11 months ago

Yellowhammers Exclusive Interview with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stuart

In her seventeenth year on the Alabama Supreme Court, Justice Lyn Stuart was recently appointed Chief Justice by Governor Kay Ivey. Chief Justice Stuart was kind enough to visit with Yellowhammer for an exclusive interview to provide our readers some insights on the lady who holds the highest position in the Alabama Supreme Court. Below is that interview:

What was your childhood like in Atmore?
It was quite idyllic. Like most children in those days, we spent much of our time outdoors, actively playing when we weren’t in school. Because I grew up in such a small town, we knew our neighbors and it was safe for children to be out and about. We often rode our bikes to a small country store a quarter mile or so from our home and I have a great appreciation for the simple and tranquil Alabama upbringing I enjoyed.

When you were a little girl, did you ever imagine that one day you’d be Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court?
Absolutely not. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined I’d have the honor of serving my fellow Alabamians in this role.

As a student, what attracted you to the law?
It began with my interest in the juvenile justice system when I was still in high school. I really wanted to be a juvenile probation officer but those positions were rarely open, so at Auburn, I took the LSATs without much forethought. Thankfully, because my test scores were high, I received a scholarship offer from the University of Alabama Law School and was also accepted into Samford’s Cumberland School of Law. However, I didn’t enroll right away. I accepted an internship in Washington with former Congressman Jack Edwards. He was a great encouragement and really inspired my career. He also allowed me to audit a class at Georgetown Law School—a legal research and writing class. That proved to be really helpful when I eventually enrolled in law school at Alabama because I’d already mastered this discipline of legal research and writing. I was so impressed with that class that I considered staying in D.C. and going to Georgetown, but Congressman Edwards took me to lunch one day and encouraged me to come home to Alabama, which was definitely the right decision. Not only did I love my three years of law school in Tuscaloosa, Congressman Edwards told me there would be classmates I’d interact with throughout my career, and that proved to be some of the wisest advice I’d ever received.

Who are some of those people?
Honestly, they’re too numerous to name, but a few that come to mind are Harold Stephens, Bradley Byrne (my Congressman), John Tyson, Sam Crosby, and so many others. It’s a community of professional colleagues for whom I’m very grateful.

What’s one piece of advice would you give to students considering the law or already in law school?
It’s a great career, but if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, above all else do internships and shadow someone. My jobs in law offices and my internship in Washington went far in shaping my career, so by all means, young students should get the work experience they need to refine their interests, which will also make the classroom experiences more meaningful.

Who’s had the biggest influence on your career?
Once again, they’re too numerous to name, but in addition to Congressman Edwards, one that comes to mind is the late Judge Robert Key. He was a circuit judge in Monroe and Conecuh Counties, and a friend of my father’s, so I’d known him from childhood. I took a job as a runner in a small law firm in Monroeville, and that afforded me the opportunity to listen to trials, to see how law offices operate and have a front-row seat to the world that would eventually become my profession. So Judge Key was not only a trusted family friend but a person of tremendous influence in my life.

As a judge in the Juvenile Justice system in Alabama, what’s the most inspiring story you recall?
Once I was in Walmart near my home not long after 9/11 when I was approached by a gentleman I didn’t recognize. He said something like, “Ma’am, I know you don’t remember me but my son was in your court some years ago, and you were kind and fair with him. Today, that same young man is building those bombs that are being dropped on the terrorists that attacked our country, and I just want to thank you for what you did for my child. It helped him become the man he is today.” To say that hearing this redemptive story was a powerful and moving moment in my life is a huge understatement.

What’s been the most rewarding thing about your service on the Alabama Supreme Court?
Each of the Justices has areas of expertise. That’s what makes our Supreme Court function so well. When I first came on the Court, I was the only person with a background in juvenile and family law. People are always surprised at the number of those cases we have but I think my background in that field, and in criminal law in general, has allowed to me add real value to the court. Also, because I was a trial judge for 12 years before serving on the high court, I think it gives me a perspective that’s helpful for the cases we consider. My time as a trial judge taught me that judges must be patient with people—with attorneys and parties. We have to patiently and carefully consider what everyone has to say, no matter who they are or why they’re there, and I think that perspective has also served me well on the Supreme Court.

In a world full of judicial activism, how would you describe the Alabama Supreme Court’s role?
Quite simply, we decide every single case based solely on the facts and the laws that apply to those facts. In other words, our job is to interpret the law and to affirm and uphold what it says. It’s not our job to make the law. For that reason, we leave political considerations aside and do only what wise judges should do, discern what the law says about each case that comes before us.

In closing, tell me about your two grandchildren:
My husband and I are blessed to have two wonderful grandchildren. Our granddaughter Sophie starts kindergarten next fall and our grandson Thomas is two. Every moment spent with them is time well spent!


46 mins ago

Alabama Senate delays vote on church ‘Stand your Ground’ law

The Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on a proposed revision of the state’s self-defense law to clarify that deadly force can be used to defend someone in a church.

Senators delayed a Thursday vote after at least one senator threatened a filibuster.

Sen. Bobby Singleton said that the legislation is encouraging people to get “trigger happy.”


Alabama already has a self-defense law that someone can use deadly force if they reasonably believe a person is about to kill them or another person. The bill adds that people can use deadly force if they believe a person is about to use physical force against a church member or employee.

Supporters pointed to deadly church shootings and said members need the legal protection to respond to a threat.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 hour ago

Debbie Long is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

This summer, Debbie Long will call it a career at Protective Life Corp.

What a career it has been.

Long, who also is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, served as executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary of the insurance company before taking on a part-time advisory role this year. She is one of Alabama’s highest-paid female executives.


Long also has been a big contributor to her community.

Long told Business Alabama in 2012 that she always wanted to be a lawyer, although first she had idealistic visions of saving the world. After graduating in 1980 from the University of Alabama Law School and then clerking for a federal appeals court Judge Frank Johnson, she went to work for a law firm and practiced corporate law.

“Although I hadn’t initially wanted to practice business law, I found I loved it,” she told the publication.

Long left the firm along with several other lawyers to help form the powerhouse Birmingham firm of Maynard, Cooper and Gale.

In 1992, Long joined the board of Protective Life as general counsel of the insurance company.

Long told Business Alabama that her advice to would-be business leaders would be to stay open to opportunities that might come along at unexpected times.

“It’s very doubtful that someone’s going to come to you early in your career and say, ‘I want to be your mentor,’” she said. “It’s far more likely you will meet people along the way who will give you great advice if you are open to receiving it. Someone at a cocktail party might say something that could change your life.”

Long has been active in the larger business community. She has served as chairwoman of the Business Council of Alabama’s Judicial and Legal Reform Committee and also has worked on the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, the Federal Affairs Committee and on the board of ProgressPAC — the lobby’s political action committee.

Last year, the BCA honored her with the Robert W. “Bubba” Lee Political Courage Award, given each year to someone who is willing to take the right position regardless of cost.

“She has shown through her support that she cares about the Alabama business community and she values the role we play and the jobs we create,” BCA Chairman Perry Hand said at the time. “She has been a distinguished member of the Alabama and Birmingham business communities for nearly three decades.”

Her charitable endeavors include Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham, the YWCA of Birmingham, Oasis Women’s Counseling Center, the Birmingham Museum of Art and Partners in Neighborhood Growth Inc.

In addition, she serves on the Alabama Women’s Commission and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, as well as The Fellows program of the American Bar Foundation.

“It is her commitment to excellence that has made her such a valuable asset to Alabama’s business community, and there are few individuals more dedicated to our corporate community, the rule of law, and the political arena than Debbie Long,” Hand said last year.

Join Long and special guests from across the state for a Birmingham awards event March 29 honoring the 20 Yellowhammer Women of Impact whose powerful contributions advance Alabama. Details and registration may be found here.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

1 hour ago

Alabama Rural Broadband Act on governor’s desk

A bill that would provide grants to aid rural broadband expansion is on Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.

The legislation was delivered to the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon after the Senate adopted changes to the Alabama Rural Broadband Act previously made in the House.

Originally conceived as a bill that would offer tax incentives to companies to provide high-speed internet services to some of the state’s more remote areas, the bill was changed to offer grants instead. Projects that would provide speeds of 25 megabits per second down and 3 megabits per second up would be eligible for $1.4 million per project, while projects providing minimum speeds of 10/1 could get $750,000 each.


The bill is expected to provide $10 million annually, with the program being administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Private providers and cooperatives would be eligible for the money, but government entities would not.

The sponsor, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), wanted to give providers tax credits for providing broadband rather than cash. The bill still has safeguards in place – the money won’t be received upfront and a legislative committee would monitor the program for effectiveness.

Scofield couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

Ivey is expected to sign the bill after speaking about the need for such programs in her January State of the State speech. The legislation sailed through the Alabama Legislature, receiving unanimous yes votes in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate concurrence vote on Wednesday.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), said grants are better for taxpayers.

“It’s more transparent and gives us more accountability,” he said.

In reality, both funding mechanisms have been dismissed by critics. The MacIver Institute said in a 2014 report that incentives can actually hurt economic growth, while Obama’s stimulus grant program was one of the more stark examples of grant largesse.

Alabama lawmakers hope their broadband plan goes hand-in-hand with a proposal from President Trump to spend an immediate $200 billion and long-term $1.5 trillion on infrastructure improvements. Trump hopes to spur more public-private partnerships – so-called P3s – with his proposal to help state and local governments shoulder more of the load. But his plan has faced criticism on both sides – Democrats aren’t fans of the president’s goal to put more costs on the states, while many Republicans say the plan calls for too much spending and haven’t exactly deemed it a high priority this session.

Some on both sides have criticized the lack of any guaranteed funds for broadband, although the plan cites high-speed internet as an infrastructure priority. There are concerns that federal broadband grants could accelerate the growth of government internet projects, which have largely been a sinkhole for taxpayer money.

2 hours ago

Alabama Committee approves ethics exemption for economic developers

An Alabama Senate committee has approved legislation, pushed by the state’s top industry recruiter, to exempt professional economic developers from the state ethics law.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved the House-passed bill Wednesday on a 10-2 vote. It now moves to the Senate floor.


The proposal would exempt professional economic developers from the rules that govern lobbyists. The rules include registering with the state, undergoing yearly training and reporting activity.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield has said professional site developers, who help businesses decide where to locate, will not work in Alabama if they must register as lobbyists.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton has expressed concern about exempting a group of people, whose primary job involves interacting with government officials, from the state ethics law.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Human trafficking bill that would impose severe penalties for obstruction is step closer to becoming law

Anyone who obstructs a human trafficking investigation in Alabama could be met with the same penalties as the traffickers if the governor signs a bill that passed the House this week with near unanimous support.

The bill, which already passed the Senate, increases penalties in place for those who obstruct, interfere with, prevent, or otherwise get in the way of law enforcement’s investigation into the practice that includes child sex trafficking.

Under current law, such obstruction is only a Class C felony and could result in just one year in prison. The new legislation would increase the maximum offense to a Class A felony, with a minimum jail sentence of ten years.


Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) sponsored the bill and said he is proud that the Alabama Legislature made this a priority.

“This week we’ve taken another crucial step in ending this horrific practice,” Ward said in a statement. “By increasing penalties for those who would aid traffickers, we will hold them just as accountable as the traffickers themselves.”

Human trafficking victims are often children who are trafficked into sexual exploitation at an average age between 11-14 years old, according to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.

“Most people assume, ‘Well, that doesn’t happen in my backyard,’” Ward said in an interview with Yellowhammer News when the bill was first introduced. “…It’s everywhere in our state, but there’s low awareness as to how bad it really is.”

Just this week, a Decatur man pled guilty to child sex trafficking and other charges related to his plan to kidnap, rape and kill a mother and sell her 14-year-old daughter to a Memphis pimp, according to horrifying details reported by the Decatur Daily.

Brian David “Blaze” Boersma’s plan was thwarted because an informant, who Boersma recruited to help him with his plan, alerted the FBI.

“Oftentimes it’s like what we say with terrorism,” Ward said. “If you see something suspicious, tell somebody, because a lot of times, trafficking can take place right underneath our noses in our communities.”

The legislation to increase penalties for obstructing human trafficking investigations was delivered to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature Wednesday afternoon.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.