Ivey appoints prosecutor Leigh Gwathney as chair of Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles
Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that she is appointing Leigh Gwathney to serve as chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The governor signed Gwathney’s appointment letter Monday afternoon. The appointment follows the resignation of Lyn Head and is effective October 16.
Gwathney is currently serving as an Alabama assistant attorney general. She is the senior prosecutor responsible for prosecuting violent crimes throughout the Yellowhammer State. Additionally, she is the senior cold case prosecutor overseeing homicides and sexual assault cases across the state and is responsible for reviewing legislation and amendments to the Code of Alabama, per a press release from the governor’s office.
In a statement, Ivey said, “There is no doubt Leigh Gwathney will serve the state well as chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.”
The appointment comes amidst a major overhaul with the the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
During the Alabama Legislature’s 2019 Regular Session, Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall championed legislation aimed at reforming the board. With this new law now in effect, the governor has the authority to appoint the director. She recently exercised this right in appointing former Attorney General and Judge Charlie Graddick.
Additionally, based off recommendations by the lieutenant governor, attorney general, senate pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House, the governor has the ability to appoint the chairman of the board. Head last week announced she would resign this post effective October 1, paving the way for the appointment of Gwathney.
“Pardons and Paroles was in need of strong leadership, and I am confident with Judge Graddick and Ms. Gwathney at the helm, the system will better serve victims and their families, and ultimately, improve public safety across the state,” Ivey advised. “She is a proven prosecutor with an expertise and passion for the justice system, and I am proud to call on this impressive leader to serve in this capacity.”
Gwathney comes to the post with a strong background in prosecution and an impressive record of public service.
Prior to her work in the state attorney general’s office, she served as deputy district attorney for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. She also worked as a court advocate for the YMCA of Central Alabama.
In a statement, Marshall praised the appointment, also thanking Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh for submitting Gwathney’s name, among four other candidates, to the governor for her consideration.
“I applaud Governor Ivey’s selection of Assistant Attorney General Leigh Gwathney to lead the Board of Pardons and Paroles,” Marshall emphasized. “I am confident that Ms. Gwathney will restore integrity and diligence to the Board as it returns to its core mission of thoroughly vetting Alabama prison inmates’ petitions for parole.”
“I have worked with Leigh since becoming Attorney General two and a half years ago and I have been impressed with her knowledge of the law and her zeal for justice. She brings to the Board of Pardons and Paroles the perspective of a tough and experienced career prosecutor with a record of holding violent offenders accountable. She will ensure that the Board’s decisions adhere to the law and are in the best interests of the citizens of this state. I look forward to working with Leigh in the years to come,” he concluded.
A Birmingham native, Gwathney earned her bachelor’s degrees from Auburn University. She later earned her law degree from the University of Alabama.
“I am greatly honored to be asked by Governor Ivey to serve as chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, and I will devote my best efforts to ensuring that Alabama laws are followed and public safety is protected,” Gwathney said. “I am eager to work with my fellow Board members and Director Graddick in restoring public trust in our state pardons and paroles system.”
Her effective appointment should come before parole hearings resume “on or about” November 1.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn