Alliance for Justice, a leading national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women’s, children’s, and consumer advocacy organizations, has just issued a statement in connection with today’s House Judiciary Committee hearings noting the growing evidence of improper conduct by three federal judges in connection with the Siegelman case. AFJ particularly singles out Mark Everett Fuller, the judge who conducted the trial in the Siegelman case and whose conduct is now drawing increasing attention across the country.
Judge Mark Fuller was nominated by President George W. Bush to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in 2002. Judge Fuller had formerly served as district attorney for Alabama’s 12th Judicial Circuit. When then-Governor Siegelman appointed Judge Fuller’s successor, Gary McAliley, Mr. McAliley launched an investigation into Judge Fuller’s accounting practices in the district attorney’s office. This investigation revealed evidence that Judge Fuller had undertaken salary spiking with the purpose of defrauding the retirement system of Alabama. Judge Fuller dismissed these allegations, and the entire investigation, as “politically motivated…” Mr. Siegelman was indicted in federal court. Judge Fuller was assigned the case, and he refused to recuse himself, despite motions by [defense] lawyers to remove him from presiding over the case. Serious allegations have arisen that Judge Fuller conducted the trial in a manner favoring the prosecution. Whether or not accusations of actual misconduct by Judge Fuller during the trial are borne out, it is clear that hearing a case against the man Judge Fuller accused of conducting a politically motivated investigation against him undermined the appearance of impartiality required by the federal rules of judicial conduct.
AFJ also points to evidence that the Siegelman case has upturned concerning potential wrongdoing by two further judges: William Pryor, now a judge of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and Noel Hillman, now a judge in New Jersey, and formerly the head of the Public Integrity Section. In that capacity, Hillman had oversight responsibility for the prosecution of Governor Siegelman. According to sworn testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Hillman had discussions with Karl Rove about the handling of the Siegelman case and acted on Rove’s instructions that the case be “properly resourced.”