BY ASHLEY REMKUS
Don Siegelman, the former Alabama governor who served six years in federal prison for a bribery conviction, will soon be back to practicing law in the state.
The Alabama State Bar’s disciplinary board late last year voted unanimously to readmit Siegelman, AL.com confirmed this week. Siegelman has his license back and is authorized to practice in Alabama, according to the state bar’s online records.
“The Disciplinary Board found that Siegelman (met) his evidentiary burden and noted that he took responsibility for his actions, showed remorse, had excellent character references and had paid all outstanding fees and fines associated with his conviction,” said Roman Shaul, general counsel for the Alabama State Bar, in a statement to AL.com.
Siegelman was disbarred in 2012 because of his federal felony convictions after the bar’s disciplinary board accepted his surrender of his license.
The 75-year-old former governor on Saturday told AL.com that he is excited about litigating again. Siegelman said he wants to volunteer as a public defender in federal court and take on cases of innocent people sentenced to prison or death. He said he also wants to pursue cases related to anti-trust violations, consumer fraud and environmental injustice.
“I wanted to get my license back so that I can help other people,” he said in a phone interview with AL.com.
Siegelman has to complete 60 hours of legal education classes. Shaul said the disciplinary board decided to require the courses because Siegelman has been out of practice for many years.
The disciplinary board includes four lawyers and one lay person who review petitions and decide whether to readmit disbarred attorneys after a hearing. The attorneys can ask to be readmitted after five years.
“In their petition, they must include a great deal of requested material and have the evidentiary burden to demonstrate that they have the character and fitness to practice law,” Shaul said in a statement.
Siegelman said he applied for readmission late last year and had a hearing in December. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the disciplinary board’s vote.
During Siegelman’s hearing, “the State Bar vigorously cross examined each witness and at the end did not take a position for or against the petition,” a bar spokesperson said in an email to AL.com.
Siegelman said that he expects to finish his classes and get back in court by the fall, if not sooner.
“I feel like God was telling me, ‘Look governor, you’ve seen what’s wrong with the criminal justice system. Now go out and fix it,’” Siegelman told AL.com “I hope that through the use of my law license I can help change the justice system so that it is more balanced and fair, so that we can better ensure that innocent people are not convicted, and also that we can provide a measure of justice for families of victims of the use of excessive force by police.”
Siegelman served one term as Alabama governor, from 1999-2003. He was the last Democrat elected to the position, and the only person in state history to serve as attorney general, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and governor. He narrowly lost re-election in 2002 to Republican Bob Riley.
A federal grand jury indicted Siegelman in 2005. He was convicted in 2006 along with HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy on bribery charges. Federal prosecutors said that Scrushy gave $500,000 to Siegelman’s campaign to start a state lottery in exchange for a seat on a state health board. Siegelman was sentenced to 78 months. He was released from federal prison to house arrest in 2017.