Federal Judge Clay Land assigned Don Siegelman's case

After all of the federal judges in the Middle District of Alabama recused themselves, Judge Clay Land of the Middle District of Georgia has been appointed to hear the appeal by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

Land wasted no time in setting a hearing on Siegelman’s motion to be free while he appeals his conviction.

Land set a Dec. 15 hearing for 10:30 a.m. in Montgomery. Siegelman, who is 68 and currently in a Louisiana prison, will be present.

The case had been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller. All of Fuller’s cases have been reassigned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals following his arrest this year on domestic battery charges in Atlanta.

Siegelman’s attorney, Gregory B. Craig of the Washington, D.C., firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, would not discuss the details of the appeal on Tuesday, but did not object to Land’s appointment.

“It was a natural, appropriate and totally understandable decision,” he said.

The Siegelman case has been going on since 2005, when he was indicted on bribery and mail fraud. In 2006 he was convicted by a jury on bribery charges for selling a spot on a hospital regulatory board to former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in exchange for donations to Siegelman’s 1999 campaign to establish a state lottery.

Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice.

In 2008, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved Siegelman’s release pending the outcome of his appeal. A year later, the appeals court struck down two of the seven charges, but upheld the most serious one. Siegelman’s sentence was reduced by 10 months. He has served roughly half of a 69-month sentence.

Siegelman, a Democrat, served as Alabama governor from 1995-1999. He was in a campaign to be elected governor again when he was facing corruption charges. A native of Mobile, Ala., Siegelman previously served as secretary of state and attorney general.