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Judge Rhea finds he has no jurisdiction to rule on Lipscomb’s eligibility

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Etowah County Circuit Judge William Rhea (D) ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction to rule on House District 30 candidate, Brandon Craig Lipscomb’s (R) qualifications to be on the November 6 general election ballot. The suit was brought by his opponent, Jared Vaughn (D).

Vaughn claimed that Lipscomb’s missing of an April 30 deadline to file his 2017 Statement of Economic Interests form (SEI) is grounds for disqualification.

Lipscomb filed a SEI form when he qualified for office on November 30, but that was for 2016. He was certified as a candidate by the Alabama Ethics Commission;

After Monday’s hearing Lipscomb released a statement critical of Vaughn’s suit.

“It is beyond reprehensible that Jared Vaughn, an attorney and my opponent, tried to abuse our court system in an attempt to bypass our election process,” Lipscomb wrote. “Judge Rhea dismissed this frivolous lawsuit and I am hopeful that Mr. Vaughn will stop wasting our taxpayer dollars and abusing our judicial system. I am honored to be the Republican nominee for the Alabama House of Representatives and I look forward to the November election when voters will decide the outcome of this election.”

Vaughn told the Alabama Political Reporter that the judge did not rule that his case was “frivolous” and that he has no personal animosity against Lipscomb, but that he believes that everyone should be held to the same standard of ethics whether there is an R behind their name or not.

“No finding was made by the court that there was any abuse of our court system or that there was any attempt to bypass our election process,” Vaughn said. “Craig Lipscomb, an architect and my opponent, keeps regarding to any legal action taken against his legitimacy as a candidate as frivolous. Judge Rhea did not rule on the merits of the facts of the case, but merely ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction in the matter before him. The fact remains that no court has yet determined if Mr. Lipscomb’s Statement of Economic Interest was properly and timely filed by April 30th as is required by 36-25-15(c) of the Alabama Code. Craig Lipscomb doesn’t argue when it comes to the facts surrounding his SEI filing.”

“Mr. Lipscomb would have you believe that candidates aren’t required to have current filings for the prior year filed by April 30th of each year,” Vaughn continued. “Mr. Lipscomb knows that he is deficient regarding his SEI filing and he knows that he deprived the people of District 30 a transparent view of his potential conflicts for 93 days between April 30th and August 1st. He knows that such is in conflict with 36.25-15(c). And He knows that these legal actions against him aren’t frivolous. I am honored to be the Democratic nominee for the Alabama House of Representatives and I look forward to the November election when voters will decide the outcome of this election.”

“I cannot wait to honor the office by serving with integrity and commitment, and I cannot wait to deliver the results that serving with such qualities will provide to the constituents of House District 30,” Vaughn added. “It’s long past time that we demand that our leaders be held to equal standards of accountability. That means one set of rules for everyone. That means candidates too Mr. Lipscomb.”

In court, Vaughn’s attorney, Chris Christie, argued that Vaughn is asking for a ruling from the court that Lipscomb’s failure to file his State of Economic Interests until August 1, well after the April 30 deadline means that Lipscomb can not be a qualified candidate and that the Judge should rule that and forward that ruling to the Secretary of State’s office.

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Lipscomb’s attorney, Al Agricola, argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over this matter because under the Alabama Constitution the legislative branch sets their own requirements for office and it is not the constitutional place for the courts to interfere.

Last month, Lipscomb’s Republican Primary runoff opponent, former Ashville Mayor Robert McKay (R) had sued arguing that Judge Rhea should disqualify Lipscomb from the ballot over this same issue.

Agricola, who represented Lipscomb in both cases, argued that McKay missed the 24 hour deadline to appeal the result of a primary election and that Vaughn is to early. Agricola said that Vaughn has 20 days after the general election on November 6 to challenge the results of that election and that appeal would be heard by the Speaker of the Alabama House and not by the courts. Agricola also argued that the April 30 deadline only applies to officeholders, not to candidates.

Secretary of State’s office attorney Brent Beal argued that once a candidate is qualified and has been certified by the Ethics Commission that it is not reasonable to then disqualify them due to the April 30 deadline. In presidential election years, the primary is in March which is before the April 30 deadline. Beal said that the Ethics Commission can levy fines against candidates who miss the deadline.

Christie said that there up to ten Republican candidates including a Public Service Commission (PSC) candidate (Jeremy Oden) that this also applies to.

Judge Rhea did not address the merits, or the lack of, of Vaughn’s complaint, but merely ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction.

Vaughn and his counsel are still deciding whether or not to appeal the ruling to the Court of Civil Appeals.

House District 30 includes parts of Etowah and Calhoun counties.

The general election will be November 6.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Faith in Action Alabama calls on law enforcement to protect voters from harassment

“In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.”

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Nine clergy members from across the state have signed an open letter calling on local and state law enforcement to protect voters against intimidation and harassment at the polls.

The clergy are leaders in Faith in Action Alabama, a regional association of Christian congregations affiliated with the national group Faith in Action, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country. It seeks to address a range of issues like gun violence, health care, immigration and voting rights.

This is their letter:

Across our country and here in Alabama, it is being seen that citizens are turning out in record numbers to vote early and by absentee ballots. It is very heartening to see so many of our fellow citizens energized and committed to exercising that most fundamental and critical duty of citizenship, the use of their franchise.  As servant leaders of an ecumenical association of nearly 2,000 faith communities across our state we are certainly encouraging our congregants to fulfill this duty either through early, absentee or day of election voting. For us this is not only part of our civic duty, but as people of faith obligation as well.

Unfortunately, it it also largely known that there are forces in our country that are actively, publicly and fervently at work to suppress the votes of some of our fellow citizens. We write to implore you to use the full authority of your office and department to ensure that those who seek to vote, especially on November 3, 2020 are not assailed or intimidated by illegal harassment in their polling places. We believe these threats are pervasive enough and real enough that proactive measures should be in place as citizens come to vote throughout that day. The strong, visible presence of uniformed legitimate law officers will hopefully prevent any attempts at confrontation or intimidation and violence.

The history of our state is marked by the efforts of tens of thousands of Alabamians who marched, protested, brought legal actions, shed their blood and some even gave their lives that every citizen of this state might have full and free access to the ballot box. In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.

Please be assured of our prayers for you and the men and women of your department who have the awesome responsibility of providing public safety and equal protection under the law for every Alabamian. If we, the members of Faith in Action Alabama’s Clergy Leadership Team, can be of assistance please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Sincerely,

Rev. Jeremiah Chester, St. Mark Baptist Church, Huntsville

Rev. David Frazier, Sr., Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, Mobile, and Moderator, Mobile Baptist Sunlight Association

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Bishop Russell Kendrick, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Bishop Seth O. Lartey, Alabama-Florida Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

President Melvin Owens, Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention

Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Ninth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., Living Stones Temple, Fultondale

Father Manuel Williams, C.R., Resurrection Catholic Missions of the South, Montgomery

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Some conservatives oppose Amendment 2

An Alabama Law Institute Committee composed of legislators, judges and lawyers met in secret away from the press and public over 19 months conducting a comprehensive review of Article VI.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A number of prominent conservative voices in the state of Alabama are urging voters to vote no on Amendment 2 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

Amendments 2 and 3 are a rewrite of the state constitutional reforms championed by former Chief Justice Howell Heflin in 1973.

An Alabama Law Institute Committee composed of legislators, judges and lawyers met in secret away from the press and public over 19 months, conducting a comprehensive review of Article VI since Heflin’s revisions were approved in Amendment No. 328 in 1973.

The resulting Amendment 2 is one of the most controversial constitutional amendments brought forward by the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature since Gov. Bob Riley’s controversial Amendment 1 in 2003, which would have raised taxes by over a $1 billion. That was voted down by the voters, and conservatives are asking voters to similarly reject Amendment 2.

Alabama Eagle Forum is urging citizen to vote no on Amendment 2.

Amendment 2 is a complete rewrite of what is an already complicated portion of the Alabama Constitution, and it does many things. One of these is that it strips the power of the Legislature to impeach a judge.

Under current law, the Alabama House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment against a sitting judge. If the House impeaches, the Senate sits in trial and decides whether the judge has acted improperly and is guilty of what the House has charged them with.

This closely parallels the U.S. Constitution. Amendment 2 would change all of that and instead the only power in state government who can discipline judges would be the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which brings charges against judges, and the Court of the Judiciary, which determines guilt and punishments.

The Alabama Legislature has not impeached anyone in over a hundred years. Amendment 2 would take the power of impeaching members of the judiciary away from future legislatures.

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore opposes Amendment 2 and explained that stripping the Legislature of the power to discipline a judge for cause takes away a powerful check on the judiciary and violates the principle of checks and balances between the three branches of government. Moore also objected to giving more power to the unelected Judicial Inquiry Commission.

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Moore, like Eagle Forum, also strongly objected to taking the chief justice’s power to appoint his own administrative director of the Alabama Court System and instead gives it to the full Supreme Court.

The chief justice is the elected head of the Alabama Court System, but under Amendment 2, he or she would not be able to hire their own administrator but would be forced to work with an administrator chosen by the Supreme Court as a whole.

The current administrative director of the Alabama Court System is Rich Hobson, who was appointed by Chief Justice Tom Parker. Hobson is in his third tenure as administrative director of the Alabama Court System. The previous two times he was appointed by Moore.

When Moore was effectively removed by the Court of the Judiciary his replacement as chief justice fired Hobson.

If Amendment 2 passes, the associate justices could overrule Chief Justice Tom Parker, fire Hobson and replace him with someone of their choosing.

This situation would also apply to Democrats. The last Democrat elected to the role of chief justice was Sue Bell Cobb in 2006. Cobb was able to appoint her own administrative director of the Alabama Court System, but under Amendment 2, the administrative director of the Alabama Court System would have been someone suitable to the Republican associate justices, who could simply outvote the chief justice.

Moore called this move a “power grab” by the associate justices.

“Amendment 2 is really an anti-democratic and anti-Tom Parker amendment,” Foundation for Moral Law staff attorney Matt Clark said. “It is anti-democratic because it removes the people’s main check on the judicial branch, which is impeachment. Instead, it provides that only the Judicial Inquiry Commission, over which the people have no control, may remove a judge from office. It is also designed to strip Chief Justice Parker of his power as the administrative head of the judicial branch to choose his right-hand man for carrying out the judicial branch’s administrative role.”

Eagle Forum also had a number of other objections to the extremely long and complicated Amendment 2, including that it takes away the power of the lieutenant governor to make JIC appointments and gives them to the governor.

The Alabama Constables Association has also come out strongly against Amendment 2, arguing that it would write the funding mechanism for their position completely out of the state constitution.

“Constables are not taxpayer-funded, they are largely voluntary Peace Officers,” said Jefferson County Constable Jonathan Barbee. “The fees they collect from their duties as Officers of the Courts allow them to support the expenses of the office such as vehicles, uniforms, and equipment. Amendment 2 also deletes the language protecting how Constables are paid by private court fees, leaving it in question for the appointed Administrator to decide.”

In Alabama, constables are elected peace officers and act in many of the same ways as do sheriff’s deputies. They’re able to make arrests, serve court papers and provide security for parades, funerals and other functions.

Amendment 2 was sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

Voters need to remember to vote on the constitutional amendments. Amendment 2 is extremely long and complicated so voters should probably read it and know how they are going to vote before going to the polls.

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FarmPAC endorses congressional candidate Barry Moore

“I’m pleased that FarmPAC has seen fit to endorse me in this election,” Moore said.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Barry Moore (VIA MOORE CAMPAIGN)

Republican congressional candidate Barry Moore thanked the Alabama Farmers Federation political action committee, FarmPAC, for endorsing Moore in next week’s 2nd Congressional District general election race.

“I’ve always been proud of the fact that I grew up on a farm,” Moore said. “Farm life teaches you to respect God’s good earth and everything in it. It taught me the value of hard work, and that not everything, like the weather, will always go the way you want it to no matter what you do or how hard you work. That’s something I think a lot of people these days could do with learning.”

“I’m pleased that FarmPAC has seen fit to endorse me in this election,” Moore said. “I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of our farmers and all the businesses that support and rely on them, just like I’ve always been. District 2 is an agricultural district first and foremost, and we can’t forget that.”

“I look forward to working in the next Congress to support Alabama’s farmers and agribusiness by making it easier for them to access new markets and new technologies,” Moore added. “We also need to make sure they aren’t weighed down by excessive regulations and have the backing they need from Washington to compete globally. I have every confidence that, given a chance, Alabama’s farmers can compete with anyone, anywhere. My job in Congress will be to make sure they have that chance.”

A full list of FarmPAC’s endorsements is available here. FarmPAC previously endorsed Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman in the Republican primary, but he was bested by Moore in a Republican primary runoff.

Moore faces Democratic nominee Phyllis Harvey-Hall for the open seat.

Moore is a veteran, small businessman, husband, and father of four from Enterprise. Moore and his wife, Heather, own a waste management business in Enterprise. Moore was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, is retiring from Congress after five terms.

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Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.

“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization  was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.

Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.

“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.

Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.

Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.

Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.

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