Southern Poverty Law Center

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a former member of the Tuscaloosa Board of Education who says illegal votes cost her a 2013 re-election.

Kelly Horwitz says her opponent for a school board seat in 2013, Cason Kirby, benefited from illegal votes cast by members of University of Alabama fraternities and sororities. She claims some of those votes were the result of bribery, with Greek members pressuring classmates and offering free drinks or concert tickets to get people to vote.

Etowah County Detention Center
Hannah Rappleye / NBC News

In many respects, Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama is just like any other county jail. But for 300 or so of the facility's occupants, it's a different story. They're not inmates, but immigrant detainees, and they're being held awaiting deportation. That arrangement prompted a legal complaint.

The federal government pays Etowah County and communities across the country to keep immigrant detainees under lock and key in local jails. Critics complain these locations are isolated and detainees are kept thousands of miles from friends and family.

Immigrant detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center are at the center of a civil rights complaint over abuse and visitation rights.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds an average of 300 foreign detainees in Etowah County awaiting deportation. The advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement says there's evidence of widespread abuse at Etowah. They filed a formal complaint earlier this month.

Christina Mansfield is a co-founder of CIVIC. She says she heard reports of abuse on her first visit to the facility in 2013.

The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Board is asking one of its airlines to stop serving the airport.

The request comes after several complaints of unsatisfactory performance by SeaPort Airlines in the Muscle Shoals airport.

Local media reports the airport board unanimously voted earlier this week to request that the airline voluntarily remove its service.

The Oregon-based airline began offering four daily flights from Muscle Shoals to Nashville in January, but reduced its flight schedule to one daily flight earlier this summer.

The Mobile County Commission is taking steps to protect the area’s primary source of drinking water. APR’s Pat Duggins reports it’s a land purchase around Big Creek Lake…

Mobile County wants to buy 200 acres around the Big Creek Lake watershed. The county has close to $400,000 in grants from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program to pay for the property.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the County the go-ahead to make the purchase earlier this week. The goal is to protect the area around the lake, which is Mobile’s main source of water.

Alabama legislators are desperate to end a legislative session marked by frustration and disagreements over how to handle a gaping hole in the state's General Fund budget.

The Alabama Senate will vote today on a General Fund budget expected to include significant cuts after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on new taxes or moving revenue from the state's education budget.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says a special session to try and patch some of those budget holes is looming.

A federal judge has ruled once more that gays and lesbians have the right to marry in all Alabama counties, but placed her decision on hold until the U.S Supreme Court issues their ruling on same-sex marriage nationally.

U.S District Judge Callie Granade ruled yesterday saying once again that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and ordered all probate judges to stop enforcing that ban. But her order won’t go into effect until a U.S. Supreme Court decision which is expected to be handed down sometime next month.

The City of Selma remembered the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” over the weekend. But today marks another milestone in the civil rights movement.

Saturday was the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in 1965. Today marks 50 years since the second march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge called Turnaround Tuesday. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led that protest himself, but turned back before state troopers could attack like they did just two days prior.

Selma city councilman Benny Lee Tucker was a teenager in 1965. He says he had a specific job during King’s march…

A coalition of civil rights organizations filed a motion asking a federal judge to order Alabama's probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The request will also add plaintiffs to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban.

The latest twist in Alabama's same sex marriage controversy drew a quick response from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that probate judges have to stop issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The state’s probate judges will be required to adhere to Alabama law defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, even though a federal district court declared that law unconstitutional in late January.

Richard Cohen is the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He says he’s disappointed in the court’s ruling.

Alabama became the 37th state to legalize same-sex marriage yesterday.

Couples throughout Alabama have been applying for – and receiving – marriage licenses. But some judges are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite the threat of steep penalties.

Meredith Bagley and Alexandrea Davenport, both faculty at the University of Alabama, were married in Vermont five years ago, but they wanted to get an Alabama marriage license now that same-sex marriage is legal.

But when they went in to apply at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse yesterday morning?

Same-sex marriage is officially legal in Alabama starting today, but Chief Justice Roy Moore is doing everything he can to stand in its way.

Moore issued a letter last night ordering all state probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He argues that the federal district court’s ruling does not trump state law.

Ben Cooper is the chairman of Equality Alabama, a volunteer organization defending LGBTQ rights in Alabama. We spoke with Cooper before the law took effect, and he said some of these challenges were expected.

  Governor Robert Bentley says there are no easy solutions to the state's budget and prison problems. Bentley, in his second inaugural address, said state leaders face tough decisions as they come into office for the next four years. However, Bentley said state leaders will not shrink away from the challenge.

     A budget shortfall and the state's severely overcrowded prisons are expected to be the biggest problems facing the Legislature when it convenes in March. The governor is expected to give his proposals when he gives his State of the State address in March.


Washington Post

Alabama prisons are changing the way razors are distributed.

The change comes from an agreement with lawyers for inmates suing the state over medical care.  Attorneys had accused the state of giving razor blades to inmates who were known to be suicidal or mentally ill, leading to repeated suicide attempts.

Florida Atlantic University

Alabama has agreed not to enforce a provision of the state's controversial immigration law that required the state to publish a list of people known to be unlawfully in the country.

Lawyers say they have reached a settlement agreement in the lawsuit challenging what critics called a "scarlet letter list."

The 2012 law required the state to publish a list of people living in the state illegally who have been arrested.


Advocacy groups say Alabama prisons are giving inmates virtually unlimited access to razors, a practice that's leading to deaths and injuries inside the lockups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program asked a court Thursday to bar prisons from freely distributing razor blades to male inmates.

The groups are making the request on behalf of prisoners who've tried to kill themselves using the razors. They say razors are being distributed even after an inmate used one to kill himself at Limestone prison in 2011.

The city of Montgomery is settling lawsuits that accuse it of wrongfully jailing people who can't pay fines.

The Southern Poverty Law Center represents two people involved in the suits and calls the agreement a victory for low-income residents.

The settlement results from lawsuits filed by people who were jailed for accumulating thousands of dollars of unpaid court fines and fees. The suit claims the practice of jailing debtors violates a past Supreme Court ruling.

Court documents show the city will review all cases and follow Supreme Court decisions on the issue.

Jason Comely / Flickr

A state judge has thrown out a lawsuit from payday lenders looking to challenge regulations requiring a central database to track payday loans.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports a Montgomery judge ruled that the State Banking Department didn't exceed its authority last year by ordering a $500 cap on payday loans and a database to make sure consumers didn't have multiple loans out for more than that amount at one time.

The Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama's school superintendent is telling all Alabama public school systems to start using a new student enrollment process that makes clear a Social Security number or birth certificate is not necessary for enrollment.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is taking its legal challenge of the Alabama Accountability Act to a federal appeals court.

The Montgomery-based group has asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a federal judge's decision rejecting the law center's challenge of the state law.


Two advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against the Alabama prison system, claiming the state is failing to provide basic medical and mental health care to inmates.

Attorney Maria Morris of the Southern Poverty Law Center says a lack of adequate medical care is causing inmate suffering and even deaths.

The SPLC and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Center filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Montgomery on behalf of about 40 inmates.

Office of the Governor of Alabama

Alabama Department of Corrections officials are refuting a report by a human rights organization that criticizes health care in state prisons.

Department Commissioner Kim Thomas said in a statement Wednesday the state is proud of the health care it offers inmates and that care provided in state institutions is better than what's available to most uninsured Alabamians.

A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center said the state fails to give inmates a humane level of medical care and disabled prisoners face discrimination.

The Governor's Office

Gov. Robert Bentley has announced an attempt to overhaul the state's severely overcrowded prison system.

Bentley said Tuesday the state's prisons are filled to nearly twice their collective capacity. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a partnership between the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Department of Justice, will examine the system and suggest reforms.

The review comes after a series of stark criticisms. The Department of Justice has called conditions unconstitutional at Alabama's only prison for women.

Florida Atlantic University

Alabama has agreed to pay another $230,000 to civil rights groups that sued over Alabama's immigration law.

The agreement announced Monday brings the total paid by the state government to $580,000. Monday's agreement stemmed from a 2011 suit over a portion of the law that barred business transactions between the state and anyone who could not prove citizenship. The law prevented some people from renewing their mobile home registration tags, but the suit ended the enforcement of that aspect of the law.

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging an Alabama immigration law that requires state officials to post on the Internet the names of people living in the state illegally who have run-ins with the law.

The so-called "scarlet letter list" was part of Alabama's second immigration law that the Legislature enacted in 2012. The Southern Poverty Law Center and others challenged it in federal court on behalf of four residents from Mexico who got arrested for fishing without a state license.

Southern Poverty Law Center

An Alabama group that monitors radical organizations says right-wing extremism is on the decline in the United States.

The liberal Southern Poverty Law Center says the number of hate groups dropped for the second year in a row in 2013, falling 7 percent to 939 last year.

The Montgomery-based legal agency says anti-government "Patriot" groups declined even more. It identifies 1,096 such organizations in the United States, down 19 percent from a year earlier.


A federal judge says he will rule quickly on whether to throw out a lawsuit challenging Alabama's new tax credits for families that move their children from failing public schools.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins on Monday heard from attorneys for the Southern Poverty law Center, which has sued on behalf of eight children in poor, rural counties. He also heard from the attorney general's office, which wants the suit against the governor and other state officials dismissed.

Alabama's attorney general is telling a federal judge that blocking the new Alabama Accountability Act won't help students in failing public schools.

Attorney General Luther Strange is trying to get U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of eight students in failing schools.

The suit challenges the law on equal protection grounds, saying the law's transfer provisions aren't open to the students because there aren't any non-failing public schools or private schools nearby that will accept transfers.

Alabama School Readiness Alliance

State attorneys are asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center seeking to block a new state law allowing students to transfer from failing schools.

The state attorney general's staff filed papers saying the plaintiffs lacked legal standing and failed to state a valid equal protection claim. In an order Monday, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins set a schedule for each side to file briefs, with the last brief due on Oct. 21.

Maggie Martin/APR News

State lawmakers and education officials have filed a state lawsuit to have the Alabama Accountability Act ruled unconstitutional.

   The Montgomery Advertiser reported Wednesday ( that the suit was filed on behalf of Democratic state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery, Lowndes County schools Superintendent Daniel Boyd and Alabama Education Association president Anita Gibson.