repairs contractor, an accomplished singer with a jazz band, and a legal buff who has successfully represented himself in court.

       Clayton is also a widower raising two teenage daughters.  I frequently tell him this is his greatest and highest avocation.  That doesn’t keep his handsome fellow from spreading his charisma among a diversity of attractive women, ranging from young to middle-aged and consisting of a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

                               Clayton "Wildcat" Thomason and his two daughters.
       The “Wildcat” nickname came from Clayton’s singing routine.  More often than not he is performing on “Harriott Steamboat” cruises on the Alabama River.  His band includes guitarists Frank Gray and Atiba Dudley, and drummer Unika Newsome.  They are also members of our Christ the Redeemer church jazz band.

                                Unika Newsome, Frank Gray, Angela, Thomason, and Atiba Dudley
       Clayton first came to see me for legal advice and help.  In a humorous moment, I suggested the alternative nick-name of “Tamedog”.  If any inference were intended, perhaps it was to suggest that he tame down some of his many legal initiatives.  Since then, my relationship with Clayton has grown to include both pastor and friend.  Clayton sometimes comes to Christ the Redeemer Church, and needs to come more often.

       I remember one time with Clayton in Elmore County Circuit Court, waiting for a judge to come to the courtroom.  In that span, I was prepping him for his legal defense, while alternatively listening to him, and responding pastorally, about a deteriorating girlfriend relationship.  When the case was continued, we retreated to my car, and had a good, long prayer about his social life.

       Clayton, as I prefer to call him, sometimes struggles between the Wildcat and Tamedog sides of his personality.

       The first several cases I helped him with arose in Montgomery County.  One involved a suit by Clayton against a woman who failed to pay her bill to Clayton because she said he was not registered with the Alabama Homebuilders Licensure Board.  This was just an excuse to avoid paying a legitimate bill, because she had no complaint about the quality of Wildcat’s work.

       Clayton had initially filed the suit himself.  The ancient adage, however, that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client is all the more true, when a non-lawyer is representing himself.  So I entered an appearance for Clayton, and cleared up his allegations with an amended complaint.  We pursued aggressive discovery, and in the end, I wrangled out a decent settlement for Clayton in Judge Johnny Hardwick’s courtroom. 

       I also got two sets of criminal charges dismissed against Clayton in Montgomery County District judge Troy Massey’s courtroom.  That was not without protests, however, overruled by the court, of the District Attorney’s Office and the Alabama Homebuilder’s Licensure Board, which initiated the charge in the first place.  This was no small accomplishment.

                                           Judge Troy Massey                                           

       Meanwhile, despite Clayton’s claim of exemption due to the grand-fathering provisions of a Washington County license, I convinced Clayton to go ahead and apply for his Homebuilder’s License, just to get that agency off of his back.  Clayton did just that, submitting his application in June 2014.  Meanwhile, the Homebuilders kept coming back to Clayton for more information, all of which we provided, but which delayed his approval.

       Unfortunately, before the Homebuilder’s Board could grant him a license, the Board dug up a spurious new complaint from a lady in Millbrook.  Ignoring our evidence to the contrary, the board put Clayton’s application on hold.  So there we were again, duking it out.  My letter expressing great indignation and breach of an agreement in Judge Massey’s courtroom was mild in comparison to the missile Clayton himself unloaded on them.  Clayton, who loves to draft his own lawsuits in his own name, puts together a classic, alleging all manner of bad faith, due process violation, and breach of anti-trust laws.  I was only advised by this pleading “after the fact”.  Clayton also named a defendant Montgomery County District Attorney, Darryl Bailey, as a defendant.  Bailey is a friend of mind, and has helped me, and can help me more on other clients’ cases.  Thus, I had a conflict, and could not be Clayton’s attorney on that case anyway.    

                               Darryl Bailey 

      Later, after Elmore County district court Judge Glenn Goggans ruled against Clayton, my Wildcat client, without checking with me first, added Judge Goggans as a party defendant on various constitutional grounds.  My understanding is that a judge’s immunity is absolute for anything done in court.  For that reason, and for conflict reasons, I was all the more constrained not to be Clayton’s attorney in that case.

                                     Judge Glenn Goggans    

       I am now representing Clayton in Elmore County Circuit Court on an appeal of his Elmore District Court conviction. A jury trial has been requested in the Circuit Court.  Clayton’s big lawsuit against the Homebuilder’s Board has now been removed by the Defendant’s to federal court, where Clayton continues to represent himself. 

       Clayton still comes to Christ the Redeemer occasionally, but not enough in my opinion, for his overall well-being.  Notwithstanding, our friendship remains strong, given its multi-faceted nature.

       Regardless of whether Clayton learns more toward the Wildcat or Tamedog side of his nature, this able fellow not only remains my good friend and client, but he spurs me on in my civil rights work.  After all, that’s what I’ve done for Clayton, protecting his “civil right to work without oppressive, government interference.”

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