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 ›
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 ›
During its 2019 Regular Session, HB 380, which restructures and places severe limitations on the powers of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles passed both legislative houses and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature, which is likely. While specifics are to be hammered out during the administrative rules process, the net result will be more restrictions on early parole considerations for most inmates. Importantly, the legislation sets rules for when a parole hearing can be held, based on specific guidelines. As is the case with nearly all legislation, there is good news and bad news. Continue reading ›
Years ago arson used to be the malicious burning of a person’s home. Today in Alabama arson is defined as the burning of any building. There are three different degrees of arson. First and second degree arson are the intentional burning of a building. To be charged with third degree arson the burning doesn’t have to be intentional, only reckless. Also, it makes a difference whether there is a person inside the building.
You should talk to a lawyer who often works in the area of criminal law before making any decisions about an arson charge. At Skier & Associates we are ready and willing to sit down and discuss your arson case with you, explain the legal process and what will come next, offer you advice on what you should do next, and discuss representing you if your case goes to court.
There is hope for those who have been advocating for reform of Alabama’s marijuana possession laws. In a bill filed in the Alabama legislature, penalties for simple possession of marijuana would be lessened significantly going forward. This blog post will examine Alabama’s current marijuana laws as well as how they may change should this legislation become law.
In a surprising and encouraging move, late last year (2018) the “First Step Act” passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the President. The Act purports to change several provisions that will have an effect on Federal criminal cases going forward, as well as many individuals who are serving federal sentences already.
Here are some highlights of this 148 page piece of legislation; as always of course this analysis is early and could be modified over time.