"Old times there are not forgotten. . . ." — Dixie’s Land (A song from 1859)
In early April this space was devoted to a discussion of the assorted political adversities that were being inflicted on those seeking to govern the state of Alabama, going from the Governor of the state, to the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and finally to the Alabama Speaker of the House. It has, however, been more than two months since those events were described and it is time for an update, if for no other reason than to reassure my readers that Donald Trump is not the only clown in town. The following events occurred within days of each other during the merry month of May.
Starting at the top, readers will recall that Governor Robert Bentley admitted making what were described as “inappropriate and sexually charged remarks” to one of his female aides. It was hinted that the behavior might have included more than just sexually charged remarks. In Alabama, where perceived sexual misbehavior is taken seriously, news of the Governor’s behavior shocked his constituents and their elected representatives, even though the governor insisted there had been no sexual improprieties between him and his aide. Following the revelations there was talk of impeaching the Governor. As of this writing those proceedings have not been initiated. However, at the end of March, the state auditor of Alabama filed an ethics violations report against the Governor. In that report he said he was investigating the “misuse of state property” by the Governor, an allegation that may have been, in part, the result of a recording in which the Governor is heard to say, presumably to his paramour, that “If we’re gonna do what we did the other day, we’re gonna have to start locking the door.” If what they did the other day is what it sounds like, and if it took place in the Governor’s office it would, of course, clearly be a misuse of state property. In his report the auditor said: “The Governor continues to disgrace the state of Alabama. . . .” (The auditor is also concerned with whether the paramour is a public official or a lobbyist, although that would probably not affect the propriety of using the Governor’s office for what they may have been doing in it.) The auditor issued an order to the Governor that he appear in the auditor’s office on May 2, 2016 to produce documents. The Governor did not appear and the auditor said that, as a result of the failure, he would file proceedings with the state court ordering the Governor to appear or face contempt charges. There is no word on whether or not the proceedings have been filed.
From the Governor we go to Roy Moore, the now-suspended Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Chief Justice Moore is, in all likelihood, the first Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to have been removed from office for refusing to follow a federal judge’s order. That occurred in 2003 when a federal judge ordered him to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments that he had commissioned and had installed in the Alabama Judicial Building. He refused to remove the monument and, as a result, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed him from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In 2012 he ran for the same position, was once again elected Chief Justice and, once again engaged in conduct that has caused him to be suspended. On May 27, 2016, the Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended him for, among other things, not respecting a federal court order authorizing gay marriage by telling the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Since the Chief Justice does not want to be remembered as the only Alabama Chief Justice to be removed from office two times, on May 27, 2016, he filed suit alleging that the state law that authorizes his suspension is unconstitutional. The entire state eagerly awaits the outcome of those proceedings. From the Chief Justice we go to the Speaker of the House.
Mike Hubbard is the Speaker of the House. It was he who led the Republicans in their takeover of the Alabama legislature in 2010, the first time they had had control since Reconstruction. Following that success, Mr. Hubbard wrote a book entitled: “Storming the Statehouse” in which he said that “Ethics was a subject that set Republicans apart from the Democrats,” the setting apart being a result of pre-election indictments and scandals involving Democrats. On June 1, 2016, Mr. Hubbard’s criminal trial began. He faces trial on 23 felony ethics charges as a result of his conduct while Speaker of the House.
For the casual observer it is intriguing to speculate on what will happen next in Alabama. Will the governor be impeached? Will the Chief Justice be removed from the Alabama Supreme Court? Will Mike Hubbard go to prison? Stay tuned!