Connect with us

Courts

Brooks voted against bipartisan criminal justice reform

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, voted “No” on S. 756, the First Step Act of 2018. Rep. Brooks says that the legislation releases violent criminals from prison early, making Americans less safe and more likely to be victims of violent crimes and drug overdoses.

“The Senate version of the First Step Act is a step backward,” Rep. Brooks said. “My experience in law enforcement taught me early on that strong enforcement of criminal statutes and tough penalties for criminal conduct help keep dangerous criminals off the street. To be clear, I joined 359 of my House colleagues in voting ‘Yes’ on the House version of the First Step Act, which did not include dramatic cuts in criminal penalties and early release provisions for violent criminals. It is only a matter of time before the verdict on this legislation is rendered: more crime, more crime victims, and more dead Americans. To cite but one major flaw, S. 756 as amended CUTS penalties for gun use during the commission of violent crimes. That is nuts! Further, this soft-on-crime bill even provides for early release of offenders who commit sex crimes, assault law enforcement officers, commit hate crimes, and assist with jailbreaks.”

“Many major, national law enforcement groups strongly oppose this bill including but not limited to the National Sheriffs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Major City Chiefs Association, and the National Association of Police Organizations,” Rep. Brooks continued. “In sum, this bill makes America a more dangerous place to live. According to FBI annual ‘Crime in America’ data, violent crime has fallen sharply over the last quarter decade in America.[3] Why? Because, as every law enforcement officer knows, the greater the penalty for violation of criminal laws, the greater the deterrence and the less the crime. Further, stiff criminal penalties keep violent repeat criminals off the streets and in jail. The Senate-amended First Step Act kicks violent, repeat offenders out of jail much quicker than under current law. Reform efforts should focus on reducing crime and apprehending suspects. This bill does none of that.”

“The bottom line is, at a time when fatal drug overdoses plague our nation, Congress has irresponsibly passed legislation that increases the likelihood that even more fatal drugs will be imported into America by illegal aliens and foreign drug cartels,” Brooks concluded. “Let the record show, I voted against this irresponsible, soft-on-crime, and dangerous legislation.”

The National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America wrote in a letter to Senate leadership: “The current draft of the First Step legislation remains troubling to the leaders of law enforcement. Sheriffs are elected solely to protect our communities, and Police Chiefs have taken an oath to protect the public. We feel unless the changes recommended below are enacted, this legislation creates a high-risk path for dangerous criminals with gun crime histories to early release from prison. This amounts to a social experiment with the safety of our communities and the lives of Sheriffs, deputies and police officers in the balance. Please know that we did not come to this conclusion lightly. We have been working diligently with the Administration to correct these inequities. It is our hope the Senate will listen to the nation’s elected Sheriffs and the Chiefs of Police of our nation’s most populous cities.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President Donald J. Trump (R) into law on Friday.

Advertisement

Courts

Limestone County Sheriff’s investigator files federal lawsuit against the sheriff, county commission

Josh Moon

Published

on

A Limestone County investigator has filed a federal discrimination claim against the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office, alleging she was sexually assaulted by a senior officer and that her complaint was never investigated by Sheriff Mike Blakely or the Limestone County Commission.

Instead, Leslie Ramsey says she was routinely reprimanded for fabricated reasons, passed over promotions and ultimately demoted to third shift when she refused to quit.

Ramsey’s lawsuit, which also names Blakely, the county commission and senior deputy Fred Sloss, details a number of embarrassing mishaps committed by other Limestone County deputies and investigators — men who were either promoted before her or never reprimanded as she was.

On Monday, Blakely posted on his Facebook page a defense of his chief deputy Fred Sloss, who Ramsey accuses of sexually assaulting her.

“I want everyone to know that I’m proud to have Fred Sloss as my chief deputy,” Blakely wrote in a lengthy post that included recapping Sloss’s background in the military. “Fred comes from a wonderful family. And like his family he has an outstanding reputation. Fred’s honesty, integrity and character is second to none. As we go through life there will be bumps in the road but God is good and he is the judge that counts.”

At a weekly press briefing on Wednesday, a sheriff’s department spokesman declined to answer any questions about the lawsuit.

Advertisement

In this particular case, a federal judge will be most important. And Ramsey’s complaint will be particularly troubling, considering her background as an investigator, her documentation of events and the fact that there is a witness with direct knowledge of both the alleged assault and Blakely’s knowledge of it.

In her complaint, Ramsey says she and her former boyfriend, Bobby Joe Ruf, attended a small gathering at Sloss’s home. At some point, Ramsey went outside alone to smoke a cigarette, and Sloss followed her outside.

While outside, the complaint states, Sloss repeatedly ran his hand over and between her legs, over her breasts and on her crotch. Ramsey said she attempted to push Sloss off of her, but he shoved her against a car and said he would make her a captain if she accepted his sexual advances.

Again, she says in the complaint, that she pushed Sloss off of her. At that point, she said Sloss asked her to “show me your tits.”

Ramsey said she told Ruf about the encounter when they left Sloss’s home that night.

Following the alleged assault, Ramsey said Sloss began treating her differently, including having her followed. A few days later, she said she was called into Blakely’s office with Sloss, and the sheriff told her she was “a bad apple” and threatened to demote her.

At that point, Ramsey said, she had not filed a complaint against Sloss. It was eventually reported to Blakely by Ramsey’s father several days later. And a few days after that, the complaint states, Blakely called Ruf into the sheriff’s office for a lengthy meeting about the alleged assault.

Ramsey eventually filed an official grievance over the alleged assault and over Blakely demoting her. An internal review found Blakely was within his rights.

Following that review, Ramsey was demoted from investigator to third-shift patrol.

She subsequently filed a complaint with the Limestone County Commission in June 2017 asking that she be reinstated as an investigator. A few weeks later, she was placed on leave, which turned into unpaid leave.

The Commission ultimately conducted a review of her grievance but never submitted an official finding. However, shortly after the review, Ramsey said she was awarded backpay and placed back on paid leave, where she remained until she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in Nov. 2017. Following that complaint, she was reinstated as an investigator in Feb. 2018.

In the meantime, Ramsey said she was passed over for promotion by male officers who committed a number of embarrassing mistakes, most of which went without reprimand. Those mistakes include losing a pistol that was used in a suicide, losing the cell phone of a murder victim, leaving the keys in a Special Response van that was then stolen and driven to another state, firing at the back of a fleeing suspect and having an investigator be reported for being drunk on the job.

 

Continue Reading

Courts

Rich Hobson appointed administrative director of Alabama Court System

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Alabama Republican Chief Justice Tom Parker has appointed Rich Hobson — a former congressional candidate who, like Parker, was a longtime ally of Roy Moore — as the new administrative director of the Alabama Court System.

Hobson has held the position twice before, when Moore was the chief justice. Hobson brings over three decades of experience in the court system to the job.

“There is no one in Alabama who knows and understands the Court System better than Rich Hobson,” Parker said. “He is an effective, efficient, and competent administrator who has hit the ground running. Rich is a true innovator who will help me towards my goal of improving and modernizing our courts, as well as increasing funding for the court system.”

“Like me, Rich is a strong constitutional conservative who shares my philosophy and will help me keep leftist influences out of our court system,” Parker added.

Hobson earned his doctorate in public administration at night from the University of Alabama while working in the Alabama Judicial College. During his career, Hobson authored the Trial Court Security Plan, as well as being responsible for the expansion of technology and information services throughout the State. Chief Justice Parker has asked Hobson to do a similar review so that citizens can have access to speedy justice.

Hobson managed Judge Roy Moore’s campaign for U.S. Senate. More recently, Hobson ran for the U.S. House of Representatives challenging incumbent Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in the Republican Primary in 2018.

Advertisement

Hobson was a U.S. Air Force reservist from 1985 to 1991. He was the administrative director of the Alabama Judicial System from 2001 to 2003, and again from 2013 to 2016. In that capacity, he oversaw a budget of over $180 million for the 2,000 employees and elected officials that make up the state’s court system.

Hobson has also served as the executive director of the Foundation for Moral Law, a Montgomery based nonprofit legal organization that fights for religious liberties across the nation.

He and his wife of 36 years, Susie, live in Montgomery. They attend Lakeview Baptist Church. They are the parents of two married daughters and have a grandson and granddaughter.

Tom Parker was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in a ceremony in Montgomery on Friday. Parker defeated appointed Chief Justice Lyn Stuart in the 2018 Republican Party primary and Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance Jr. in the November general election.

Continue Reading

Courts

Judge rules Memorial Preservation Act unconstitutional

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Jefferson County Judge Michael Graffeo ruled that the state of Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act is unconstitutional because it limits the free speech rights of cities.

The City of Birmingham wants to remove the historic Confederate veterans memorial in Linn Park but was blocked from doing so by the state legislature.

Former state Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) sponsored the Memorial Preservation Act in the Alabama House. Butler said in a statement: “In a very cowardly act Judge Graffeo entered a ruling 20 minutes before midnight which was 20 minutes before his retirement from office. His ruling is NOT binding other than to the original parties until appealed through the process. Only our State Supreme Court or US Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional. The fact he made his ruling 20 minutes before retirement speaks volumes. Agree or disagree but only the legislature can make law.”

Mike Williams, the President of the Legislative and Historical Protection Group, expressed confidence that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall would appeal the controversial ruling.

“The recent ruling by a Birmingham judge that the Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 is a violation of cities rights to free speech, is merely another attempt at activism,” Williams said in a statement. “We feel sure that the Attorney General of Alabama will appeal this ruling and that the law will prevail. The Legislative and Historical Protection Group will be actively in contact with the Attorney General Steve Marshall, and with the legislature to see that this activist on the court is not allowed to change laws from the bench.”

The Memorial Preservation Act was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa).

Advertisement

“Under the Constitution, judges are to be neutral umpires who apply the rule of law fairly. A judge’s personal beliefs, whether about politics, sociology, or history, have no bearing on how he is to apply the law,” Sen. Allen said in a statement. “Judge Graffeo has taken it upon himself to know and declare that it is “undisputed” that the majority of residents of Birmingham are “repulsed” by the Linn Park monument, and has thus ruled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act void. But judges are not kings, and judicial activism is no substitute for the democratic process.”

“The Memorial Preservation Act is meant to thoughtfully preserve the entire story of Alabama’s history for future generations,” Allen added. “The law was vigorously debated for months by the people of Alabama’s duly-elected representatives in the State Legislature, and passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. The Attorney General’s Office is confident that the Memorial Preservation Act is constitutional, and I look forward to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Graffeo’s ruling.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) however applauded the ruling.

“Striking a blow to the defenders of the “Lost Cause,” a judge has struck down an Alabama law that prevented the removal of Confederate symbols from public land,” the SPLC wrote in a statement. “Yesterday’s ruling is the first time a court has concluded that a state cannot force a city to maintain a confederate monument that its citizens find abhorrent. Cities have long been at the forefront of our nation’s civil rights movements, and this ruling protects and builds on that tradition. The Circuit Court ruled that Birmingham has a constitutionally protected right to decide for itself what messages it wants to convey to its citizens and to the world. Alabama’s majority-white legislature cannot force Birmingham, a majority-black city, to maintain a monument to white supremacy. This is a groundbreaking ruling that should give comfort to other municipalities throughout the South and the country that want to remove confederate monuments from public land. “

Continue Reading

Courts

Tom Parker sworn in as chief justice

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Friday, Tom Parker was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court at an investiture ceremony in Montgomery. The new associate justices, as well as the new members of both the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Civil Appeals, were also sworn in at the same event.

Associate Justice Mike Bolin is now the senior Associate Justice and presided over the beginning of the investiture ceremony.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, administered the oath of office to Justice Parker. McCutcheon said to Parker, “What an honor it is to administer the oath office to you today.”

“My wife, Dottie and I are deeply humbled that you are here today,” Chief Justice Parker said. It is my intent that this interbranch swearing in is symbolic of the mutually supportive relationship between the coequal branches of government that we will have going forward. “I have been a Justice on the Supreme Court for fourteen years. Prior to that I was deputy director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.”
“The Constitution of Alabama mandates that the Judicial System of Alabama be adequately funded.”

The Chief Justice said that the courts must have sufficient administrative personnel for the courts to function and for the security of the courts to be maintained.

Parker made several quotations from the Bible including: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7 KJV) and “I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,” (Proverbs 8:20 NISV).

Advertisement

Once sworn in as Chief Justice, Parker took over as the presiding officer at the investiture ceremony.

Associate Justice Tommy Elias Bryan was sworn in next. Associate Justice Kelli Wise administered the oath office to Bryan.

“Being on the court with him is an absolute privilege,” Justice Wise said. “He is a man that always follows the rules of law.”

“I grew up on a small family farm outside of Brantley,” Justice Tommy Bryan said. It is m y hope that my life experience as a child, as a son, as a student, as a husband, as a father as a lawyer, and a believer will prepare me temper justice with mercy.

Court of Civil Appeals Judge Scott Donaldson administered the oath of office to Associate Justice Sarah Hicks Stewart.

“Running for statewide office is not for the faint of heart,” Stewart said. Stewart emphasized that a judge’s is to interpret and not make the law. “I pledge to you to always be impartial.” “For thirteen years I have had the privilege to serve with outstanding trial judges in Mobile and throughout the state.”

James “Jay” Mitchell’s oath of office was administered by Associate Justice Mike Bolin.

“Justice was the most searched for word of 2018,” Mitchell said. “As Americans justice has always been at the center of our hearts and minds.” “Justice is a quintessential American idea.” “I am a servant of the law. It is my duty to determine what the law is, not what it should be.”

Greg Shaw, Michael F. Bolin, A. Kelli Wise, Will Sellers, and Brady E. “Brad” Mendheim Jr. are also returning as Associate Justices on the Alabama Supreme Court.

Pastor Chris Hodges of the Church of the Highlands said it is great to be here today and it is an honor to be part of a state that begins and ends an event such as this with prayer.

The oath of office to Jay Chris McCool was administered by federal District Judge Lyles Burke. McCool was sworn in to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

“The Lord has blessed this great nation and it is important not to forget that,” McCool said. “’Walk humbly with thy God’, or as my daddy used to put it, ‘Don’t get too big for your britches.’ In the judicial fields that means apply the law don’t make it.”

The oath of office was administered by Associate Justice Michael A. Bolin to James William “Bill” Cole. Bill Cole was sworn in as a judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

“I loved doing appellate court work as an attorney and that is part of why I am here today,” Judge Bill Cole said. “I am proud to serve as a Circuit Court Judge and I am proud of being elected to this place on the Court of Criminal Appeals; but there is nothing in my life than I am more proud of than my children.” “I love the law and I love studying the law and I pledge to everyone that I will follow the Constitution.”

The oath of office was administered to Richard J. Minor by federal Appeals Court Judge William H. “Bill” Pryor. Richard Minor will serve on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Our nation was founding on the principles of order, liberty, and justice,” Judge Richard Minor said. “I fully recognize that I now have the opportunity to advance the cause of justice from the bench.” “A judge must be an advocate for the rule of law itself.” “I stand ready and eager to

The oath of office was administered to Christy Olinger Edwards by Associate Justice Tommy Bryan. Edwards serves as a judge on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

“I never promised you I was perfect, but I promised you that I would always be fair and that I would follow the law as written,” Judge Edwards said.

The oath of office to Chad Arthur Hanson was administered by Court of Civil Appeals Presiding Judge William C. Thompson. Judge Hanson serves on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

“The robe that I will wear does not belong to me, but to the people of this state,” Judge Hanson said. “I will have to work hard to maintain their confidence.”

Alabama is a very Republican state and all of the members of the Alabama Supreme Court, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, and Court of Civil Appeals are Republicans.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, state Auditor Jim Zeigler and the other statewide constitutional officers will be sworn in to four year terms on Monday at 10:00 a.m. in front of the Alabama State Capital building.

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Trending

Brooks voted against bipartisan criminal justice reform

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
0