12 months ago

Ala. Supreme Court: Jefferson County Probate Court ‘egregiously violated’ due-process rights of philanthropist Joann Bashinsky

The Supreme Court of Alabama on Thursday released a unanimous, scathing opinion outlining that the Jefferson County Probate Court “egregiously violated” the “basic due-process rights” of Joann Bashinsky, heiress to the Golden Flake fortune and one of the state’s most beloved philanthropists.

As previously reported by Yellowhammer News, Bashinsky has been deprived of controlling her own assets, managing her own personal affairs and making her own legal decisions since October due to orders issued then by recently retired Jefferson County Presiding Probate Judge Alan King, a Democrat.

This came after former allies and employees of Bashinsky, the wife of Golden Flake’s founder, allegedly moved to try seizing the fortune – currently estimated to be worth $200 million – through having her declared mentally unfit to manage her finances.

RELATED: Bashinsky decries ’evil plan’ to seize Golden Flake fortune, warns Alabamians of threat to elderly

King on October 17 granted an “emergency petition” and appointed a temporary conservator and guardian who took control of Bashinsky’s vast fortune and personal affairs. Affectionally known as “Mama B,” she was removed from being chairman of the board of directors of her family’s company and charitable foundation and has been living on an allowance dictated and controlled by the temporary conservator.

However, in their Thursday opinion, written by Associate Justice Brad Mendheim, the Supreme Court exposed the stunning legal errors that precluded King’s decision. Perhaps the top issue on which the justices focused their 56-page opinion pertained to King removing Bashinsky’s legal team — and not allowing her to replace them — before he made his October ruling.

The Supreme Court ultimately overturned King’s order granting the emergency petition. The justices voided the appointment of a temporary guardian and conservator for Bashinsky, as well as the order disqualifying Bashinsky’s counsel. The Supreme Court ordered the Jefferson County Probate Court “to require the temporary guardian and conservator to account for all of Ms. Bashinsky’s funds and property, and to dismiss the emergency petition.”

Among their disturbing findings, the Supreme Court advised “that no ’emergency’ was presented in [the October emergency hearing].” The opinion later added that “the allegations raised in the emergency petition and the facts presented in the hearing on that petition clearly did not constitute an ’emergency.'”

However, the manner in which the probate court handled the petition and hearing was scrutinized even more.

For example, although deemed an “ultimately harmless error” in the opinion, the Supreme Court noted that Bashinsky was not properly served with notice of the emergency petition.

Incredibly, King contended, according to the opinion, that no notice is even required to be provided to the person an emergency petition is filed against and that the subsequent emergency hearing on said petition may be held ex parte. This means that, in King’s view, not only does the individual not have to be present to have their livelihood taken away, that person is not entitled to representation by counsel at a hearing on an emergency petition, either.

“[Representation and case-presentation rights delineated by Alabama law], and Ms. Bashinsky’s basic due-process rights, were egregiously violated, as the probate court treated the proceeding like an ex parte hearing even though Ms. Bashinsky was present,” the opinion advised. “But the problems with the probate court’s disqualification of Ms. Bashinsky’s attorneys extend even beyond basic constitutional due process and the procedures afforded [by specific Alabama law].”

The opinion continued to make a shocking conclusion: King had decided how to rule on the case before even hearing the case, violating “fundamental fairness” along the way.

The probate court disqualified Ms. Bashinsky’s attorneys primarily based upon Rules 1.7 and 1.9 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct. Both of those rules expressly state that the conflicts of interest described therein can be waived by the client if the client is made aware of the conflict and still elects to have the attorney continue the representation. Yet, there is no indication that the probate court asked Ms. Bashinsky at any point during the October 17, 2019, hearing whether she was aware of her attorneys’ alleged conflicts of interest. This fact suggests that the probate court had already decided that Ms. Bashinsky was not competent to make her own decisions because the court assumed for itself the duty of determining that the alleged conflicts could not be waived. In other words, the probate court’s disqualification of Ms. Bashinsky’s counsel at the outset of the October 17, 2019, hearing indicated prejudgment of the very question at issue in that hearing: Whether Ms. Bashinsky’s competence was sufficiently in question to warrant appointment of a temporary guardian and conservator.

Moreover, the manner in which the probate court handled the issue of the motion to disqualify Ms. Bashinsky’s attorneys — granting the motion and then choosing to proceed directly with the hearing on the issue of Ms. Bashinsky’s competence — created an unnecessary complication that was highlighted by the probate court’s subsequent scheduling of a hearing in January 2020 to discuss how Ms. Bashinsky’s new attorneys were to be selected. That is, because the probate court disqualified Ms. Bashinsky’s attorneys and then declared Ms. Bashinsky to be incompetent, it raised the specter that she cannot enter into a contract to hire new counsel to represent her interests in this matter. This complication would have been avoided if the probate court had followed basic procedures of due process and fundamental fairness with respect to Ms. Bashinsky.

The opinion further said that “Bashinsky’s constitutional and statutory rights of due process were also violated through a deprivation of counsel and a lack of opportunity to present evidence and argument before the probate court.”

It was not immediately clear if this was the first and only case in which King oversaw these types of due process violations. He was a probate judge for almost 20 years, just retiring this spring. His successor was appointed earlier this week by Governor Kay Ivey.

A permanent petition also attempting to declare Bashinsky not mentally fit to manage her own finances and affairs is still pending before the probate court; that petition has not been acted upon by the probate court since being filed, so the Supreme Court wrote that there was nothing they could possibly reverse regarding the permanent petition at this time.

It should be noted that Bashinsky previously released a letter from her personal physician, Dr. Robert Spiegel, stating that she does “does not have dementia nor psychiatric issue.”

“She has had a recent side effect to a medication. She is competent to make decisions for herself,” the doctor wrote.

According to a previous email from Bashinsky, she has additionally undergone psychological testing from renowned University of Alabama psychologist Dr. Rebecca S. Allen, who also reportedly concluded that Bashinsky does not suffer from dementia.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News reacting to the Thursday Supreme Court opinion, Bashinsky said, “I am happy and feel vindicated by the Supreme Court’s ruling. It’s sad that two former employees could use our court system to steal my freedom. It should have never happened and anyone who does this should be held accountable.”

You can read the full opinion here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Huntsville City Schools will go on with its vaccination clinic for minors without parental consent

Americans have been bombarded with requests, pleas, shaming and excoriations about how you must get vaccinated.

I bought in, and I think I may have even jumped the line accidentally. I also have a three-year-old, and I don’t envision a scenario where I rush him out to get a vaccine. If he were 14, 18 or 24, I wouldn’t pressure him to get vaccinated. If he were over 18, what could I do?

But if he were 14? That’s a no from me.

Schools in Alabama disagree, and at least one school system doesn’t care what you think.

Madison, Birmingham and Huntsville schools have all taken up the task of vaccinating your kids even though doctors, pharmacies and Wal-Mart have vaccines readily available.

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In the coverage of the Huntsville vaccinations, the Alabama Media Group article specifically states that Huntsville City Schools will not require parental consent for those over 14.

Students under 14 must have a parent or guardian accompany them for the vaccine, according to the announcement on the Huntsville schools website. Everyone receiving the vaccine must present a legal form of identification including a driver’s license, passport, non-drivers ID, or a birth certificate. Participants must sign a consent form prior to receiving the vaccine and must register online in advance to receive the vaccine.

To put it simply — your 14-year-old can decide to take an experimental vaccine without your knowledge.

This is a betrayal of parents by Alabama schools.

They don’t care.

Keep in mind that this is happening as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still looking at the impact of the vaccine on young people.

Even the World Health Organization thinks this is a bad idea.

Some Alabama lawmakers are taking note.

State Senator Sam Givhan appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and suggested the school systems should hit pause.

Explaining that just vaccinating everyone who shows up without parental consent is just a bad practice, Givhan said, “They don’t have everyone’s full medical history, and they don’t know the unique situations from certain kids. … And I just don’t think the high school should be giving these shots when, you know, you could actually cause someone to have medical problems from this, and then they’ll hide behind their state immunity shield and say you can’t sue them.”

Obviously, it is entirely possible that no children have been vaccinated without parental consent, but how would we know?

Huntsville City Schools seems hell-bent on continuing this. Attempts to speak to the school board we unsuccessful.

The board said in a statement, “We appreciate the invitation. Please see the information below surrounding the vaccine clinic. We have nothing more to add at this time.”

The gist is this: “Sorry, not sorry. We will vaccinate your kids without your permission. What are you going to do about it?”

The answer is people with means are going to either change these schools or flee American schools more than they already have.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

4 hours ago

Guest opinion: ‘For the People Act’ was always a bad idea

For months, we have been inundated with stories of a federal proposal named by the Democrat Party as the “For the People Act.” Upon closer examination of this mammoth piece of legislation, it should be renamed the “From the People Act” because this legislation clearly seeks to take the election process out of the hands of the American people. As a former probate judge, I see this for what it is – a federal attempt to take over our elections in violation of the United States Constitution.

The number of things wrong with this “Act” could fill a novel, but the most troubling aspects of this historical attempt to alter our elections and change the fabric of our nation include:

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Automatic voter registration — The bill mandates that individuals who have interaction with certain government offices would be automatically registered to vote, but there is no mandate in the bill to only limit that registration to American citizens with the right to vote. Therefore, an individual who goes to the DMV for a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote, even if a felony has eliminated their right to vote or if they are not a citizen of the United States. The same holds true for those interacting with other government offices for assistance with a variety of services. Democrats argue that is not the intent of the provision but still refuse to establish any voter eligibility verification requirements in their proposal.

Funding of political campaigns — This act would divert money collected from fines of corporations from the nation’s general budget to a fund that would be specifically earmarked for the funding of political campaigns. This newly created “Freedom From Influence Fund” will serve as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs of political candidates. The idea that this bill increases funding for political campaigns from our government’s coffers is sickening. Our government has a gargantuan debt but this bill seeks to collect fines and, rather, than devote them to paying down that debt, diverts them to the accounts of political candidates. Absolutely mindboggling.

The list of problems with this proposal goes on and on and, although the proposal appears to be at a dead end now, it will rear its ugly head again. “We the People” must remain aware of attempts, such as these, to undermine our Democracy and we must oppose such measures at every turn.

Wes Allen currently represents Pike and Dale Counties in the State House of Representatives.

7 hours ago

Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Regions has added Joia M. Johnson to its board of directors, according to a release from the company.

Johnson will serve on the boards of Regions Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Regions Bank, beginning on July 20.

She arrives at her new responsibilities having recently retired as chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary for Hanesbrands Inc., a leading apparel manufacturer and marketer.

Charles McCrary, chairman of the Regions Financial Corp. and Regions Bank Boards, believes Johnson’s experience will be a valuable addition to the board.

“Joia’s leadership experience, both at the corporate level and in various board roles, will add greater depth and insights to the Regions Board of Directors as we advance policies and strategies to benefit our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders,” McCrary explained.

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Johnson added that she sees that experience as an asset in assisting the company achieve its vision for growth.

“I believe the breadth of my corporate experience and civic engagement will complement the additional experience and skills reflected throughout Regions’ current directors,” she stated. “As the company focuses not just on continuous improvement but also on long-term, sustainable growth, I am thrilled to become a part of building on Regions’ history of success – while also defining a very bright future for the organization and the people and communities we serve.”

McCrary also noted the alignment between Johnson’s unique skill set and the company’s mission.

“The Regions mission is to make life better for the people we serve, and we accomplish that mission by creating shared value for all of our stakeholders,” he remarked. “With her passion for strong governance and strategic community engagement, Joia will help us build on our progress and reach new heights in the years to come.”

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Johnson earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Johnson’s financial services experience includes on the board of Global Payments Inc., a Fortune 500 payments technology company and eight years as a board member for Crawford & Company, which specializes in insurance claims administration.

Upon her installment, Johnson will serve on Regions’ 13-member board which will consist of 12 independent outside directors.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

8 hours ago

State Rep. Oliver: Combatting Critical Race Theory in Alabama is ‘the way we stand up to woke-ism’

Republicans have made taking on so-called Critical Race Theory a priority in recent weeks claiming such philosophies are an effort to undermine cultural norms and indoctrinate in a way that benefits the Democratic Party.

Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have banned the theory from their public school classrooms. Many would like to see Alabama follow suit, and there have been bills filed for the legislature’s 2022 regular session to do as much. One of those bills is being brought by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville), who takes it beyond the classroom and applies restrictions throughout state government.

Oliver discussed the bill during Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show” on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5.

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“[I]’ve got a bill that’s fairly unique, and we expect it to go through the state government committee,” he said. “My bill actually covers any state agency, its contractors and subcontractors, to include schools. We felt like it was important to address this issue with a holistic approach.”

“The first thing is deciding what you don’t want taught,” Oliver continued. “That’s the most important piece. And I would like to say, this bill, it absolutely describes what we don’t want taught — it doesn’t mean that you can’t teach inclusion or diversity. It means you can’t teach some things as fact and then we’re not going to teach our kids that one sex or race is better than another. And in a nutshell, that is the crux of it.”

The Tallapoosa County lawmaker said his effort could serve as a bulwark against a creeping effort to indoctrinate.

“[I]t’s the way we stand up to woke-ism,” Oliver declared. “If we’re ever going to draw a line in the sand, Critical Race Theory is it. I say that not because I’m the smartest guy in the world or this is something I’ve thought all my life, but I’ve got a child that goes to a major university in the state. And I am absolutely appalled by what I’ve witnessed there the last three years with my child. If you don’t think universities are indoctrinating your kids, everybody needs to wake up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

9 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama backs Ainsworth for reelection

As Alabama maintains its status among the top states in the nation for manufacturing, the industry’s dedicated trade association has made its choice for lieutenant governor.

Manufacture Alabama has given its full support to Will Ainsworth in his bid for reelection to the office, according to a release from the group.

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, cited Ainsworth’s background in manufacturing and knowledge of its key issues in announcing the endorsement.

“Manufacture Alabama is endorsing Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth for reelection due to his commitment to maintaining a business-friendly environment in Alabama,” Clark said. “Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth grew up in the manufacturing industry and understands firsthand that our members are the backbone of the state and nation’s economy. He is a friend to our association and a tireless advocate for manufacturers across Alabama. In his leadership role, it is clear that he is dedicated to serving his home state with enthusiasm and integrity. We are proud to give him our full endorsement for the reelection of Lieutenant Governor.”

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Ainsworth, who has now picked up a string of endorsements from trade associations, believes the state’s successes in manufacturing are something that can continue.

“I am proud to have the endorsement of Manufacture Alabama,” he stated. “Our tremendous manufacturers are sources of good-paying 21st century jobs for hardworking Alabamians, and the goods and materials they produce are integral across a broad range of sectors. Alabama is open for business, and I’m firmly committed to making our state the workforce engine of the Southeast so we can continue to grow jobs through expansion and recruitment. Working together, I am confident we will build an even stronger Alabama for our children and our children’s children.”

The manufacturing industry employs more than 250,000 people in Alabama, a figure which makes up a double-digit percentage of the state’s workforce.

Ainsworth announced his reelection campaign earlier this month.

Since that time, he has received the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association, the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: Huntsville preferred location for Space Command ‘based on merit and based on policies’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia