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Opinion | Do you smell what the Alabama Supreme Court is cooking up?

Mike Hubbard looks toward his family after receiving sentencing on Friday, July 8, 2016, in Opelika, Alabama. (VIA TODD VAN EMST/POOL PHOTO)

You can smell it coming, can’t you?

I’m talking about the stink from whatever the Alabama Supreme Court is about to do with Mike Hubbard and his rightful conviction for 11 felonies.

You can smell it for miles.

Mainly because the ALSC hasn’t been interested in following the law for the last two decades. Instead, it typically lines up behind ALGOP wishes and then invents law to explain itself. Law professors and some of the most prominent and respected attorneys around the state will privately tell you that the Alabama high court has become a joke that they can no longer count on to follow precedent and legal reason.

This is the result of electing judges.

The ALSC, in its current state of embarrassment, is what happens when Supreme Court justices are beholden to the whims and wishes of voters — and to the almighty dollars supplied by folks who usually have business before the court — instead of to the law.

You wind up with a court that routinely overturns jury verdicts and jury awards in wrongful death and injury cases. You get a court that makes up gambling law that’s so absurd that courts in other states won’t even acknowledge it. You get a court that issues opinions that often contradict themselves within the same page.

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And so, you just know that some backroom, under-the-table, low-down, dirty, stinking, against-all-reason load of BS is about to hit the table in this Hubbard ordeal.

Because this thing is as swampy as swampy gets.

It’s the Big Mules and old money and the politically connected pushing for a favorable ruling. And the only thing standing in their way are a bunch of justices who are so thoroughly compromised that they belong in John Grisham novel.

So you understand that I’m not just tossing around accusations casually, let’s take a moment to remember a few details about the Hubbard case.

First and foremost, the one thing that should never be forgotten is that the trial jury from Lee County was incredibly thorough in its deliberations and its ruling. It proved without a doubt that it both understood the Alabama ethics laws in question and understood how to apply them appropriately to the charges levied.

Among those charges — all of which centered around the basic idea that Hubbard was using his public office for personal gain — were allegations that Hubbard solicited investments from wealthy businessmen in Alabama to be sent to his company, Craftmasters Printers. Those businessmen, including Jimmy Rane, the owner of Great Southern Wood, and Robert Burton, president of Hoar Construction.

Hubbard also solicited financial advice — a thing of value under Alabama law — from Will Brooke, a VP at Harbert Management.

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All three of those men have legal conflicts under Alabama law, because all of them are considered “principals” at companies that hire lobbyists and do business with the Alabama Legislature. All of their businesses rely heavily on government contracts and other contracts with public entities.

So, the Lee County jury convicted Hubbard of breaking the law. And the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those 12 convictions.

And now, here we are, nearly three years later, with the Alabama Supreme Court in the fray.

Just the timing of it stinks — a few months after an election, when political consequences among voters will be lessened.  

But when you actually start digging into that recent election — the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Supreme Court justices’ races — that’s when the smell becomes overwhelming.

Justices Sarah Stewart, Brad Mendheim, Will Sellers, Jay Mitchell and chief justice Tom Parker all took in thousands of dollars from political action committees that were funded, at least in part, by … wait for it … Great Southern Wood, Hoar Construction and the owners of Harbert Management.

And it gets worse.

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Mitchell, who has recused from the case, was employed at one point on the team of lawyers who helped deconstruct the verdict against him and craft his appeal.

The AG’s office that is now supposed to argue against Hubbard’s appeal is led by a man, Steve Marshall, who accepted tens of thousands of dollars from all of the aforementioned players, and then also took money FROM HUBBARD’S ATTORNEYS.

Now, look, I’m not in any way suggesting that Rane or Burton or anyone else gave money with a specific quid pro quo directive.

But I also know this: If that same money was deposited into the private bank accounts of any of the justices or the AG, it would be illegal under Alabama law. And we passed such laws because we understood that money influences people to shirk their responsibility to govern or judge for the greater good. It encourages special rules for the elite. It pushes judges to stray from the law.

That’s why we passed laws to stop it.

Laws once championed by a guy named Mike Hubbard.


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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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