Articles Tagged with alabama supreme court

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Experienced, Dedicated, Preparedrecent lawsuit challenges Alabama’s state-wide method of electing appellate court judges. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed retired Federal Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson about the lawsuit. McPherson previously served the Federal Court in Montgomery.

McPherson answered questions from the NPR host about the new election lawsuit. Alabama elects appellate judges in state-wide elections. The lawsuit alleges this state-wide process is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. As McPherson explained in the NPR interview, minorities are not currently represented on Alabama’s appellate courts.

I’m not an expert on the Voting Rights Act. I will let McPherson discuss that issue. Our firm does pursue personal injury, work comp and other damage lawsuits to trial in counties across Alabama. Between trials and appeals, we follow the courts closely. I have long advocated a change to our appellate election system so judges could be elected by districts rather than state-wide. I wrote a prior article which discussed the issue in 2010. I welcome Judge McPherson’s discussion concerning diversity and representation on our appellate courts.

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thumbnail_large-1In January, I wrote about the need to re-think the way we select judges in Alabama. Our costly partisan elections harm our justice system. Is Alabama’s costly system similar to most other states? The short answer is, no. A recent Washington Post article reveals that most other states pick judges through a different method. The article contains a great color-coded map illustrating the process for selecting judges in each state.

Mississippi attorney Philip Thomas also recently wrote about this issue. As usual, his article provides an excellent commentary on the law. Philip advocates an appointment process for selecting judges. It’s a good idea that we should also consider. In his post, Philip notes a recent study showing a:

positive relationship between campaign contributions from business groups and justices’ voting in favor of business interests. The more campaign contributions from business interests the justices receive, the more likely they are to vote for business litigants when they appear before them in court.

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Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersDoes the number of jurors on a panel matter? Does it affect the fairness of the panel in deciding cases? Moreover, does justice require a unanimous verdict? Or, asked another way, does justice require that one lone dissenter prevent a jury panel from deciding a case? These questions have long been debated by legal scholars. Jury practices vary between different jurisdictions and these questions are not just ones for theoretical debate. Instead, these questions present an opportunity to discuss our court system and how it will continue to operate in the best manner to administer justice fairly in our community.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an opinion piece on the budget crisis facing state courts throughout the United States. I’ve written about Alabama’s budget problems on several prior occasions. I certainly would not advocate altering our jury system simply based on cost. Justice is too important. However, if the ends of justice could just as equally be obtained with a 6 person panel as opposed to a 12 person panel, then the issue is one that should be considered. So, it’s an interesting debate.

Recently, the Alabama Association for Justice (AAJ) asked me to write a short statement on the issue. My memo to the AAJ is too lengthy to include here in its entirety. But, I did find some interesting statistics and research quotes to get a debate started. To begin, fixing the number of jurors at 12 is largely traditional and dates from medieval times. In Alabama, that number appears to have been simply accepted as the correct number with little or no thought. Yet, in the 1970’s, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue and held that 6 member juries were valid under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that:

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