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The Book and It’s Cover: Judging Justice Tom Parker

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Report

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” – Solomon

Justice Tom Parker has served on the Alabama Supreme Court since 2004.  The “cover” of his life can be found on the Supreme Court’s biography page, and includes achievements such as serving as the founding Executive Director of Alabama Policy Institute and founding Executive Director for the Alabama Family Advocates, a state organization associated with Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

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The pages within the cover tell a story of growing courage in the face of wicked Federal tyranny.

 

Ex parte E.R.G., June 10, 2011

On June 10, 2011, Justice Parker stretched his philosophical legs with the case of  Ex parte E.R.G., wherein the Alabama Supreme Court dealt with the question of court-ordered grandparent visitation.

Justice Parker wrote specially “on the origin of the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and care of their children.”  Justice Parker explained that “the family pre-existed the state” and is rooted in creation.  He went on to quote John Locke and Abraham Kuyper for the proposition that “[t]he family, like the state and the church, is a legitimate governing authority within its own sphere,” and “[a] people therefore which abandons to State Supremacy the right of the family” is guilty before God.

Justice Parker then fully turned his attention to Christianity as the foundation of American Jurisprudence:

“The Christian doctrine emphasized the role of parents in directing their children’s growth and development. From the birth of the first child, children were recognized as being a gift to parents from God.”

Justice Parker’s special writing should matter to every God-fearing Alabamian. There are countries like Sweden where parents are not allowed to home-school their children; and there are states like Oregon where Christian Evangelicals rightly fear that the State will take their children because of their Christian practices. We should all take comfort that our right to parent our children, based on our sincerely held religious beliefs, is a little more inviolable under the watchful eye of Justice Parker.

 

Hamilton v. Scott, May 18, 2012

On May 18, 2012, we saw Justice Parker continue to grow in his role as a watchman and protector of Alabama’s righteous values.  In the case of Hamilton v. Scott, the Alabama Supreme Court held that a wrongful death claim could be brought against a medical doctor when the doctor’s malpractice results in the death of a pre-born child. Justice Parker added a special writing to drive clarify the limited role that the Federal Court’s appalling Roe v. Wade decision had in the wrongful death case with an unborn child.

“The Supreme Court in Roe erroneously concluded that ‘the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.’. . . ‘Life is an immediate gift of God, a right inherent by nature in every individual.’ . . ‘Rights and protections legally afforded the unborn child are of ancient vintage. In equity, property, crime, and tort, the unborn has received and continues to receive a legal personality.’”

Justice Parker displayed in this opinion the nimbleness of pushing back against Roe as far as the Federal Courts would allow, without going so far a to be overturned by them.

“Because Roe is not controlling authority beyond abortion law, and because its viability standard is not persuasive, I conclude that, at least with regard to the law of wrongful death, Roe’s viability standard should be universally abandoned.” (emphasis added)

With the phrase, “at least with regard to,” Justice Parker hints to an underlying courage in the face of Federal tyranny that would not see full vent for four more years.

 

Ankrom v. State, January 11, 2013

In Ankrom v. State, Hope Ankrom used cocaine during the course of her pregnancy and gave birth to a child who also tested positive for cocaine. A grand jury indicted Hope Ankrom on the charge of chemical endangerment of a child.  Ms. Ankrom asked the court to dismiss the indictment based on the argument that a “fetus” is not a child.

The Court held that the term “child” does in fact include the obvious … “unborn child.” In articulating the Court’s decision, Justice Parker cited a South Carolina case: “we do not see any rational basis for finding a viable fetus is not a ‘person’ in the present context.”

Justice Parker conclude his discourse with a similar nod to Roe, but also with a strong commendation of the right to life enshrined in Alabama’s Constitution:

“The decision of this Court today is in keeping with the widespread legal recognition that unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law. Today, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe. Furthermore, the decision in the present cases is consistent with the Declaration of Rights in the Alabama Constitution, which states that ‘all men are equally free and independent; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

Could Justice Parker be poised to stand with Wisconsin’s Supreme Court of the 1850’s which stated that the unjust Federal Fugitive Slave Act had no application in the State of Wisconsin? Could Justice Parker be on the verge of stating that Alabama can protect unborn children from murder, regardless of what the Federal Supreme Court says?

I believe the next case gives us a clue.

 

Ex parte Alabama Policy Institute (API II), March 4, 2016

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which dealt with the question of whether the Federal Government can decide for the States the meaning of marriage within the States’ legal structures.

On March 4, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court, in the historic case of Ex parte Alabama Policy Institute (API II), wrestled with the application of Obergefell to the legal landscape of Alabama.  Justice Parker presented a special writing “to state that Obergefell conclusively demonstrates that the rule of law is dead.” (at 126)

“‘Five lawyers’ — appointed to judgeships for life and practically unaccountable to the more than 320 million Americans they now arbitrarily govern — enlightened by ‘new insights’ into the true meaning of the word ‘liberty,’ determined that ‘liberty’ means that Americans have a new fundamental right only now discovered over 225 years since the Constitution was adopted. ‘Five lawyers,’ who have treated the Constitution as ‘a mere thing of wax … which they may twist, and shape into any form they please,’ determined to impose their enlightenment on this nation in spite of the vast majority of the states having democratically refused again and again to redefine the divinely initiated institution of marriage. In marching this country ‘forward’ to their moral ideal, the ‘five lawyers’ composing the majority in Obergefell have trampled into the dust the last vestiges of the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.

These are strong words indeed to come from such a mild-looking gray haired jurist. But, wait … it gets better:

Obergefell is ‘no judicial act at all’ because it is ‘without principled justification.’ In fact, it is without any legal justification at all.  Accordingly, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell is without legitimacy.”

“This is not the rule of law, this is despotism and tyranny.”

. . .

“Despotism and tyranny were evils identified in the Declaration of Independence as necessitating the break with King George and Great Britain.”

“For the states to honor such a decision as legitimate is to bow our knee to the self-established judicial despots of America.”

“As justices and judges on state courts around the nation, we have sworn an oath to uphold the United States Constitution. We have not sworn to blindly follow the unsubstantiated opinion of ‘five lawyers.’

“An illegitimate decision is due no allegiance; our allegiance as judges is to the United States Constitution.

 

I think John Roberts, Chief Justice to the US Supreme Court, would be proud of Justice Parker:  “[t]he States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.”

Justice Parker has announced his candidacy to the office Chief Justice to the Alabama Supreme Court. If the pages of his writings reflect the pages of his character, I am confident Alabama will be better poised to act like the Sovereign it should be with Justice Tom Parker at the helm of the Supreme Court.

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Opinion | We could do worse than John Merrill

Josh Moon

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I’m going to do something that my progressive friends will mostly not like.

I’m going to say nice things about Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

I know. I know.

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But hear me out.

Because part of the reason that I’m doing this is I believe politics at every level has devolved into such a scorched-earth, I-hate-everyone-on-the-other-side sort of spectacle that we’re no longer willing to say any person from the other team is doing anything good. Even when they are.

And Merrill is.

Yes, I know he’s blocked several dozen people on Twitter, and I find that silly and pointless and illegal.

And yes, I know he has been snarky and sarcastic to some of you. And to me.

But even so, we’re lucky we have Merrill.

Because it could be so much worse.

If you doubt this, I would like to point you to news stories from other states with Republican-dominated legislatures. Like Ohio, where they’re booting active voters off rolls for missing a single election. Or North Carolina, which implemented the most unreasonable voter ID law in the nation to prevent minorities from going to the polls.

Alabama has one of those voter ID laws, too. And it has the right now to kick voters off the rolls for missing an election.

But what you don’t have in Alabama is anywhere near the level of disenfranchisement of voters. Even a federal judge agreed, when upholding Alabama’s ID law.

That’s mostly due to Merrill’s work.

When Alabama’s legislature passed its voter ID law a few years ago, it placed very few requirements on Merrill’s office for how to go about making those IDs available. It was a stupid, pointless law that in no way deterred voter fraud, but it was a law that Merrill’s office had to deal with.

Instead of taking the usual Alabama path and doing the absolute bare minimum required in the job, Merrill went the other way. In the years since that law was passed, his office has put a mobile ID unit on the street, they’ve coordinated with various groups to set up registration drives in underserved areas, they’ve actually visited the homes of people to issue voter IDs and they’ve implemented electronic registration.

That last one has been the biggie, with more than 60 percent of voters registered during Merrill’s tenure coming since the electronic registration went live a little more than a year ago. That electronic rollout also included an app — an app built by the staff of the Secretary of State’s office.

They’ve tried to work with the county Boards of Registrars to get registration info into the communities and schools. They’ve pushed registration through an ad campaign. And they’ve been willing to travel to pretty much any festival, ball game, bake sale or other community function to set up a registration drive.  

And let me repeat: None of this was required of the Secretary of State’s office.

At the same time, Merrill took a different approach from Ohio to cleaning up the voting rolls (removing deceased voters, people who moved, etc.). Instead of labeling voters who fail to return a verification card as “inactive,” the SoS office implemented a two-step process that began when only if the Post Office returned a notice for a voter.

And even if the two notices were somehow missed, if a voter shows up to the polls and finds themselves on the inactive list, the fix is simply updating the SoS address card at the polling place and then voting a regular ballot (not a provisional one).  

Again, this wasn’t required. And a much more mean-spirited, onerous process is now perfectly legal, according to our Supreme Court.

The decision to make Alabama’s process reasonable and fair was Merrill’s.

And look, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that Merrill and his staff shouldn’t get huge praise for doing the job they should be doing. After all, voter registration is the top priority in that gig, and there’s not a close second. So maybe we shouldn’t be handing out cookies for stuff the Secretary of State is supposed to do.

But that line of thinking ignores the reality of Alabama politics and the reality of the politically polarized country in which we live.

Because you just know that nine out of 10 Republican politicians wouldn’t have done half the things Merrill has. They would’ve offered a Jeff Sessions, little-kid-burning-ants, evil grin and hid behind the law and the lack of funds and the indifference.

That’s the norm.

So, yeah, Merrill loves the spotlight and camera lights. He has weird, right-wing beliefs that I wholly disagree with. And he has not always done enough to protect voter rights.

But man, things could be so much worse without him.

 

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Opinion | State schools chief backtracks, Montgomery schools mess grows

Josh Moon

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Never mind.

That’s essentially what state schools superintendent Eric Mackey told parents, business leaders, school system employees and everyone else on Tuesday, telling the Montgomery Advertiser that he — the top executive in all of Alabama public education — might have been mistaken when he talked about the effects of Montgomery’s public schools potentially losing accreditation.

Oops.

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A little more than a week ago, a few days before school board elections in the county, Mackey stood before the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery County Commission and told a dire tale of hardship that was certain to set upon the poor children of Montgomery if board changes were not made.

No out-of-state colleges.

No private colleges.

No federal aid.

The effects would be devastating, driving people from the capital city at a pace faster than they’re currently leaving.

Small problem: None of that was true.

I called Mackey on it. I asked his office to provide evidence that it was true, because the Federal Student Aid office told me it wasn’t and two college presidents said it wasn’t.

But that was prior to the elections still, so the best I could get from Mackey was a garbled statement explaining that a loss of accreditation was very bad, which, of course, no one was arguing. But it’s one thing to say it’s bad and quite another to have the state schools superintendent stand before you and say your kids won’t be able to attend college unless you make changes to the school board.

That last part is what Mackey did. He was flat wrong.

And now he’s saying so. But he’s blaming it on an unnamed source. Because apparently Alabama’s superintendent of schools needs to be told by someone else what accreditation loss means.

Mackey wouldn’t tell the Advertiser who the source was, but he insisted that the source was “reputable.”

You’ll have to decide whether, at this point, Mackey is reputable enough to be believed.

Because that’s not all Mackey was apparently wrong about. During that speech to the County Commission, Mackey was discussing an accreditation report on MPS from the district’s accreditation agency, AdvancED. The report was, to put it lightly, not good.

But to hear Mackey and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange talk, unless those board changes were made — changes that were being pushed by a political action committee tied to the mayor and his consultants — well there was just no way to avoid a loss of accreditation.

Fast forward to the same Advertiser interview: Mackey now says not to sweat that loss of accreditation, because MPS was forced into selling off Georgia Washington Middle School and because it’s operating a summer reading program that was already scheduled when the accreditation review took place.

Read that again. Let it sink in.

MPS losing accreditation, according to Mackey and other city leaders, rested on the sale of a middle school building and a summer reading program. Oh, and don’t let me forget those terrible board arguments — the ones that never rose to the level of formal complaints, rules violations or violations of state open meetings laws.

If all of that is true, AdvancED accreditation is worthless.

But slightly less worthless than the opinion of anyone from the state department of education on the operation of a local school district. Because if the state’s operation of Montgomery’s school district is any indication, they have no idea what they’re doing.

MPS was better run by MPS.

In the year and a half or so that ALSDE has been in charge of MPS, they have overspent on administrators, overspent on an odd cleaning contract instead of allowing already-employed custodians to do it, gave out raises to failing school principals, then had to give out raises to all principals, forgot to get their expensive administrators certified (some still aren’t), hired a guy who was barred from all of New York City’s schools and had to quietly run off most of the administrative hires it made.

But here are the two kickers: 1. After all of the money that has been spent, there hasn’t been a single additional teacher, aide, coach or book purchased to help improve the learning environment of a child in MPS, and 2. After all the complaints of mismanagement, not a single principal was removed.

Now, look here, MPS has serious, serious problems, and there isn’t a soul alive who would deny that. But what’s taking place in Montgomery right now isn’t an effort to better anything for those poor kids. It’s an effort to protect the pocketbooks of a few wealthy businessmen.

It’s an effort to simply change the image of MPS, instead of its culture and basic operation. It’s yet another attempt to educate the advantaged at the expense of the disadvantaged.

It’s wrong. As wrong as the state superintendent.

 

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Opinion | We’re perfecting the “art” of being mean

Joey Kennedy

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My mother, Patricia Ann Harper Kennedy, has been dead more than 21 years now. She died young, in 1997. She had cancer. She did not have health insurance.

Mom couldn’t get health insurance because she had a “pre-existing,” non-malignant tumor a decade before her fatal cancer. She wanted insurance. She could have paid for insurance. But she couldn’t get it. The insurance industry wouldn’t let her have it.

Despite the promises of the Affordable Care Act, we’re moving right back to that horror again today.

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Under the ACA, or Obamacare, as Obama-haters like to call it, people couldn’t be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Nor was there a limit on how much an insurance company was obligated to pay for a health issue. Our kids can remain on our own insurance until they’re 26.

We’re the only First-World nation in the world that doesn’t view health care as a right. We don’t mind if sick people shoot up schools, clubs, churches, or concerts with their Second Amendment rights, but we won’t promote the general welfare by making sure sick people can see a doctor in a timely manner.

The Donald Trump administration’s Justice Department, under the leadership now of our former and long-terrible U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, is doing all it can to destroy the ACA. And, like so many progressive, successful, and humane programs started during Barack Obama’s eight years in office, Trump and Sessions are doing a great job tearing those programs down.

America – and Alabama, too – are becoming more mean every day. Sessions is mean, and that is reflected in his Justice Department’s policies.

So the Justice Department will no longer defend certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The decisions Sessions and his mean colleagues are making will lead to even higher health insurance premiums. Even more mommas dying without insurance.

But the meanness isn’t simply reflected in damage to the ACA.

Sessions no longer will allow citizens of countries that basically condone gender abuse to get asylum in the United States. Go ahead and beat those women to death; that’s not our problem.

Home of the brave.

Compassion? Trump and Sessions likely can’t even spell the word, much less define it. It is not “covfefe.”

A “true” state’s righter, Sessions demands that the federal government enforce laws against recreational marijuana use in the states that have already approved it. Hypocrisy is a Republican value.

Temporary refugees from so-called (by this administration) “sh—hole” countries are finding they’re losing their protection. Go home. Leave us alone. Be murdered.

A woman’s right to manage her own body is under unprecedented assault. By men.

The LGBTQ community, which only recently won the right of marriage, finds itself the target of “legal” discrimination under this administration. Our transgender and gay members of the military are now at risk.

Children and parents trying to get asylum in the “land of the free” are being brutally separated. Many hundreds of those children are now, literally, “lost.”

We’re friends with North Korea’s brutal dictator, but are confrontational with the leaders of our strongest allies, including Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, and Germany.

We’ve got a mean streak that was suppressed by better angels in previous administrations, but has now been unleashed by Trump and his hate-filled minions, including Sessions.

Sadly, in our state, many politicians (all Republicans) tout this hateful Trumpism as a reason to vote for them in their TV commercials. Too many hateful voters feel enabled by that. So we get people like child molester Roy Moore running for the U.S. Senate, and supported by Alabama’s first woman governor since Lurleen Wallace.

We let our worse demons loose to kill our better angels.

We’re killing angels.

We want to make Medicaid practically impossible for our poorest to get. And we’re a very poor state. We want to deny food aid to children. We want to privatize public education and prisons, so private corporations can make more money.

We celebrate being mean. We monetize being mean.

Angels are dying.

My mother was too young two decades ago when she died of cancer. She was helped along to her early death by the highly profitable health insurance industry. The one we are bringing back.

Today, I don’t have health insurance. I cannot afford it. I haven’t been to a doctor in 18 months. My hope depends on living until I’m 65 and can get Medicare, which I’ve paid into my entire professional career. That is, If Medicare as we know it still exists in 2021. These Trump Republicans want to get rid of that, too.

I am 62 years old. Next year, I’ll be my mother’s age when she died. So little has changed.

Well, except we’re even more mean.

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

 

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The Book and It’s Cover: Judging Justice Tom Parker

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 7 min
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