The Ballot of Tom Parker

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker not only is running for re-election (we weren’t so sure in late March, but then he did qualify on time), he wants a fellow Republican kicked off the primary ballot. And now.

Parker sued challenger Eric Johnston (amongst others) in Montgomery County Circuit Court Friday, alleging Johnston filed ethics and financial disclosures too long after qualifying as a candidate for his name to be certified for the primary ballot. From my read, the suit might just come down to the definition of “day.”

Here is a copy of the suit for your own grubby little hands (.pdf).

The style of Parker’s suit takes nearly seven pages, as there are 138 respondents including every probate judge and circuit clerk in the state of Alabama as well as Secretary of State Beth Chapman.  Also, the title of the action is pretty broad: “PETITION FOR WRIT OF PROHIBITION, MANDAMUS CERTIORARI, OR OTHER APPROPRIATE EXTRAORDINARY RELIEF.”  Those options get ever broader when we skip to the end, under Reasons for Granting the Writ (which also provides my segue for getting into the substance of all this):

Petitioners submit that their petition for writ of prohibition, mandamus, certiorari, or other appropriate extraordinary relief (including declaratory and injunctive relief) is due to be granted for the reason that Respondent Alan Eric Johnston failed to file (1) his Appointment of Principal Campaign Committee form as required by the Fair Campaign Practice Act, and (2) his completed Statement of Economic Interests as required by Alabama Ethics law.

Ok.  How?  According to the suit, here’s the relevant time line:

  • April 1 (Thurs): Johnston filed candidate qualification papers with the Alabama State Republican Executive Committee.
  • April 7 (Wed): Chapman received Johnston’s Appointment of Principal Campaign Committee form (dated April 5); the Alabama Ethics Commission received Johnston’s Statement of Economic Interests (dated April 5); and, the Alabama State Republican Executive Committee certified Johnston’s name to the Chapman for the primary ballot.
  • April 12 (Mon): Chapman certified Johnston’s name to probate judges in every county for the primary ballots, which are being drawn up now.

Parker’s reason for finding fault with the above, from the suit:

The Candidate Filing Guidelines for Election 2010 provided from the Secretary of State’s Office clearly state that the Appointment of Principal Campaign form must be filed with the Secretary of State “within five (5) days of becoming a candidate,” and that the “Statement of Economic Interest [must be filed] with the appropriate official at the same time” candidate qualification papers are filed.

So what’s a “day”?  Under 36-25-1 Ala. Code (the same section that sets up State Ethics Commission), we have “DAY” defined as “calendar day.” Period. But my knee-jerk Civil Procedure reaction was that “five days” from April 1 would be April 8, discounting the weekend.  There is no mention in Parker’s suit about how he is calculating “day.” I suppose that will be best argued in front of the judge.

Since we’re here talking about the Alabama Supreme Court race for Place 3 (Republican James Houts and Democrat Mac Parsons are also running), I looked into financial disclosures for any clue as to what’s going on with Parker and Johnston, if anything.  Because I’m nosy, sure, but also because Parker’s run for re-election was kind of unexpected in talk around the Political Parlor.

Parker’s 45-day disclosure shows that money wasn’t moving at all this year until April 5, when Parker loaned it $35,000. Ten days later, the campaign got a $50,000 loan from R.B. Saunders (an individual in Mississippi). On April 12, Parker’s campaign sent two payments totaling $35,000 to his longtime media/ consulting firm in New Jersey.

Johnston lists one contribution on April 2 from the Equal Justice PAC – $3,500. On April 14, the campaign repaid a $3,200 loan to Johnston with a “qualifying fee” notation next to it.

So. There’s that. Discuss.

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34 comments to The Ballot of Tom Parker

  • Greg

    How widespread is the knowledge of Parker’s sloth on the Court. If I’m not mistaken, the Parlor actually reported the numbers at some point which reflected his horrible turnaround times for petitions. I mean, the Court had to hire additional conference attorneys just to pick up his slack.

  • loyal independent

    Tom must be off his meds to try this stunt.

  • 2010

    Yet ANOTHER reason not to vote for Tom Parker.

  • Mike

    Eric Johnston is a lobbyist, Tom Parker is a waste of space on the court. I’m for James Houts. The man is a veteran and a prosecutor. Not many prosecutors serve on the Supreme Court, yet a number of criminal issues appear before them. Why don’t we get a little experience on the court for once, instead of cronies and brief writers.

  • Brian Johnson

    I agree 2010. Vote for Mac Parsons. I hope you will do that in the event Tom “Jailbreaks to Big Oil and Jesus No-gambling No-Tax Utopia” Parker is your nominee. Unless you are so married to party and your party’s aborto-centric Sarah Palin talking-point ways you cannot.

    I digress – we need to elect judges in nonpartisan elections. That our judiciary has a party ID is ridiculous.

  • anonymous

    If anything hopefully this will lead to a clarification of law in terms of “5 days.” As H points out, this is often interpreted to mean “business days” but without that language, you could see more of these types of desperate attempts to have someone ousted off the ballot.

  • anonymous

    If a judge with the speed of Parker gets it, we won’t have an answer until a couple of years from now. I’m sure he wants an answer quickly on his matter, though.

  • mullet

    Well anonymous, Judge Shashy was assigned the case. And he is a judge who has the speed of Parker, as you so eloquently put it. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

  • Mike, with all respect, I would not think of Eric “Sid” Johnston as a lobbyist. As a committed Christian, Sid has worked hard for pro-life causes as Chair of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition (founded by Tom Parker) and as Chair of Citizens for a Better Alabama (opposing gambling). Sid Johnston is cause oriented.
    While, technically, Sid may register as a lobbyist, he is not as one who lobbies for personal gain or benefit–only for principles.

  • Unfortunate that these two gentlemen are in a race against each other. No two attorneys have worked as selflessly as A. Eric “Sid” Johnston and Tom Parker.
    Criticize Parker all you want, but his motivations as a judge have been devotion to principle. The same marks the career of Sid Johnston.

  • Red Herring

    The discussion about 5 days appears to be a red herring. The statement of economic interests was due on April 1 when Johnston became a candidate. The concept of 5 additional days comes into play if the candidate asks the Commission for 5 extra days and they grant the request before the deadline. No one has suggested this is the case, even Johnston’s attorney. Otherwise a five day period applies if the candidate timely delivers the paperwork to an “election official” who then has 5 days to forward the papers to the Ethics Commission.
    Johnston’s Ethics form was signed on April 5. There is no way Johnston could have delivered his form to an election official on April 1 as it did not exist at that time. There is no statutory relief for Johnston based on his decision to wait until April 5th to complete the form.
    Also, the Rules of Civil Procedure apply to civil cases, not elections and non-legal transactions. If the statute defines a day as a calendar day, the Rules of Civil Procedure don’t apply. The statement of economic interests is not a motion or a pleading. When Johnston decided to fill out his form, he was already beyond the deadline.
    Unfortunately for Johnston, history is full of candidates who have fallen by the wayside to such challenges. Attorney General Opinion 2001-232 discusses the case of Gary Whitlock, who was disqualified for a late filing of his ethics form but whose name had already been printed on the ballot. He received 135 votes in the election, but the Attorney General opined that as a disqualified candidate his votes did not count for him, but did count toward the total number of votes cast. A federal case in 1998 recounts the demise of four other ballot-access candidates who fell prey to the same fate even though they ultimately filed their forms before the election. Removal from the ballot is harsh, but it is what the statute calls for.
    The Ethics Commission, in Advisory Opinion 2008-25, wrote that any 5 day period applied to an election official, but not the candidate. The exact wording was “The five day period…does not give the candidate an additional five days to file.” So it appears that by waiting until April 5 to create the form Johnston really messed up.

  • roy

    Parker makes $170,000.00 a year and by all objective measures is failing to do the job that he is paid to do. If Parker were a Democrat, feeding at the public trough while doing virtually no work, the teabaggers and their ilk would be outraged that he was stealing taxpayer money. Although Eric Johnston scare the bejesus out of me, at least he would show up for work.

  • One Question

    Isn’t this the same Tom Parker who didn’t report $100,000 of campaign contributions when he ran for the Supreme Court in 2004? You’d think that if he paid so close attention the rules regarding other peoples’ campaigns he would also have followed the rules himself. Not reporting $100,000 in contributions (trial lawyer contributions in a Republican Primary mind you) is a serious offense and is a blatant violation of the rules.

  • Helpwithlaw

    You become a candidate for statewide office by two means; 1) qualify with a party or 2) raise or expend $5000.00 …..WHICHEVER COMES FIRST!!!!
    If said candidate raised or expended $5000.00 before filing qualification papers, you count from that day.

  • Roy, if you were really that scared of Eric Johnston, would you find comfort in his showing up for work? Wouldn’t you rather him not show up for work, if you are that opposed to his views?
    In 1986, John Teague attacked Jim Folsom, Jr for missing votes on the PSC. In the Democratic runoff I voted for Folsom on those grounds–Teague was a liberal who would be there to vote and Folsom was a liberal who would not show up to vote.
    BTW, I was voting in that runoff to vote Graddick over Baxley, for you who remember that historic election

  • Roy

    No Rev, I know Eric and while I find many of his views on social issues to be extremist, I know that he is honest and would decide the vast majority of the cases that come before the Supreme Court fairly. Parker, on the other hand, is a lazy bigot, as well as being a horrendous waste of taxpayer money.

  • CC Dollar

    and why are my comments always “awaiting moderation” ??? whats up with that??

  • Hi CC Dollar,

    Some comments are sent to the moderation queue because they trip certain parameters intended to prevent unacceptable comments from being posted to the site. I have had real problems with unacceptable comments in the past, and still do though to a lesser degree. (Unacceptable comments are for the most part defined here.)

    Once in the moderation queue, a comment has to be approved before it shows up on the site. I very much regret that some benign comments from you and others (like Rep. Cam Ward, for example!) inadvertently get caught up in the moderation queue. I apologize for that and do try to approve them quickly. I regret even more that there is any need at all for the moderation queue.

    I believe that we could set it so that you could login as a registered user of the Political Parlor and that would not happen. Let me know if you have interest in doing that.

    Danny

  • Souther

    Johnston would have been fine if he had submitted his Statement of Economic Interests on time. The campaign committee statement is a red herring, since he indicated on the qualifying form that he was appointing himself as his campaign committee. It was incumbent on the party to get that information to the Secretary of State. (The Secretary of State has advised that candidates are not required to use the forms distributed by its office.)

    What is unfortunate is the uneven application of the penalties in state law when these reports and documents are not timely filed. Take a look back at the 2006 election cycle and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Parker-Johnson-Houts is Place 3. For Place 2, consider Tracy Cary whose info can be found at cary2010.com

  • Friend of Bolin

    Justice Mike Bolin is a good and honest man. He has served admirably on the Supreme Court. He was a judge for 16 years and has been a Justice on the Supreme Court over 5 year. Vote for Mike Bolin. More information can be found at http://www.MikeBolin.com

  • No Friend of Bolin

    Bolin’s 16 years of experience as a judge is this — he was only a probate judge. You don’t even have to be a lawyer to be a probate judge. They do some important things but they also give out license tags and driver’s licenses. That experience hardly qualifies him to sit on the Supreme Court. If you look at politicalparlor there is a story that includes statistics about how long it takes for judges to make decisions and since Bolin has been on the Supreme Court, he has been one of the slowest in making decisions. He is considerably slower than most members of the Supreme Court. Of course, no one is as slow as Parker is, but Bolin is not unlike Parker when it comes to slowness. Throw the incumbent out. Start fresh with another Republican.

  • Simon Primary

    Any one care to comment on the experience of Kelli Wise?

  • Simon Primary

    ….. or lack thereof???

  • A Jefferson County Probate Judge handles many cases that would be similar to those heard by the State Supreme Court–involving adoptions, estates, property, etc. Actually, Justice Bolin’s experience brings a unique perspective to the State Supreme Court. Bolin has served well and deserves re-election

  • David

    James Houts has my vote. All of this talk of Johnston and Parker is a waste when the best man for the job is James Houts. It is time to get someone on the Alabama Supreme Court that has actually spent time in the trenches, has integrity, and will actually show up for work. Parker doesn’t seem to want to do the job and Johnston thought he could buy the election with PAC money!!

  • Will

    The idea that a jefferson county probate judge handles the same kinds of cases that the Alabama supreme court handles is absurd. Probate Courts have jurisdiction over cases that include the probate of wills, the administration of estates, guardianships, and name changes. That’s all. Bolin takes most of his campaign money from big business and if you look at his slow decisions, they benefit big business almost all the time. It’s time for a change.

  • DC

    Will vote for anyone over the angry incumbent.

  • The Man in Black

    If my memory serves me correctly, Larry Means didn’t disclose campaign finance records in the 2006 elections. In my mind that’s a much more serious issue than this, and nothing ever came of it. At least this guy made an attempt to do the right thing. I think Tommy Boy must be a little nervous.

  • [...] Tom Parker sued to remove challenger Eric Johnston from the ballot April 30 but Montgomery County Circuit Judge William Shashy denied his request, issuing his order [...]

  • Will

    Parker-Houts-Johnston is Place 3. Meanwhile, back in Place 2 . . . vote Cary in the Republican primary on June 1st! See http://www.cary2010.com.

  • [...] Court Justice and candidate Tom Parker had sued to get GOP challenger Eric Johnston taken off the ballot, citing two disclosure statements that Parker [...]

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