|Luther Strange and|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Jessica Medeiros Garrison divorced Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison in October 2009, roughly one year before Strange won his race for attorney general. Their son, Michael Lee Garrison, was born on March 27, 2007. The Garrisons became entangled in a protracted court battle over custody, and Luther Strange's name plays a prominent role in that case.
Strange has been married to his wife, Melissa, for more than 30 years, and they have two sons. In a 2010 campaign video, Melissa Strange talks at length about her husband's integrity and his determination to "do what's right." (See video at the end of this post.)
The Stranges for years owned a home at 3210 Briarcliff Road in Mountain Brook, but sources say Luther Strange has purchased a house in The Waters development in the Pike Road community, near Montgomery.
Revelations about an extramarital affair call into question any moral authority Luther Strange might claim as the state's chief law-enforcement officer. One of the grounds he has cited for aggressive actions against the VictoryLand casino in Macon County is his claim that the facility and owner Milton McGregor have "a sordid past."
Now it appears that Strange's past, and present, are a bit sordid. Neither Luther Strange nor Jessica Medeiros Garrison responded to interview requests for this story.
Sexual fidelity is not the only issue at the heart of the Luther Strange/Jessica Garrison story. It also involves curious financial transactions, which have benefited Ms. Garrison and raised questions about the AG's judgment. That is particularly relevant in light of the ethics and campaign-finance charges Strange has brought against former Democratic state senator Lowell Barron.
Who is Jessica Medeiros Garrison? She is a University of Alabama graduate who worked on Strange's failed 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor. She was his campaign manager in 2010, even though she had no previous experience in such a high-level position. Like Strange, Garrison has voiced powerful opposition to gambling in Alabama.
Garrison was a partner at the Tuscaloosa law firm of Phelps Jenkins Gibson & Fowler, which has powerful ties to University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr., before accepting a position as chief counsel for Luther Strange in January 2011.
Complications from her custody case led Garrison to decline that position and move to Birmingham, where she serves in an "of counsel" role with the firm Balch & Bingham. She lives at 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook, not far from the former Luther Strange residence.
Garrison's rise in Republican political circles might have grown from her ties to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions and former Attorney General William H. Pryor, currently a federal judge on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. This is from a 2011 Tuscaloosa News article titled "Local Attorney To Join AG's Staff: Jessica Garrison To Be Chief Counsel For Luther Strange":
Garrison previously served in the attorney general’s office under Sessions and Pryor. She was director of Public Relations and Legislative Affairs for Pryor and was an intern and assistant director of Public Relations and Legislative Affairs for Sessions.
“It’s a true honor to return to the attorney general’s staff under the leadership of Luther Strange at a historical time for our state government,” she said. “Defending our state’s rights, protecting families and restoring honesty and integrity to the office are among our top priorities."
Garrison earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, where she was president of the Student Government Association, and a juris doctorate from the UA School of Law. She clerked for then-Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Scott Coogler, who is now a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Alabama, and in 1998 joined Phelps, Jenkins, Gibson & Fowler, where she had been a partner since 2008.
Jessica Medeiros Garrison says that she and Luther Strange wanted to restore "honesty and integrity" to the office of attorney general. In a series of future posts, we will examine how such high-minded words square with reality.
Speaking of honesty and integrity, those words show up in the Luther Strange campaign video below.
(To be continued)