from Jefferson Circuit Court (CC-07-3052.43)
Salvagio appeals the circuit court's order finding him
guilty of criminal contempt, as defined by Rule
33.1(b)(3)(b), Ala. R. Crim. P. Salvagio was ordered to be
confined in the Jefferson County jail for 72 hours and was
ordered to pay a $100 fine in compliance with §
12-11-30(5), Ala. Code 1975.
record indicates that Salvagio was one of the attorneys who
represented Steven Petric in his capital-murder trial, at the
end of which Petric was convicted of capital murder and
sentenced to death. Petric v. State, 157 So.3d 176
(Ala.Crim.App.2013). In May 2015, Petric filed a Rule 32,
Ala. R. Crim. P., petition for postconviction relief alleging
ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
August 29, 2017, an evidentiary hearing was held on
Petric's Rule 32 petition. Judge Tracie Todd presided. At
the beginning of the evidentiary hearing, the State invoked
the general exclusionary rule for witnesses. Salvagio was the
first witness. He testified that, immediately before the
evidentiary hearing, he had briefly spoken with Dr. Kimberley
Ackerson, another potential witness in the Rule 32 hearing,
about the case. Judge Todd later admonished all witnesses
that they were not to have any conversations or contact with
other witnesses and that they were not to discuss the case
with anyone until the process was concluded. The evidentiary
hearing continued the following day, and Salvagio was again
called to testify. During Salvagio's testimony, he
testified that the previous night, he had telephoned Rick
Miller, another potential witness in the Rule 32 proceeding,
and briefly discussed the case with Miller. Later in the
hearing, following a second admonishment by Judge Todd for
witnesses to refrain from discussing the case with anyone
connected to Petric's case, Edward Tumlin, Salvagio's
cocounsel during Petric's trial, testified that Salvagio
had also called him the night before and briefly discussed
what had happened in court the previous day.
August 31, 2017, the circuit court issued an order
instructing Salvagio to "show cause as to why his
conduct [was] not a display of willful disobedience or
resistance to the Court's unambiguous and lawful order
not to have contact with anyone involved with [Petric's
Rule 32] petition." (C. 9.)
September 20, 2017, Salvagio filed a "Petition for
Disqualification and Recusal," requesting that Judge
Tracie Todd recuse herself from his contempt proceedings. (C.
94.) Salvagio claimed that it was a violation of Canon 2 and
3.C of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics for Judge Todd
to preside over his contempt proceeding because there was
"an appearance of impropriety" and "that her
impartiality might be reasonably questioned in that she
[publicly] identified [Salvagio] as a supporter, financial
and otherwise, of her political opponent in a contested
judicial election, and his co-counsel in Mr. Petric's
trial." (C. 94-96.) On September 21, 2017, before the
contempt proceeding, arguments were heard from counsel
regarding the recusal issue. Judge Todd denied Salvagio's
petition for recusal. After Judge Todd's denial of
Salvagio's request for recusal, Salvagio moved the court
to stay the contempt proceeding to allow him time to file a
petition for mandamus on the recusal matter, which motion the
circuit court denied.
circuit court subsequently held a contempt proceeding. At the
conclusion of the hearing, the court found that Salvagio had
disregarded an order from the circuit court and held Salvagio
in contempt of court. Salvagio appealed the circuit
court's contempt adjudication.
appeal, Salvagio argues that the circuit judge erred by
failing to recuse herself from his contempt
proceedings. Salvagio claims that Judge Todd's
presiding over his contempt proceeding violated Canons 2 and
3.C of the Alabama Judicial Canons of Ethics. Specifically,
Salvagio alleges that Judge Todd's impartiality might
reasonably be questioned because Judge Todd questioned him on
the witness stand regarding his support -- financial and
otherwise -- of her political opponent.
support his argument, Salvagio cites the following testimony
that occurred during Petric's Rule 32 evidentiary
"THE COURT [Judge Todd]: While they're doing that,
Mr. Salvagio, did Ms. Ladner come to you as a donor for her
campaign or to be on her campaign committee?
"[Salvagio:] Judge, I think she basically wanted to know
if she could use my name, I believe.
"THE COURT: On her campaign?
"[Salvagio:] I don't know, Judge.
"THE COURT: Did you contribute to her campaign?
"[Salvagio:] I don't think I gave her any money.
I'm not sure. I give money to everybody.
"THE COURT: Were you on Judge Cole's committee or
contribute to ...