MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Supreme Court will weigh in on claims by a lawmaker facing perjury charges that the prosecutors who indicted him — and also appear to be investigating Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard - are acting without proper authority.
Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, is challenging Attorney General Luther Strange’s appointment of a retired district attorney to oversee the investigation. Moore’s lawyers argued only the governor has the ability to appoint someone. They also questioned Strange’s ability to hand-pick his successor if he was stepping aside from a case.
The attorney general’s office convened the special grand jury in Lee County last summer. Strange said last year that he had recused himself from the case and appointed retired St. Clair District Attorney W. Van Davis to lead the investigation. The grand jury indicted Moore in April.
Lawyers for Moore filed an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals after a Lee County judge in June rejected his motion to dismiss the charges.
The all-Republican Supreme Court on July 25 decided to fast-track the issue and hear arguments directly instead of letting it wind up through the appellate process.
Prosecutors said Moore lied to the grand jury when he denied telling primary election opponent Josh Pipkin that Speaker Hubbard had threatened to hold up economic development funds if Pipkin stayed in the race. Pipkin had recorded a telephone call with Moore, who won the June 3 primary.
Moore’s lawyer Bill Baxley questioned the authority of Davis and Matt Hart, chief of special prosecution for the attorney general, to run the grand jury.
“How these privately practicing lawyers so appeared, without any valid appointment by the governor, and without taking any oath of office, remains as much a mystery,” Baxley wrote.
State prosecutors argue state law gives an attorney general the clear ability to appoint a district attorney to handle a matter.
“Attorney General Strange directed Supernumerary Davis to handle matters regarding an ongoing investigation involving potential public corruption in Alabama. Attorney General Strange’s directing of Davis to act in this matter is entirely appropriate,” prosecutors wrote in their filing with the court.
The outcome of Moore’s challenge to the prosecution team could impact the future of the special grand jury and more than the case against Moore.
Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III this summer released a copy of a letter Strange sent Davis in January 2013.
The letter thanked Davis for agreeing “to assume oversight of the State’s interests in the current investigative matters relating to State Representative Mike Hubbard to include all criminal matters arising from that investigation.”
The grand jury has met off and on in Lee County, Hubbard’s home county, since it was convened.
Hubbard’s attorney Mark White has declined to discuss the grand jury. White said the fillings raise, “serious constitutional issues that concern unprecedented conduct by an attorney general and a recused attorney general, who happen to be the same person.”