Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

July 10

Dothan Eagle on a lawsuit over the election of appellate judges in Alabama:

Perhaps the best-known trial to take place in Alabama is one from the pages of fiction — the 1935 trial of Tom Robinson for the rape of Mayella Ewell in Maycomb County, Alabama, the pivotal event in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The elephant in the courtroom is race — Tom is black; Mayella is white — and considering the locale and the timeframe, there's little doubt how the storyline will play out.

That elephant will be back in a Montgomery courtroom next month when a federal judge will hear arguments in a 2016 lawsuit over Alabama's method of seating its appellate judges. The suit brought by four black voters and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP maintains that the method of seating these jurists through statewide, at-large elections dilutes the voting power of African-American voters.

It should be an interesting case. The long history of U.S. Justice Department oversight of Alabama's legislative district lines to ensure minority representation in the state house appears to undergird the plaintiffs' argument.

A larger complaint, however, is that jurists are seated by election at all.

By filling judicial seats through partisan elections, hopefuls are forced to declare a party, seek and accept campaign contributions and walk a fine line with regard to campaigning — none of which engenders confidence in the expectation of impartiality.

A better course would be a thoughtful creation of a panel to bring forward nominations, with nominees put through a legislative confirmation process. A process such as this could address existing concerns, not only of inequitable racial representation on the upper courts, but of naked partisanship and potential biases on the court.


July 9

The Cullman Times on boating crashes and safety:

The Fourth of July holiday was marred by tragic deaths across the state, particularly on popular waterways.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's (ALEA) Marina Patrol Divisions worked fatal boat crashes from the Montgomery area to Smith Lake in Cullman and Winston counties. ...

The state's Marine Patrol, while not a large force for the vast areas it covers, has plenty of information and rules to follow for safe boating.

Knowing that Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are among the busiest times on Alabama rivers and lakes, every effort is made to patrol waterways and spot potentially dangerous violations.

The first and more sensible advice is that life jackets are the best protection from tragedy. Just as a seatbelt in a car, having the ability to stay afloat on the water is the best chance for survival. Children 8 and under should have one on at all times, and once a boat is moving, everyone should have a properly fitting life vest on.

And while there are not painted lanes on the water, staying to the right is the rule of boating. Staying to the left is the same thing as driving the wrong in motor traffic.

All boats should also be equipped with kill-switches that instantly cuts the motor off during a crash or if the operator is not at the station. And anyone boating at night should be sure that all lights are working properly before going out.

Boat traffic can become congested on the holidays or just about any summer weekend. Alabama's waterways are meant to be enjoyed. But safety is everyone's responsibility.

Also, anyone who has consumed alcohol should never attempt to operate a boat. Again, just like on the highways, drinking is always a recipe for disaster when operating a boat or vehicle.

Considering the rash of accidents this past weekend, which included six deaths in 12 water crashes, following all safety rules must be the top priority when on our waterways.


July 7

The Gadsden Times on robocall scams:

You've heard this from us before. You'll probably hear it from us again, because the problem doesn't seem to be going away despite our and others' efforts to call attention to it.

We'll put the bottom line at the top. If you get a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI or another federal, state or local government or law enforcement agency — or from anyone calling for any reason who you don't recognize with metaphysical certitude — demanding that you send money to prevent dire consequences to you or a family member, or provide personal information like your Social Security number and bank account or credit card information, hang up.

Of course we're not going to criticize you for tossing in a few choice comments before doing so — make sure the kids aren't around if you get extra salty — but the best thing to do is just hang up and go about your business.

The latest attempt at this scam locally was reported last week on the Etowah County Sheriff's Office criminal investigation division's Facebook page. Someone claiming to be from the division has been calling county residents seeking money.

We hope nobody has gotten bitten; we hope anyone who's received such a call has abided by the investigators' request to report it. (The number is 256-549-5404.)

Here's the deal: If the cops have a warrant for you, they're going to come out in a car with a siren on top, place you in handcuffs, stick you in the back seat and take you to jail. No one is going to touch bases with you by phone first or give you the chance to get out of the situation with a cash card.

The Facebook post didn't specify what the monetary requests were for — typically the claim with faux law enforcement is unpaid fines — but no one is going to contact you, especially after business hours, about making restitution for such debts over the phone with a cash card (it's strange how that difficult-to-trace payment method is common with scammers).

We know why people, especially the elderly, fall victim to such nefariousness. We've noted in previous lectures on this subject that especially in the South, people immediately gravitate toward politeness when the phone rings, and assuming the good in callers until shown otherwise. They panic and lose their cool when someone starts yapping about sending them to jail. They put too much trust into Caller ID, which has become practically useless in these situations because scammers have figured out how to spoof numbers.

The folks involved in such schemes could be halfway across the planet and probably cast out hundreds of these lines each day, knowing that they'll get a few profitable bites.

No one can keep that from happening except you.

Our lectures and law enforcement's admonitions are reactive, after the fact.

It's up to you to protect yourself in real time.

Just hang up.

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