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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Judges retiring

Blogger Comments:  Two good judges are retiring which is worrisome for those of us who wonder what role Judge Jennifer Howell will play in the future.  How did Jennifer Howell go from being fired from the DA's office to judge?  The answer is simple.  Sheriff Ana Franklin fought hard to get Howell elected.  At the time Sheriff Franklin was very popular with the people.  Judge Jennifer Howell and her husband have been as big a part as Sheriff Ana Franklin in misusing inmate labor at their home.  Sure they paid the inmates, paid them a lot which showed up on the MCSO books.  That still does not make it right for a sitting judge and the sheriff to use inmate labor at their homes.  Both did.  

Decatur Daily reports:

Clearing the bench: Two longtime judges to retire

  • By Evan Belanger Staff Writer
  • Updated 

  • Two Morgan County circuit judges, including the county’s last elected Democrat, plan to step aside next year.
    Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson, Place 2, and Circuit Judge Steven Haddock, Place 3, both said last week they will not seek re-election.
    Thompson, 65, a Democrat, and Haddock, 64, a Republican, were both elected in 1994, and both would be eligible for their fifth six-year terms under a state law that sets the age limit for judges at 70 when they take their oaths of office.
    “I’m in good health, and I love what I do, but I’m not going to live forever, and there are other things I’d like to do,” Thompson said.
    Haddock said his decision was based, in part, on increased legislative involvement in the judicial system over the past decade that has taken away some judicial discretionary power when it comes to sentencing.
    “It has changed tremendously, and I think that has some part to play,” he said.
    Since 2013, the court system has been operating under mandatory sentencing guidelines set by the Alabama Sentencing Commission when it comes to nonviolent offenders. The guidelines allow judges to sentence offenders to higher or lower sentences only in special circumstances.
    They were made mandatory by the Legislature in a bid to address the state’s overpopulated prison system.
    “I do have a problem with the Legislature telling me, when I have somebody on probation, that I can’t revoke that probation, even when that probation has been violated,” Haddock said last week.
    Thompson acknowledged the court system has changed significantly during his tenure but said it was not part of his decision to retire.
    “It’s just the way it is,” he said of the guidelines.
    Overall, Haddock said he has enjoyed his tenure as a judge and wants to “go out on top.”
    “It’s been a lot of joy in doing this work. Of course there’s been frustrations, and I think those frustrations have been more frequent as times go on. I don’t see that changing,” he said.
    Thompson holds the distinction of being the last elected Democrat in the county.
    “I’ve just never seen the need to change. I’m not Republican, and that’s for sure,” Thompson said.
    In 2012, as many Alabama Democrats were either changing parties or losing re-election bids in the Obama era, Thompson successfully defeated Republican challenger Buddie Brown, taking 52.75 percent of the vote.
    That same year, former Democratic Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler, who first took office with Thompson and Haddock in 1994, lost her re-election bid to Republican Jennifer Howell, and Haddock, who was first elected as a Democrat, ran unopposed as a Republican.
    Howell, who took 56.23 percent of the vote in 2012, said last week she will definitely seek re-election to a second term in the Place 1 seat on the circuit court next year.
    Thompson said his decision to not seek re-election had nothing to do with partisan politics and was based solely on his desire to enjoy retirement.
    “I’m certainly not afraid to run. I think I’ve proven myself,” he said.
    Noting a host of Republican scandals, including House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s removal from office last year, former Gov. Robert Bentley’s resignation, and former Chief Justice Roy Moore’s suspension, Thompson said Democratic candidates stand a better chance of winning next year than they did a decade ago.
    “If there are Democrats out there, they have a decent shot,” he said.
    Despite that prediction, Thompson also cast doubt on the odds of any Democratic candidates emerging to seek his former seat.
    “I don’t know anybody who wants to take the risk of running as a Democrat in Morgan County right now,” he said. “In the foreseeable future, I’m not sure anybody will be signing up in Morgan County to run as a Democrat.”
    Ernestine Elliott, chairwoman of the Morgan County Democratic Party executive committee, said Friday she was unaware the county’s last remaining elected Democrat was not planning to seek re-election, but the local party would do its best to field candidates for both Thompson’s and Haddock’s seats.
    “We’re going to have to get busy,” she said.
    At least two Republican candidates have already emerged in hopes of replacing the outgoing judges.
    Morgan County Assistant District Attorney Charles Elliott, 33, has taken a leave of absence from the DA's office and formed a campaign committee to seek Thompson’s Place 2 seat, and Stephen Brown, 45, a partner at Harris, Caddell & Shanks law firm in Decatur, said he is running for Haddock’s Place 3 seat.
    Thompson said the judgeships should be nonpartisan, but filing fees that go to the state parties perpetuate the system.
    “It has nothing whatsoever to do with the job you do. It’s all a matter of collecting money for the state party, and it’s just a terrible way of running state politics, but that’s just the way we do that in Alabama, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” he said.
    With two veteran judges set to retire, the change is likely to shuffle the division of caseload between the judgeships.
    According to Circuit Court Clerk Chris Priest, Thompson currently gets two-thirds of the county’s criminal cases, one-third of the civil cases, and oversees drug court, a pre-trial diversion program, in addition to hearing some domestic trials.
    Haddock handles one-third of the criminal cases, one-third of the civil cases and half of all domestic cases. Howell handles one-third of the civil cases, one-half of the domestic cases and all protection-from-abuse orders.
    “Their experience is going to be missed in Morgan County,” Priest said of the outgoing judges, who will have served 24 years each by the time they finish their terms.
    The base annual pay for circuit judges in Alabama is $119,949.

1 comment:

  1. All the good honest people are leaving...