Here at Skier & Associates we have noticed a larger than usual number of potential clients calling our offices for advice and help AFTER they have already had a hearing on a Pardon or Parole request that did not go their way. We cannot emphasize enough that waiting until after the Board has already considered your case is not the best time to reach out to us. Clearly the best time to contact a lawyer for help is prior to a hearing, preferably several weeks or months out.
There are many reasons for this, but the two most important will be discussed here: First, the Board’s extremely limited ability to reconsider their actions, and second the importance of giving the Board all necessary information BEFORE their initial decision.
It has recently come to our attention at Skier & Associates that Alabama’s Pardon and Parole Boards currently have no plans to reinstate live hearings anytime in the near- to mid- term future.
This is disappointing to us and, we are sure, to our many clients who have been waiting years for their day before the Board. We have had success with our newly adopted strategy of recording live statements from our clients and from Andrew Skier, and submitting those statements electronically along with supporting materials on behalf of our clients. Despite this, we do feel that there is no substitute for a live presentation and obviously the current process leaves no ability for the Board members to ask questions of applicants or engage in any kind of back-and forth encounter that sometimes affect the decisions they make. Also, in our experience the results of the hearings are not posted to the Pardons and Paroles website until late in the day or the next morning, leaving our clients, who are desperate to know the outcome of their case, with even longer before they are able to get closure.
Although the disruptions to our legal system because of the COVID pandemic continue, there is progress being made in re-opening the judicial system safely. In the past week, I have become aware that in many counties in Alabama, there will soon be jury trials with steps taken to ensure proper social distancing both during jury selection as well as the trial itself. In the Federal Court for the Middle District of Alabama, a jury trial was held this week, which will likely serve as a “test run” for future jury terms. We have taken part in a live evidentiary hearing in Federal Court before a Magistrate judge, and everything went smoothly as expected, although precautions such as plexiglass partitions and face covering requirements were in place.
At Skier & Associates, we have submitted the materials to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles for two clients with hearings scheduled the week of August 17. Because the Board is not holding live hearings, these clients were required to submit their argument in advance of the hearing date. I have been critical of this decision in the past. We now understand that the Pardon and Parole Board hopes to begin live hearings once again in October of this year. We hope this plan comes to pass, as not only do applicants deserve to be heard, but on a personal level we miss presenting our clients’ cases in a live setting. Continue reading ›
Courtrooms throughout central Alabama either continue to be closed (Montgomery County, Federal Middle District Courts) or have recently announced closure (As of this week, Elmore, Autauga and Chilton County Courts have closed.) Even those courtrooms that are ostensibly open for business are currently severely limited in what kind of matters they can handle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously jury trials (and Grand Jury hearings) are suspended indefinitely as there is no safe way to achieve social distancing requirements for jurors and others in the courtroom. Other types of hearings are going forward but the slow pace is still creating a backlog of cases that will, in our opinion, take years to resolve once things start moving again.
Interestingly, any Municipal courts within the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction are bound by a Presiding Judge’s order of closure. This means that cases in Montgomery, Wetumpka, Prattville and Millbrook Municipal Courts will be closed until the Presiding Circuit Judge’s order of closure is lifted.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles continues to hold “hearings” but is not allowing live or virtual testimony or presentation of evidence. At the present time applicants must submit materials in support of their position and wait for the result to be announced. We have written previously in this space about the inadequacy of this process and continue to call on this Board to allow virtual hearings for those that request them. After all, a hearing on a Pardon application or Parole request are vitally important to the people involved and these applicants deserve to have their say. Continue reading ›
The Court system in Alabama is slowly starting to come back to life. The Alabama Supreme Court has passed the buck on the re-opening, leaving it to each individual circuit or court to decide when and how to re-open. This has led to a patchwork of different policies around Alabama’s courts, and has also caused lawyers like us to make lots of phone calls confirming court dates on behalf of clients.
In the past weeks, lawyers from Skier & Associates have made personal appearances in several courts in Alabama, including Elmore County, Prattville Municipal Court, and Talladega County. We have upcoming dates in Montgomery County, Montgomery Municipal Court, and Barbour County. The Federal Courts in the Middle District are also holding in-person hearings. During this time, we have been party to numerous “virtual” hearings and are very pleased with the technology that has facilitated our ability to swiftly move cases through the process.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles are NOT holding in-person hearings at this time. Stake-holders there are being asked to submit their arguments in writing prior to the hearing. This is not our preferred manner of holding hearings and we encourage the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to make accommodations for in-person or at the very least virtual hearings upon request of the applicant.
As the courts re-open, our policies remain the same. We are committed to safety for everyone, so while we remain open for business, our physical office remains closed to non-employees. We have found that Zoom is a very effective way to communicate with existing and future clients, so for everyone’s safety we are keeping this policy in place indefinitely. We do have facilities in place for signing of documents or for the presence of clients for virtual hearings that ensure the safety of everyone involved. Continue reading ›
At Skier & Associates, our practice is varied. We have pending cases in numerous venues including Alabama State Courts (District Court, Circuit Court, Family Court in Montgomery, Autauga, Elmore, Butler, Lowndes and other counties) Municipal Courts (Montgomery, Prattville, Millbrook and Wetumpka City Courts for example,) Federal District Courts (Middle District of Alabama) and administrative bodies (Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.)
All of these entities have approached their scheduling and handling of pending cases differently during the period of shut-down, and all are taking different approaches to re-opening. This can be confusing for clients as well as attorneys. Continue reading ›
Pardon and Parole hearings in Alabama have been “on hold” due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Kay Ivey has ordered the Board of Pardons and Paroles to resume hearings. Details are unclear at the current time but it appears that hearings will be held via telephone or perhaps via video conference software.
Skier & Associates remains committed to fully representing our clients at these important hearings, and we are in touch with Pardons and Paroles staff to ensure a smooth, seamless process for our clients, leading to full consideration of pardons or parole. We have a proven, decades-long track record of success before the Board.
If you or a loved one has a pardon or parole hearing scheduled, we are here to help. Here are some of the steps we take in representing clients before the Board:
We at Skier & Associates will continue to have regular office hours (8:30-4:30 Mondays-Thursdays; 8:30-noon Fridays) until further notice.
The Administrative Office of Courts has ordered all in-person court hearings postponed until at least April 16, and the Federal Courts are strictly limiting those allowed admission to the courthouse.
If you are a current client and have a court date coming up, we will be contacting you to update you on your situation. Very few cases have, at this point, been rescheduled.
We have taken internal measures to ensure that we can continue to do business for our clients while minimizing risk of spreading this virus:
Andrew Skier, founder of Skier & Associates, is honored to have been named to incoming Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed’s Transition team. As a member of Mayor Reed’s “Public Safety & Thriving Neighborhoods” committee, Mr. Skier will be a part of the group advising Mayor Reed on issues related to police and public safety. Mayor Reed felt it was crucial to have a representative of the Criminal Defense Bar on this committee in order to obtain input related to the administration of justice in our community. Continue reading ›