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Ivey, many Alabama leaders praise choice of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court

Brandon Moseley

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On Monday, Governor Kay Ivey and other Alabama leaders released statements regarding President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

“I applaud President Trump for his nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,:” Gov. Ivey said. “Judge Kavanaugh clearly understands the proper role of a judge is to interpret the law as it is written and apply the law impartially. It is imperative that judges adhere to the Constitution and resist judicial activism.”

“As a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Kavanaugh will have the opportunity to set valuable precedents for lower court judges all over the country to follow,” Gov. Ivey said. “Another conservative justice on the U.S. Supreme Court who honors the original intent of the Constitution will have a positive impact on our country for decades. I look forward to following the U.S. Senate confirmation process.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan also released a statement supporting the nomination.

“The Alabama Republican Party congratulates Judge Brett Kavanaugh on his nomination to the United States Supreme Court by President Trump,” Chairman Lathan said. “A former legal counsel to President George W. Bush, clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, 1990 Yale Law School graduate, and a current judge for the D.C. Circuit U.S Court of Appeals, Brett Kavanaugh is a wise choice for Supreme Court Justice. While the Democrats will try anything in their power try and block Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, it is important to note his 2006 U.S. Senate nomination confirmation to the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Four Democrats crossed party lines to vote yes for his confirmation. Known for having a textualist and originalist approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution, Judge Kavanaugh will serve our nation well on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court. In light of these points of interest, and for the sake of the future of our nation, the Alabama Republican Party calls on all members of the U.S. Senate, including Senator Doug Jones, to vote ‘yes’ in confirming Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.”

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said in a statement, “President Trump has made an excellent choice in nominating Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He has impressive credentials, and I look forward to meeting with him to further consider his qualifications and commitment to upholding our Constitution as it is written. This nomination is one of the most important items that we will consider this year. I am hopeful that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation process will be fair and timely.”

U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said, “This is truly a historic moment in our nation, and I applaud President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is a conservative, experienced jurist who I believe will be a strict constitutionalist on the bench. I’m hopeful his nomination will give us an opportunity to shift the balance of the Court in favor of the pro-life movement for years to come. I’m confident that Judge Kavanaugh will serve the Court and the American people admirably, and I am eager to see the Senate quickly begin the confirmation process.”

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Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R) said, “President Trump has made another tremendous selection in nominating Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Our next Supreme Court Justice must be a steadfast supporter of the rule of law. There is no doubt that Judge Kavanaugh will be a faithful servant to our Constitution, as his demonstrated record of bold conservatism proves. I enthusiastically look forward to supporting his nomination and urge the United States Senate to confirm him.”

“As a fair legal mind, defender of the Constitution, and a judge on the D.C. Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh is prepared for a seat on the Supreme Court,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said. “I support President Trump’s nominee, and I hope the Senate will move expeditiously to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, a high quality and uniquely qualified nominee.”

President Cavanaugh added, “Senator Jones has a choice between radical liberal scare tactics and the rule of law; between Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s band of obstructionists and our conservative values. The people of Alabama will demand that Senator Jones vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”

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“This is exactly why I went door-to-door campaigning for President Trump,” Cavanaugh said. “He is keeping his promises to the American people. We now have an opportunity, for the first time in a generation, to have truly conservative Supreme Court decisions. I pray that Judge Kavanaugh will be the Justice that tips the balance of the Supreme Court to end the atrocity that is Roe v. Wade.”

Cavanaugh is running for Lieutenant Governor in the July 17 Republican primary.

Judge Kavanaugh has served for over a decade as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He currently serves as the Samuel Williston Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School. After graduating with honors from Yale College in 1987, Judge Kavanaugh completed Yale Law School in 1990, where he was a Notes Editor on the Yale Law Journal. He clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Judge Kozinski, and Third Circuit Judge Walter Stapleton. Kavanaugh worked for Special Prosecutor Ken Starr and he was the author of most of the Starr Report. He worked for five years in the White House for President George W. Bush (R) who appointed him to the federal bench in 2006.

It is the constitutional responsibility of the U.S. Senate to provide “advice and consent” to the President on all executive nominations, including judges to federal courts, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.

Alabama Senator Doug Jones (D) would not commit on whether he will vote for the confirmation of Kavanaugh or not. Jones said on CNN I’m going to make an independent decision.”

With Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) unlikely to be healthy enough to vote on the confirmation, a defection by any rogue Republican Senator (Lisa Collins of Maine or Rand Paul of Kentucky perhaps) a Democratic Senator could decide whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed or not. Three Democrats voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Kavanaugh is exceptionally well qualified to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court – and like Neil Gorsuch, he will be subjected to a smear campaign by those on the Left who are addicted to the imposition of social policy by judicial decree,” commented Douglas Johnson, senior policy advisor to National Right to Life.

Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee member and former state Representative Perry Hooper Jr. said, “President Trump’s Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court was Brilliant. My Dad was the first Republican Justice and Chief Justice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 1994. His Message was that a Judge Should Interpret the Law and not make the Law. That message was articulated tonight by Judge Kavanaugh. He is also a wonderful Family Man and a Dad that coaches Youth Sports. This is a great appointment!”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) is opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “Today is the 150th birthday of the 14th Amendment. There’s no better way to celebrate and protect the legacy of Brown v. Board, Loving v. Virginia, and Baker v. Carr than speaking out to #StopKavanaugh.”

The White House says that they hope that Kavanaugh will be confirmed by October 1.

Kavanaugh’s arguments have been quoted numerous times by the U.S. Supreme Court in Court opinions.

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Legislature

Medical marijuana bill “is not about getting high” — it’s “about getting well.”

Bill Britt

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More than half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form. Last week, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB165 on an 8 to 1 vote. If the measure becomes law, it will allow Alabama residents to obtain medical marijuana under rigorously imposed conditions.

Known as the Compassion Act, SB165 would authorize certain individuals to access medical marijuana only after a comprehensive evaluation process performed by a medical doctor who has received specific training.

“I care for people who are ill, and I try to reduce their suffering to the best of my ability, using the tools at my disposal that are the safest and most effective,” said Dr. Alan Shackleford, a Colorado physician who spoke before the Judiciary Committee. “Cannabis is one of those tools.”

Shackleford, a Harvard trained physician, has treated more than 25,000 patients at his medical practice over the last ten years, he says a large number of his patients have benefited from medical cannabis.

While there are detractors, the Compassion Act is not a hastily composed bill but is, in fact, the result of a year-long study by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission that voted to approve the legislation by an overwhelming majority.

“It’s a strong showing that two-thirds [of the commission] thought the legislation was reasonable and well-thought-out,” said Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, after the commission vote.

Melson, who chaired the commission, is a medical researcher and is the lead sponsor of SB165.

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Two-thirds of Americans say that the use of marijuana should be legal, according to a Pew Research Center survey. “The share of U.S. adults who oppose legalization has fallen from 52 percent in 2010 to 32 percent today” according to Pew. The study also shows that an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (91 percent) say marijuana should be legal either for medical and recreational use (59 percent) or that it should be licensed just for medical use (32 percent).

These numbers are also reflected in surveys conducted by Fox News, Gallup, Investor’s Business Daily and others.

“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” says Shackleford.

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Cristi Cain, the mother of a young boy with epilepsy that suffers hundreds of seizures a day, pleaded with lawmakers to make medical cannabis legal.

“This body has said so many times that your zip code should not affect your education,” Cain told the committee. “Well, I don’t believe that your area code should affect your doctor’s ability to prescribe you medication. If we were in another state, my son could be seizure-free.”

SB165 will strictly regulate a network of state-licensed marijuana growers, dispensaries, transporters, and processors.

There will be no smokable products permitted under the legislation and consumer possession of marijuana in its raw form would remain illegal.

“The people of Alabama deserve the same access to treatment as people in 33 other states,” said Shackelford.

 

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Education

Opinion | Instead of fixing a school for military kids, how about just fixing the schools for all kids?

Josh Moon

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The education of police officers’ kids isn’t worth any extra effort. 

Same for the kids of nurses and firefighters. Ditto for the kids of preachers and social workers. 

No, in the eyes of the Republican-led Alabama Legislature, the children of this state get what they get and lawmakers aren’t going to go out of their way to make sure any of them get a particularly good public education. 

Except, that is, for the kids of active duty military members stationed at bases in this state. 

They matter more. 

So much so that the Alabama Senate last week passed a bill that would create a special school to serve those kids — and only those kids. To provide those kids — and only those kids — with a quality education. 

An education better than the one available right now to the thousands of children who attend troubled school systems, such as the one in Montgomery. 

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The charter school bill pushed by Sen. Will Barfoot at the request of Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth carves out a narrow exception in the Alabama Charter School law, and it gives the right to start a charter school located at or near a military base — a school that will be populated almost exclusively (and in some cases, absolutely exclusively) by the kids of military members. 

The explanation for this bill from Barfoot was surprisingly straightforward. On Tuesday, Ainsworth’s office sent information packets around to House members to explain the necessity of the bill. 

In each case, the explanation was essentially this: the Maxwell Air Force Base folks don’t like the schools in Montgomery and it’s costing the state additional federal dollars because top-level personnel and programs don’t want to be in Montgomery. 

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And in what has to be the most Alabama response to a public education problem, the solution our lawmakers came up with was to suck millions of dollars out of the budget of the State Education Department budget and hundreds of thousands out of the budget of a struggling district and use it to build a special school that will provide a better level of education to a small group of kids simply because it might generate more federal tax dollars. 

And because having your name attached to a bill that supposedly aids the military looks good, so long as no one thinks about it too hard. 

But in the meantime, as this special school is being built, the hardworking, good people of Montgomery — some of them veterans and Reservists themselves — are left with a school district that is so recognizably bad that the Legislature is about to build a special school to accommodate these kids. 

Seriously, wrap your head around that. 

Look, this will come as a shock to many people, but I like Will Ainsworth. While we disagree on many, many things, I think he’s a genuine person who believes he’s helping people. 

The problem is that he is too often surrounded by conservatives who think every issue can be solved with a bumper sticker slogan and screaming “free market!” And who too often worry too much about the political optics and too little about the real life effects. 

And Montgomery Public Schools is as real life as it gets.

Right now, there are nearly 30,000 kids in that system. And they need some real, actual help — not the window dressing, money pit BS they’ve been handed so far through LEAD Academy and the other destined-for-doom charters. And they sure as hell don’t need a special charter for military kids to remind them that the school system they attend isn’t good enough for the out-of-towners. 

Stop with the facade and fix the school system. 

You people literally have the power and the money to do this. Given the rollbacks of tenure laws and the passage of charter school laws and the Accountability Act, there is nothing that can’t be done. 

Listen to your colleagues on the other side, who took tours recently of charter schools in other states — charters that work with underprivileged students and that have remarkable success rates. Hell, visit those charters yourself. Or, even better, visit some states that have high performing public schools in high poverty areas, and steal their ideas. 

But the one thing you cannot do is leave children behind. Whatever your solution, it cannot exclude some segment of the population. It cannot sacrifice this many to save that many. 

That sort of illogical thinking is what landed Montgomery — and many other areas of the state — in their current predicaments. Carving out narrow pathways for a handful of students has never, ever worked. 

Let’s stop trying it.

 

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Crime

ADOC investigating possible suicide at Easterling Correctional Facility

Eddie Burkhalter

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The death of a man serving in the Easterling Correctional Facility in Barbour County on Sunday is being investigated as a possible suicide. 

Marquell Underwood

Marquell Underwood, 22, was found in his cell unresponsive at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, according to a statement by the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

Underwood was being held in solitary confinement, known as “segregation” cells in Alabama prisons. Suicides in such isolated cells is central to an ongoing lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

“He was not on suicide watch. All attempts at life saving measures were unsuccessful,” The statement reads. “ADOC cannot release additional details of the incident at this time, pending an ongoing investigation and an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.” 

Underwood pleaded guilty of murder in the 2015 shooting death of Gregorie Somerville in Tuscaloosa and was sentenced to life in prison. 

Underwood’s death is at least the second preventable death inside state prisons this year. 

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Antonio Bell’s death on Jan. 9 at Holman prison is being investigated as a possible drug overdose. 

Last year at least 6 people serving in Alabama prisons died as a result of suicide, according to news accounts. During 2019 there were 13 homicides in state prisons, and as many as 7 overdose deaths, according to news accounts and ADOC statements. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2014 lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections over access to mental health care for incarcerated people is ongoing. 

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“The risk of suicide is so severe and imminent that the court must redress it immediately,” U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote in a May 4, 2019, ruling. 

Judge Thompson in a 2017 ordered required ADOC to check on incarcerated people being held in segregation cells every 30 minutes, to increase mental health staffing and numerous other remedies to reduce the number of preventable deaths. 

“The skyrocketing number of suicides within ADOC, the majority of which occurred in segregation, reflects the combined effect of the lack of screening, monitoring, and treatment in segregation units and the dangerous conditions in segregation cells,” Thompson wrote in his order. “Because prisoners often remain in segregation for weeks, months, or even years at a time, their decompensation may not become evident until it is too late—after an actual or attempted suicide.” 

The SPLC in a Jan. 2019 filing wrote to the court that “the situation has become worse, not better, since the Liability Opinion. There have been twelve completed suicides since December 30, 2017…Defendants fail to provide the most basic monitoring of people in segregation. Defendants fail to do anything to learn from past suicides to prevent additional suicides.”

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Crime

Early morning contraband raid at Easterling Correctional Facility

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Department of Corrections on Tuesday raided the Easterling Correctional Facility in Barbour County to collect contraband. 

More than 200 officials from ADOC, state Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, Department of Natural Resources, Game Warden Division, and Russel and Coffee County Sheriff’s departments conducted the early morning search, according to an ADOC press release. 

“Operation Restore Order is a critical initiative designed to create safer living and working conditions across Alabama’s correctional system,” ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a statement. “The presence of Illegal contraband including drugs, which undoubtedly is perpetuated by the presence of illegal cell phones, is a very real threat we must continue to address.” 

“Additionally, our aging and severely dilapidated facilities are constructed of increasingly breakable materials that ill-intentioned inmates can obtain and fashion into dangerous weapons. The presence of illegal contraband puts everyone at risk, and action – including Operation Restore Order raids – must regularly be taken to eliminate it,” Dunn’s statement reads. “We remain committed to doing everything in our power to root out the sources of contraband entry into our facilities, and will punish those who promote its presence to the full extent of the law.”

ADOC is developing plans to conduct more of these larger raids, in addition to smaller, unannounced searches, which prison officials hope will help the department “develop intelligence-based programs to identify contraband trends and provide necessary intelligence to identify corruption indicators.” 

“The public should contact ADOC’s Law Enforcement Service Division at 1-866-293-7799 with information that may lead to the arrest of anyone attempting to introduce illegal contraband into state prisons. The public may also report suspicious activity by going to the ADOC Website at http://www.doc.alabama.gov/investigationrequest.”

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