Ala. Supreme Court hears arguments in former House speaker’s appeal

Updated: Jun. 4, 2019 at 2:28 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Supreme Court of Alabama heard oral arguments Tuesday morning in former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s appeal of his conviction on ethics charges.

Hubbard’s attorney Sam Heldman and Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour presented their arguments before seven justices. Two justices, Greg Shaw and Jay Mitchell, recused.

The arguments on both sides centered around interpretations of definitions of “principals” and “things of value” in the state’s Ethics Code.

Hubbard’s attorney said Hubbard can’t be convicted of receiving a thing of value because he paid full value for investments in one of his businesses by providing stock to the investors. The state says the phrase “pays full value” in the Ethics Code means that public officials must pay money to qualify for the exceptions.

Hubbard’s attorney also argued that three of the investors weren’t principals because they didn’t hire lobbyists to represent them individually, but the state says the individuals were principals because they hired lobbyists for their businesses.

Heldman told the justices that Hubbard committed no crimes, he was providing constituent services and the state is trying to set a new standard of law.

“Hubbard did what every part time public official does, whether it’s the mayor of a small town or every member of the legislature – he had other things he was doing as well,” Heldman said.

LaCour said Hubbard knew what he was doing, his speaker’s seat was valuable and he used to it for personal benefit.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office was confident after Tuesday’s hearing.

“Twelve people from Lee County heard all the facts, all the facts in this case. They heard arguments from the lawyers that were very similar to the arguments that were made today and unanimously that jury came back with multiple convictions against Mike Hubbard," Marshall said. "And we believe that this court, when they apply the law and accept the facts that that jury found, will likewise find him guilty.”

Heldman said he was happy with how engaged the justices were.

“I thought the court’s questions were wonderful to both sides, that the court really had insight into how this impacts not only Mike Hubbard but hundreds of thousands of other people,” Heldman said.

The justices actively asked questions during Tuesday’s hearing, especially during LaCour’s arguments.

The court’s decision in this case will set precedent. The state’s ethics laws cover all state employees, including the Alabama Supreme Court justices.

“We believe Alabama’s ethics laws need to be strong. What we’ve seen from the court of criminal appeals decision is our ethics laws work. And we believe that any decision to the contrary would raise a question about our ability to effectively fight public corruption in Alabama," Marshall said.

A Lee County jury found Hubbard guilty on 12 of 23 counts for using his position of power to solicit investments for his personal business and consulting work from company executives and lobbyists.

In August 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed 11 of the 12 counts against Hubbard.

Hubbard's defense petitioned the Supreme Court, asking for an acquittal or a new trial.

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court’s ruling will be handed down.

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