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Opinion | There are three types of judges

Win Johnson

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By Win Johnson
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In light of the recent resignation announcement of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock and the pending appointment of a new Justice by Governor Ivey, I present this statement on the 3 types of judges. This writing begins tongue-in-cheek, but it ends deadly serious.

I was driving this morning, when a State Trooper pulled me over and said, “You weren’t driving the speed limit.”

I said, “I was doing 65 mph in a 70 mph zone, Officer.”

He said, “That’s too slow. The number on the speed limit sign is the minimum speed.”

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“But that’s never been the case in my experience, Officer.”

“Well, you understand that I’m the one who enforces the law, right? So, I want to see you speeding up when you leave here. Here’s your ticket.”

So, I continued up the interstate and drove over 70 mph. I’d been driving a while, when this same Officer decided to pull me over again. He told me that I was going over the speed limit. When I protested that he had just told me that I was driving too slow earlier and that the number on the sign was the minimum speed, he said, “Well, I now interpret the sign differently. It’s the maximum speed.” So he gave me a ticket. When I told him that I’d like to give back to him the first ticket, he said, “Oh no, that was the law as I interpreted it back then. You’ve got to pay both.”

You recognize that story as a joke, but that’s how our judicial system works in this time, a time devoted to change, not to the law. When change becomes the foundation for law instead of stability, that is what the judges do – change the law. Law is, by definition, stable, predictable. In a time devoted to change, change becomes more important than a stable, predictable legal system, more important than the law itself. God’s law never changes. Departure from that law will always result in a system of change, change that fits man’s sinful desires instead of justice and predictability.

I have some questions for you to place my position on types of judges in context. If a policeman were to pull you over for speeding and demand that you perform a sexual act for that policeman, would you do it? If not, why would you defy a person whom we call “the law?” Would it be because that officer has gone beyond his authority? What if the mayor of Montgomery, AL ordered the taxation of the businesses in Decatur, AL and sent police officers to collect those tax dollars from those businesses? If you were a Decatur business, would you pay the tax? If not, why not? The mayor went beyond his authority? If we’re that clear on where the authority of those officials ends, why not judges.

Today, we have judges serving who in certain, important cases – important to them – have no intention of remaining faithful to the law or the Constitution. They are in the highest places of authority. They are conscienceless and are perfectly willing to violate and defy the Constitution, the law of man, the law of God, even the Judiciary’s own principles of interpretation, originally developed in order to keep the Judiciary from overstepping its boundaries. We are not waiting for the undermining of our constitutional republic. It is already upon us. We are living in a day of tyranny, perhaps a “soft” tyranny, but a tyranny that could become quite hard under the right circumstances.

So what are the three types of judges in our day? (By the way, this writing is in no way meant to reflect negatively upon the career of Justice Glenn Murdock, a dependable Judge whom I know personally and whom I know sought to faithfully follow the Constitution and the rule of law).

There is the liberal judge, who is really no judge at all. This judge simply is waiting for the opportunity to be a legislator. He or she may be a faithful judge in every case until they get to the one they consider so important that they must violate their oath to change the law, to make it in their own image. This is the day they were waiting for – the chance to make their mark, to impress their colleagues, to be feted at parties and written about in law reviews. They may use colorful, creative, even ingenius language in their opinions, but it is all a front to impose their will, their belief, their religion, their perspective, their philosophy on the rest of us.

There is the conservative judge, hopefully an originalist. This judge wants to be faithful to the law, the Constitution, so he or she reads and interprets it as it was originally intended to be interpreted. This judge also recognizes the importance of precedent to the stability of any legal system. This judge believes in the consistent treatment of cases that are similar in law and facts, so this judge follows precedent. The original intent of following precedent was to ensure that justice was consistent, that one party was not treated differently from another because a different judge heard that party’s case at a later time. However, in our day when unfaithfulness to the oath and perversion of the law has become so prevalent – even common – the conservative judge’s commitment to precedent actually makes him or her an accomplice to the crime of undermining our constitutional system of law and justice. And the conservative judge thinks it’s just “unseemly” to make a fuss about another judge’s errant ruling; it makes the entire system appear bad. Never mind the fact that the system is, in fact, bad and getting worse. Precedent has become a lever for changing the law, not keeping it consistent. Following precedent is how liberal judges count on the conservative judges to continue their legacy of perversion of the law and Constitution. The liberal judge turns things upside down, and the conservative judge doesn’t even notice that he’s not flying right side up. That’s how pilots crash at night and in bad weather. They lose their orientation to up and down.

Then there is the Reformational judge. This judge understands what the law is, what the law should be, the limits to a judge’s authority, and points the way back to the true standard, the plumbline governing right & justice for the people, the judicial system, and the entire society. When faced with another judge’s ultra vires (outside-authority) precedent, a presumption to an authority which that judge does not have, the Reformational judge does not follow. There exists no collegial respect, principle of the rule of law, nor constitutional requirement that one judge must follow another judge in that rogue judge’s lawless, presumptuous, personal adoption of judicial tyranny.

– To allege otherwise is to assert that every judge is a sheep, not an official with the discretion, wisdom, and judgment to understand and apply the law that is, but is bound by law to follow the wolves, who would undermine and destroy the very Constitution they claim to uphold.

– To allege otherwise is to assert that every judge is bound by law to become as lawless as the lowest, most reprehensible, oath-breaking judge in the system.

– To allege otherwise is to assert that one public official, a rogue judge, can dictate to a free, democratic people and every other public official, bound by oath to defend and protect the Republic and its Constitution, and command the destruction of the very system meant to protect that people, that Republic, and that Constitution.

In other words, it is a proposition so absurd, so virulently destructive to the rule of law, that one can append the label “traitor” to anyone promoting it. Yet only the reformational judge will oppose it. The reformational judge uses all the power at his or her disposal to oppose such judges, for such judges use the Constitution to destroy the Constitution.

– Rogue judges take an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, yet they become the Constitution’s enemy.

– Rogue judges pretend to follow and promote the Constitution as a “living” document only that they may kill it.

– Rogue judges write long, wordy opinions that mount up to the heavens in majestic language, yet they would use their opinions to pull God Himself from His throne, if they could just come up with the correct, scholarly wording for an opinion proposing it.

Yet, that proposition, my friends, sums up one of the core articles of faith of the present legal system of this country. Every judge, state and federal, must follow the precedent issued by a “higher” court, as if the judicial system were some type of military organization with a strict chain of command. And the highest court of the land, the US Supreme Court, has such power in its opinions that it could – by a vote of 5 to 4 – command the entire nullification of the US Constitution, as long as the opinion could be carefully written to conceal its effect, was “intellectually” defensible, and if a majority of the legal community agreed.

In other words, we are presently living under the rule of lawyers and judges. And not lawyers and judges bound by law, but lawyers and judges unbound from the law, asserting that change is all that matters. For them, no God has issued eternal decrees of right and justice. And no future generation can be bound by the words of men living over 200 years before, i.e., the framers of the Constitution. No law of man or God stops them. For them, only man given to change exists. His purpose? To change the law to fit his particular tastes at the time. And to them, the people are mere sheep, worthless for anything but for tricking into the belief that they actually live in a democratic republic buttressed by the “rule of law.” Their vote is worthless, for they are ignorant sheep. No, bigoted, hateful sheep to whom the legal elite pronounce their law, their new morality, and their new religion – “Whatever We Say the Law Is, That’s What It Is. If you don’t agree, you’re evil.”

For some strange reason, the conservative judge doesn’t think there exists an authority for undoing or reversing such perverse precedent. The liberal judge is all in favor of such change. But the reformational judge finds and adopts every means within his or her power to stop such destruction of the rule of law and calls out the underminers. The reformational judge may be just one, but that one could influence thousands. And if not in that judge’s day, perhaps that judge can lay the foundation for a future generation to rise up and shake off the chains of tyranny and return to the rule of law. A return to truth and integrity in the judiciary.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | National Hunting and Fishing Day: Celebrating Alabama’s sportsmen and women

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh

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Saturday, September 22, is our nation’s 46th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day. As Co-Chair of the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and as a member of the 48-state National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, I am proud to take time to celebrate the time-honored traditions of hunting and angling. I am also pleased to recognize the historical and ongoing contributions of our state’s original conservationists — sportsmen and sportswomen.

Alabama hunters and anglers are the primary source of conservation funding for the Yellowhammer State. Through the purchase of licenses, tags, and by paying self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle, motorboat fuel, and other equipment, hunters and anglers drive conservation funding in Alabama and the United States, through the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays public benefits” System. Last year alone, this System, combined with hunting and fishing license sales, contributed over $47 million to fund state conservation efforts administered through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). All Alabamians benefit from these funds through improved access to public lands, public shooting ranges, improved soil and water quality, habitat restoration, fish and wildlife research, private and public habitat management, hunter education, boat access area construction and many other DCNR projects funded through this System.

Hunting and angling are also a significant economic driver for our state. Alabama sportsmen and women spend roughly $2 billion per year on their outdoor pursuits, supporting nearly 40,000 jobs in the state and contributing over $165 million in state and local taxes.

Hunting produces countless benefits for our state’s conservation funding and economy, therefore it is important that Alabama sportsmen and women invest time and effort to encourage future participation by the next generation in these time-honored traditions. This effort to increase hunter participation is called recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) and over 450 individual R3 programs nationwide have had regional success. R3 programs, as well as many others, need your support and it’s going to take the involvement of every Alabama hunter, regardless of age, to ensure the future of the outdoor pursuits we celebrate on National Hunting and Fishing Day. Our hunting and angling heritage should not be taken for granted, and getting the next generation of Alabama’s sportsmen and women involved in the outdoors will help ensure the conservation of our abundant natural resources for the future.

More information on National Hunting and Fishing Day is available at www.NHFDay.org or on the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation website at www.congressionalsportsmen.org/policies/state/national-hunting-and-fishing-day

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Del Marsh, a Republican from Anniston, is the President Pro Tem of the Alabama State Senate.

 

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Opinion | Setting our funding priorities

Bradley Byrne

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I know this may be hard for you to believe, but there was a major, bipartisan victory in Congress last week that failed to gain any of the attention it deserved. I want to highlight some of the progress we made last week and explain why it should matter to those of us back in Alabama.

Last week, both the House and the Senate passed a funding bill that covered three very important parts of our government: military construction and veterans services, energy and water development, and Legislative Branch operations.

I am pleased to see us passing targeted funding bills instead of waiting until the last minute to pass a massive omnibus funding bill. Over the last few years, the House has been able to pass funding bills only to see the process stall out in the Senate.

Thankfully, since Alabama Senator Richard Shelby became Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the process has actually been moving again in the Senate. This has allowed us to focus on passing the smaller funding packages that are targeted toward our priorities.

So why is this funding bill important? Obviously funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is important for our state given the large number of veterans that call Alabama home. The bill includes the largest dollar amount in funding for the VA in our nation’s history. This means the VA will have the resources necessary to take care of our veterans, hire high-quality employees, and cut back on the claims backlog.

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There have been serious issues at the VA over the last few years, so I am pleased the funding bill dedicates more for the VA inspector general. This money will allow for stronger accountability at the VA as we work to make sure no veteran is left behind.

The bill also includes funding for military construction programs in Alabama and across the country. As we work to rebuild our nation’s military, we must not forget about our military infrastructure. This funding includes money set aside for military housing programs. If we are to retain the best and brightest in our military, we need to ensure they have first class facilities.

Next, the funding bill sets aside funding for the Army Corps of Engineers. Those of us in Southwest Alabama know the important work the Corps does on a daily basis to keep our waterways open and navigable. This is important to those of us who like to spend time on the water for recreational purposes, but it is especially important for our economy since so much of our commerce is conducted on waterways.

Just consider the Port of Mobile and the important commerce that goes in and out of that Port each day. Under this funding bill, the Corps will receive $7 billion for navigation projects, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and to help with flood prevention and restoration projects. This money is very important for our country, but especially important for our state.

Finally, the bill funds our nation’s nuclear security strategy by dedicating money to support our nation’s nuclear weapons and the Navy’s nuclear reactors. The bill sets aside money to ensure nuclear weapons do not fall into the wrong hands and funding to prevent against cyberattacks. Our national security must always be the top priority.

As you can see, this commonsense government funding bill is good for our country and Alabama.  I was pleased to see it pass the House on a strong vote of 377 to 20, and I hope we can keep up the positive momentum to continue getting the job done for the American people.

 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Next Generation Alabama PAC

Randall Woodfin

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For the third consecutive year, the Alabama Crimson Tide sit atop of the Associated Press college football preseason poll. This ranking comes on the heels of celebrating the university’s fifth national title in 11 years and securing one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.

But building a winning program like Alabama is not easy. The team loses dozens of talented players to graduation and the NFL draft every year, and assistant coaches often leave the program for coveted opportunities with other universities. But thanks to the legendary coach Nick Saban and his next man up mantra, everyone affiliated with the program is adequately prepared and expected to successfully assume the role of the person before.

This is the type of culture and continuity that I long for in the Democratic Party, and wish to replicate in conservative states across the South – especially in Alabama.

As mayor of the largest, most progressive city in Alabama, my role encompasses more than just serving as Birmingham’s chief executive. I am also obligated to fight for issues that I don’t control, but directly affect families in my community. These issues range from affordable healthcare, high-quality early childhood education, and inclusive economic policies that move communities like Ensley and Collegeville forward.

Effective advocacy demands that I bring a distinct voice and consideration to shaping the future for Democrats in my state.  To that end, I am proud to present “Next Generation Alabama” as a tool to cultivate progressive leadership in every corner of the state.

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NextGen Alabama is an Alabama political action committee focused solely on building the Democratic bench in Alabama. We will create our own next (wo)man up mentality in state and local elections across Alabama, supporting talented candidates and passionate campaigns that truly make a difference.

Too many times, Democrats execute campaign strategies that fail to leave behind a grassroots infrastructure that will position the party for future success. We do not register nearly enough new voters or engage infrequent voters. Nor do we invest nearly enough in voter contact data, or develop the campaign operatives and volunteers that other races can leverage down the road.

NextGen Alabama seeks to modify this antiquated approach to Democratic campaigning by focusing on movement building and longevity. We must meet voters in their communities, on their doorsteps and in their churches. That is the only way Democrats will be able to flip conservative states in the South.

We will only invest in nontraditional campaigns that prioritize grassroots organizing and voter contact. And we will only support progressive candidates that are unapologetic about engaging directly with our base and infrequent voters – the kinds of voters who can unlock the chokehold that Republicans have had on Alabama for far too long.

NextGen Alabama is not meant to challenge the Democratic State Party.  If anything, the Democratic Party of Alabama will be our partner in progress. The depth of our challenges in Alabama deserve an all-hands-on-deck strategy. Birmingham deserves to play a leading role in fashioning the future for Democrats in the state, and NextGen will be the platform for doing so.

Think about it. Our values and common decency are currently under assault. Republican leadership in Washington and Montgomery continue to put the profits of millionaires and large corporations before the interests of average families like those I serve in Birmingham. But we can’t change Washington or Montgomery if we don’t first rethink the pipeline of men and women that we send there.

I urge fellow Southern Democratic mayors, particularly in conservative states, to capitalize on your platform. Building our personal brand is not enough, we must build our party and elect the right people who will support the policies that affect the quality of life of our residents.

If you find yourself – like me – representing a blue island in a sea of red, you have an obligation to change the tide for the communities you serve.

Sparking Democratic enthusiasm in your own city will no longer suffice. Democrats across the state need your energy and resources.

Remember, dynasties and winning programs aren’t created overnight. They are only created when individuals are committed to a cause greater than themselves. We all have a role to play, and NextGen Alabama is just getting started.

 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Alabamians need an Ethics Commission that will enforce the laws

Secretary of State John Merrill

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I am disappointed to find myself, once again, in a position to ask what purpose the Alabama Ethics Commission serves to the people of this state. To whom are the elected officials or those seeking public office to look to for ethical political leadership? The people of Alabama need an Ethics Commission that will enforce the laws and regulations it is charged with enforcing, with consistency.

When campaigns file their fundraising disclosures with the Secretary of State’s office, they are required to file on a given date no later than 11:59 p.m. When candidates and political action committees (PACs) fail to file these reports in a timely manner, the law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to issue a civil penalty based on the amount of contributions and expenditures from that reporting period. In the event that a candidate or PAC wishes to appeal the penalty, the Secretary of State’s office is required to send those requests to the Alabama Ethics Commission, allowing members of the Commission to determine whether the penalty should be upheld or not.

At three previous Ethics Commission meetings, in February, April and June of 2018, the commission waived fines on 12 appeals that were filed outside the 14-day window allowed by law.

However, during the Commission’s meeting on Sept. 5, they declined to hear cases filed outside the 14-day window, saying they didn’t have jurisdiction and declining to rule on whether that penalty would stand — despite having previously done so previously 12 times in 2018.

It the position of the Secretary of State’s Office that these specific matters were improperly set aside and should be reinstated by the Commission. And, in spite of a request from counsel for the Ethics Commission, the Secretary of State’s Office will continue to adhere to the requirements of state law which clearly establishes the Commission as the sole body with authority to overturn a penalty issued for a campaign or political action committee filing a financial disclosure form after the due date.

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Previously, Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton stated, “the commissioners reviewed those files and discussed them in detail before our meeting. So they reviewed every one of them as they have for every meeting.” If that is true, then why have they just now become aware of these appeal date issues? Each appeal delivered to the Alabama Ethics Commission is delivered as a file which includes each file that was not timely filed and a copy of the date the appeal was filed.

The Code of Alabama directs the Secretary of State’s Office to work in conjunction with the Alabama Ethics Commission to administer the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Therefore, without communication and cooperation between our agencies, as well as the commission’s consistent application of the laws and rules established by the Legislature, the FCPA does not work.

 

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Opinion | There are three types of judges

by Win Johnson Read Time: 9 min
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