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Court grants Tom Parker injunction in his case vs the JIC

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Friday, federal district judge Keith Watkins court in Alabama issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker.

This injunction grants all Alabama judges the freedom to publicly comment on cases pending outside of Alabama, and judges may also comment on a pending case in Alabama if their comments cannot reasonably be considered to influence the outcome.

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Previous to this injunction, all Alabama judges were prevented from commenting publicly on any cases anywhere in the United States by Alabama state Judicial Canon 3A(6).

The court ruled there is “a likelihood that Canon 3A(6) is overbroad when it touches speech about issues, particularly when such speech concerns pending or impending proceedings outside the Alabama system, or where the comments could have no impact on the outcome or fairness of a proceeding.”

The Court found that Justice Parker has shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits that Canon 3A(6) is likely unconstitutional because it is too broad. It stated, “a judicial candidate’s view of issues, especially local and domestic ones, is of immense interest to an electorate choosing which judicial candidate to support. Yet when Alabama prohibits judicial candidates from speaking about them simply because they happen to arise in the context of a proceeding somewhere, the state has shirked its responsibility of narrowly tailoring its speech restrictions.”

Judicial standards similar to Alabama’s canon were abandoned years ago by the American Bar Association. Alabama’s canon of judicial ethics was written back in 1972.

Parker’s defense said that this speech restriction is so broad it would have prohibited a sitting judge who teaches or speaks to law students in a law school classroom from commenting on any pending case anywhere in the country.

“Justice Tom Parker was investigated by the Judicial Inquiry Commission for comments he gave on a radio talk show on October 6, 2015, as part of his reelection campaign for the Alabama Supreme Court. The topic of discussion was the relationship between federal and state courts, especially as it pertained to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015). That decision, which struck down as unconstitutional state laws that excluded homosexual relationships from recognition of marriage, was issued on June 26, 2015.

During the same period the U.S. Supreme Court was grappling with questions of marriage, so, too, was the Alabama Supreme Court, on which Justice Parker served,” Judge Watkins wrote.

Because the Southern Poverty Law Center did not like Justice Parker’s opinion, they lodged an ethics complaint against Justice Parker with the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) that then launched a year and a half long investigation of the sitting Alabama Supreme Court Justice.

Parker filed suit against the JIC, as a preemptive measure.  The district court first dismissed Justice Parker’s lawsuit because the JIC’s investigation was still pending and the federal court abstained from the matter. However, while the appeal of that case was pending, the JIC dismissed the SPLC’s complaint. The Court of Appeals unanimously agreed to Justice Parker’s request for the lower court to rule on the lawsuit against the canon because of its overly broad and unconstitutional restrictions on judicial speech.

Parker is represented by Liberty Counsel.

“This is an important victory for free speech for not just Justice Tom Parker but for all judges,” Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said. “This is also a victory for the public because they have a right hear what judges want to say about the law, especially during elections. It was unreasonable to gag every judge in Alabama from talking about current issues. Every judge who teaches law school students would be silenced by this broad restriction on speech. Now, they are free to speak and teach. The muzzle has been removed.”

Parker’s suit against the JIC now goes to trial.  Judge Watkins has enjoined the JIC from enforcing canon 3A of the Alabama code of judicial ethics restricting the speech of Alabama judges.

“A judge should abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court, and should require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his direction and control. This subsection does not prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court.” Ala. Canon of Judicial Ethics 3A(6).

Parker is currently an associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and is running for the position of chief justice against appointed Chief Justice Lyn Stuart in the Republican Primary.  Former Judge Bob Vance Jr. is running for chief justice as a Democrat.

The major party primary is on June 5, 2018.

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Elections

Bogus endorsement causes controversy in Dem governor’s race

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones greets supporters at a victory rally on Dec. 12, 2017. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

Doug Jones is not making an endorsement in the Democratic Primary race for Alabama governor.

After an odd mixup on Wednesday night in Auburn at a Sue Bell Cobb event, Jones’ office issued a release on Thursday making it clear that Alabama’s newest U.S. senator had no favorite between Cobb and Walt Maddox.

The Senator has not endorsed, and will not endorse, any candidates in any of the Alabama races during this year’s primary election,” the statement from Jones’ office read. “No one on his staff, nor volunteers from his campaign has or would make an endorsement on behalf of the Senator.”

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On Wednesday evening in Auburn, during the Cobb event, a person unaffiliated with the Jones camp — who turned out to be a teenager — told attendees that Jones planned to back Cobb in the race. Numerous people present said the comments weren’t challenged by Cobb or anyone on her staff.

APR contacted Cobb’s office on Thursday to ask what occurred, but after taking the question, no one from the campaign followed up with an answer.

The way the comment was handled by Cobb and her staff drew the ire of the Maddox camp, a source said, because both campaigns were told several weeks ago that Jones would not make an endorsement in the race.

“That it wasn’t immediately corrected on site was a problem for (the Maddox campaign),” the source said.

 

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State Rep. Chris England endorses Walt Maddox

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Christopher John England, D-Tuscaloosa, endorsed Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox for governor of Alabama.

England said that Maddox has a vision and a plan for Alabama

“I emphatically endorse Walt Maddox to be our next governor because I’m tired of baseless politics,” England said in a statement. “Walt offers solutions not empty rhetoric. We need a leader in Montgomery who has a vision and a plan for the needs of Alabama, and Walt is that leader.”

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England has been critical of Gov. Kay Ivey’s new ad campaign promoting her staunch defense of Alabama’s Confederate monuments.

“The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, also called the Confederate Memorial law, is back in the conversation again thanks to a campaign ad by Governor Ivey.” England said on Facebook. “To put it bluntly, the law is unenforceable. The ad features Governor Ivey touting signing a bill to protect monuments that actually doesn’t really do anything to protect those monuments. Let me repeat that. The law she is talking about in the ad doesn’t protect the monuments to which she is referring. It’s a sham. It’s worthless. It’s a con. It is pandering at its worst.”

“So, with all of the real problems we face in Alabama, why are we even talking about preserving history and protecting monuments?” England added. “That isn’t a problem in Alabama. Do you want me to tell you what is a problem in Alabama? We have the worst opioid problem in the country. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our mental health system is in crisis. We have an infant mortality rate equal to the rate of some third world countries. Our prison system is in crisis to the point that we lost a lawsuit because of the conditions within the system. Rural hospitals are closing. The list goes on and on.”

England is an attorney and was first elected to the Legislature in 2006.

Maddox faces a crowded field in the Democrat Party Primary. Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, gay rights activist Chris Countryman, former State Rep. James C. Fields Jr., Anthony White, and Doug “New Blue” Smith are running in the Democratic Primary on June 5.

The eventual winner of the Democratic primary will then face the Republican nominee in the November 5 general election.

Ivey was elevated to the office a year ago when Gov. Robert Bentley resigned after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations. Bentley was also from Tuscaloosa.

The only Democrat to win the Alabama governor’s office since George C. Wallace’s was Don Siegelman in 1998.

Siegelman’s run for re-election in 2002 was the last competitive race. Democrats, however, are extremely enthusiastic this year about their chances because of Doug Jones’ defeat of Roy Moore for Senate on December 12 what they hope is a backlash against Donald Trump nationally as well as a feeling that Montgomery has only become more corrupt under Republican control.

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Elections

Rusty Jessup campaigns for House District 30

Brandon Moseley

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File Photo

Rusty Jessup spoke to the St. Clair County Republican Party on Thursday about his candidacy for Alabama House of Representatives House District 30.

Jessup said that about half of St. Clair County is in District 30, but, based on population, 55 percent of the people the district live in Etowah County.

“When I first beame Mayor of Riverside there were a lot of things I did not like,” Jessup said. “I did not like the police department so I ran for office.”

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“Thirty five percent of the House are not running again,” Jessup said. “It very easily could be a 50 percent turn over in this election.”

St. Clair County will have, “A good solid delegation down there if we can pull this off” Jessup said of his bid.

“I am a team player,” Jessup said. “I am one of these old fashioned guys that believe to be successful you have to lift up others around you.”

Jessup is running for the seat currently held by Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City. Butler is running for State Senate in District 12 where incumbent Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, is not running again.

Mayor Rusty describes himself on his Facebook page as “a common sense conservative.” He is in his fourth term as the mayor of Riverside, “And seeks to bring a voice of reason and cooperation to the Alabama State Legislature.”

He graduated from Shades Valley High School and has a Bachelors of Science degree from Jacksonville State University.

Jessup is the Chairman of the St.Clair County Mayors Association, an Executive Committee member of Alabama League of Municipalities, and a Board Member of the St. Clair County Healthcare Authority.

Jessup faces stiff primary competition from former Ashville Mayor Robert McKay, architect B. Craig Lipscomb, and Ryan Preston.

The Republican Party Primary will be on June 5.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jared Vaughn on November 5 in the general election.

The next meeting of the St. Clair County Republican Party will be at 11:45 a.m. at the City Market Grill in Pell City on May 24.

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Court grants Tom Parker injunction in his case vs the JIC

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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