A central Alabama courthouse is home to more than 600 criminal trials each year; the chambers continue to be dedicated to that practice, but things don’t appear to be changing for the staff.

The state legislature enacted a moratorium on building settlements in 2018. The moratorium stopped construction on courthouse expansion projects in Williamson County in October, 2019, and until February, 2020.

An Alabama Justice Department memo reads that the moratorium “is not retroactive and retroactive conduct will not lead to additional time periods on the construction permits required for in-process construction.”

When Senate Bill 19 passed through committee, it reflected a communication from Attorney General Luther Strange that he wanted to move the project forward in an uneventful way, without compromising proceedings.

Under then House Bill 2283, which followed, Williamson County Judge Patrick Goddard ordered judges to not accept cases before Cleburne County Circuit Judge Alan Winton. Winton has been presiding over more than 800 cases since January 2018.

Goddard “felt unwise” to send Winton out of his office for the justice department’s “process letter,” who would help the judge decide the case, Goddard wrote, in his penmanship.

Alabama District Judges in Congress

Clyburne’s Commission Memo

The memo extends for six months and admits that Goddard missed some events. “[W]e believe it is better to move forward with our goal that only 12 cases be handled until after the moratorium is repealed.”

As it goes on, the memo goes on to note that the judge will “lengthen his resignation or transfer deadline” in his case. Ged Newsom, president of the Judges Association of Alabama, said this empowers Goddard to initiate proceedings, adding that he was pleased with the outcome.

Goddard’s memo did not mention women’s rights. He has complained of the denial of Superior Court Appellate rulings by Marshall County Judge Billy Lowery, who is gay.

Lowery wrote Goddard that a request to move a subjectious motion to appeal from Cooper River Appellate District Judge Nancy Spence was not accepted and he halted her case. Goddard wrote that the order “asserts that the individual motion was not dealt with in accordance with the procedures of the district court and that it is enforceable under law.”

Lowery has since resigned from the bench, saying, “I simply cannot function in my current capacity, as a prosecutor, as a commissioner, as a judge and as an individual,” according to The Guardian.

The Marshall County Clerk is appealing, but Goddard said he expects to apply a stay on the order. “I am hopeful that I’ll be successful,” he said, adding that he thinks he may have reached a “cover-up” situation.

Goddard said he was not aware of the Attorney General’s decision to notify him of his reprimand or the memorandum. Marshall County Clerk Carl Sanborn released a statement criticizing the decision and threatening litigation to defend the integrity of the judicial system.

Sanborn is not a lawyer, but Sanborn said he emailed Goddard on Wednesday morning to warn him about the decision.

The investigation into Goddard began in July, and Goddard’s lawyer, Natalie Hill, of Hardin Stevens in Dothan, says she had “difficulty” fully cooperating with the investigation after he was charged in a sex scandal and revealed his homosexuality to victims. He has pleaded not guilty.

“I hope they will take the time to look into it thoroughly and thoroughly, and with the knowledge that we know they have, I hope they start with Judge Goddard,” Sanborn said. “I hope they follow through.”

Henderson in the courtroom

The only lawyer who’s made it to the courtroom this morning is Chief Assistant Alabama District Attorneys Nick Henderson and Johnson Allen. The two entered the room at 3 p.m. to visit the prosecutor, but provided only their responses to requests for comment.

Ninth Circuit Court Judge William Tarver, who announced the ruling to the proceedings in the courtroom, did not return requests for comment.

“I wish I could show them one example, one of the things we’ve talked about in the relationship with Counsel and the judicial system,” the judge said. “But I’m not there.”