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Bill would require more years for judges

By Staff
Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
The State House of Representatives has adopted a bill to increase the professional requirements for persons who serve as District, Circuit and Appellate judges in Alabama and sent the measure to the Senate.
In 1973 the newly adopted Judicial Article to the State Constitution provided that all trial and appellate judges have the minimum requirement of being licensed to practice law in the state and “such other qualifications as the legislature may prescribe.” However, no minimum years of service as a lawyer were required at that time. Previously, only circuit judges and appellate judges were required to hold a law degree.
The new proposal would require that District Court Judges be licensed to practice law for 3 years, Circuit Court Judges 5 years and Appeals Court and Supreme Court justices and judges ten years. The bill passed the House 98-0. These additional requirements are long past due and the State Senate should send this legislation to Gov. Riley for his signature.
Siegelman gets temporary reprieve
Former Gov. Don Siegelman was released from a federal prison in Louisiana last Friday after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ordered him freed pending appeal of his conviction on corruption charges. The appeals court acted after U. S. District Judge Mark Fuller refused to permit Siegelman out on bond pending his appeal, which could take as long as two years.
Fuller had ruled that while the former governor is not a “flight risk”, he did not meet the other requirement for bail. Those requirements, noted by the appeals court are: “the appeal is not for the purpose of delay; that the appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in a reversal, an order for a new trial of all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed, a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a reduced sentence to a term of imprisonment less than the total of the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal process.”
The court noted that the matter is a close question and “one that very well could be decided the other way and said that a defendant who is sentenced to a term of imprisonment has the burden of showing that he is entitled to release pending appeal.
The court said, “after a review of this complex and protracted record, we conclude that Siegelman has satisfied the criteria set out in the statute, and has specifically met his burden that his appeal raises substantial questions of law or fact.”
Siegelman was released on the same terms and conditions as those governing his release pending sentencing.
The two United States Circuit Court Judges who signed the order were Susan Black, who was appointed to the court by President George H. W. Bush and Stanley Marcus, appointed by President Bill Clinton. Three of the 11th Circuit’s judges are from Alabama: Former Attorney General Bill Pryor, who I believe has already stepped down from the case because of his involvement in the prosecution of Siegelman, and Joel F. Dubena and Ed Carnes.
The release of Siegelman was a clear rebuke to Fuller, the judge in Siegelman’s case and the presiding judge of the Middle District of Alabama, who has been the target in the conspiracy theory surrounding the Siegelman prosecution.
The release of the former governor is likely to ratchet up the drumbeat that a political conspiracy headed by Karl Rove and others went after Siegelman to place him in a political coffin. It is my understanding that a second 60 Minutes segment will air soon and that the Siegelman case will be a near-nightly affair on MSNBC’s “Verdict” hosed by Dan Abrams. Siegelman is also likely to testify before a Congressional Committee sometime in May.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

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