By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Associate Judge Liles C. Burke is one of four members on the court who has not ruled on former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard’s appeal on 12 counts of felony public corruption. The court has been in procession of the final appeals arguments for some seven months — much longer than an average case, even capital murder.
Burke’s situation is particularly noteworthy as he has been appointed to a federal judgeship by President Donald J. Trump. On Jan. 18 of this year, his nomination was reported out of the Senate Committee of the Judiciary by an 11 – 10 vote. A vote is currently pending before the full United States Senate.
His nomination narrowly passed the committee by one vote, leading to widespread speculation that Burke’s confirmation could be affected if the Senate becomes aware of his inaction on Hubbard’s appeal.
Alabama’s big-mules – business elites – are rumored to be pressing the Court of Appeals to strike down Hubbard’s convictions on soliciting a thing of value from a principal under title 36-25-24. According to section 24, a principal is a person or business which employs, hires or otherwise retains a lobbyist. A principal is not a lobbyist but is not allowed to give a thing of value. Under this provision, Hubbard was convicted on seven counts of soliciting a thing of value from the principal.
Charge 6: Soliciting a thing of value from APCI, an Auburn Network client. Walker sentenced Hubbard to two years (concurrent), be suspended eight years, a $30,000 fine, eight years probation.
Charge 10: Soliciting a thing of value from E2020, an Auburn Network client. 18 months confinement (concurrent), suspended four-and-a-half years, $30,000 fine, four years probation.
Charge 16: Receiving a thing of value from Will Brooke for Craftmaster Printers. 18 months confinement (concurrent), three-and-a-half years suspended, three to five years probation.
Charge 17: Receiving a thing of value from James Holbrook and Sterne Agee Group for Craftmaster Printers. Two years confinement (concurrent), eight years suspended, $20,000 fine, eight years probation.
Charge 18: Receiving a thing of value from Jimmy Rane, Great Southern Wood, for Craftmaster Printers. 18 months confinement (concurrent), three-and-a-half years suspended, three to five years probation.
Charge 19: Receiving a thing of value from Robert Burton, Hoar Construction, for Craftmaster Printers. 18 months (concurrent), three-and-a-half years suspended, three to five years probation.
Charge 23: Receiving a thing of value from Will Brooke, board member of the Business Council of Alabama, for Craftmaster Printers. 18 months confinement (concurrent), three-and-a-half years suspended, three to five years probation.
The principals from whom Hubbard solicited a thing of value could have also been prosecuted under the state’s ethics code, which forbids a principal from giving lawmakers a thing of value. However, acting Attorney General Van Davis and lead prosecutor Matt Hart did not indict these principals in exchange for their testimony against Hubbard.
Other judges on the court who, like Burke, seem to be stalling Hubbard’s appeal are Samuel Henry Welch, who is not seeking reelection, J. Michael Joiner, also not vying for reelection, and J. Elizabeth “Beth” Kellum, whose term in office ends in 2021.
Presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom is recused from the case.
Republicans are hoping to join President Trump is reshaping the country’s judiciary by placing conservative judges on federal benches.
Appointed by disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley in February of 2011, to fill the vacancy left by the election of Judge Kelli Wise to the Alabama Supreme Court, Burke went on to win the seat in his own right in 2012 without opposition.
Burke is qualified for the 2018 Republican primary to retain his current seat on the bench and recently loaned his campaign $150,000.