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Misconduct Report: November 2014

Judicial selection in Alabama

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Alabama
Seal of the Alabama court system.jpg
Alabama Supreme Court
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Alabama Circuit Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Alabama District Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Alabama Probate Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years

Selection of the state court judges in Alabama occurs through the partisan election of judges. The appellate and general jurisdiction courts share policies on judge qualifications, term length, re-election and the filling of interim vacancies; they differ only in their selection of the chief justice or judge. Likewise, the limited jurisdiction courts function largely the same across the board, differing primarily in judge qualifications.[1][2]

Judges' terms begin on the first Monday after the second Tuesday in January following their election.[3]

Supreme Court

See also: Partisan elections

There are nine justices on the Alabama Supreme Court, each elected to six-year terms. They appear on partisan election ballots statewide and must face re-election if they wish to serve again.[1] For more information about these elections, visit the Alabama judicial elections page.

The chief justice of the court is selected by popular vote, serving in that effect for his or her full six-year term.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • licensed to practice law for at least ten years;
  • a state resident for at least one year;
  • under the age of 70 at the time of election (judges who turn 70 in office may serve until their term expires)[1][4]

These specific requirements are fairly new; note in the History section below that the ten year law license requirement was only established in 2009.

Vacancies

Should a vacancy occur between regularly scheduled elections, which take place in November of even-numbered years, an interim justice is established via gubernatorial appointment. Any justice appointed in this fashion must then stand for election in the next general election occurring at least one year after the interim judge took office.[1]

Modifying this rule, the counties of Baldwin, Jefferson, Madison, Mobile, Talladega, and Tuscaloosa use judicial nominating commissions to fill vacancies. The governor chooses his or her appointee from a pool of the commission's nominees. Each county individually determines the size, composition, and procedures for its nominating commission.[1][5]

Courts of Civil and Criminal Appeals

See also: Partisan elections

There are five judges on the Court of Civil Appeals and five on the Court of Criminal Appeals. All of these judges are elected to six-year terms. Every aspect of selection (judicial qualifications, re-election, interim vacancies) is shared with the Alabama Supreme Court except for chief judge selection: in the civil appeals court, the chief is chosen by seniority; in the criminal appeals court, the chief is chosen by peer vote. Both courts maintain their chief judges for indefinite terms.[1]

As with the supreme court, these judges appear on election ballots statewide.[1]

Circuit Courts

See also: Partisan elections

There are 144 judges on the Alabama Circuit Courts, each elected to six-year terms. The circuit courts share the Alabama Supreme Court's regulations on re-election and interim vacancies, but they differ in the areas of chief judge selection and judicial qualifications. Unlike the supreme court, the chief judge of a circuit court is selected by peer vote and serves a three-year term.[1]

Only voters residing in a particular circuit may vote for the circuit judge of that region.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • licensed to practice law for at least five years;
  • a resident of his or her circuit for at least one year;
  • under the age of 70 at the time of election (judges who turn 70 in office may serve until their term expires)[1][4]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Alabama's limited jurisdiction courts (the district courts, probate courts and municipal courts) vary in their selection processes:[2][6]

District Court Probate Court Municipal Court
Judges: 98 72 -
Selection: Partisan election Partisan election Appointment by governing body of municipality
Term: Six-year term Six-year term Varies
Re-election method: Contested election Contested election Reappointment
Qualifications: licensed to practice law for 3 years Vary licensed to practice law in state
Note: Municipal governments are entitled to abolish local courts and transfer jurisdiction to the county's district court.[2]

History

Judicial selection methods in Alabama have remained relatively stable over the last 200 years, but several significant changes have taken place. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 2009: Judges of the supreme court and civil/criminal appeals courts are required to have practiced law for at least ten years, circuit judges for five years and district judges for three years.
  • 1867: Judges of all courts are chosen through popular election.
  • 1850: Circuit judges are chosen through popular election.
  • 1830: Tenure of all judges is changed from "good behavior" to six-year terms.
  • 1819: All judges are elected for life by both houses of the general assembly.[7]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[8]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

Alabama Supreme CourtAlabama Court of Civil AppealsAlabama Court of Criminal AppealsAlabama Circuit CourtsAlabama Municipal CourtsAlabama Probate CourtsAlabamaAlabama countiesAlabama judicial newsAlabama judicial electionsJudicial selection in AlabamaUnited States District Court for the Northern District of AlabamaUnited States District Court for the Middle District of AlabamaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of AlabamaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh CircuitAlabamaTemplate.jpg