Supreme Court of Alabama
The Supreme Court of Alabama is the highest court in the state of Alabama. The court consists of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Each justice is elected in partisan elections for staggered six-year terms. The Supreme Court is housed in the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.
|Supreme Court of Alabama|
|Location||Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building, Montgomery, Alabama|
|Authorized by||Alabama Constitution|
|Appeals to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Number of positions||9|
|Since||January 11, 2019|
The Governor of Alabama may fill vacancies when they occur for the remainder of unexpired terms. The current partisan line-up for the court is all Republican. There is no specific limitation on the number of terms to which a member may be elected. However, the state constitution under Amendment 328, adopted in 1973, prohibits any member from seeking election once they have attained the age of seventy years. This amendment would have prohibited then Chief Justice Roy Moore from seeking re-election in 2018. However, on April 26, 2017, Moore announced his intent to run for the United States Senate seat formerly held by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and resigned from the court.
The Supreme Court of Alabama was organized under the governorship of William Wyatt Bibb, and had its beginnings with the Alabama Constitution of 1819, which stated that until the General Assembly deemed otherwise, the functions of the Supreme Court would be handled by the judges of the Alabama circuit courts. The circuit judges were elected by a joint vote of both houses of the Alabama Legislature. These judges met in May 1820 in the capital city of Cahaba for the first term of the Supreme Court. Clement Comer Clay was appointed by the other judges as the first Chief Justice of the court. Following his resignation in 1823, he was succeeded by Abner Smith Lipscomb.
The court was then reorganized in 1832. It then became a separate court with three justices elected to six-year terms. Abner Lipscomb remained as Chief Justice. In 1851 the number of justices was increased to five. In 1853 the membership of the court was reduced to three again. By this time the court had its own chambers in the newly completed Alabama State Capitol. No changes to the court occurred during the years of the Civil War.
The new state constitution of 1868, drafted during the Reconstruction Era, committed the election of the three justices to the people rather than the legislature. The number of justices was increased to four in 1889. 1891 saw the number increased to five. Following the adoption of the 1901 constitution, the 1903 session of the legislature raised the number of justices to seven. In 1940 the Supreme Court moved from the Capitol Building to 445 Dexter Avenue. The building had been built as a Scottish Rite temple in 1926 but was sold to the state during the financially difficult years of the Great Depression. The state acquired and started a remodel of the building in 1938 for the relocation of the Judicial Department, Attorney General and State Law Library.
Legislative Act Number 602, 1969 Alabama Acts was passed during Regular Session of 1969. It increased the number of Associate Justices to eight, bringing the number of court justices to the configuration that remains today. Former Justice Janie L. Shores was the first of six women to serve on the court. She was elected to the court in 1974. The first of three Blacks to serve on the court was former Justice Oscar W. Adams Jr., who in 1980 was initially appointed by then Governor Fob James to serve the remainder of an unexpired term. Justice Adams would become the first Black elected to the court when he was elected two years later to serve a full six-year term. The court moved to the new Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building at 300 Dexter Avenue in 1994.
The Supreme Court of Alabama has the authority to review decisions by all the lower courts of the state and the authority to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction. It further has the authority to issue any necessary orders to carry out the general superintendence of the Unified Judicial System of Alabama. It has exclusive jurisdiction over all appeals in disputes exceeding $50,000, as well as appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission.
The Chief Justice also serves as the administrative head of the Alabama Judicial System. The court makes all rules governing administration, practice, and procedure for all Alabama courts. The exercise of this authority eliminates technicalities which usually cause delays in trial courts and reversals in appellate courts.
The Alabama Supreme Court has had an unusually high turnover in the Chief Justice position going back to October, 1995. Since then the post will have been occupied by eight different individuals for nine different time periods. Not one of these individuals has completed an entire term of six years. Perry Hooper Sr. (1995–2001), elected in 1994, did not assume the office until October, 1995 after a protracted election contest that prevented him from taking office until nine months into the term. He was succeeded by Roy Moore (2001–2003) who was elected in 2000 but removed from office due to violations of the judicial canon of ethics. He was succeeded first temporarily by Associate Justice Gorman Houston during Moore's suspension but before his actual removal from office. After Moore vacated the office, the Governor appointed Drayton Nabers Jr. (2004–2007). Chief Justice Nabers was defeated for re-election by Sue Bell Cobb (2007–2011) in 2006, and who in turn resigned for personal reasons in the middle of her term. Her replacement, Chuck Malone (2011–2013) was appointed on August 1, 2011 by Governor Robert Bentley but was defeated for re-nomination by former Chief Justice Roy Moore (2013–2017) in 2012. Moore assumed the office a second time beginning on January, 2013 and was again suspended from office in May 6, 2016 by the Court of the Judiciary. This allowed Associate Justice Lyn Stuart to then become acting Chief Justice. Lyn Stuart became Chief Justice on April 26, 2017 when Moore formally resigned from the seat from which he was already suspended. This allowed him to seek election to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions for which a special election was held in December, 2017.
Stuart was appointed for the remainder of the term by Governor Kay Ivey on April 26, 2017. That term ends in January 2019. However, she was entitled to seek re-nomination as Chief Justice in 2018. Chief Justice Stuart, who became the first female Republican Chief Justice, has been an Associate Justice of the court since 2001. She faced Associate Justice Tom Parker in the GOP primary in June, 2018 and lost the primary to Parker in a relatively close race. Parker had previously lost a GOP primary for the post to Drayton Nabers in 2006. As a result in November 2018, Alabamians selected a new Chief Justice when Republican Tom Parker easily defeated Democrat Robert Vance. Justice Parker became the eighth different Chief Justice in only seventeen years when he assumed office on January 11, 2019. When Parker became Chief Justice, he vacated the Associate Justice seat he then held and Governor Kay Ivey appointed outgoing Justice Mendheim to the seat. Chief Justice Parker is 67 years old and will not be constitutionally eligible to seek another term in 2024, thus resulting in another new Chief Justice in 2025.
- Clement Claiborne Clay
- Abner S. Lipscomb
- Reuben Saffold
- Henry Hitchcock (D)
- Arthur F. Hopkins (D)
- Henry W. Collier (D)
- Edmund S. Dargan (D)
- William P. Chilton (D)
- George Goldthwaite (D)
- Samuel F. Rice (D)
- Abram J. Walker (D)
- Elisha W. Peck (R)
- Thomas Minott Peters (R)
- Robert C. Brickell (D)
- George W. Stone (D)
- Robert C. Brickell (D) (re-elected)
- Samuel D. Weakley Jr. (D)
- John R. Tyson (D)
- James R. Dowdell (D)
- John C. Anderson (D)
- Lucien D. Gardner (D)
- James E. Livingston (D)
- Howell Heflin (D)
- C.C. Torbert (D) (1977-1989)
- Ernest C. Hornsby (D) (1989-1995)
- Perry O. Hooper Sr. (R) (1995–2001)
- Roy Moore (R) (2001–2003)
- Gorman Houston (R) (Acting 2003–2004)
- Drayton Nabers Jr. (R) (2004–2007)
- Sue Bell Cobb (D) (2007–2011)
- Chuck Malone (R) (2011–2013)
- Roy Moore (R) (2013–2017)
- Lyn Stuart (R) (Acting 2016–2017)(Appointed 2017–2019)
- Tom Parker (R) (2019–present)
Most of the current members of the court initially came to their seats via election, with two exceptions:
- Justice Lyn Stuart's elevation to the Chief Justice position created a vacancy in the Associate Justice seat she held. That vacancy was filled by Governor Kay Ivey on May 25, 2017, with the appointment of Justice William B. Sellers.
- Justice Tom Parker became Chief Justice on January 14, 2019, vacating the Associate Justice seat he held. On December 28, 2018, Governor Ivey appointed outgoing Justice Brady E. Mendheim Jr. to that seat, effective January 15, 2019. Mendheim had previously been appointed by Ivey to replace Justice Glenn Murdock, who resigned effective January 2018; Mendheim was defeated in the election to serve the remainder of that term.
|Justice||Year service began||Next election||Party affiliation||Law school|
|Tom Parker||Republican||Vanderbilt University School of Law|
|James L. Mitchell||Republican||University of Virginia School of Law|
|Tommy Elias Bryan||Republican||Thomas Goode Jones School of Law|
|William B. Sellers||Republican||University of Alabama School of Law|
New York University
|Kelli Wise||Republican||Thomas Goode Jones School of Law|
|Michael F. Bolin||Republican||Cumberland School of Law|
|Sarah Hicks Stewart||Republican||Vanderbilt University School of Law|
|Brady E. Mendheim Jr.||Republican||Cumberland School of Law|
|James G. Shaw||Republican||Cumberland School of Law|
University of Virginia School of Law
Former Associate Justices of Alabama Supreme Court (Partial List)
- Oscar W. Adams Jr. (D)
- Reneau P. Almon (D)
- Janie L. Shores (D)
- John England (D)
- Ralph Cook (D)
- Jean Brown (R)
- Gorman Houston (R)
- Champ Lyons Jr. (R)
- Harold F. See Jr. (R)
- Patricia "Patti" Smith (R)
- Thomas Woodall (R)
- Bernard Harwood (R)
- Glenn Murdock (R)
- Tom Parker (R)
- Lyn Stuart (R)
- James Allen Main (R)
Administrative Office of the Courts and State Marshals
The Administrative Office of the Courts is under the leadership of a Director appointed by the Chief Justice of the Court. The Administrative Office of the Courts is responsible for a variety of functions including but not limited to the Juvenile Probation Offices for the Family Court System; Child Support Enforcement; Human Resources Division of the Court; and the Court Interpreter Registry. The current Director, Rich Hobson, was appointed by Chief Justice Tom Parker to the position in January, 2019. This is Hobson's third time in the position having previously served in the post from 2001–2003 and 2013–2016.
The State of Alabama Marshals are responsible for protection of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Court of Civil Appeals. They also serve subpoenas and court documents among other duties. The current Marshal of the Appellate Courts is Willie L. James who has held the position since 2001.
- "Alabama Judicial Building Tour". Alalinc. Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library. Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Roy Moore running for Senate, resigns from Supreme Court to challenge Luther Strange, AL.com, http://www.al.com/news/montgomery/index.ssf/2017/04/roy_moore_announces_alabama_ch.html
- "Supreme Court of Alabama". Alabama Unified Judicial System. State of Alabama. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Alabama Governor William Wyatt Bibb". National Governors Association. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
- "A history of the Alabama Judicial System" (PDF). Alabama Unified Judicial System. State of Alabama. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Lane, Mills (1989). Architecture of the Old South: Alabama and Mississippi. Savannah, Georgia: The Beehive Press. pp. 88–93. ISBN 0-88322-038-5.
- "New Neighbors" (PDF). Alabama State Bar. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 12, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-08-09. Retrieved 2017-05-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Governor Ivey Appoints William B. Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court (Press Release)". May 25, 2017. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
- Press Release (May 25, 2017). "Governor Ivey Appoints William B. Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court". WTVY. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
- Wise, Jeremy. "Dothan's Brad Mendheim retaining a seat on Alabama Supreme Court". Dothan Eagle. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
- Alabama Supreme Court website
- Brandon Moseley, Alabama Political Reporter, January 17, 2019.