St. Clair News Aegis (Pell City, AL)

News

November 15, 2012

Judicial committee proposal in the works

Ashville — St. Clair County judicial leaders addressed the St. Clair County Commission Wednesday with a proposal to create a judicial committee to review and appoint officials to fill judicial vacancies in the county as they arise.

The judicial nominating committee would work to appoint individuals for vacancies for any circuit court judge, district court judge, district attorney, probate judge or circuit clerk in the county.

Current procedure grants the Alabama governor the authority to appoint individuals to judicial vacancies.

“We want to ensure the three nominations sent to the governor are qualified,” presiding St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Hill told the commission.  “We are delighted with the appointments we have had, but the field has widened.  We want to ensure quality control.”

Judge Hill told the commission the number of lawyers in the county has grown and that the goal of creating the nominating committee is to avoid waiting until after an appointment was made that might create difficulties for the county’s judicial system.

“I don’t think we should wait until a first-time error occurs,” Judge Hill said.  “Judges render all kinds of decisions.”

If put in place, the nominating committee would be made up of five individuals: the presiding judge of the 30th Judicial Circuit, who would serve as the chairperson and a non-voting member of the committee except in the event of a tie vote.  Other committee members would include Alabama State Bar Commission representative from the 30th Judicial District, Chairman of the St. Clair County Commission and two St. Clair County residents appointed by the St. Clair County Commission.

Commissioner Paul Manning expressed concern over creating a judicial nominating committee.

“I am not 100 percent sold on the platform of having a judicial committee.”

Manning advised judicial leaders and the rest of the commission to search and see if taking action on the matter was really necessary.

“[The process] has worked so well for us the way it is,” Manning said.

Judge Hill asked the commission to address the matter at their next work session and voted on at the next regular meeting so the proposal would be prepared for the Alabama legislative session in January.

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