Gov. Kay Ivey is appointing Mobile’s director of municipal courts and former Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick to serve as Director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP) — a board Ivey pushed to overhaul during this year’s legislative session.
The appointment ends a somewhat controversial tenure as a city employee for Graddick, as he recently stepped down from serving as a municipal judge. As director of courts and a judicial advisor to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Graddick, a former Mobile County Circuit judge, was serving on the city bench without an appointment from the Mobile City Council.
Under state law, only the Mobile City Council has the authority to appoint municipal judges outside of special circumstances, and after reports of Graddick hearing cases were first published by Lagniappe, the city announced that “out of an abundance of caution” Graddick would no longer be serving as a judge.
While there have been rumors of forthcoming lawsuits related to Graddick’s time on the city bench, the success of those actions might be in doubt, due to a number of previous opinions from state attorneys general. State law presumes the validity of any action by an individual in an official capacity, even if that official is later deemed to have acquired that position illegally, Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed in an email.
On the controversy surrounding Graddick’s time on the municipal bench, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the judge was appointed to hear cases by Presiding Municipal Judge Holmes Whiddon.
“I was oblivious to any issue,” he said.
As for Graddick’s appointment by Ivey, Stimpson said in a statement that he was “an outstanding choice to take on the important job of leading” the board.
“Charlie served the city of Mobile with distinction as Senior Judicial Advisor and Director of Courts, where he was responsible for significant improvements to the city’s justice system,” Stimpson said in the statement. “I salute him for his service to his hometown of Mobile and he will be missed as part of my administration. I am confident he will be an asset to Gov. Ivey and the citizens of Alabama, and we wish him well in this new assignment.”
Graddick’s last day with the city is Aug. 31.
During the 2019 regular session, Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall championed legislation aimed at reforming the Board of Pardons and Paroles. With this new law, the governor has the authority to appoint the director.
In a statement, the Victims of Crime and Leniency, known as VOICE, praised Ivey’s pick of Graddick.
A two-term attorney general, Graddick comes to the post with an extensive background in law and public service. He was first elected to office when he became Mobile County’s youngest district attorney at the age of 28.
“From the start of his career, Judge Graddick dedicated his life to serving the people of Alabama and protecting the law. These are necessary qualities to lead Pardons and Paroles,” Ivey said. “As our state’s top law enforcement official, he was a national leader in advocating for victims’ rights and in prosecuting crimes. I am proud to have someone of Judge Graddick’s experience and caliber at the helm of this board. Public safety is paramount.”
It’s unclear how much Graddick will be paid. A spokesperson for Ivey told Lagniappe through an email to speak with the state’s personnel office. Personnel Office Director Jackie Graham said in a phone interview the governor sets the salary, and as of Monday morning the office had not yet received Graddick’s appointment letter. As for how this hire will impact Graddick’s judicial retirement, Graham said to ask the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) because the judicial retirement fund is separate from the state employees retirement fund. As director of the Pardons and Paroles Board, Graddick would be considered part of the latter fund.
Bill Kelley, director of both the employee retirement and judicial retirement funds for RSA, said there is no limit to how much a retired judge can make. Other retired state employees are limited to $31,000 per year while taking retirement.
During Judge Graddick’s two terms as Alabama’s attorney general, he established the first statewide Victim’s Assistance Office. Judge Graddick also served as chairman of the Southern Association of Attorneys General. He also served as a Circuit Judge in Mobile County.
Most recently, he served as Mobile’s director of courts, where he has been responsible for a dramatic restructure and reform of the city’s justice system.
In a press release from Ivey’s office Friday, July 12, Graddick acknowledged he would be taking the new position in a time of transition after concerns were raised by local and state law enforcement officials about the management and performance of Alabama’s parole board.
“The governor, attorney general and the public have made it clear that our Board of Pardons and Paroles must carry out their duties to ensure justice for victims and safety for all of our citizens. That means that we need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the operation and make necessary improvements to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency,” Graddick said. “I am honored to lead these efforts as director. Serving in this capacity, I hope to leave Alabama a safer place to live and raise a family.”
Prior to his career as a prosecutor and judge, Graddick clerked for Alabama Supreme Court Justice Daniel T. McCall. He served also served in the Army Reserve and Alabama National Guard. After 23 years of service, he retired as Major, Judge Advocate General.
Graddick will replace current ABPP Director Eddie Cook. The new law, HB380, goes into effect Sept. 1, 2019, which is when Graddick’s appointment will take effect.
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