LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Questions have been raised about the retired judge who presided over the high-profile criminal trial of then-Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely. Questions focus on the judge’s standing with the Alabama State Bar Association at the time of the trial.
Blakely’s attorneys say they may file a petition with the court to investigate the matter. News 19 has been working to get some insight into these claims.
Blakely’s lawyers say retired Alabama Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Baschab’s status with the state bar association was not up to date when Blakely went on trial in July 2021 and was convicted.
Blakely’s attorney Robert Tuten tells News 19 his team may eventually file a rule 32 petition, asking for an investigation into the timeline surrounding Baschab’s status with the bar when the trial took place.
The judge was retired when Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker appointed her to hear the case, which came after another retired judge bowed out over COVID-19 fears.
News 19 Investigative Reporter Dallas Parker reached out to the Alabama State Bar Association to better understand Baschab’s bar status then and now.
On January 29, well before Blakely’s trial, Baschab received a letter from the state bar letting her know her special membership was inactive as of January 14, 2021.
Though the letter encouraged the retired judge to pay her dues, it also noted, “As a sitting judge, you are not required to be a member of the bar, but we encourage you to continue maintaining your good standing status.”
The bar issued a statement to News 19 that reads in part:
“For judges who have officially retired and are subject to special appointment by the supreme court under Alabama code section 12-18-7 or Alabama Constitution Article VI, sec. 149, the Alabama state bar is not aware of a requirement mandating that the individual continue paying dues as a prerequisite to an appointment by the chief justice.”
The Alabama Administrative Office of Courts also clarified Baschab’s apparent exemption:
“According to the Alabama state bar, retired judges are exempt from licensing requirements; therefore, Judge Baschab was, and is, a qualified active retired judge.”
The state bar says legislation requiring justices and judges in the state to be licensed attorneys was not enacted until October 2021. Blakely’s trial was in July 2021.
The judge’s license went inactive a week before Blakely’s trial for non-payment of dues. But the state says retired judges are exempt from licensing requirements.
According to the Alabama Bar Association membership site, Baschab is now up to date on her dues for the 2021-2022 year. As of August 25, she purchased an occupational law license for the state of Alabama.
Baschab will be required to pay this year’s dues on or before September 30.