HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The pandemic has affected nearly every profession in someway, including lawyers.
We’ve learned over the past several months, the fear of the virus has caused multiple attorneys to step away from cases.
Picture this: 24 inmates in one room with 19 lawyers. And the inmates are not wearing masks. Would you feel safe?
That is the situation Huntsville attorney Robin Wolfe described at the Madison County jail, and prompted her to withdraw from the case.
Wolfe tells us she received multiple complaints from other attorneys about the conditions inside the jail.
She said, “For approximately two months, we had the ability to schedule free telephone calls with our clients on an unrecorded line which allowed us to better communicate with our clients and not enter the jail. That privilege was revoked on or about June 11, 2020. Inmates were still not afforded masks as of that date. It was a difficult decision to withdraw my name from the court appointed list after 21 years of indigent defense practice, but safety concerns were too great for my family.”
Attorney Russell Crumbley says he himself has not experienced this at the Madison County jail, but says some of his associates have.
“They need to be playing by the rules they have imposed on us,” Crumbley said.
But he says his associates experienced it before the mandatory mask order went into effect.
“I’ve advised my associates that if you get over there and they’re not protecting you like they’re expecting you to protect them’ leave and we’ll figure out how to handle it,” Crumbley said.
Crumbley says if the virus is passed to a lawyer it could be brought into a courtroom.
“None of us want the coronavirus. I don’t want an exposure issue here at my office. I don’t want my people to get sick,” he said.
He tells us now he expects all inmates to be masked at the jail.
“If I were to walk out of this meeting right now and go to the jail, I would be required to wear a mask and I would expect that everybody I came in contact with in there to also have on a mask. You can rest assured now that I know its an issue. We’ll be playing close attention to it,” Crumbley said.
Overall, Wolfe says this whole situation is causing stress on clients, lawyers and the entire legal system.
We did speak to a defense attorney who was in Madison County jail Thursday and inmates were wearing masks.
We also reached out to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office about the situation and have not heard back.