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How to get Luther Strange disbarred from the practice of Law

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Report

Have you talked with anyone in Alabama who isn’t bothered by Luther Strange’s acceptance of Gov. Bentley’s appointment to US Senate? I haven’t.

Everybody has an internal baloney meter – the bologna meter goes off when we hear something that just sounds off. Maybe we can’t explain why it’s wrong … it’s just baloney.

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I think most Alabamians, who were paying attention, had their bologna meters peaking-out with the news of Gov. Bentley appointing Sen. Strange. For months we waited in anticipation to learn who Gov. Bentley would appoint to replace, then, Sen. Jeff Sessions. For months we speculated and pondered … lists were drawn and even far-out speculation was floated that Gov. Bentley would appoint himself, or even Rebecca Mason.

Then we watched in wonder as the man tasked with investigating Gov. Bentley for impeachment – the man who purportedly told the House of Representatives to stand down from investigating because he had it under control – accepted Gov. Bentley’s offer of promotion to US Senate. We all grimaced in amazement … like watching a horrific car accident in slow motion … all we could do was shake our heads in disbelief.

But, what has been the backlash? Have there been any repercussions to Sen. Strange? Did he violate any law or ethical standards?

If there have been any disciplinary consequences to Sen. Strange, they haven’t been public. The rest of this article is devoted to the premise that Sen. Strange did, in fact, flagrantly violate ethical standards and he should be held to account: either through being disablement or suspension from the practice of law.

First, all attorneys in Alabama are bound to uphold the ethical standards laid out in the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 3.8 explains the special responsibilities of prosecutors. However, Rule 3.8 is pretty vague. The comment to the rule provides guidance in referencing ABA Standards of Criminal Justice Relating to the Prosecution Function, and states that the ABA Standards should be “used in interpreting the requirements of Rule 3.8.”

So, what do the ABA standards say about how a prosecutor, like the Attorney General, should treat conflicts of interest? Section (f) states that “A prosecutor should not permit his or her professional judgment or obligations to be affected by his or her own political … interests.”

Thus, we must ask our bologna meters: Did Sen. Strange’s ambitions for US Senate affect his professional judgment or obligation to investigate Gov. Bentley? While the order of events certainly looks suspect, proving this would be incredibly difficult. The trier of fact would have to get “inside the mind” of Sen. Strange to see if he intentionally hindered the investigation into Gov. Bentley in order to court Gov. Bentley’s US Senate appointment.

Difficult? Yes. Is it worth the effort to the State of Alabama? Absolutely. If the political elites of Alabama will not hold their own accountable, then it’s up to the people of Alabama to hold them accountable. The people of Alabama deserve it.

Still not convinced? Okay, let’s look at Rule 1.7 (b): “A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer’s … own interests …” Sen. Strange, in his capacity as Attorney General, represented the State of Alabama. The State of Alabama was his client.

So, the question for our bologna meters is this: Did Sen. Strange’s own interests in becoming a US Senator “materially limit” his representation of the State of Alabama?

The answer to that questions again turns on the question of whether Sen. Strange intentionally impeded Gov. Bentley’s investigation to court Gov. Bentley’s appointment to US Senate.

Again, the inquiry is difficult to prove … and probably exponentially difficult given the level of sophistication of the alleged perpetrators. But, again, the people of Alabama deserve the effort.

The second thing we need to reference is the Alabama Rules of Disciplinary Procedure and the Alabama Standards for Imposing Lawyer Discipline. These standards explain that in order for a lawyer to be subject to discipline for violation of an ethical standard, there must be proof of “actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer’s misconduct.”

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Sen. Strange did violate an ethical standard. Let’s assume we could prove that. We must next be able to prove that there was some type of injury to Sen. Strange’s client – the State of Alabama.

What do you think? Did Alabama suffer injury due to Sen. Strange’s alleged ethical violations? If Gov. Bentley should have been impeached and he wasn’t because of Sen. Strange’s alleged ethical violations, then the injury is taken for granted. Every day Gov. Bentley stays in office, when he should be impeached, is a grave injury to the people Alabama. However, to make that argument, it will be necessary to prove that Gov. Bentley should be impeached. According to Rep. Ed Henry, we should have some progress on that question before the end of April.

The second level of injury arises from the disrepute that Sen. Strange has caused the legal profession and the State in general. This one is a little more amorphous. The argument goes like this: “Perhaps Sen. Strange didn’t do anything ‘evil,’ but he surely didn’t ‘avoid the appearance of evil.’ Because this arrangement makes the bologna meter ping so high, Sen. Strange had a duty to walk away from the appointment.”

Admittedly, this level of injury might be a little too squishy to do much damage. Thus, it appears that the case for any injury to the State rests on whether there was actually an impeachable offense committed by Gov. Bentley.

But, let’s not get bogged down there just yet.

Let’s turn to the third item for consideration: What range of disciplinary measures are available if we could prove (1) violation, (2) mental state, and (3) injury?

The Alabama Standards for Imposing Lawyer Discipline (“the Standards”) 4.3, relating to Failure to Avoid Conflicts of Interest, suggest that Disbarment or Suspension could be appropriate disciplinary measures for Sen. Strange’s alleged ethical misconduct.

The Standards also state in 5.2, Failure to Maintain the Public Trust, that “Disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer in an official or governmental position knowingly misuses the position with the intent to obtain a significant benefit or advantage for himself … with the intent to cause serious or potentially serious injury to … the integrity of the legal process.”

There it is … if your bologna meter peaked out when Luther Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate you are not alone. If you think there is a sufficient likelihood of impropriety that you would like a public hearing to determine if there is clear and convincing evidence of Sen. Strange’s alleged ethical violations, then contact me.

I’m applying the Rule of Six in this case. If five other Alabama citizens will join with me in a Disciplinary Complaint to the Alabama State Bar, then we’ll file it together.

 

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Opinion | All you need is love

Joey Kennedy

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Oh, Alabama, I cry for you. I cry for you, too, Birmingham.

We make progress, then we wipe it out. It’s the old cliché of two steps forward, one step back. Except during election years, it seems we take no steps forward and 100 years back.

What’s wrong with us? When will we stop hating?

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State Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, was wrong to vaguely out Gov. Kay Ivey as gay in a tweet and on Facebook. Yeah, those rumors have circulated for awhile, but Todd’s tweet has a mean spirit to it, especially considering the state’s only openly gay legislator is leaving the State House and, presumably, the state, to take leadership of an LGBTQ organization in Florida.

This fire was ignited by Scott “I-Don’t-Stand-a-Snowball’s-Chance-in-Hell” Dawson, a Republican opponent of Ivey’s for governor. Dawson, in his self-righteous, white-Evangelical “superiority”, criticized Ivey for funding an LGBTQ anti-bullying organization. In Dawson’s world, it’d be OK to bully gay kids, or worse. In Dawson’s world, philanderer Donald Trump is a “Christian,” and monogamous Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. I’m glad I don’t live in Dawson’s screwed-up world, and I don’t want to go to his screwed-up heaven.

And sure, in the perfect world (not Dawson’s), we want all people, and especially our elected officials, to be who they are. Yet Ivey Wednesday directly denied the rumors, and that’s OK. She gets to decide who she is. We get to decide if that’s who we want to vote for.

But why does it matter if Ivey is gay? Think hard, Alabama. Why. Does. It. Matter? Your own homophobia? Your fear of somebody different? Your twisted Christianity where it’s OK to hate, despite the faith’s namesake demanding that we love?

It should not matter. Except that voters here (maybe everywhere?) respond to emotional, hot-button issues before thinking about whether they even matter. They don’t.

Meanwhile, here in Birmingham we have a controversy between new Mayor Randall Woodfin and a West End pastor known for using his church’s outdoor sign to deliver messages of hate.

New Era Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Michael R. Jordan is upset that the mega-Church of the Highlands may start a branch in his neighborhood. So he posted this on his church’s sign: “Black folks need to stay out of white churches.”

Woodfin responded appropriately: “There is a spirit of racism and division that is over this city. It must be brought down. We have to change the conversation to what we need it to evolve into. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’”

So now Woodfin is taking heat from some in Birmingham and elsewhere. For wanting love, not hate, to guide our conversations.

The Rev. Jordan decries white flight, and rightly so. He calls Woodfin naïve. He says white people won’t live in his neighborhood, but they want to bring a white church next door.

I’ve written about Jordan’s hate before. In 2004, Jordan posted this on his church’s Hate Board: “AIDS is God’s curse on a homosexual life.”

Jordan’s “god” is much less perfect than mine. AIDS practically wiped out generations of hemophiliacs. It has devastated (and still is) heterosexual communities across the world, especially in Africa. If my God had it out for homosexuals, his aim would be much more precise.

Jordan rails against white Evangelicals who elected Donald Trump. But, you see, there’s not much difference between Jordan’s brand of religion and that of white Evangelicals.

There’s not much difference between Jordan and Dawson. Skin color, yes. Not much else.

Their unifying characteristic: Hate. Whether taught from the pulpit or from a church’s outdoor marquee, or from the campaign trail or in the “white” church, hate is the common denominator.

Woodfin is absolutely right. We must change the conversation.

That’ll be hard, though, because we’re mostly cowards, afraid of each other, of our immigrant neighbors, of the black man walking down the street and the white cop patrolling the streets. We’re afraid of gay people, of Muslims, of Asians, of Rednecks, of Jews, of Catholics. We’re afraid of independent women who want the right to choose, and who don’t want to be the targets of sexual harassment and rape. We live our lives in fear.

We’re even afraid of love.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Opinion | Straight party? That’s lazy, or stupid

Joey Kennedy

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A few years ago (more than a decade), a friend was running for circuit judge in Jefferson County. He is a Democrat. His opponent was, obviously, a Republican. An incumbent Republican.

My friend was much more qualified than the Republican incumbent, who had made a number of questionable decisions from the bench.

This Republican was terrible, on many levels.

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I didn’t campaign for my friend; I’m a journalist, so I stay out of direct involvement in political campaigns. But I am a voter, and there’s no question I was going to support my friend at the polls. And, when anybody asked specifically about that particular race, I’d recommended him. As an editorial board member of what used to be the best newspaper in Alabama, we studied the candidates carefully; personally interviewed most of them. That newspaper recommended my friend.

Before we made our recommendations, however, another friend asked me about that judicial race. I laid out the qualifications of the two candidates, and made a good case for my friend.

And then: “Is he a Democrat or Republican?” my other friend asked. Democrat, I replied.

“Well, I can’t vote for a Democrat,” my other friend said.

That is absolutely a stupid response. She wouldn’t vote for the best qualified candidate because he was running as a Democrat? I shook my head and moved on.

I can’t figure out, or pretend to understand, how somebody can eliminate a candidate simply based on party.

I have never, in my 44 years of being a voter, voted straight-party, whether Democrat or Republican or whatever.

There are bad Democratic Party candidates. And bad Republican Party candidates. And, yes, there are good candidates in both parties. And good independents. And good third-party candidates, though you’ll rarely find them on Alabama’s selfishly closed ballot.

The last election that featured lots of state and local candidates, I voted for more Republicans than Democrats.

I know readers assume (wrongly) that I’m a Democrat, because I write, generally, from the left. I’m not. I’m a left-leaning independent. That’s one reason I hate Alabama’s closed primary elections. You have to choose, one or another.

And if you vote for one party in a primary, you can’t vote the other party in a runoff, if there is a runoff.

Maybe I could understand such a discouraging system more if the parties paid for their own primaries. But they don’t.

I do. And you do. The poor Alabama taxpayers do.

Voting straight-party is an indication of two things: You’re either too lazy to find out who you really are voting for, or you’re too ignorant to care. Not voting would be a better choice.

We’ve got primary elections coming up. I’m going to be on a panel for Democratic and Republican party gubernatorial debates later this month at Boys State on the University of Alabama campus.

I’ll ask tough questions of the candidates from both parties.

From what I’ve been told, every candidate for governor, from both parties, has accepted the invitation to participate in the debate.

Every candidate but one, that is: Republican Kay Ivey, the current sitting governor. Now remember, Ivey wasn’t elected governor. She took over for the disgraced, libido-enhanced Robert Bentley, who was tossed from office.

Kay Ivey will not have my vote. But she’s clearly the favorite, even though there are candidates in her party and candidates in the Democratic Party who are clearly more qualified.

I’m a geezer who turned 62 this year. And unless the choice and qualifications are clear otherwise, I’m not voting for another geezer. And I’m not going to vote for those candidates, like Republican Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh for lieutenant governor, who opportunistically run for whatever state office they think they can win.

I’m looking closely at the younger generation, Republican or Democrat, who appears to have the best qualifications for the office they seek.

We geezers have let Alabama down – America down. We often are more in it for us than what’s best for our state and country.

And if a candidate refuses to debate her opponents, or if a candidate is endorsed by a child molester like Roy Moore, or if a candidate is clearly only in it for herself or himself, I’m not voting for them. Forget it.

Oh, I expect many of the candidates (most) I support won’t win. I don’t vote for somebody just because they might have a chance at winning.

I study the candidates, and I vote for the candidate I determine is most qualified to hold the office they seek.

But I will never mark that bubble for straight party. From my perspective, that’s just lazy. Or stupid. It’s like eating mountain oysters and not knowing what they are.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Low voter turnout expected for primary

Steve Flowers

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We are less than four weeks away from our June 5th primary. Those of us who follow Alabama politics have pointed to this year as being a very entertaining and interesting gubernatorial year. However, last year’s resignation by former Governor, Robert Bentley and the ascension of Kay Ivey from Lt. Governor to the Governor’s office has put a damper on the excitement we anticipated in the governor’s race.

Kay took over the reins of state government and her appearance as a seasoned veteran of state politics seems to resonate with voters. Polling indicates that the governor’s race is hers to lose. Therefore, the less she does may be the best course. Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep. A slip and fall could derail her train.

Her perch reminds me of a story surrounding the last truly colorful southern governor, Edwin Edwards of Louisiana. Ole Edwin had a wide lead like Kay’s in the polls a few weeks prior to his race for reelection as governor of the Pelican state. The press asked him about two weeks out about his significant lead in the polls. Edwin’s reply was, “Yeah, the only way that ole Edwin can lose this race is to get caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.”

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Tommy Battle, the popular Mayor of Huntsville is poised to make a formidable run at Kay in the closing weeks. He has some money in the bank and will come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with a good friends and neighbors vote. The Evangelical Roy Moore voters appear to be coalescing around Evangelist Scott Dawson.

My guess is that Walt Maddox, the young 45-year old Mayor of Tuscaloosa is benefitting from a grass roots support among African American voters in the Democratic primary. If indeed this is the case, Maddox will be favored to capture the Democratic nomination.

Will Barfoot has emerged as the frontrunner in the closely watched open Montgomery/River Region Republican seat. Incumbent State Senator Paul Bussman is in a close contest with Cullman City Council President Garlan Grudger. Polling indicates that this one may be too close to call. Bussman’s departure from the GOP Senate Caucus has given his constituents the perception that he may be rendered ineffective. This district is politically savvy.

Veteran educator, Wayne Reynolds, may be poised to win the State Board of Education District 8 seat in the Huntsville-Tennessee Valley area being vacated by Mary Scott Hunter. Mary Scott and Sam Givhan are battling for an open state Senate seat in Huntsville. This race is one of the best Senate races in the state. Both Givhan and Hunter are heirs to great Alabama legacies. Givhan’s grandfather was legendary Black Belt State Senator Walter Givhan. Ms. Hunter’s daddy, Scott Hunter, is one of Bear Bryant’s famous quarterbacks.

Speaking of legends, Alabama political icon, Milton McGregor, was laid to rest a few weeks ago. He would have been 79 today. Montgomery’s Frazer Memorial Methodist Church was overflowing. A good many of the state’s past and present political powers were there, including several past governors and a sitting U.S. Senator.

One of the state’s most famous and personable preachers, John Ed Mathison, presented a masterful sermon. He is a great man. He and his wife were best friends with Milton and Pat.

It was actually a joyous political homecoming event. As folks were visiting and reminiscing, one of Alabama’s most prominent pulmonary physicians, Dr. David Thrasher, who has been a doctor to many famous Alabamians and was one of Milton’s pallbearers was visiting with me and said, “Steve, I was at Governor Wallace’s funeral when Franklin Graham spoke and it doesn’t compare to this.” Then he quipped, “Steve, I got a call from Billy Graham. He said that he had met a nice guy at breakfast by the name of Milton McGregor. Milton said to tell John Ed to remind the people down here that if they did good and believed in Jesus that they could be a winner too and join him.” That’s what John Ed said.

See you next week.

 

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How to get Luther Strange disbarred from the practice of Law

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 6 min
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