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Opinion | A new low for the Alabama Supreme Court: A most unethical appointment

Josh Moon

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Mike Hubbard is going to get away with it. 

Or, at least, he’s going to get away with some of it. The Alabama Supreme Court is going to step in and overrule a jury that acted intelligently and applied the law properly, and it’s going to toss some of the former Alabama House speaker’s felony convictions. 

Because that’s what the Big Mules in Alabama want. And this court and these justices have proven time and again that what matters in Alabama isn’t what’s right or what’s just or what falls within the bounds of judicial precedent. 

It’s what the guys with lots of money want. 

If you doubt that, I have two words for you: Sonny Reagan. 

Last week, Reagan’s hometown newspaper reported that the Alabama Supreme Court had appointed Reagan, who is a circuit court judge in Coffee and Pike counties, to the statewide judicial ethics committee. 

It was, without a doubt, the least ethical appointment to an ethics committee in the history of ethics. 

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For those of you unfamiliar with Reagan’s past — and the story from the Southeastern Sun certainly wouldn’t have clued anyone in — let’s recap why his appointment is more than a tad suspect. 

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Reagan was, once upon a time, a deputy attorney general working in Luther Strange’s administration. He lost that job after he was accused by Strange and others in the office — all of whom provided rather compelling evidence — of feeding inside info to Hubbard’s defense team while Reagan’s co-workers were investigating and prosecuting him. 

To facilitate this, Reagan, without explanation and without disclosure, hired the same attorneys who were representing Hubbard. And it was alleged that Reagan participated in office conversations and strategy sessions, and then fed that inside info to those attorneys. 

But wait, it gets worse. 

Reagan also shared the same legal counsel as another indicted lawmaker in the case, Barry Moore. And then he worked on that case for the AG’s office. Without ever telling anyone that he had the same attorneys — for no apparent reason. 

But wait, it gets even worse. 

Strange was so incensed by Reagan’s actions — and let me just say, being too corrupt for Luther Strange, mouthpiece for opioid companies, is quite the achievement — that he publicly commented on his intentions to fire Reagan. 

In a statement to AG’s office employees that was later released to the media, Strange wrote: “While he was sharing legal counsel with the indicted defendant Moore and Speaker Hubbard, Mr. Reagan was privy to confidential inter-office communications involving fellow prosecutors, investigators and staff members relating to the Lee County Special Grand Jury. 

“For months, Mr. Reagan took part in inter-office conversations related to the Special Grand Jury, all the while concealing his simultaneous representation by the criminal defense team. By doing so, Mr. Reagan not only breached his duty of loyalty to the State of Alabama, but he also violated the trust of you, his colleagues.”

In a separate release, the prosecutor who was appointed to oversee Hubbard’s prosecution, the late Van Davis, said Reagan had taken actions “to impede or obstruct the investigation …” into Hubbard. 

This is the guy the Alabama Supreme Court appointed to an ethics committee. 

Oh, but wait, I’m not finished. 

Reagan later testified in the case against Hubbard — for the defense — in an effort to get Hubbard’s indictment tossed out. Reagan told grand tales of how the prosecutors — his former co-workers — had violated the rules in trying to indict and convict Hubbard. The judge bought none of it. 

That testimony came after Reagan refused to answer questions in front of a grand jury — invoking his Fifth Amendment protections — about his relationships with Hubbard and Hubbard’s mentor, former Gov. Bob Riley. Reagan had served on Riley’s staff and was his point man on legal issues involving the bingo wars.

In the end, Reagan resigned before he could be fired. He never challenged the allegations against him in any meaningful way. They still follow him like a stench. 

But the Alabama Supreme Court justices don’t care. 

Because Reagan is friendly with the Rileys — Rob Riley was one of those attorneys he hired — and the Rileys still control a whole lot of political money in this state. If you doubt that, just take a peek at the Riley-associated PACs that have dumped thousands into the campaign accounts of the ALSC justices. 

It’s deplorable.

It used to be that the Supreme Court — even in this state — held some level of respect for the rule of law. Certainly, Alabama’s has a history of poor decisions dating back through the Jim Crow days and beyond, but on a daily basis, attorneys could typically count on the ALSC justices to mostly follow the law and precedent. Outside of a few pandering matters, that was even true with Roy Moore. 

But it’s no longer true. 

Today, Alabama’s Supreme Court justices are completely beholden to the powerful and rich in this state. They have shirked their responsibility to the law, and they behave no better than cowardly servants, willing to embarrass themselves and the court itself in exchange for the good graces and campaign dollars of the Big Mules.

And as the Reagan appointment clearly shows, there is apparently no bottom to how low they will sink to do so.

 

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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