Ex-Limestone Sheriff Trying to Overturn Guilty Verdict, Judge Says Without License

Sept. 2—ATHENS — The judge who sentenced former Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely was not licensed to practice law during the trial or sentencing, his attorneys allege in a motion to overturn the verdict. but state prosecutors on Thursday said the argument lacks merit.

Pamela Baschab, a retired Jefferson County judge, was appointed to preside over the Blakely case in February 2021. The appointment was made necessary because every Limestone County judge recused herself from the case. Bassab’s law license expired the month before she took Blakely’s case despite the constitutional requirement that judges be licensed, the defense argued in motions filed Wednesday.

A Limestone County jury on Aug. 2, 2021, convicted Blakely, 71, of first-degree theft and using an official position or position for personal gain. Basab sentenced him to three years in prison. The 10-year sheriff was automatically removed from office after his conviction. He is now out of jail on appeal.

According to the motion filed in Limestone County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Baschab was on inactive status with the Alabama State Bar and was therefore not licensed to practice law from January 2021 to August 2022. .

According to the Alabama Constitution, circuit court judges “shall be licensed to practice law in this state.” The Alabama Code also requires that judges “shall be licensed attorneys.”

Also Wednesday, Blakely filed a motion asking Bassab to recuse herself from the case.

Assistant District Attorney Kyle Beckman on Thursday filed a notice in Limestone County Circuit Court, arguing that because Blakely has appealed, only the appellate court has jurisdiction over the case and the district court has no right to rule on Blakely’s motions. In order for the District Court to consider the motions, Beckman said, Blakely would have to dismiss his appeal.

“There are no weaknesses with the appointment of Justice Baschab by the Chief Justice of Alabama, nor are there any errors in the actions she took in this case,” Beckman wrote.

“Blakely received a fair trial and will not escape justice by attacking the qualifications of a judge who has been licensed for nearly forty years and has served honorably for more than thirty years as a circuit judge, circuit judge and appellate justice.”

Alabama Bar Association officials sent Bassab a letter saying a sitting judge is not required to be a member, according to WAAY-TV, but also encouraged her to pay her annual dues to stay active.

Blakely’s lead attorney, Mark McDaniel of Huntsville, argued in Wednesday’s motion that Baschab’s inactive status from failing to pay bar dues disqualified her from serving as a judge. He cites a state law that says: “No attorney who fails to obtain such annual leave shall be recognized in the courts of Alabama . . . as in good standing until he has paid the required annual leave fee.”

Blakely’s first-degree theft conviction was for taking $4,000 from his campaign fund and depositing it into his personal account. The conviction that he used his official position for personal gain included him frequently borrowing cash from a safe that held inmate funds, money that he eventually repaid.

— eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *