The Wire

  • Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election

    Excerpt:

    With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

    North Alabama has spoken.
    When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

    Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.

  • On Roby’s win: One false media narrative dies, a new one is born

    Excerpt:

    Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.

    Similar to when she defeated “Gather Your Armies” Rick Barber in the 2010 GOP primary and “Born Free American Woman” Becky Gerritson in the 2016 GOP primary, Roby defeated former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright for a second time on Tuesday night, this time by a whopping 36 points.

    Heading into yesterday, many national media reporters were sent into Alabama’s second congressional district looking at the possibility that Roby might have to answer to a revolt for not sticking with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the infamous Billy Bush weekend during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Mo Brooks Wins FreedomWorks’ Prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award

    Excerpt from a Rep. Mo Brooks news release:

    Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.

    Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

1 month ago

Roy Moore’s career may be over, but Mooreism is not

(T. Parker/Facebook)

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s career may have ended in December when he lost a special election for the Senate, but his shadow lives on in the state’s Republican politics.

Tuesday’s GOP primary showed that when Moore’s longtime protégé, Justice Tom Parker, took down incumbent Chief Justice Lyn Stuart.

Parker openly embraces his Christian faith and talks about how it informs his view of the law and the Constitution. He ran ads during this campaign attacking progressive power broker George Soros and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed an ethics complaint against him. Earlier this year, he won a free speech victory in federal court when a judge upheld his right to speak out publicly on legal and political issues.

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Rick Shaftan, who served as a consultant Parker’s campaign, said he sees some parallels to past Moore campaigns — but only up to a point.

“The two races were totally separate,” he said. “They were just different.”

Parker’s victory over Stuart was narrow — he won by about 4 percentage points — but was widespread. He carried most of the state’s counties and out-performed her in every region of the state except for her home base in southwest Alabama. Stuart, who once served as a circuit judge in Baldwin County, won there and in the surrounding counties in the Mobile area.

Despite having served as statewide officer for nearly two decades, however, Stuart found little success anywhere else.

That includes urban counties with higher numbers of educated and upper-income voters who often favor candidates like Stuart, who won the backing of the state’s business interests.

In the familiar Alabama Republican divide, the path to victory for an economic conservative running against a social conservative is to run up the score in urban and suburban precincts and then hold off her opponent in the rural counties.

Stuart did not do nearly well enough in the places that she needed to, however. Although she won Mobile and Montgomery counties, she lost Madison, Lee and Tuscaloosa counties. And while she won Shelby County and was winning in Jefferson County, the margins were too close — less than 3 points in Shelby and about 8 points in Jefferson — for her to withstand Parker’s strength in rural Alabama.

Shaftan said the Parker campaign spent relatively little in the Mobile market, figuring Stuart would run strongly there, and instead spent limited resources elsewhere.

Shaftan said the Stuart campaign, particularly earlier in the campaign when Parker was not on the air, did a good job of converting her favorability ratings into votes in surveys.

“Her ads were definitely good. It showed up in our polling,” he said. “Her problem was she didn’t have a lot to say. And when you don’t have a lot to say, you can’t run a three-week campaign.”

With less campaign money, meanwhile, Parker, did not begin airing ads on broadcast TV stations until Friday. Shaftan credited that late burst of advertising with helping Parker close a deficit that internal polling had indicated was about 10 points.

In some ways, the chief justice race was like Parker’s 2004 campaign for the state Supreme Court. Then, as now, he faced a female incumbent who had strong backing from business interests. Parker barely knocked off Justice Jean Brown in the primary, winning 51 percent to 49 percent.

Shaftan recalled Parker winning 59 of 66 counties in 2004, but he lost by big margins in the big-population counties and lost nearly every county seat. Tuesday’s victory of Stuart was broader.

“We had a stronger message. People are looking for conservative judges,” he said.

Shaftan said it is also is clear that a message of confronting bullying tactics of the Southern Poverty Law Center resonates more widely among Republican voters than just those animated by social issues.

“It has a lot more appeal in the suburbs than people might realize,” he said.

With Stuart’s loss, two previous Moore stints that ended early due to ethics investigations and Democrat Sue Bell Cobb’s resignation during her first term, it now has been 23 years since a chief justice in Alabama completed a six-year term.

Parker will attempt to break that cycle, but first he must overcome Democrat Robert Vance in November. Shaftan previewed a campaign that will depict the former Jefferson County circuit judge as a “liberal judge.” He said he expects Democrats to spend heavily on the race.

“It’s not going to work,” he predicted.

Updated at 9:52 p.m. to correct an error in Rich Shaftan’s title.

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

2 months ago

Big trial lawyers nearly exclusively funding Tom Parker in court race

(Parker/Facebook), Pixabay)

Big money in Alabama judicial races is nothing new, but a week away from primary day, Republican Supreme Court chief justice candidate Tom Parker is in the midst of a campaign that might be unprecedented.

Parker, who is challenging incumbent Lyn Stuart in the primary, has reported raising $505,625. Of that, $400,000 has come from a single political action committee — the Progress for Justice PAC. Since 2016, the PAC has received all of its money from seven big trial lawyer firms and one individual, a $250,000 donation from plaintiffs’ lawyer David Marsh.

After subtracting the $32,550 that Parker has loaned his campaign, the trial lawyer PAC accounts for nearly 85 percent of the money he has raised since last July.

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Not only is the percentage staggering — perhaps unheard of for a statewide campaign — but it is unusual for trial lawyers traditionally aligned with Democrats to spend so heavily in a Republican primary.

Former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley, whose Montgomery-based law firm is among the contributors to the Progress for Justice PAC, downplayed the significance of the contributions to Parker. He said he would prefer a different system, altogether.

“I like both of them,” he said, referring to Parker and Stuart. “My goal would be to get money totally out of court races, and that will never happen in my lifetime.”

Stuart has been on the high court since 2001 and took over as top justice after former Chief Justice Roy Moore left office amid allegations that he violated judicial ethics by instructing probate judges to follow state law on gay marriage after a federal judge had declared it unconstitutional.

Stuart has doubled Parker’s fundraising, largely on the strength of her support from business interests.

A generation ago, trial lawyers would not even have considered backing Republicans in appellate court races. The 1990s and early 2000s featured often bitter proxy wars between business donors and trial lawyers for ideological control of the judiciary.

But in recent years, trial lawyer interests increasingly have played in GOP primaries. Moore has received a fair number of donations from firms that generally represent plaintiffs. And Parker, a longtime ally of Moore, was the clear Republican choice of trial lawyers the last time he ran for chief justice — when he lost to Drayton Nabers in the 2006 primary.

“This is not the first election cycle that trial lawyers have spread their money to Republican candidates,” said Jess Brown, a political scientist at Athens State University in northern Alabama.

Indeed, the Progress for Justice PAC last year and this year has contributed to several Republicans running for the state Legislature, and a number of judicial candidates. That includes Supreme Court Justice Tommy Bryan, unopposed for the GOP nomination, and Mobile County Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart, who is running against incumbent Brad Mendheim.

Court of Civil Appeals Judges Terri Willingham Thomas and Terry Moore, as well as three candidates running for an open seat on the court — Christy Olinger Edwards, Pat Thetford and Michelle Thomason — also all have taken money from the PAC.

The PAC also made a donation to Chris McCool, who is running for a seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals.

But contributions to Parker dwarf them all. The PAC has given more to him than every other candidate combined; Parker’s $400,000 represents 75 percent of the PAC’s contribution total this cycle.

The Stuart campaign criticized Parker’s heavy reliance on trial lawyers and called on him to refuse to accept any more contributions from those interests. The campaign also blasted Parker for telling AL.com earlier this month that “we need some restoration” after the pendulum had swung too far from the center.

“This is not the Chief Justice Republican voters in Alabama can support or should support,” the campaign said in a statement. “Judges do not place their thumbs on the scale of justice for any party. Rather their duty is to fairly and consistently apply the law and not make law.”

For his part, Parker noted in a statement that his opponent has gotten most of the special interest money.

“I am a grassroots candidate being massively outspent by a Montgomery insider that has raised nearly a million dollars in special interest money. My core supporters are hardworking citizens across the state that believe in God, the Constitution, and protecting the rule of law and the integrity of our courts,” he stated. “I consider myself fortunate to have received the support of numerous attorneys across the state as well.”

Parker added that he is “known for being fair and balanced, and for following the law rather than popular opinion.”

Brown, the political scientist, said many donors prefer funneling candidate donations through PACs in order to build a layer of separation between donor and recipient.

“It’s just another example of how you are able to partially camouflage donors by putting a PAC label on them,” he said.

Beasley, the Montgomery lawyer, said that if campaign money has a large impact on judicial decisions, then average Alabamians have more to worry about from Stuart since she has a large advantage in special interest money.

He said he’d prefer to end the arms race.

“We better wake up and get money out of politics,” he said.

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

3 months ago

A look at the Alabama Supreme Court races on ballot this year

(Wikicommons)

Among the plethora of races on the ballot this year are the important seats on the Alabama Supreme Court. We have an unprecedented five out of nine seats up for election.

Our Alabama Supreme Court as well as our Courts of Criminal Appeals are extremely conservative, pro-business and all Republican.

This conservatism dates back to the 1980’s and 1990’s. During that two-decade run, the plaintiff lawyers controlled and dominated our State Supreme Court. We were known throughout the country as a Plaintiff’s paradise. It was like a fairytale jackpot justice system. It was not uncommon for ludicrous multimillion dollar verdicts to be upheld daily for all types of cases. We were called Tort Hell by “Time Magazine.”

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Tort reform became the dominant issue in the Halls of the Legislature.

When you have unbridled monetary verdicts coming out of Alabama that gives a plaintiff millions of dollars for having a wreck in a General Motors vehicle, it affects the entire country. General Motors does business in all 50 states.

Well the business community throughout the country and in Alabama decided enough was enough. They decided to close down tort hell. They put their money where their mouth was and replaced an all Democratic plaintiff trial lawyer Supreme Court with an all Republican pro-business court. The pendulum has swung completely from left to right. If yesterday’s court was extremely liberal, today’s Alabama Supreme Court is extremely conservative.

These five open seats will be held by conservative Republicans when the dust settles at the end of the year and they begin their six-year terms. It is just a matter of which Republican presides and decides the major cases that affect Alabamians.

Will Sellers, a very well respected Montgomery attorney, was appointed by Governor Kay Ivey last year to Place 3 on the high court. Justice Sellers is running without opposition and will have a full six-year term.

Popular Justice, Tommy Bryan, also has no opposition and will return for another six-years on the high tribunal.

Justice Jim Main who has had a distinguished career as a private lawyer, finance director and Supreme Court Justice, cannot run for reelection due to an antiquated law that disallows judges to run for reelection after they turn 70.

Main’s Place 2 is being sought by Jefferson County’s John Bahakel and Jay Mitchell, also of Birmingham.

Circuit Judge, Debra Jones of Calhoun County has been a judge for a decade and has run a get acquainted race for the court. She will be formidable.

This place was held by Justice Glen Murdock who is originally from the Wiregrass. Murdock retired a few months ago and Governor Kay Ivey did a good day’s work when she appointed another Wiregrass native, Brad Mendheim to replace him. Mendheim has served a decade as a Circuit Judge in Dothan. He is very well respected in his hometown. He is seeking a full term. Sarah Stewart of Mobile is also in the race and should benefit from being from the vote rich Mobile-Baldwin area.

The battle royale will be for the Chief Justice post. The Chief Justice not only presides over the nine member Supreme Court but also oversees the entire Court System.

Justice Lyn Stuart currently presides as Chief Justice. She is running for a full 6-year reign.

When the business community orchestrated the takeover of the Court, they brought in the vaunted Karl Rove to mastermind the plan. When he departed, victoriously, he left with this admonition, “The best candidate that you can put forward is a female Republican who has some experience as a Circuit Judge.”

Alabamians prefer females on the Bench. If you have a race for Judge in Alabama and you have two names on the ballot, one Sue Smith and one Sam Smith and neither spends any money on campaigns and neither is known, Sue Smith will win.

Lyn Stuart epitomizes this scenario perfectly. She became a respected Circuit Judge in Baldwin County at a very young age. She was elected to the Supreme Court over a decade ago and is the longest serving member of the Court.

She will be pitted against another sitting member of the Court, Justice Tom Parker. He has excellent polling numbers. He was Roy Moore’s closest ally on the Court. Stuart is the sweetheart of the Business Council. Parker is the darling of the social conservatives.

The race for Chief Justice will be one of the premier contests this year.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. She may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 months ago

Lawsuit over HealthSouth fraud cleared to move forward

(Pixabay)

The Alabama Supreme Court says one-time employees of the old HealthSouth Corp. can move ahead with a lawsuit over the fraud that nearly wrecked the Birmingham-based company.

The justices overturned a lower court decision blocking the lawsuit in a decision Friday.

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HealthSouth survived a massive fraud scandal in the early 2000s that resulted in the ouster of founder Richard Scrushy. The company now calls itself Encompass Health.

One-time employee shareholders filed suit in 2003 over the fraud, but the case was delayed 11 years. The court now says the latest version of the lawsuit is related to the original complaint and can go forward.

Encompass Health operates 127 hospitals and 237 home health and hospice locations in 36 states and Puerto Rico.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Alabama to execute convicted bomber nearly 30 years later

(Alabama Department of Corrections)

Judge Robert S. Vance was at his kitchen table on Dec. 16, 1989, when he opened a package that had been mailed to his home. The bomb hidden inside exploded with brutal force, killing Vance instantly and severely injuring his wife.

Two days later, a similar device killed an attorney in Georgia. Two other mail bombs were later intercepted and defused, one at a federal courthouse in Atlanta and the other at an NAACP office in Jacksonville, Florida.

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The bombings created a wave of terror across the South. Now, nearly 30 years later, Alabama is preparing to execute the man convicted in Vance’s killing, Walter Leroy Moody Jr. of Rex, Georgia. Moody is set for lethal injection next month.

The long-delayed resolution to the old crime comes as Texas officials grapple with a deadly spate of bombings over three weeks that ended Wednesday when the suspect blew himself up.

The complex investigation that led to Moody’s prosecution is a reflection of how difficult it can be to get to the bottom of sporadic bombings like the ones in Texas. And it is also a testament to the lingering effects that such a crime can have.

Tom Thurman, who retired from the FBI’s crime laboratory after handling cases including the Vance assassination, said bombings are “more complicated in many aspects” than other crimes.

“On the investigative side it’s so different from other crimes that involve personal contact,” he said. “An individual is there to stab, hit or shoot somebody … and a lot of times law enforcement is fortune to have someone who was there. In most bombing cases, the person who sets the device or sends it is not there. They’ve got some anonymity.”

Vance’s son, Robert Vance Jr., said he is thankful Moody is in prison, and he feels for the victims in Texas, where two people were killed and four were badly injured by package bombs.

“I’ve been in the place of the families down in the Austin area going through this. It’s just so frustrating because you don’t know who is responsible or why,” said Vance, now a Democratic state court judge seeking the office of chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Moody has always maintained his innocence. Agents arrested him in July 1990 after what leaders called one of the largest federal investigations ever.

Robert S. Vance was a member of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and prosecutors alleged Moody targeted him out of anger at the 11th Circuit’s refusal to overturn a conviction that blocked Moody, who had attended law school, from ever practicing law.

The bomb that killed Robert E. Robinson, a black civil rights attorney from Savannah, Georgia, was meant to cast suspicion on the Ku Klux Klan, as was the bomb sent to the NAACP office, authorities said.

By reconstructing the two bombs that killed Vance and Robinson and disarming the two others, investigators determined they were wrapped in nearly identical packages and mailed using the same kind of stamps. There were also similarities between the materials used in the bombs, including improvised detonators and wiring methods, Thurman said.

It’s the same with any bombing case, Thurman said: Investigators have to consider a multitude of factors, starting with the components of the device. In Moody’s case, the bomb was manufactured in a way that led back to its maker, he said.

After Vance’s death, officials retrieved an intact bomb from the courthouse that housed 11th Circuit judges in Atlanta. Forensic chemist Lloyd Erwin of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recognized a unique element of its construction from a previous case: The ends of the pipe bomb were made of flat, welded pieces of metal rather than the screw caps most commonly used.

That tidbit led investigators to Moody, who had been convicted in a 1972 case involving a bomb with flat, welded end pieces.

Moody’s former wife testified that she purchased bomb-making materials at his direction, and evidence linked Moody to a manual typewriter with a misplaced “a” that experts said had been used to write a letter claiming responsibility for the bombs. One letter talked about a “declaration of war” against the judiciary and complained about the 11th Circuit’s “callous disregard for justice,” court documents show.

A prosecution team led by Louis Freeh, who later became FBI director, convinced a federal jury that Moody was to blame for the bombing wave, and a judge sentenced him to seven life sentences plus 400 years in August 1991.

Moody was convicted on a state capital murder charge in 1996 in Vance’s killing, and he has been on death row since 1997. Now 82, he is the oldest inmate awaiting execution in Alabama.

The Alabama Supreme Court has set Moody’s lethal injection for April 19, but Moody has sent a letter to Vance’s son and others claiming he is the innocent victim of a government conspiracy. A federal defender has asked a federal court to block the execution, arguing the state can’t execute Moody because he’s technically in federal custody. A judge has not yet ruled.

Vance said he feels peace “that justice has been done” in his father’s case, and he doesn’t plan to witness Moody’s execution. But every new bombing, like the string of blasts in Texas, dredges up old feelings.

“Usually these days I get up and don’t really think about what happened 30 years ago,” Vance said. “But when you see that in the media, you go back to December 1989.”

(Image: Alabama Department of Corrections)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

6 months ago

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Murdock to resign, expresses interest in possible Senate race

(Supreme Court of Alabama)
(Supreme Court of Alabama)

 

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock announced Thursday he will resign effective Jan. 16 to purse “other professional opportunities,” telling Yellowhammer News he is interested in a possible Senate run.

Murdock’s letter to Gov. Kay Ivey made no mention of politics. But he has been mentioned as a possible Republican challenger to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) when he comes up for election to a full six-year term in 2020.

“I am interested in that and don’t know when that might be, in three years or five years,” he said in an interview. “I’m concerned about the nation and some of the things that are happening in our country.”

Murdock offered a preview of some of the issues he might run on if he opts for a Senate race — helping to boost economic growth, repealing Obamacare, preventing illegal immigration and strengthening the military. He said he also is troubled by a declining respect for traditional values.

“As someone who’s a father and a grandfather, that concerns me, as well,” he said.

Murdock, 61, is a Christian conservative first elected in 2000 to a seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals after an unsuccessful run for Supreme Court justice two years earlier. He won election to the state’s high court in 2006 and re-election in 2012.

The Enterprise native had expressed interest in the Senate seat after now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned to join President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. But then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange instead.

In addition to eyeing a possible political campaign, Murdock said he will also consider options outside of politics, such as business or practicing law.

Murdock would have been up for re-election this November. By leaving now, he gives himself plenty of time to set up a campaign for the Senate — if that is what he chooses to do — and build name recognition free from the distractions of a demanding job as Supreme Court justice.

Murdock said it also allows him to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

“I feel like you can more freely and ethically discuss those things if you’re not a sitting justice,” he said.

During his tenure, Murdock wrote a landmark ruling in 2009 laying out a detailed definition for what constituted bingo. The decision gave then-Gov. Bob Riley the green light to target electronic bingo casinos that had been operating under unsettled legal authority.

Murdock joined his colleagues on the all-Republican Supreme Court in 2015 in denying a request by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to review then-Chief Justice Roy Moore’s administrative order directing state officials to ignore a federal judge’s order striking down a ban on same-sex marriage. The eight justices — Moore recused himself — concluded that only the governor or Legislature could ask for such a review.

Later that year, Murdock also joined the other justices in ordering probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ultimately, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal everywhere in the country.

Murdock has not been afraid to dissent on occasion, sometimes even by himself. He was the only dissenting justice from a 2015 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Alabama Accountability Act, which allows some students to use tax credits to attend private schools. Murdock concluded that lawmakers improperly passed the law by largely rewriting a bill that previously had passed a conference committee of the House and Senate.

In 2016, Murdock was on the losing end of a 4-3 ruling against a Mobile man who was trying to gain custody of his son after discovering that the child’s mother had faked his death while planning to give him up for adoption. The majority determined that the man could not appeal on those grounds because he had not raised the issue at trial.

Murdock disagreed in a blistering dissent.

“Not only do his actions confirm (the father’s intentions), but the mother’s actions in concocting her deceit as to the child’s death confirms that she believed the father was seriously interested in pursuing his relationship with his child and would not be in favor of the adoption,” he wrote. “And, though I am not at all suggesting the adoptive parents share the mother’s guilt as to the fraud she committed against the father, the adoptive parents nevertheless knew that the father was not ‘unknown’ when they filed their petition.”

Murdock said that when he looks back on his judicial career, it is more than any single case or ruling.

“I can’t pick just one thing. There are thousands of cases,” he said, estimating the total number at about 20,000.

Instead, Murdock said, he focuses on how he conducted himself on the job.

“You’ve got to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know everything you did was right, without conscious bias,” he said. “I just tried to do what was right.”

Ivey will appoint a replacement for Murdock. That person would serve until the regular general election in November.

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

 

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9 months ago

Chief Justice Lyn Stuart Announces Candidacy

Chief Justice Lyn Stuart has announced her run for election as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Chief Justice Stuart has been a judge for 29 years and has served on the Alabama Supreme Court since 2001. She was appointed Chief Justice by Governor Kay Ivey in April 2017, bringing a firm and fair approach in guiding Alabama’s unified court system.

“I am proud to announce my campaign for Chief Justice because we need to continue making Alabama a place where justice is served and the law is evenly applied to all parties. We need a judicial system where our justices follow the law, not make the law. And we need justices who strictly interpret the constitution. I’m proud of my record of doing just that and I look forward to speaking with the voters to get that message out there over the coming months.”

Justice Stuart’s prior experience extends beyond her years of service as a member of Alabama’s Supreme Court. She also was elected and served for 12 years as a district judge and circuit judge in Baldwin County and before that prosecuted cases as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney. “I have a deep knowledge and understanding of how our state’s legal system works from top to bottom,“ continued Stuart.

“Securing adequate financial resources for our courts is a primary responsibility of the Chief Justice. State government is experiencing tough financial times. Everyone in our court system is having to do more with less. It’s important to have someone with my background, experience and work ethic, someone who will work hard every day to keep our courts fair and running smoothly. That’s what I’ve been doing for 29 years and, if elected, that’s what I intend to keep doing.“

Chief Justice Stuart is proud to call Alabama home. Born in Atmore and a graduate of Escambia County High School, she continued her education by graduating from Auburn University and receiving a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. In addition to her duties as a justice, she has been married to her husband George for 36 years, is the mother of two sons, Tucker and Shepard, a daughter Kelly, and grandmother to Sophie and Thomas. Justice Stuart has attended and served at Bay Minette United Methodist Church for 33 years.

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10 months ago

Justice Will Sellers To Seek Full Term on Alabama Supreme Court

In a news release today, Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Will Sellers announced he would seek election for a full term in 2018, noting: “I am grateful to Governor Kay Ivey for appointing me to the Alabama Supreme Court. I have now served three full months on the Court, and I intend to qualify to run in the June 2018 Republican primary.”

Justice Sellers continued:

“Since my appointment, I have received an outpouring of support from my fellow lawyers and business leaders throughout Alabama. I thoroughly enjoy my work on the Court, and it is a privilege to serve alongside Chief Justice Lyn Stuart and the other associate justices. I know our work makes a big difference to the people of Alabama, who recognize the need for a strong judicial branch of government.”

Related: Justice Sellers on Moving From Private Practice to the Alabama Supreme Court

Sellers, a 1985 graduate of Hillsdale College, earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1988, and a Masters of Law and Letters in Taxation from New York University in 1989. Before his appointment to the bench in May of this year, Justice Sellers worked in private practice in Montgomery.

Sellers is a member of the Alabama Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar Association, and has been admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Tax Court, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sellers has been endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama’s (BCA) Progress PAC and the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (ACJRC).

ProgressPAC Chairman, Perry Hand, chairman and chief executive officer of Volkert Inc., said:

“ProgressPAC is proud to endorse Alabama Supreme Court Justice Will Sellers in next spring’s primary. Justice Sellers possesses all the qualities that businesses desire in members of the state’s highest court – the ability to look at each case fairly and neutrally and adhere to and strictly interpret the lawThe importance of electing Alabama Supreme Court justices who can rule according to the law cannot be understated. As an attorney in private practice for more than three decades, Justice Sellers possesses all the knowledge, skills, and level-headed qualities required in an appellate judge, and his appointment by the governor shows the trust placed in him.”

Sellers is involved in many civic and community organizations in the Montgomery area, including the United Way, the Business Committee for the Arts, and the YMCA. He has been elected to the Electoral College in each of the last four Presidential cycles.

Will is married to the former Lee Grant, and they have three adult children. They are active members of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery.

 

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11 months ago

A True Alabama Pioneer Has Passed

Photo: Cumberland School of Law Facebook
Photo: Cumberland School of Law Facebook

Janie Shores, elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 1974, died earlier this week at the age of 85.

An Alabama native, Shores was born in 1932 and grew up in Baldwin County, Al. She was the daughter of scarcely educated parents, who had her while they were still in their teens. She worked as a legal secretary in Mobile, graduated from Samford University with her B.A., and received her J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law.

Born during a time when women were not afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts, she paved a path of possibility for women across the country. She was the first female professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, and in 1993, then President Bill Clinton considered her for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her hard work and commitment to excellence are demonstrated through her years of public service. The Alabama Alabama Law Foundation awards a scholarship in Shores’ honor to female law students, and Litigation Counsel of America awards the Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award in her honor.

Ever willing to speak up for what she believed in, one of her friends was quoted as saying, “She always spoke her mind- but always with grace. That is just a gift that some Southerners have.”

She is survived by her daughter Laura Shores, an attorney in Washington, D.C.

For those wishing to pay their respects, a memorial service will be held at a later date in Birmingham.

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1 year ago

Official Robing Ceremony Held for Stuart and Sellers on Alabama Supreme Court

Justice Will Sellers (left) and Justice Lyn Stuart (right)
Justice Will Sellers (left) and Justice Lyn Stuart (right)

Last week marked the formal installation of Chief Justice Lyn Stuart and Associate Justice William Sellers on the Alabama Supreme Court.

This ceremony, formally called an investiture, was the coronation of the two justices into their roles on Alabama’s highest tribunal. The term investiture comes from the Latin—the preposition in and the verb vestire, “dress” and vestis “robe.” In other words, the investiture is the ceremony in which the justices are officially robed with the formal insignia reserved for those on the state’s Supreme Court.

Justice Sellers was appointed to the Court on May 26th, 2017 by Governor Ivey. At that time, he said,

I am humbled to be appointed an Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and I thank Governor Ivey for her confidence in me. As a Justice, I can only promise to live up to my oath and serve the people of Alabama faithfully and fairly. I will respect the rule of law and apply the law equally without bias or respect to person or station in life.  I look forward to working with Chief Justice Stuart and the other Justices on the Court.

When Yellowhammer asked Justice Sellers about the ceremony, he said, “It was a humbling experience to have so many friends and elected officials participate in my investiture.”

Justice Jacquelyn (Lyn) Stuart was elected to the Supreme Court in 2000 and reelected in 2006 and 2012. She became acting Chief Justice after Roy Moore’s departure from the court and was appointed Chief Justice by Governor Ivey on April 26, 2017. When Yellowhammer asked her about the investiture, she said:

Yesterday was an exciting day. It was special to celebrate the formal Investiture with family and friends. I am committed to serving the people of this state with honesty and integrity and to leading a court system that will make my two grandchildren and all other children proud and to want to continue to live in the Great State of Alabama.

Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice James Main administered Stuart’s oath of office while Keith Watkins, Chief District Judge of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama did the same for Sellers, and Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Michale Bolin provided remarks for both.

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1 year ago

Birmingham Lawyer Jay Mitchell Announces Candidacy for Alabama Supreme Court

Attorney Jay Mitchell has announced his candidacy for the Place 4 seat on the Alabama Supreme Court currently held by Associate Justice Jim Main.

At his announcement today Mr. Mitchell stated, “I have a strong commitment to the rule of law.  The people of Alabama deserve to have Justices on the Supreme Court who know the law, will faithfully apply the law as written, and will uphold the Constitution and the principles on which our nation was founded.  That is the kind of Justice I will be. If elected, I will serve the people of Alabama with integrity, passion, and fidelity to the law.”

Mr. Mitchell has broad experience at the trial and appellate level with the Birmingham firm, Maynard, Cooper & Gale. He’s a graduate of Homewood High School and received his B.A. with honors from Birmingham-Southern College, where he played forward on the school’s 1995 national championship basketball team.  He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are longtime members of Church of the Highlands and reside in Homewood with their four children, where he grew up.

A longtime movement conservative, Mitchell has provided legal counsel to Republican candidates, served on the executive committee of the Alabama Republican Party, belongs to the Federalist Society, and was a founding member of the Red Mountain Republicans in Birmingham.

He’s also “an active volunteer in helping children from low-income families through conservative solutions.” He serves on the Board of Directors of Cornerstone School, an inner city Christian school. He’s also involved with the Birmingham Athletic Partnership, which partners with local businesses to provide resources and equipment to inner-city public schools, and he counsels and supports Scholarships for Kids, an organization that helps to send students from low-income families to high-quality schools.

Mr. Mitchell’s press release notes that he’s recognized “as one of the top attorneys in the United States and Alabama, and has received the highest possible rating for professional ethics.” His firm’s website says “Jay is rated AV-Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America (Commercial Litigation) and Mid-South Super Lawyers (Business Litigation).”

1
1 year ago

Justice Sellers on Moving From Private Practice to the Alabama Supreme Court

Photo by Governor's Office, Jamie Martin
Photo by Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin

As reported yesterday, Governor Kay Ivey appointed Will Sellers to serve as Associate Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court. Today, Justice Sellers was kind enough to spend a few moments with Yellowhammer before starting his Memorial Day weekend.  In our brief visit together, we simply asked him how he thinks his experience as a private-practice tax attorney will uniquely help him serve the people of Alabama in this new role. Below is his four-point reply:

  •  “First, tax lawyers spend their careers dealing with the rules and regulations of agencies that confiscate money from private citizens. Learning the intricacies of that system allows you to navigate its pitfalls, and provides a useful backdrop to view related cases and issues.”
  •  “Second, it enables you to consider improvements that can be made in these government bureaucracies who, as we know, don’t always get it right.”
  •  “Third, this experience makes one sensitive to the need to treat the concerns of our citizens with confidentiality and respect, realizing that in many cases, the harsh and overbearing actions of the government are the very things that created their doubt and noncompliance in the first place.”
  •  “Lastly, one thing that’s often overlooked with tax lawyers is that they deal not only with rules and regs but with tax litigation. Personally, I’ve tried tax cases in Alabama circuit courts, appellate courts, the U.S. Tax Court, and the 11th circuit. Tax cases are unique in that jury trials are not allowed and are tried only before a judge, so I think this trial experience also has provided me with skills that I trust will enrich my service on the Alabama Supreme Court.”

In a statement he released yesterday, Associate Justice Sellers said:

“I am humbled to be appointed an Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and I thank Governor Ivey for her confidence in me. As a Justice, I can only promise to live up to my oath and serve the people of Alabama faithfully and fairly. I will respect the rule of law and apply the law equally without bias or respect to person or station in life.  I look forward to working with Chief Justice Stuart and the other Justices on the Court.”

RELATED: Governor Ivey Appoints William Sellers to Alabama Supreme Court

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1 year ago

Governor Ivey Appoints William Sellers to Alabama Supreme Court

Photo by Governor's Office, Jamie Martin
Photo by Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin

Governor Kay Ivey announced today that she has appointed William Sellers from Montgomery as Associate Justice to the Alabama Supreme Court.

“I am extremely pleased to appoint Will Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court. I cannot think of an individual who is more qualified, capable and who exemplifies the qualities of a true public servant. His conservative principles and commitment to the rule of law along with his commitment to his family, church, and community are foundations that make him uniquely qualified for the position of Associate Justice,” Governor Ivey said.

Prior to today’s appointment, Sellers has worked for the Balch & Bingham law firm in Montgomery, where he’s a partner.

Governor Ivey’s press release noted that Mr. Sellers is active in a number of civic organizations and professional associations including the Rotary Club of Montgomery, the United Way, and the YMCA of Greater Montgomery, to name a few. He’s also a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church and serves as the community liaison with the International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Mr. Sellers will fill the seat previously held by Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, who is now the high court’s Chief Justice, and his appointment is effective immediately. Business Council of Alabama President William Canary applauded the appointment, noting “Justice Sellers is well-positioned to handle the constitutional questions faced by the Alabama Supreme Court…Governor Ivey is building a strong track record of appointing individuals who are ready to serve on day one, and Justice Sellers is no exception.”

 A native of Montgomery, Mr. Sellers graduated with high honors from the venerable Hillsdale College—a 170-year old Michigan school renowned for its scholarly instruction of the U.S. Constitution and American history. As the school’s website says, Hillsdale promotes “the diffusion of sound learning” as the best means of preserving “the blessings of civil and religious liberty and intellectual piety.” He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1988 and his LL.M in Taxation from New York University in 1989.

Seller’s wife is the former Lee Grant and they have three children: Arthur, age 23, George, age 22, and Caroline, age 18.

 

1
1 year 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!

1
1 year ago

Breaking: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to resign

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Robert Bentley leads a tour of Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Thursday March 31, 2016. (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Robert Bentley leads a tour of Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Thursday March 31, 2016. (Photo: Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has announced that he will resign from office. In doing so, he likely avoided becoming the first-ever state executive to be removed from office by impeachment.

The announcement follows increased backlash after a report exposed details of corruption from within Bentley’s administration as he sought to cover up an alleged affair with his top aide.

Bentley had been called on to resign by multiple state Republican leaders, including Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. The Alabaman Republican Party steering committee had issued a call for Bentley to step down on Sunday.

“While we are deeply saddened by these circumstances, the Alabama Republican Party holds their elected officials accountable and demands the utmost integrity of office holders,” the ALGOP committee stated.

Throughout months of turmoil, the governor had remained defiant against suggestions that he should resign.

“I do not plan to resign. I have done nothing illegal,” he said from the steps of the state Capitol Friday.

“If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not,” he added.

On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court decided to allow impeachment proceedings against Bentley to continue.

The governor’s administration has been mired in scandal since Yellowhammer first released audio of him allegedly making sexual advanced towards Mason in 2014. He has repeatedly denied any wrong doing, both moral and legal. Since that time, he has faced state and federal investigations, along with an ongoing impeachment effort by members of the State House of Representatives.

In articles of impeachment filed last year, members of the House charged the governor with neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency, and offenses of moral turpitude. The articles never made it out of the House.

Bentley was elected to serve as Governor in 2010, and re-elected in 2014.

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1 year ago

Former Alabama chief judge’s request to expedite appeal approved

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore interviewed by Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace Feb. 15, 2015

In February, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore sought to speed up his court appeal by waiving a major portion of the hearing process. Now, as he deals with financial hardship imposed by his suspension from the Alabama Supreme Court, a panel of judges has agreed to his request to drop oral arguments in the courtroom.

The next scheduled oral argument in Moore’s case had been set for April 26th. His suspension from the bench means that Moore is prevented from collecting his salary and benefits from the state.

“Chief Justice Moore did nothing wrong and should have never been charged. To allow a precedent that punishes Alabama judges based on political whims will completely undermine our system of justice,” said Mat Staver, Moore’s attorney.

Moore was suspended without pay for his defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage back in September. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found that Moore’s order instructing probate judges to violate the SCOTUS decision violated judicial ethics and suspended him for the remainder of his term.

If upheld, the suspension ensures that Moore will never sit on the court again. The Alabama state constitution prevents people at or above the age of 70 from running for a seat on the Supreme Court. When Moore’s current term expires in 2019, he will be 71.

“This was a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda,” Moore said after the ruling. “This opinion violates not only the legal standards of evidence but also the rule of law which states that no judge can be removed from office except by unanimous vote.”

Moore was previously removed from the bench in 2003 when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was re-elected Chief Justice in 2012.

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2 years ago

Alabama Supreme Court ruling delivers big win in favor of the unborn

(Christine Szeto/Flickr)
(Flickr user Christine Szeto)
(Flickr user Christine Szeto)

A quiet Alabama Supreme Court ruling over the holidays just delivered a major win in defense of the unborn.

In a unanimous court decision Friday, the state Supreme Court sided in favor of a lawsuit against an OB/GYN accused of contributing to the death of an unborn child. While Helena mother Kimberly Stinnett’s case had initially been dismissed by a trial court, the state’s highest court determined that pre-born lives are entitled to legal protection.

“Today, this Court again reaffirms the principle that unborn children are protected by Alabama’s wrongful-death statute from the moment life begins at conception,” Justice Tom Parker wrote. “This has not always been the case in Alabama. Alabama used to deny unborn children who had not yet grown strong enough to survive outside of their mother’s womb the protections of Alabama’s wrongful-death statute.”

According to the official decision, the court drew its conclusion from the Alabama Homicide Act, which identifies that a ‘person’ in utero, in any stage of development, could be named as the victim of a homicide.

“Unborn children, whether they have reached the ability to survive outside their mother’s womb or not, are human beings and thus persons entitled to the protections of the law-both civil and criminal. Members of the judicial branch of Alabama should do all within their power to dutifully ensure that the laws of Alabama are applied equally to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, both born and unborn,” Parker added.

The case centered around a lawsuit against Karla Kennedy, M.D., who was standing in for Ms. Stinnett’s regular physician. After Dr. Kennedy incorrectly determined that Stinnett’s pregnancy had been ectopic, and issued a drug that was intended to end the pregnancy. It was later when Stinnett’s regular physician determined that the patient’s fetus was not ectopic, though Stinnett miscarried due to the drugs administered by Dr. Kennedy.

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2 years ago

Roy Moore files appeal to fight suspension from the bench

(R. Moore/Facebook)
Chief Justice Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — On Tuesday, Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore filed an appeal to his suspension imposed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Moore’s attorney argues that the Court’s suspension represents a de facto removal from the bench, which requires a unanimous vote from the panel.

Moore was suspended without pay for his defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage back in September. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found that Moore’s order instructing probate judges to violate the SCOTUS decision violated judicial ethics and suspended him for the remainder of his term.

RELATED: Roy Moore suspended from Alabama Supreme Court

If upheld, the suspension ensures that Moore will never sit on the court again. The Alabama state constitution prevents people at or above the age of 70 from running for a seat on the Supreme Court. When Moore’s current term expires in 2019, he will be 71.

“This was a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda,” Moore said after the ruling. “This opinion violates not only the legal standards of evidence but also the rule of law which states that no judge can be removed from office except by unanimous vote.”

Moore was previously removed from the bench in 2003 when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was re-elected Chief Justice in 2012.

(h/t Alabama News Network)

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2 years ago

Bentley names the seven Alabama judges to hear Moore’s appeal

bentley-moore
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Governor Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) named the seven judges to hear suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s appeal in an executive order on Monday, setting the stage for the jurist’s last hope of returning to the bench. The judges will constitute a “Special Supreme Court” that will exist for the sole purpose of hearing Moore’s case.

As listed in Gov. Bentley’s order, the Judges are: H. Edward McFerrin, Robert G. Cahill, William R. King, James H. Reid, Jr., Lynn Clardy Bright, Ralph A. Ferguson, Jr., and John D. Coggin.

The seven were selected at random from a pool of 50 willing retired appellate, circuit, and district court judges. Normally, the Alabama Supreme Court would hear such a case, but justices on the Alabama Supreme Court voted 5-3 to excuse themselves from hearing his appeal. The majority wrote that Moore “must be afforded an opportunity to be heard,” but their ability to remain unbiased could be scrutinized if they participated in the case.

Moore was suspended without pay on Sept. 30 for his defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found that Moore’s order instructing probate judges to violate the SCOTUS holding violated judicial ethics and suspended him from the bench for the remainder of his term.

Moore was found guilty of all six charges levied against him. If upheld on appeal, the suspension is effective until the end of his term in 2019, and Gov. Robert Bentley will have to name a replacement.

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2 years ago

Ala. Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from hearing Roy Moore’s appeal

roy-moore-court

In the ongoing saga of Chief Justice Roy Moore’s fight to retain judgeship, his former colleagues have now voted to recuse themselves from hearing his appeal trial.

On Monday, justices on the Alabama Supreme Court voted 5-3 to excuse themselves from hearing his appeal. Though the majority wrote that Moore “must be afforded an opportunity to be heard,” they wrote that their ability to remain unbiased could be scrutinized if they participated in the case.

“Because the Justices have personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances underlying this appeal, this appeal presents a situation in which all the justices’ impartiality might be questioned,” the judges said.

The court now turns over power to Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart and Governor Bentley, who will select seven judges to serve as a special Supreme Court in Moore’s case. The stand-ins are set to be chosen at random from a pool of 50 retired appellate, circuit court, and district court judges.

Moore is blasting the recusal, and says that Justice Stuart should not have a role in finding replacement judges to hear his appeal. He and Stuart have a strained relationship, as the now-Acting Chief Justice was quick to fire Moore’s law clerks and order the former judge to clean out his office.

“Chief Justice Moore is merely asking for the same thing any citizen is entitled to receive – equal justice under the law. He wants his case to be heard by an objective and fair panel of judges who will adhere to the rule of law,” said Mat Staver, Moore’s attorney and Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

“The people of Alabama have increasingly called upon their judges to be accountable. At every turn, this case presents new twists and turns that have never occurred in the history of Alabama,” Staver added. “We hope this case moves quickly to a final and just resolution.”

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2 years ago

NAACP sues Alabama because voters elected all white judges to the state’s top courts

United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP is representing four black voters in a lawsuit against the State of Alabama, claiming that Alabama voters’ decision to elect white judges to each of the state’s top courts violates their constitutional rights.

Liberal political blog ThinkProgress explains:

On Wednesday, Tuscaloosa reverend Curtis Travis and three other African American voters sued the state for conducting its judicial elections in a way they say prevents voters of color from electing the candidates of their choice. They argue that at-large elections, in which the entire state votes on all of the state’s top judges, has prevented them from electing anyone who truly represents them.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Alabama’s Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals are each elected on the statewide ballot, resulting in the 19 slots currently being filled by 14 men and 5 women, all of them white.

“There have been years of minorities making strides, but the white men continue to hold disproportionate power our state,” Reverend Travis told reporters. “Alabama is more diverse now than ever, but our judges are not.”

Jim Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, blamed the Republican Party for the election results and said the statewide elections are part of a nefarious plot to ensure “black Alabamians remain subordinate to whites in state government.”

“The Republican Party has really mobilized the majority-white electorate of Alabama,” he bemoaned. “So the only way African Americans will have a chance to elect candidates of their choice is if the method of elections is changed.”

What the plaintiffs are pushing for is a change to the way Alabama elects its judges.

They want the state to be divided into districts that each elect a member of the Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals, similar to how members of the U.S. Congress are currently chosen.

“The at-large method of electing judges to the three high courts submerges African-American voters so that they are rendered ineffective electoral minorities in every election,” their lawsuit reads.

Secretary of State John Merrill, Alabama’s top elections official, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the suit at this time, but added that his office works daily to ensure “every eligible Alabamian is registered to vote and has a valid form of ID allowing them to participate on Election Day.”

The lawsuit comes at a time when voting rights issues are the focus of intense political and legal battles.

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that would-be voters in Alabama will not be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship when using a federal voter registration form.

The Washington Post called the decision a “victory for civil rights groups, Democratic lawyers and the Obama administration” in “their ongoing battle with conservative lawyers and Republican lawmakers over who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential contest.”

Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson accused opponents of the proof-of-citizenship and voter ID requirements of trying to “steal elections.”

“The two judges that overruled the states should be arrested for treason!” he exclaimed in a Facebook post. “They have no clue about the Constitution! This is not about voter rights, it’s about people voting that are not qualified!”

RELATED: Scalia’s successor on Supreme Court could decide whether Alabama’s voter ID law survives

In spite of the proof-of-citizenship ruling, Alabama’s photo voter ID law remains in effect, although Democrats across the country continue decrying it as “racist” and “hateful”.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)

Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.

But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

1
2 years ago

Chief Justice Roy Moore to stand trial after court refuses to dismiss ethics charges

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (Photo: YouTube)

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (Photo: YouTube)
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (Photo: YouTube)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — On Monday, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary issued an order denying State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s request to dismiss ethics charges filed against him. The same court also denied a motion from the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to dismiss Moore from the bench without trial.

The ethics charges stem from Moore’s defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in 2015. An administrative order issued by Moore in the wake of the ruling told state probate judges that the state supreme court’s ruling prohibiting the marriage of same-sex couples was still in place, regardless of what SCOTUS had to say about the issue.

While Moore’s attorneys attempted to argue that he was in no way ordering state officials to disobey Federal law, opposing counsel insisted that the message he sent was clear.

Judge Joiner, the head of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, set Moore’s trial date for September 28. Both sides said in court that they did not believe the trial would last longer than a single day.

Culture warriors from both sides of the issues flocked to the hearing Monday, as the judge has become one of the most polarizing figures in U.S. politics. Some of the judge’s supporters carried signs reading “Judge Moore was Right,” while LGBT rights activists held up signs that said “#NoMoore.”

Moore was previously removed from the bench in 2003 when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was re-elected Chief Justice in 2013.

With Moore’s inability to escape a trial for ethics charges, the heads of each of the three branches of Alabama’s state government have now undergone serious legal proceedings within the past five months.

In June, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was convicted of 12 of 23 charges by a Lee County Jury in Opelika, which determined that he used his public office for personal gain. The judge sentenced him to a total of four years in prison, eight years on probation, and ordered to pay a $210,000 fine on 12 felony ethics violations.

RELATED: Alabama House speaker Mike Hubbard convicted

Throughout the summer, Gov. Robert Bentley has been under threat of impeachment from a scandal regarding his former political advisor Rebeckah Caldwell-Mason. The Articles of Impeachment – currently in limbo – accuse Bentley of willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, and “offenses of moral terpitude”. The governor has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

RELATED: ‘Neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency’ — Here’s what’s in Bentley’s articles of impeachment

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2 years ago

Alabama Supreme Court Justice seeks to hold off suspension with federal lawsuit

Alabama Supreme Court
Alabama Supreme Court

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker has filed a federal lawsuit against the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to block his potential suspension from the bench.

The JIC has been investigating Justice Parker on the basis that comments he made on gay marriage violated judicial canons of ethics. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed complaints in October that Parker inappropriately commented on the pending same-sex marriage ruling and voiced his personal opinions on the issue on a conservative radio talk show, which they believe violated Judicial Canons 1, 2A, and 3A(6).

“These provisions (of law) are being used by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its allies on the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) in an attempt to intimidate, silence, and punish Justice Parker for his originalist judicial philosophy and protected speech,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who represents Parker, said in a statement.

Although the JIC has not yet filed any charges against Parker, his lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the state law that automatically suspends a judge when JIC files charges. Judges who are suspended can return to their office depending on the outcome of a trial in front of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary

The lawsuit also claims Parker’s free speech rights have been infringed upon and have negatively affected his re-election campaign. “That harm is continuing and, in fact, increasing as the election approaches and forces him to engage in self-censorship,” the lawsuit states.

Parker’s lawsuit follows one filed by Chief Justice Roy Moore after the JIC suspended him in May for “flagrantly disregard(ing) and abus(ing) his authority” with respect to the issue of same sex marriage. Moore’s lawsuit seeks to make the suspension provision unconstitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center was also involved in filing charges against Moore.

After a federal court struck down Alabama’s gay marriage ban, Moore instructed probate judges around the state to ignore the court’s order and continue upholding the Alabama Constitution, which affirms the traditional definition of marriage. Most probate judges around the state are now issuing same sex marriage licenses, while a handful have opted to stop issuing marriage licenses all together, rather than violate their conscience.

(h/t AL.com)

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2 years ago

Everything you need to know about the drag queen trying to topple Alabama’s chief justice

Starling v. Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is no stranger to controversy. After being removed from office nine years ago for refusing to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, Moore is once again facing the possibility of being removed from office, this time for his stance on same-sex marriage. But while the scenario sounds familiar, the fact that an Alabama drag queen has become his most vocal opponent makes the latest dust up genuinely bizarre, even by Alabama politics’ standards.

How we got here
Moore is for the second time facing the possibility of being removed from office after the Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended him for “flagrantly disregard(ing) and abus(ing) his authority” with respect to the issue of same sex marriage.

After the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Alabama’s gay marriage ban, Moore instructed probate judges around the state to ignore the court’s order and continue upholding the Alabama Constitution, which affirms the traditional definition of marriage. Most probate judges around the state are now issuing same sex marriage licenses, while a handful have opted to stop issuing marriage licenses all together, rather than violate their conscience.

Some legal analysts have argued that Moore’s actions constitute a violation of the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, while Moore argues that only the U.S. Supreme Court — not the Judicial Inquiry Commission — has the standing to decide such matters.

Meet Ambrosia Starling
Ambrosia Starling is an anonymous Alabama drag queen that has led the way on protests against Chief Justice Moore. In January, Starling led a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court building, where opponents filled out more than 40 complaints against Alabama’s top judge.

“If it takes a drag queen to remind you that liberty and justice is for all, here I am,” Starling told the Associated Press, which dubbed him Roy Moore’s “worst nightmare.”

Starling has lived in Dothan since birth and is a gay man who dresses up like a woman to perform in drag. When not on stage, the 43-year-old Starling dresses like a male and goes to a regular job to maintain anonymity.

The drag queen has always protested the Chief Justice in full attire, including hair, make-up, and high heels. Frequently calling Moore a bigot, Starling has been at the forefront of the LGBT fight against Alabama’s top jurist.

Moore has acknowledged Starling by name
On numerous occasions, Moore has specifically called out the drag queen as the embodiment of the agenda he is fighting against. During a news conference last Friday, Moore stated that just a few years ago, people like Starling would have been classified as having a mental disorder.

In a statement put out by the chief justice following his suspension imposed by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, he specifically cited Ambrosia Sterling as the reason that he is at risk for losing his job for the second time since 2003.

Moore said he believes the commission has “chosen to listen to people like Ambrosia Starling, a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support their agenda.”

Starling wants to remain anonymous
Starling has done all of the protests and media appearances in drag because the performer is worried about being revealed.

“I have a 71-year-old mother who lives with me that I have to worry about,” Starling told the AP.

He insists, though, that he is a “churchgoing Christian who lives a normal life when not dressed in drag.”

What’s next?

Roy Moore’s attorney stated that he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges against his client some time within the next 30 days, but Starling and other LGBT activists show no signs of halting their push to have him removed from office.

RELATED: Chief Justice Roy Moore suspended over gay marriage stance as culture wars escalate

RELATED: Alabama lawmaker says liberals are trying to ‘purge godly men like Roy Moore from government’

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