By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Monday, the Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker III, heard arguments concerning deposing current and former members of the Attorney General’s staff, in the Speaker Mike Hubbard case. Judge Walker was notably direct and no nonsense during the hour long proceeding, making it known to Hubbard’s criminal lawyer J. Mark White that he would not allow the defense to again depose Attorney General Luther Strange. Judge Walker reminded Hubbard’s attorneys he would only grant depositions that fell under the narrow scope of Bank of Nova Scotia, et al. v. United States concerning prosecutorial misconduct. In that case, the US Supreme Court found the lower court could not dismiss on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct unless the conduct met very strict standards.
The court held, “Under the standard of prejudice that courts should apply, in assessing such claims, dismissal of the indictment is appropriate only ‘if it is established that the violation substantially influenced the grand jury’s decision to indict,’ or if there is ‘grave doubt’ that the decision to indict was free from the substantial influence of such violations….”
To that end, he also seemed to rule out a deposition from administrative staffer, Amber Tornow, as well as Chief Administrative officer Charla Doucet.
The entire argument for prosecutorial misconduct rests primarily on the personnel complaint filed by disgraced former Deputy Attorney General Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan.
Judge Walker said, he had read Reagan’s complaint and listened to his testimony, and did not see how Tornow and Doucet could have any knowledge of what happened in the Grand Jury.
Judge Walker again expressed his concerns over the defense deposing Acting Attorney General W. Van Davis, and Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart. During arguments, he expressed worry that allowing the two men to be deposed could lead to their disqualification in the case against Hubbard. A possibility that White seems to be counting on.
Judge Walker said he might consider such action if the State Bar would address Davis’ and Hart’s conduct. White was quick to say the Bar would not, because only Davis and Hart could make such a request. This gave the impression that White had already sought input from the Bar, where he once served as president.
Court observers say, the big takeaway was Judge Walker’s direct demeanor, and the fact that he would not let Hubbard, once again, depose Strange.