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Court blocks the Alabama abortion ban

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson , age 72, granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking H.B. 314, the Human Life Protection Act. The state law would have banned abortion in nearly all instances in Alabama. The one exception is to protect the health of the mother.

The move was expected by both the opponents of the law and supporters. Supporters are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the controversial Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions across the country.

The ban would have made performing most abortions a felony. Doctors who defied Alabama law could potentially spend the rest of their lives in state prison. The ban was scheduled to take effect on November 15.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Alabama and Planned Parenthood Federation of America brought the lawsuit on behalf of Alabama abortion providers. The decision comes on the heels of decisions by other courts blocking similar bans in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio.

Statement from Staci Fox, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast:

“This is not only a victory for the people of Alabama — it’s a victory for the entire nation,” Planned Parenthood Southeast President Staci Fox said. “We said it from the start: this ban is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight it every step of the way. We will continue fighting this law in court until it is permanently blocked and we will work every day to make sure that abortion remains safe, legal, and available in Alabama.”

Alexis McGill Johnson is the Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Once again, the courts have affirmed that we have a right to access safe, legal abortion,” Pres. Johnson said. “Politicians in Alabama, and across the country, are putting people’s health and lives at risk in their attempts to ban abortion outright in this country. Today’s victory means people can still access the health care they need across Alabama — for now. We will continue to fight to ensure that everyone can access health care — including safe, legal abortion.”

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Randall Marshall is the Executive Director of ACLU of Alabama.

“As expected, the court has blocked the law and it will not go into effect,” Randall Marshall said. “Abortion remains legal in Alabama. The state’s repeated attempts to push abortion out of reach by enacting unconstitutional laws restricting abortions have already cost taxpayers nearly 2.5 million dollars. This ill-advised law will cost taxpayers more money.”

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas is the senior staff attorney for ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
“Today’s decision recognizes this ban for what it is: a blatantly unconstitutional attack on the fundamental right to abortion,” Kolbi-Molinas said. “The Alabama ban, and the others like it, are the culmination of a nationwide strategy to push abortion out of reach. In the past nine years, states have passed 479 restrictions on access to abortion, leaving increasingly vast areas of our country with few or no abortion providers. The ACLU will continue fighting for a future that safeguards people’s ability to get abortion care, upholds basic rights and justice, and respects our decision-making — no matter where we live and no matter how much money we make.”

Dr. Yashica Robinson is a “comprehensive women’s health specialist” and a plaintiff in the case:

“This win is critical to our patients and to health care providers like myself,” Dr. Robinson said. “The abortion care we provide is essential health care, and these ruthless attacks from anti-abortion politicians have no place in Alabama. We will keep fighting to ensure that we can provide care that our patients need and to keep abortion accessible in our communities.”

State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 314. State Representative Terri Collins (R-Decatur) sponsored the bill.

“This is judicial activism, pure and simple,” Sen. Chambliss said, “In 2018, the people of Alabama overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to declare Alabama a pro-life state, and the Human Life Protection Act was passed by supermajorities in both chambers of the Alabama Legislature. Roe v. Wade was a terrible decision, built on faulty legal reasoning, that has resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent babies. The State of Alabama through the Attorney General’s Office will mount a vigorous defense of Alabama’s law in court — may this be the first step to restoring the rule of the U.S. Constitution and a culture of life on this matter.”

Father Frank Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life.

“This is not at all surprising, and in fact it’s par for the course,” Father Pavone said. “District Judge Myron Thompson, a Carter nominee, could have allowed the law to be enacted on schedule on Nov. 15 and let the legal challenges proceed. That would have saved lives. He decided, instead, to let abortionists continue to slaughter babies in Alabama.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) anticipated Tuesday’s decision by Judge Thompson.

“The district court’s decision to grant the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction of Alabama’s 2019 abortion law as to pre-viability abortions was not unexpected,” Steve Marshall said in a statement. “As we have stated before, the State’s objective is to advance our case to the U.S. Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion.”

“Every time a federal judge blocks an abortion law, Americans are reminded about the importance of having a pro-life president in the White House – for two terms – and a pro-life Senate,” Father Pavone continued. “When all of President Trump’s judicial nominees are seated, it will no longer be par for the course for life-saving laws to be blocked. We look forward to that day.”

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU routinely judge shop to get these cases in front of Judge Thompson, who has a long track record of finding in favor of the abortion industry.

The ruling can be read here.

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Alabama Parole and Probation Officers supervising nearly 9,000 violent criminals

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles released a report Thursday that was shared with state legislators and the media this week that shows Alabama’s 300 parole and probation officers are tasked with supervising 8,993 people convicted of violent crimes.

The officers are tasked with supervising more than 27,000 Alabama offenders as well as more than 3,600 offenders from other states who chose to move to Alabama following their incarceration in other states. Those are just the active cases.

There are an additional 22,947 inactive offenders for a total caseload of 50,055.

“The supervision of all these offenders that our officers provide daily is crucial to the safety of Alabamians and we are thankful for the selfless and dedicated work of these law enforcement officers,” said Bureau Director Charlie Graddick in a statement.

Graddick said that the Bureau put nine new officers into the field last week to begin supervising parolees and probationers and hopes to hire up to 138 more officers over the next three years — if the budget allows.

In the session that recently ended, the Legislature cut the bureau’s budget nearly in half.

“We are in need of more officers as we work to reduce caseloads,” Graddick said.

The report shows that 79 percent of the Alabama clients the bureau supervises were granted probation by judges throughout the state.

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Sixteen percent of the Alabama offenders are parolees who were granted release from prison by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Of the 6,078 Alabama parolees being supervised, 58 percent are violent offenders, some requiring much more intensive supervision.

Alabama has historically underfunded and understaffed the aging prison facilities managed by the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles is tasked with attempting to safely reintegrate parolees into society as well as to rehabilitate offenders sentenced to probation so that they do not re-offend and have to join the state’s prison population again.

A recent Department of Justice report claimed that Alabama’s prisons are among the most dangerous in the country.

The state has a critical need to increase prison capacity to reduce prison overcrowding and protect the public from crime and violence.

 

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DOJ’s dropping of charges against Flynn may raise question in Siegelman case

Brandon Moseley

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Defenders of former Gov. Don Siegelman suggested that U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s dropping of federal charges against General Michael Flynn raises questions of the prosecution of Siegelman.

Flynn, a retired Lt. General, was President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser. He was investigated under the Logan Act as part of the wider Russian collusion investigation into the 2016 election, when Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A preeminent scholar in prosecutorial misconduct, Professor Bennett Gershman, has now proclaimed the prosecutors of former governor Siegelman are the ones who should have been charged with a federal crime.

“Yes, the prosecutors should be in jail,” Gershman said. “Of the thousands of prosecutorial misconduct cases I’ve written about, the government’s bad faith described in Stealing our Democracy stands out and may be without parallel.”

“Stealing our Democracy” is Siegelman’s new book. The new book raised more questions of prosecutorial misconduct.

David C. Iglesias is a former Republican U.S. Attorney for New Mexico. He is now an associate professor of Politics and Law at Wheaton College in Illinois.

“If you doubt that politics are the mortal enemy of justice, read Stealing Our Democracy,” Iglesias said. “This is a sobering reminder of the vast powers the federal government has wrongfully used as a sledgehammer to achieve a conviction at any cost. Terrible things happen when you mix politics with prosecutions.”

The White House maintains that the prosecution of Flynn was a political exercise. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany blasted the effort to prosecute Flynn.

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“The FBI exists to investigate crimes. But in the case of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, it appears that they might have existed to manufacture one,” McEnany said at the White House press briefing. “As the motion filed by the Department of Justice yesterday explained, the FBI set out to interview General Michael Flynn, when they had no predigate [sic] — predicate for any investigation of any crime.”

“Over the past week, we learned, from a handwritten note, the true intent behind the FBI’s investigation of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn,” McEnany explained. “The very day that then-FBI Director Jim Comey sent agents to the White House to interview Flynn, the FBI discussed what their intent was beforehand. This is what they said: “What is our goal? Truth, admission? Or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” These notes, in addition to other evidence, raise serious questions about the handling of the — of the FBI’s handling of Michael Flynn’s case.”

Siegelman’s supporters maintain that is what happened to the former Governor.

Law Professor John Farmer is the former Dean of Rutgers Law School and seems to agree with Professor Gerhman.

“Don Siegelman’s story is nothing less than an American tragedy,” Farmer wrote. “Understanding the abuses he experienced may well be the first step to ending them and to healing our broken politics.”

Siegelman is the only Democrat to be elected as the Governor of Alabama since 1982’s election of George C. Wallace (D). Siegelman served as Governor from 1999 to 2003. He was narrowly defeated by then-Congressman Bob Riley, R-Ashland, in the 2002 election after just one term as Governor. Siegelman was mulling a run for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2004.

Siegelman claims that he was then targeted by President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice and claims that he was prosecuted on the orders of GOP strategist and top Bush White House political strategist Karl Rove.

Flynn’s guilty plea was overturned and the case against him lifted with the aid of AG William Barr and the Trump Department of Justice after being investigated and prosecuted by Barack H. Obama’s holdovers at the DOJ, whom some Republicans accuse of attempting a legal coup against the incoming Trump officials. Siegelman on the other hand was prosecuted during the 2006 election when he was running to regain the Governor’s mansion. Siegelman, then under a legal cloud, lost the Democratic primary to then Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley (D). Baxley was then trounced by Gov. Riley. Siegelman was convicted by a jury of his peers and his convictions were upheld by the federal court system, spending years in prison until 2017.

Siegelman claims that his new book raises more questions of prosecutorial misconduct in his case.

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Gov. Kay Ivey extends public health emergency, issues COVID-19 lawsuit protections

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday extended the formal “public health emergency” for 60 days, beginning May 13. 

Ivey also issued another proclamation that provides liability protection for businesses and health care providers from being sued over COVID-19 matters if those businesses and health care providers “comply with or reasonably attempt to comply with applicable public health guidance.”

Ivey’s order also states that the emergency liability protections would cover businesses and health care providers unless they show “wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct.” 

“I want to do everything within my authority to protect businesses as Alabama’s economy gets up and running again,” Ivey said in a statement. “As we resume operations, the very last thing a business owner needs to worry about is a frivolous lawsuit from responding to COVID-19. Let me be clear, this in no way shields them from serious misconduct. If someone knowingly abuses the public during a time of crisis, they should be held accountable and prosecuted as such.”

Ivey is to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. to discuss possible changes to her “safer-at-home” order. The new proclamations issued Friday morning are separate from the state’s public health orders.

The existence of the states of emergency simply allows the governor to take extraordinary steps to deal with an emergency situation.

Eighth proclamation summary:

  • The order provides safe harbor to health care providers, businesses, and other entities to encourage “reopening our state.”
  • The order protects health care providers from a frivolous lawsuit based on actions they took or failed to take as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The order protects businesses from frivolous lawsuits when they conduct COVID-19 testing or distribute PPE to help protect people from COVID-19.
  • The order “in no way shields these groups from claims of egregious misconduct. Claims based on egregious misconduct would be allowed to proceed,” according to the governor’s office.

Ninth proclamation summary:

  • One provision allows for probate judges to improve procedures for administering the July 14 primary runoff election.
  • Probate judges would be allowed to reduce the number of poll workers, if necessary. They would also be allowed to conduct poll-worker training remotely.
  • Another provision “cuts red tape for electric co-ops seeking to obtain emergency loans.” This will “help ensure that electrical cops are still able to provide electricity to their members during this public health emergency.”
  • A final provision will extend the formal “public health emergency” for 60 days, beginning May 13.

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Appeals court refuses to lift injunction prohibiting Alabama from banning abortions

Chip Brownlee

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A federal appeals court Thursday refused to lift a preliminary injunction prohibiting Alabama from banning abortions during the COVID-19 epidemic.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a ruling that denied the state of Alabama’s request to stay a preliminary injunction issued by federal district court Judge Myron Thompson.

The decision ensures that the injunction prohibiting the state from banning abortions as part of its COVID-19 response will remain in effect throughout the appeal. Abortion care will continue to be available.

“Today, the court refused to allow Alabama to use the COVID-19 crisis as a pretext to prevent patients from accessing abortion care,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This is a critical victory that recognizes that government response to the pandemic must be grounded in public health, not politics.”

The decision comes after Attorney General Steve Marshall appealed Thompson’s partial blocking of the state’s temporary ban on abortions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his order, Thompson said of Alabama’s temporary ban on elective procedures, “for some group of women, a mandatory postponement will make a lawful abortion literally impossible. Under Alabama law, a woman’s window for seeking a lawful abortion is limited: abortion becomes illegal when the probable post fertilization age of the fetus is at least 20 weeks.”

Marshall and the state of Alabama have argued that State Health Officer Scott Harris’s order “covers all elective medical procedures, including abortions.  The purposes of the order are to promote social distancing and ensure that scarce healthcare resources—including personal protective equipment for medical providers—are available for the fight against COVID-19.”

“This ruling ensures that everyone in Alabama can continue to make the decision about whether to have an abortion for themselves,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “We will keep fighting to hold our politicians accountable to protecting the needs of our communities, rather than using the pandemic to further an anti-abortion agenda.”

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