By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The City of Montgomery has hired suspended municipal court judge Lester Hayes – who was suspended earlier this month by the Alabama Supreme Court for jailing indigent defendants – as a contract consultant to work with the city’s legal department.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange confirmed to APR Wednesday afternoon that Hayes, who was given an 11-month suspension without pay by the ALSC on Jan. 5, is earning $6,500 per month working with the city’s legal department and “City Investigations with various matters, although not as an attorney.”
City Investigations is Montgomery’s version of an internal affairs division for the police department. It investigates complaints against police officers.
Hayes entered a plea deal with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission and admitted to seven violations of canons of judicial ethics. The primary violation was this: “On many occasions prior to 2014, Hayes incarcerated traffic offenders for failure to pay fines and costs without first, in compliance rules, making sufficient inquiry into the offenders’ financial, employment, and family standing to determine if the offenders had the ability to pay court-ordered financial assessments; determining reasons for offenders’ inability to pay or failure to pay; and/or considering alternatives to incarceration other than initially providing additional time to pay, resulting in the incarceration of indigent defendants, in some cases for several months.
Montgomery’s municipal courts have been plagued by lawsuits and legal battles since 2014 over its handling of indigent defendants and its use of a private probation company to collect fines.
The city has made sweeping changes to its court system, and Hayes, as Presiding Municipal Judge, has played a role in those changes.