|Judge Jacob Walker III|
The judge in the Mike Hubbard corruption case used to be the primary partner in the law firm that now is helping to defend the Alabama House Speaker. In fact, Judge Jacob Walker's family built the firm that now is trying to earn a not-guilty verdict for Hubbard on a 23-count indictment of ethics-law violations.
When you add this information to the affidavit Montgomery political consultant Baron Coleman filed, claiming possible prosecutorial misconduct, an upcoming hearing in the case should be filled with intrigue. The hearing was set for today (Feb. 10), but has been rescheduled for next Tuesday (Feb. 16). The court gave prosecutors until Feb. 11 to respond to Coleman's affidavit.
A document filed on January 20, 2016, in the Hubbard case shows that two of the lawyers representing the speaker are Phillip E. Adams Jr. and Blake Oliver of the Opelika firm Adams White Oliver Short and Forbus.
A 1998 appellate case shows that Jacob A. Walker III was with the Opelika firm of Walker Hill Adams Umbach Meadows and Walton. Walker, as you can see, was listed in the No. 1 position on the firm's nameplate. That's the same Jacob A. Walker III who, about the time that 1998 case was decided, was appointed to a Lee County judgeship by Governor Fob James.
Walker has been on the bench ever since, earning re-election most recently in 2010. The firm that once bore his name has morphed into--you guessed it--Adams White Oliver Short and Forbus. In fact, the firm has the same address it had back in the '90s--205 S 9th St, Opelika, AL 36801.
A brief history on the firm's Web site indicates that address has been home to what should be called "The Walker Law Firm" since the 1940s. Photographs on the Web show that the firm is housed in The Walker Building.
How did Jacob Walker III land such a pre-eminent place in the legal stratosphere of east Alabama? He did it the old-fashioned way--he was born into privilege. From the firm history:
Adams White Oliver Short & Forbus can trace its roots to the law practice of Jacob Walker, Sr. Jacob Walker, Sr. graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, what is now Auburn University, in 1908 and then attended the University of Chicago Law School. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, Mr. Walker, a native of Alexander City, returned to his home town to practice law. In 1915, Mr. Walker moved his young law practice from Alexander City, Alabama to Opelika, Alabama and began practicing law with Reid Barnes. In the late 1930's, Mr. Walker bought a vacant lot next to the Lee County Courthouse and in 1940 constructed a building to house his law practice. In the newspaper article announcing the construction of the office building by Mr. Walker, it was reported that the “blue prints of the new Walker Building indicate that Opelika will have one of its handsomest business structures” in the region and that the plans for the interior were of the “very latest designs for the elegant furnishings to be arranged.” The article continued to explain that the building “will be strikingly beautiful, one of the finest designs of any building in the city. When completed, this will make a wonderful improvement in the courthouse block. ”
In 1948, Mr. Walker was joined in the practice of law by his son, Jacob Walker, Jr., and they began practicing law under the name of Walker & Walker. Phil Adams joined the firm in 1969 and continued to practice law with Jacob Walker, Jr. until Jacob’s retirement in December of 2001. Over the years the firm changed its name but its members continue to practice in the same “strikingly beautiful” Opelika location.
So, let's follow the family trail: Jacob Walker Sr. started a law firm that has held several names over the years; his son, Jacob Walker Jr., joined the practice in 1948; and Walker Jr.'s son, Jacob Walker III, eventually joined the firm and was lead partner until Governor Fob James (a close friend of Jacob Walker Jr.) appointed him to a judgeship.
The current incarnation of the firm is called Adams White Oliver Short and Forbus. And two of its lawyers are trying to keep Mike Hubbard from becoming overly familiar with the Alabama correctional system.
Those two lawyers are practicing before a judge--Jacob A Walker III--whose roots run about as deep as possible in their firm.
Could that be an advantage for the Adams White firm? Could it help keep Mike Hubbard out of prison? Does it represent a glaring conflict for Judge Jacob A. Walker III? Where does Baron Coleman's affidavit fit into this picture?
The answer to those questions appears to be yes. But these might be the most interesting questions of all: Are prosecutors in the Hubbard case aware of Judge Walker's background and his monumental conflict? It's hard to imagine that they aren't.
If that's the case, why haven't they filed a motion for Walker's recusal? And where does Baron Coleman's affidavit fit into this picture?
How are prosecutors serving the public interest if they allow a clearly compromised judge to hear a profoundly important criminal case?
That probably is the most powerful question of all.