By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, has asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to stay his felony trail before Circuit Court Judge Jacob A.Walker, III.
Moore’s attorney, Bill Baxley, has filed a petition for Writ of Mandamus, pursuant to rule 21, of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Moore appears to be seeking a ruling on a court proceeding that has not yet occurred.
In the 89 page petition Baxley makes essentially the same argument that was rejected by Judge Walker, last month.
It has been suggested that Moore is shopping for a politically-friendly court to save him from a felony criminal trial.
A petition for Writ of Mandamus, also known as an “extraordinary writ,” is designed when a lower court decision would cause immediate harm to a defendant. It is used when a defendant, “seeks emergency and immediate appellate review of an order that is otherwise interlocutory and not appealable.” However, in Moore’s case, he would have sufficient time and a legal right to an appeal after the completion of his trial in Lee County.
It is believed by several attorneys close to the case that Baxley’s maneuvers are simply a test of white collar criminal attorney J. Mark White’s strategy to clear Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, if he is indicted. It is thought that Moore is just a pawn to help Hubbard find a winning strategy for himself.
Hubbard has been revealed as the center character under investigations by the Lee County Grand Jury and Moore is seen as collateral to the overall investigation.
“Moore is not the brightest bulb in the lamp, and it makes sense for them to use him to test Mark White’s legal strategy. If he is convicted, they can go back to the drawing board and try again. Not a great loss, if it helps Mike survive,” said an attorney with knowledge of White’s tactics.
The petition before the Court of Criminal Appeals is basically the same as the “Motion to Dismiss,” rejected by Judge Walker. The only real exception is the introduction of the Letter from Attorney General Luther Strange, authorizing Davis to oversee the investigation of Hubbard and others.
Baxley states that the Attorney General’s Office redacted the letter that was released with Judge Walker’s rejection of the Moore appeal. In fact it was not the AG but under Judge Walker’s direction that a portion of the letter was redacted.
In the petition before the court, Baxley again asserts that acting Attorney General W. Van Davis has no standing before the court, stating that Davis was acting before the Lee County Special Grand Jury without “any oath, without any election so to serve, and without any legally required appointment by the Governor of Alabama.”
Judge Walker rejected this argument saying, “The Court accepted an in camera document from the State which supports the position that Mr. Davis was appointed by the Attorney General to assume oversight of a legislative corruption investigation on or around January 31st, 2013, as well as any criminal matters arising from that investigation. Furthermore, the letter informs Mr. Davis that the chief of the special prosecution division will report directly to him. These actions appear to be supported by the authority of sections 12-17-184(10), 12-17-216 and 36-15-15 of the Code of Alabama. A redacted copy of the letter which was filed under seal is attached to this order as Exhibit A.”
According to State law the Attorney General has full legal authority to appoint a District Attorney to represent him in any case and in all jurisdictions throughout the State. Davis is a supernumerary District Attorney who may be called back to work on the request of the AG.
If Moore is looking for a politically sympathetic court, perhaps he thinks that the Republican dominated Court of Appeals is a place that may give him a favorable hearing. In the past, Hubbard has suggested that the Republican-controlled Alabama Supreme Court was politically inclined to rule favorably toward Republican positions. To believe that the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals would be political motivated should be an offense to those who seat on the bench.
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is comprised of Presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom, Judge Samuel Henry Welch, Judge J. Elizabeth Kellum, Judge Liles C. Burke and Judge J. Michael Joiner, all Republicans.
Judge Windom is the wife of former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, who has a successful lobbying firm with many issues before Moore and especially Hubbard.
In 2013, Judge Windom received $1,500 in campaign contributions for Speaker Hubbard’s Storm PAC. It has been stated by two individuals who wish to remain anonymous, that Judge Kellum received a campaign contribution from Storm PAC, but that she later returned the contribution. There is no record of the contribution or its return. Judge Kellum’s office said she was unavailable for comment as she was out to town for the week.
If Moore is thinking along the same lines as Hubbard when he said, “we have nine of nine judges,” on the Supreme Court, then perhaps greater attention needs to be paid to the actions of the members of the Court of Appeals. However, there is nothing that would indicate that the Judges would be swayed by anything other than the law.
It has been said that Hubbard may be indicted, but would never be convicted in an Alabama court.
Perhaps the Moore case is a test of the judicial system itself.
The Attorney General’s Office has filed a response saying the appeal is premature.
USDA is seeking rural energy grant applications
The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand on Wednesday invited applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems, and to make energy efficiency improvements, conduct energy audits and provide development assistance.
The funding is being provided through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, which was created under the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized under the 2018 Farm Bill. This notice seeks applications for Fiscal Year 2021 funding.
The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
REAP helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption by purchasing and installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements in their operations.
Eligible systems may derive energy from wind, solar, hydroelectric, ocean, hydrogen, geothermal or renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters).
USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to help improve life in rural America.
Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments.
Key strategies include achieving e-Connectivity for rural America, developing the rural economy, harnessing technological innovation, supporting a rural workforce and improving quality of life. For additional information, see the notice in the Federal Register.
Trump says that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin within two weeks
Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients.
President Donald Trump said Thursday that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin as early as next week.
“The whole world is suffering, and we are rounding the curve,” Trump said. “And the vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after.”
Trump made the announcement during a special Thanksgiving holiday message to U.S. troops overseas via teleconference. Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients. He also argued that his election opponent, President-elect Joe Biden, should not be given credit for the vaccines, which were developed during the Trump administration.
Trump referred to the vaccines, which were developed and tested in less than ten months as a “medical miracle.”
Regulators at the FDA will review Pfizer’s request for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine developed with BioNTech during a meeting on Dec. 10. The director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research says a decision is expected within weeks, possibly days after that key meeting.
The latest trial data for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine showed that it was 90 percent effective.
The CDC plans to vote next week on where the distribution of approved vaccines will begin and who will be allowed to get the first vaccines when they become available.
Dr. Celene Gounder, a member of Biden’s COVID Advisory Board, warned against rushing a vaccine to market.
“The single biggest risk of rushing an approval would be Americans’ distrust the vaccine,” Grounder said. “It’s essential people feel confident this is a safe and effective vaccine.”
Moderna said that its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
AstraZeneca says its preliminary results showed its vaccine ranged from 62 percent to 90 percent effective depending on the dosage amount given to participants. AstraZeneca is having to launch a second round of global trials to clear up the discrepancies.
Many Americans appear to have ignored CDC warnings to scale back Thanksgiving holiday plans. More than six million Americans flew over the holiday week, raising fears by public health officials that the surge in coronavirus cases we are experiencing now will be followed by a bigger surge in the next three weeks.
As of press time, there have been 62 million diagnosed cases of coronavirus cases in the world, including nearly 13.5 million in the United States, but many cases are mild and go undiagnosed.
A CDC researcher estimates that the real number of infections in the U.S. has topped 53 million since February. More than 1.4 million people have died around the world since the virus first appeared in China late last year. The death toll includes 271,029 Americans and 3,572 Alabamians.
The Iron Bowl is today
Alabama will have to play without head football coach Nick Saban who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Auburn University college football team will play the University of Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday with the game kicking off at 2:30 p.m. Attendance is strictly limited because of COVID-19 restrictions. The game will be televised on CBS stations.
Alabama will have to play without head football coach Nick Saban who has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will coach the Crimson Tide in Saban’s absence. He has a 46-35 record as a head coach at USC and Washington.
Auburn will be coached by Gus Malzahn, who has a 67-33 record as a head coach. He is the fifth winningest coach in Auburn history, trailing only Shug Jordan, Mike Donahue, Pat Dye and now-Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville.
Alabama has a 7-0 record and is currently the No. 1 team in the country in the college football rankings. Auburn is 5-2 but with a win could still win the SEC West with wins in its remaining two games, and if Alabama were to lose another game down the stretch. Alabama is just one game ahead of Texas A&M for first place in the SEC West, but the Tide has the tiebreaker by virtue of having defeated the Aggies in head-to-head competition.
In addition to team honors, there is a lot riding for individual players in today’s game. Alabama redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones has thrown for 2,426 yards and 18 touchdowns in Alabama’s first seven games. Jones’s strong performance has made him a Heisman contender and has earned him consideration as a possible first-round or high second-round draft pick by the NFL if he were to leave Alabama early.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has thrown for 1,627 yards and ten touchdowns over seven games.
Alabama and Auburn played their first football game against each other in Lakeview Park in Birmingham on Feb. 22, 1893. The game is called the Iron Bowl because historically the game was played on a neutral site: Birmingham’s historic Legion Field. Birmingham at the time was best known for the iron that was mined there and then made into steel and other metal products.
The game is now played as a home and home series, but the Iron Bowl name has stuck with the rivalry.
Alabama leads the series with 46 wins to Auburn’s 37. There has been one tie. Auburn defeated Alabama 48 to 45 in last year’s high scoring contest.
Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus
Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.
Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine.
Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said.
“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response.
The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval.
“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations, we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines.
In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain.
“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily.
While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.
“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.