SPLC and ACLU hoping to reverse judgeship decision

Judgeship preliminary injunction
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 10:48 PM CDT
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MADISON CO., Ala. (WAFF) - The Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama hope to reverse the state judicial commission’s decision to move a judgeship from Jefferson County to Madison County.

SPLC Attorney Liza Weisberg said the decision to move a judgeship should be left to elected lawmakers.

“It was exercising a lawmaking power,” Weisberg said. “It was doing something only a legislature is allowed to do. That is the crux of the legal issue here.”

The Alabama Judicial Resource Allocation Commission made the judgeship move to Madison County in June.

A month later, Governor Kay Ivey appointed Circuit Judge Patrick Tuten to the bench to alleviate a massive backlog in the Madison County court system.

Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel said he agrees with the commission’s decision due to the number of judges in both counties.

“You have an excess of judges in Jefferson County and a deficit of judges in Madison County,” McDaniel said. “It’s clear. It’s not even debatable.”

McDaniel said the ACLU and SPLC’s argument is flawed due to the timing of the suit’s filing.

“The judges in Jefferson County knew this was going to be done a long time ago,” McDaniel said. “They waited until after Patrick Tuten was sworn in as a circuit judge before they filed this suit.”

Weisberg said her team’s goal is not to take a judge from Madison County, the goal is to get more judges statewide.

“The real way to accomplish what every county needs the legislature needs to step up and to pass a law potentially creating new judgeships everywhere, including Madison County.”

Another SPLC attorney Ahmed Soussi said he fears the precedent set by the decision from JRAC.

“This is the first time that JRAC acted with the powers they have. No one can stop them from possibly taking more judges out of Jefferson county, out of Madison county. We might see a place where JRAC can just do what they want. Since there’s no accountability, then you come into big issues.”

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