By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore is seeking to become Alabama’s Chief Justice again. Thursday, Alabama’s most famous living jurist agreed to an exclusive phone interview with ‘The Alabama Political Reporter.’
In addition to being a sitting jurist on the Alabama Supreme Court the elected Alabama Chief Justice is the head of the Alabama Court system in much the same way as the Governor is the head of the executive branch. The biggest issue facing the next Chief Justice is how to deal with receiving less funds from the Alabama Legislature to run the state’s court system. Chief Justice Moore said, “The legislature needs to understand that the courts are a branch of state government. They are not an agency.” Chief Justice Moore said, “The (anticipated) budget will be very difficult.” “The Circuit Clerks Offices are at half strength now.”
Former Chief Justice Moore said that he is the best person for the job of Chief Justice because he has the most experience. “He (current Alabama Chief Justice Chuck Malone) has only handled the budget for six months. I handled the budget of the court system for three years.” “I had to make $13 million in cuts in the first year.” Chief Justice Moore said that he also handled large budgets when he was in the military. As Chief Justice, Moore said that he drafted the bill to collect back fines and implemented the e-file system which has saved the court system time and money. “I not only reduced the budget I found ways to bring in more money for the courts.”
Next we asked Chief Justice Moore if the state’s finances would be better off today if former Governor Riley’s controversial Amendment One proposal had been passed by the voters in 2003. Chief Justice Moore said, “No it was the largest increase in taxes in the state’s history.” Moore said that some people will always argue that taxation is the solution to government but more revenues lead to more government and more waste. As an example, Moore pointed to the billion in stimulus dollars the state received from the Obama administration. The state got the one time money, spent it, and grew salaries with it contributing to the fiscal crisis the state is in now.
We asked Chief Justice Moore if the state could find cost savings through merging and combining some lower courts and even eliminating some circuit and district judges and even perhaps merging some rural county’s courthouses? Moore said that that would take legislative action and in some cases even amending the Alabama Constitution; but that that is not something he would advise. “Most of the courts I know of have a great caseload.” “We can eliminate some of the backload with mediation and arbitration.” Chief Justice Moore also said that the state could make better use of its retired judges to help with some of the backlog. Moore said that when he was a judge in Etowah County that he was able to decrease the backlogged cases through arbitration and mediation.
The next question we asked Chief Justice Moore was about gay marriage: The liberal special interests have changed the meaning of marriage. Even in pagan cultures like Rome and the Greeks, that were very tolerant of homosexuality (among other things) it was common law that marriage was a contract between a man and a woman for the production of and the raising of children (even for people who practiced homosexuality). The concept of a man marrying a man was unheard of until it was invented by modern day social liberals. How do we get back to the original intent of the law’s writers or is that even possible? Chief Justice Moore said “When you take the acknowledgement of God out of the law this is what we get.” Moore said that judicial activism by liberal judges have redefined the meaning of words. Chief Justice Moore said that the courts ought to go by the original intent of the law and go back to original meaning of the words as written at the time they were written.
We asked Moore: If federal law trumps state law as the federal government is telling us in HB56 and other areas such as your Ten Commandment case have the state court systems become constitutionally redundant? Chief Justice Moore said, “I don’t think the state courts are redundant no. There has been some intrusion by the federal courts.” Moore said that state courts need to stand up for their rights to uphold the Constitution and that this shows “ignorance of the Constitution” by some state judges.
We asked Chief Justice Moore about the overcrowded situation of our state prison system. Moore said that the prisons are the province of the Governor and the executive branch not the court system. That said, there are things that the courts can do to prevent jail overcrowding. Chief Justice Moore said, “Drug courts prevent a lot of prison overcrowding.” Moore said juvenile delinquent facilities and boot camp programs for people under 21 also help. Chief Justice Moore said that the court system can punish the people that deserve it and help the people that need help.
Our next question for the former Chief Justice was: How do we find ways to get rid of “non-violent” offenders without turning loose the very thieves and professional criminals that are making many of our Alabama neighborhoods so almost “hellish” to live in? Chief Justice Moore said “That is the job of the parole board.” The Chief Justice has an appointment on the board but the Board itself is under the Governor. “Sometimes dangerous people get turned loose. Nobody wants that to happen.”
We asked the Chief Justice if the state would still be able to function if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into full effect in 2014 forcing the state to pay for Obama’s massive Medicaid expansion. “I don’t think it is going to become law. I think the United States Supreme Court will overturn Obamacare.” Moore said, “The Foundation for Moral Law which I am president of has filed a brief” in the case before the U.S. Supreme case challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. “It is a ridiculous piece of legislation.” The Chief Justice said that the government taking over your healthcare is not authorized under the Constitution.
Next we asked: In a recent Montgomery area debate the incumbent, Chuck Malone said that he would resign before he defied a federal court order (presumably even one he felt as a jurist was illegal. If the elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court resigns rather than oppose the whim of one low level unelected federal judge does that show that the Constitution as written by our founders is really not being followed? Chief Justice Moore said he thought that answer was “curious” and that “It shows that a lot of judges lack the backbone to follow their oath of office. Your oath is to follow the Constitution not to obey the next judge. Resigning in the face of an unlawful order is the ultimate surrender of a judge’s Constitutional duty to follow the Constitution.
Chief Justice Moore said that in his own case “the Lawfulness of the order was not decided upon.” “You can not blame the federal government. I was removed by an unelected panel of state judges.” Chief Justice Moore said the Federal court was wrong and all the other justices on Alabama’s Supreme Court agreed that the federal court judge was wrong, but they thought they were bound to follow the federal court order anyway. Judge Moore said that his case was not about the Ten Commandments but was about the acknowledgement of God.
Our next question of Judge Moore was: In past election cycles, and perhaps in future election depending on the outcome of the federal Bingo corruption trial, gambling money was flowing to some judicial races. Without speaking to the ethical conduct of some of those past races, knowing what we know now, would taking money from Milton McGregor, Ronnie Gilley, and the gambling interests be an ethical lapse if it were likely that those issues would be decided by the court? Chief Justice Moore said, “In my opinion, the only reason they gave that money was to influence the outcome of the court.” “I haven’t taken any money and I think it is unethical to take money” from the gambling interests. “A few dollars donations is one thing, but when campaigns were receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars it is self-evident that they were trying to influence the outcome of the courts.” Moore said that he wrote the State Supreme Court opinion that ultimately led to McGregor and Gilley’s illegal gambling operations being shut down.
Chief Justice Moore said that Alabama voter should elect him because: “I have got the most experience. I have risked life in Vietnam defending the Constitution. I have lost a job defending the Constitution.” Moore said that if restoring the Constitution is important to voters then he is the best candidate to be Chief Justice.
Former Chief Justice Moore said that he had fully recovered from his horseback riding accident and that he just had some cracked ribs.
Our final question for the candidate was: You have run for governor twice in the past and have even explored running for President, if elected will you be satisfied as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court or might you possibly run for another office in the future? Chief Justice Moore said, “I have no design to run for another office I would be very happy to be Chief Justice.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore is running in the March 13th Alabama Republican Primary against both incumbent Chief Justice Chuck Malone and former Alabama Attorney General and current Mobile County presiding Judge Charlie Graddick. The winner of the Republican Primary will have to face Pelham Attorney and perennial candidate Harry Lyons (D) in the November 6th General Election. Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb (D) resigned from her position last year. Governor Robert Bentley then appointed his friend and Chief of Staff Chuck Malone to finish the remaining months of her term.
To learn more about Judge Roy Moore’s campaign
Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.
Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election.
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.”
While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews.
Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.
Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.
“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.”
Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans.
“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said.
Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal.
“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”
Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon.
“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.
“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.”
Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point.
“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said.
People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”
Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.
“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”
Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.
“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”
Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.
“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”
Inmate assault injures two St. Clair prison correctional officers
The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries.
Two correctional officers at St. Clair Correctional Facility were injured in an inmate-on-officer assault on Monday, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed to APR.
Among the two officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was a basic correctional officer (BCO), a position created in May 2019, who are not Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (APOST) certified and who cannot transport inmates, work perimeter fencing or in towers.
The other officer injured was a full correctional officer, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose told APR in a message Friday. The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released, according to Rose.
“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the actions taken by the inmate against ADOC staff are being thoroughly investigated,” Rose said. “As the investigation into this incident is ongoing, we cannot provide additional detail at this time. More information will be available upon the conclusion of our investigation.”
The ADOC created the new basic correctional officer position to bolster the state’s woefully understaffed prisons. The creation of the position was also at the suggestion of experts ordered by a federal court to study the department’s staffing problems, ADOC attorneys wrote to the court in a filing in 2019.
The ongoing lawsuit is over the state’s handling of mental health in prisons.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disability Advocacy Program filed the 2014 suit arguing the state was indifferent to the health of inmates dying by suicide in greater and greater numbers.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in June argued that ADOC was far behind on the court-ordered hiring new additional officers. It has been more than two years since U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to hire an additional 2,000 correctional officers by 2022.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in a previous opinion wrote that prison understaffing “has been a persistent, systemic problem that leaves many ADOC facilities incredibly dangerous and out of control.”
“Taken together, ADOC’s low correctional-staffing level, in the context of its severely overcrowded prisons, creates a substantial risk of serious harm to mentally ill prisoners, including continued pain and suffering, decompensation, self-injury, and suicide,” Thompson’s previous opinion continued.
The SPLC in court filings late last year expressed concern over the use of basic correctional officers in Alabama’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons. ADOC attorneys have argued to the court, however, that BCO’s are adequately trained to do their jobs and are needed for the department to hire the necessary number of officers per the court’s timeline.
In a court filing on Thursday, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked the court not to again delay site visits to Alabama prisons by two experts who are tasked by the court to determine which positions should be filled by correctional officers and which by BCO’s and which by another new position, called cubical correctional officers, who are to have no direct interaction with inmates.
Those visits were to begin in May, but both parties in the suit agree to wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat it posed to the experts, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease due to “age and other factors,” according to court records.
Both parties again agreed to postpone those visits in June for those same reasons, those records show. ADOC seeks a third extension but attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the experts can visit the prisons while keeping themselves, prison staff and inmates safe from harm of COVID-19 and that thousands of employees and contractors enter Alabama prisons daily.
The plaintiff’s attorneys argue in the court filing that the expert guidance is needed because ADOC wishes to use BCO’s and cubical correctional officers to comply with the court-ordered hiring of additional staff by Feb. 20, 2022.
“Ensuring adequate staffing is of upmost importance to address the constitutional violations underlying mental health care within ADOC,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court Thursday.
ADOC in May was employing 494 BCO’s, a 57 percent increase in the number of BCO’s employed in Oct. 2019, according to ADOC’s staffing numbers. The number of correctional officers working in Alabama prisons fell by two percent during that time, dropping from 1,319 to 1,287.
Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action
Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action.
On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters.
“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office.
However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times.
“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”
Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.
There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”
On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.
“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”
“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”
“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”
Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.
“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”
Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.