The last couple weeks have just been one big party for legal scholars who watch the U.S. Supreme Court. In that time span, the Court has issued a number of important decisions. They include a decision striking down Arizona’s immigration law (that also has implications for Alabama’s similar law) and a decision striking down Alabama’s law that imposes a mandatory life without parole sentence on some crimes committed by juveniles. Finally, the Court issued the big decision, on the Affordable Care Act. Since these decisions have been applauded, criticized, analyzed, and debated endlessly over the last few days, I won’t add any more to the debate. Instead, I’ll go purely local and deal with a political issue facing the Court here in Madison County.
On Thursday, the Huntsville Times published an article on the most recent event in the continuing story of how not to name a Judge. For a refresher on events, I have written two previous posts. My first post criticized the back room political process in Montgomery used to select this Judge. My second post references a newspaper editorial also critical of this process.
Since these posts, the back room political party committee met in Montgomery and made its choice behind closed doors. Only one member of that committee actually lives in Madison County. At its meeting, the committee apparently even refused to hear from Madison County’s presiding Judge.
Several local attorneys applied for the vacant position. In my opinion, the committee actually had 4 excellent candidates. These candidates were Ron Smith, Robert Rodgers, Patrick Tuten, and Jonathan Pippin. All 4 of these guys are excellent attorneys who have the experience and character to make a good Judge. So, what was the committee’s problem with these guys? It turns out these 4 were unbiased lawyers with independent judgment. In the eyes of the committee, these qualities (that actually make a good Judge) were apparently a negative. Instead, the committee appears to have been simply looking for a political candidate that would support the party line on all issues.
That leads us to the newest article this morning. According to the newspaper, several local attorneys have filed a complaint because the choice of the closed door committee, Linda Coats, may have also missed important election filing deadlines. I’m certainly no election law expert. I understand from other reports that the specific deadline missed by the candidate who actually won the election (Chris Messervy) legally required his rejection. However, according to some reports, there are questions as to whether Coats also missed filing deadlines. Did the closed door committee ignore those issues in selecting her as its choice? I don’t know all the details surrounding the election report filings. However, it certainly appears that the committee had no desire to consider the needs of our local court in filing this judicial position.
This is no way to pick a Judge. Putting politics before character and quality. Choosing behind closed doors. Ignoring the voices of other experienced local Judges. Our Court system is better than that. At least, it should be.