Hubbard’s challenge to ethics law remains sealed

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Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard‘s challenge to Alabama’s ethics law will remain out of public view.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker on Monday ordered court filings referencing grand jury material to be under seal. The Republican speaker, in seeking to get the case dismissed, has filed a challenge to the 2010 ethics law he once praised but is now accused of breaking.

Defense lawyer Mark White said the defense is questioning the constitutionality of parts of the 2010 law and how prosecutors are applying it in Hubbard’s case.

Hubbard faces felony ethics charges accusing him of using his positions as speaker and Alabama Republican Party chairman to drum up investments and clients for his companies. The challenge includes whether that political party activity should fall under the ethics law, White said.

“You are talking about the state coming in and saying to a political party we get to dictate how you spend private money,” White said.

Hubbard was the architect of the Republican’s 2010 push to win their first legislative majority in Alabama in more than a century.

The 2010 ethics revamp passed during a special session on ethics reform was one of the first actions of the new GOP majority. Hubbard in 2010 praised the new ethics law as major step forward for Alabama, saying it would help end Alabama’s reputation as a “corrupt state.”

“We promised the people of this state they would see a difference in the way their government operates,” Hubbard said in a statement after the bill was signed into law. “In seven days we passed seven anti-corruption bills and delivered on that promise. This new Legislature is committed to being more transparent, more accountable and more responsive to the people’s needs than ever before.”

The defense filed the motion more than a week ago under seal. At a hearing last week, prosecutors objected, saying Hubbard’s embarrassment over the challenge wasn’t a reason to bar it from public view. Walker told defense lawyers to file the challenge publically but with the grand jury material redacted.

However, Walker wrote in the Monday order that following a telephone conference with defense lawyers and prosecutors, he made the decision that all filing referencing grand jury material should be sealed. He said lawyers could file a motion to have the material unsealed.

He did not explain the reason for the order. An Aug. 6 court filing from prosecutors included a letter to White that listed some grand jury witnesses including former Gov. Bob Riley, businessman Jimmy Rane, former state Rep. Greg Wren and Business Council of Alabama Chairman Billy Canary. The list largely names people alluded to in the indictment but also included the disclosure that Hubbard testified to the grand jury in April.

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