Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: January 2012 Archives

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January 27, 2012

Former judge barred for life from the bench

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Former Montgomery County family court Judge Patricia Warner and the Judicial Inquiry Commission filed an agreement Friday that forbids Warner from ever serving as a judge in Alabama again.

Warner has lived in North Dakota since abruptly retiring from the bench last June, a few days before the state Judicial Inquiry Commission brought an ethics complaint against her.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Alabama Court of Judiciary found that Warner created "the appearance of impropriety" by not recusing herself in a timely manner from a custody case. -- Read the whole story --> Patricia Warner banned from serving as Alabama judge | The Montgomery Advertiser |

January 26, 2012

Etowah County redistricting plan precleared

The Gadsden Times reports: Etowah County officials were notified by the Department of Justice that the redistricting plan submitted by the commission has been precleared.

Commissioners in September approved the resolution to alter the county's district lines and sent the plan to the Department of Justice for approval. -- Read the whole story --> Etowah County redistricting plan precleared by Department of Justice |

January 25, 2012

Georgia: "New ethics bills could make lawmakers' extramarital affairs with lobbyists even more difficult"

Fresh Loaf (Atlanta) reports with the tantalizing headline above: A diverse coalition of ethics advocates are doing cartwheels over new legislation expected to be soon introduced by state Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Alma, that would clamp down on lobbyist gifts, tighten up disclosure requirements, and increase the amount of time a former public official must wait before registering as a lobbyist. According to the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform, which includes Common Cause of Georgia, the Georgia Tea Party, Georgia Watch, and the League of Women Voters, the bill would:

* Create a $100 cap on lobbyist expenditures for legislators (there is currently no limit), with an exception of a $500 limit for travel and related expenses associated with speaking engagements and conferences, and an exception allowed for expenses associated with events for which all members of the General Assembly are invited. ...

* Create PAC contribution and expense disclosure requirements, limit contributions to PACs to $1,000, and limit PAC-to-PAC and campaign to campaign transfers to $10,000 per election cycle. There are currently no limits on contributions to PACs, no aggregate limits on PAC to PAC and campaign to campaign transfers and no disclosure requirements for PACs. -- Read the whole story and get a link to the bill -->New ethics bills could make lawmakers' extramarital affairs with lobbyists even more difficult | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta

Interesting defense to an ethics complaint

The Selma Times-Journal reports: A letter of complaint filed by the State of Alabama Ethics Commission against Valley Grande councilwoman Donna Downs inquiring about a monetary donation to Dallas County High School has been found to have no merit.

During a Valley Grande City Council meeting earlier this month, Downs, who is also employed as a bookkeeper for the high school, presented the letter to the council stating the commission was to perform a preliminary inquiry concerning a $5,000 donation the council approved to give. The commission said the act was a violation.

Valley Grande Mayor Tom Lee said Downs informed him of the letter of complaint in December. Lee believes Downs, was wrongfully accused.

"She evidently was singled out, I'm not sure why, for an ethics violation that actually applies to at least one other member of the council and possibly another," Lee said. -- Read the whole story (with a much better defense) --> Ethics charge tossed | The Selma Times?Journal

January 22, 2012

Legislative redistricting may be late in the session

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The state Legislature may not take up reapportionment until close to the end of the 2012 regular session, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Friday.

The Legislature will have to address redistricting in the next regular session, set to be≠gin Feb. 7, in a special session or in the 2013 regular session in order for legislative districts to be set for the 2014 legisla≠tive elections.

Marsh, R-Anniston, said Fri≠day the leadership could wait until May to bring the potenti≠ally contentious issue before the Legislature. -- Read the whole story --> Legislative district changes could be late coming | The Montgomery Advertiser |

January 20, 2012

Jefferson County judicial candidate disqualified on residency grounds

The Birmingham News reports: Virginia Meigs will not be certified as a Republican candidate for Jefferson County District Judge Place 3, the Alabama Republican Party said today.

The state party's candidate committee upheld a challenge to Meigs' residency, the Alabama Republican Party said in a statement.

The Bessemer Cutoff resident had signed up to run for a court seat based in the Birmingham division, a separate part of the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Primary candidates in Jefferson County court races must live in the division where the court seat is based, unless there is no primary opposition. -- Read the whole story --> Virginia Meigs ruled out of Jefferson County District Judge Place 3 race after residency challenge |

January 19, 2012

"Two state candidates for Congress canít vote for themselves"

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Stan Pate of Tuscaloosa is one of two Republican candidates for Congress who will not be able to vote for themselves in Alabama's March 13 primary because they do not live in the districts they want to represent.

Pate, a Tuscaloosa businessman, is a candidate for the 6th District seat held by U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, but his residence will be in the 4th Congressional District under the reapportionment plan approved by the Legislature last year. The new district lines created by the plan will be in effect for this yearís primaries and the general election, meaning Pate would vote in the 4th District.

Phillip Norris of Hoover, a Republican candidate in the 7th Congressional District, also wonít be able to vote for himself because his residence is in the redrawn 6th District.

But Pate and Norris are eligible to run for the congressional seats because the U.S. Constitution does not require a candidate to live in the district he or she represents; it only requires a congressional candidate to live in the state he or she is running in on Election Day. -- Read the whole story --> Two state candidates for Congress can't vote for themselves |

Jefferson County will not provide services for city elections

The Birmingham News reports: County Manager Tony Petelos said today Jefferson County will not be able to assist this year with municipal elections because not enough county workers remain to do the work.

Because of funding cuts financially stricken county, the general services department has 94 workers, down from 215 one year ago. In 2007, it had 373 employees.

General services has provided equipment, personnel, supplies and printing for all elections in Jefferson County. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County will not help with municipal elections because of cuts |

January 18, 2012

Birthers lose second case before Judge Lee

The Birmingham News reports: The Jefferson County judge who dismissed a Luverne man's lawsuit to block President Obama from Alabama ballots today also ordered him to pay the state Democratic Party's court costs and lawyer fees within 45 days.

Lawyers for Mark Kennedy, the state party chairman, sought the sanctions in a motion his lawyers filed last week filed last week in the suit filed by Harold Sorensen. But one of the lawyers said during a hearing today that party officials would not try to collect if Sorensen does not file any similar lawsuits during the 2012 election cycle.

"The Democratic Party has no desire to chase after a retired military man to collect," Barry Ragsdale, one of Kennedy's lawyers, told Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee.

Ragsdale then turned to address Sorensen. "But if I read you're bad-mouthing the court and this decision, you will feel the full wrath of me." -- Read the whole story --> Judge in Obama citizenship lawsuit orders man who sued to pay Democratic Party's lawyer, court fees |

GOP boots another incumbent party-switcher

The Huntsville Times reports: The Alabama Republican Party steering committee voted Tuesday to to remove Marshall County Circuit Judge Howard Hawk from the GOP primary ballot.

Hawk, who is seeking re-election, switched to the Republican Party in December 2010. While welcomed by state GOP officials, 27 of the 29 members of the Marshall County Republican Party Executive Committee voted the following month to ask Hawk to remain a Democrat. -- Read the whole story --> Marshall County Judge Howard Hawk kicked off GOP primary ballot |

January 17, 2012

Sharpton announces Selma-Montgomery march in support of voting rights

News One reports: This morning at National Action Network?s (NAN) annual King Day Breakfast in Washington, D.C., NAN Founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton made key announcements in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr.

First, Rev. Sharpton announced that during the remembrance of Bloody Sunday beginning March 4th he will lead a 5-day March commemorating the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. The march will begin at the Edmund Pettus Bridge ending with a rally at the Alabama State Capitol on Friday, March 9. The March is in support of Voting Rights and to highlight the continuing efforts against Voter Suppression.

This includes the efforts to defeat Voter Identification Laws and reverse anti-Immigration laws in the state of Alabama. Secondly, Rev. Sharpton announced that National Action Network will lead a rally on March 27th in Washington, DC, at the United States Supreme Court as arguments are heard on Obama Care. -- Read the whole story --> Al Sharpton Announces Voting Rights March At King Day Breakfast | News One

What is Jefferson County cannot prepare for election because of budget cuts?

The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County risks violating federal and state laws if an additional $40 million is cut from its fiscal 2012 budget, county officials said.

County departments perform federal, state or locally required functions, such as elections and road maintenance, that could be jeopardized by continued reductions to the general fund budget, County Manager Tony Petelos said.

Those violations could lead to fines and costly lawsuits, he said.

"If we have a disaster on election day and we're not doing the elections properly; if there are a lot of problems, delays and people didn't get to vote and there is a close election, there will be lawsuits filed," Petelos said. -- Read the whole story --> Additional Jefferson County budget cuts could violate state, federal laws, officials warn |

January 15, 2012

Three small political parties sue Alabama re ballot access

The Green Party, the Constitution Party, and the Libertarian Party, along with several voters and a Green Party presidential candidate, have filed suit against the Alabama law requiring unqualified parties to qualify by submitting petitions containing at least 3% of the voters in the last general election, and the petitions must be filed by the day of the first primary. Because of the change from having separate presidential and non-presidential primaries to having one primary on 13 March, the parties will have to qualify 8 months before the general election.

Information on the plaintiffs' attorney Dan Johnson is available on his firm's website.

The complaint is reproduced below:

Stein v. Chapman Complaint

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for the tip.

January 9, 2012

Birthers lose one and file another

The Birmingham News reports: About the same time Jefferson County Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee was dismissing a Birmingham man's lawsuit challenging President Obama's right to be on Alabama ballots, Lee was assigned a new suit seeking an injunction against state party officials.

The new suit, filed today in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Harold Sorensen of Luverne, also contends Obama is ineligible to serve as president and should be barred from Alabama ballots.

"In 2008, the (Democratic National Committee) certified an ineligible candidate, Barack Obama, and thus defrauded the American people," Sorenson wrote in his lawsuit. "This was a violation of the basic voter's rights and Obama's subsequent usurpation constitutes the greatest crime ever perpetrated against the American people."

Civil cases are randomly assigned, and Sorenson's suit wound up with the same judge who this morning dismissed a suit by Albert E. Hendershot.

In a hearing this morning, a lawyer for the state Democratic Party chairman argued that Hendershot had not shown a specific violation of his rights that a court could protect. State law and court precedent also say the judiciary has no business telling the political parties who they can list as candidates, the lawyer, Barry Ragsdale argued in this morning's hearing on the Hendershot case. -- Read the whole story -->

January 7, 2012

DOJ preclears Opelika districts

The Opelika Auburn News reports: The United States Department of Justice has approved the redistricting plan for the Opelika City Council, according to a Justice Department official.

The council approved the redistricting of its wards in October 2011. However, as a provision under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department must grant Alabama and its municipalities preclearance before redistricting becomes official.

The Opelika Planning Department was tasked with redrawing the council wards based on 2010 census data to ensure that all wards are roughly equal in population. Because of population changes from 2000 to 2010, certain wards were disproportionately represented after the 2010 census count.

The planning department's ward redistricting brought about two changes to the current districts. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Department OKs Opelika council redistricting |

January 6, 2012

The 'birther' road show comes to Birmingham

The Birmingham News reports: A Birmingham man challenging President Barack Obama's right to be on the Alabama ballot has hired a California lawyer who has filed several similar suits across the country, and is asking for a delay in a hearing set for Monday.

Orly Taitz, a well-known figure in the "birther" movement that questions Obama's citizenship and right to serve as president, announced on her web site today she has agreed to represent Albert E. Hendershot. The web site also included a motion she says she plans to file in Jefferson County Circuit Court this morning asking for the hearing delay. ...

Hendershot filed suit Dec. 14 against Mark Kennedy, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. He is seeking an order from Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee to bar the party from certifying Obama on the Democratic ballot in the March 13 primary.

Monday's hearing was set to consider Kennedy's request for Lee to dismiss Hendershot's suit, which Kennedy's lawyers have called frivolous. They also have asked Lee to order Hendershot to show why his suit should not be dismissed. -- Read the whole story --> Well-known 'birther' lawyer takes on Birmingham man's suit to block president from Alabama ballot |

The News also has these links to court filings in the case:
Motion for early hearing
Motion to dismiss