Judge suspended for jailing indigent defendants over traffic tickets is hired by city law department

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Armstead Lester Hayes III, an Alabama judge suspended for improperly jailing traffic court defendants who were indigent, has been earning $6,500 a month to work in the city of Montgomery’s legal department.

After a plea agreement with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Board, the state supreme court on Jan. 5 gave Hayes an unpaid, 11-month suspension, according to Alabama Political Reporter. Todd Strange, Montgomery’s mayor, told the publication that Hayes’ work is for the Montgomery police department’s internal affairs division, which investigates complaints against officers.

“First of all he was not suspended from life,” Strange told the Montgomery Advertiser. “He is still a judge. He has vast knowledge of claims, discovery and things like that that we would pay investigators or paralegals for. We had a need so we gave him a contract for a period of time.”

The judicial inquiry commission found that Hayes violated seven judicial ethics canons, including putting people in jail who hadn’t paid traffic fines without first determining whether they had the ability to pay or considering incarceration alternatives. Alabama law mandates that only people who are not indigent can be jailed for not paying traffic fines.

Hayes served as presiding judge in the Montgomery municipal court, and while there allowed Judicial Corrections Services, a collections agency with a state contract, to operate in the court, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. The company made millions of dollars by adding collection fees to traffic tickets, according to the article, and both the Southern Poverty Law Center and Equal Justice Under Law sued the company and the city of Montgomery.

After the lawsuit was filed, Judicial Corrections Services announced that it would no longer be working with the state, according to an earlier Montgomery Advertiser article. Also, the lawsuit led to the change in state law that indigent people could not be jailed for unpaid traffic fines.

Hayes was also the court’s presiding judge when it made changes after the lawsuit, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. When his suspension was announced, Joe Espy, Hayes’ attorney wrote in a statement that the problems in question were resolved two years ago, AL.com reported.

Hayes “accepts full responsibility as you would expect from a man of his character,” Espy wrote.




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