Fall 2008 Edition
Published December 12, 2008
2008 League of Women Voters of Alabama

Beth Kellum Elected to Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

This January Elizabeth “Beth” Kellum will be sworn in as a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals.  A member of the Montgomery League, Beth has served on both the LWVAL and Montgomery Boards.

The Court of Criminal Appeals will be one of a very few appellate courts in the nation with a female majority.  In the interview for this Voter article, Beth reflected on how recent women’s involvement in the legal and political world really is.  When her grandmothers were born, women could not vote.  For many years, law school classes were virtually all male.  When the first woman (Annie Lola Price) was appointed to a state appellate court in 1951, she was ineligible for state jury duty.  It was not until 1966 that women began serving on state court juries.  Today, women comprise almost 50% of law school classes, over 20% of Alabama attorneys are women, and there are female judges at every level of Alabama’s court system – from municipal and district courts all the way to Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Beth won her general election race with over 56% of the vote, winning 46 of 67 counties.  Running as a Republican, her primary race had several candidates which caused a runoff election.  All the candidates in the primary were female. 

Unlike races for the Alabama Supreme Court, appeals court campaigns are low budget and receive much less publicity.  Beth noted that it is important to “get out and do most of it yourself with help from friends and family.”  She ran her own campaign, serving as candidate, secretary, treasurer, and more.  Friends and family designed her web page, put up signs, emailed friends, and donated money. 

An important part of Beth’s election campaign strategy was to meet the voters.  In the last weeks of the campaign a party-organized bus tour took all the statewide candidates to each of the state’s 67 counties. Voters often told her “no statewide candidates have ever been here before.”

Beth’s campaign was built on her personal beliefs:

“[L]ike the League, I believe it is important to have an informed electorate.  Voters tend to know little about the court, the candidates and their qualifications.  I conducted a true grassroots campaign.  ...  People want to put a face to a name.  While it was important to me to tell the voter about my qualifications [she is currently senior staff attorney for the court] for office and that my values are their values, it was equally important to listen to their concerns and answer their questions about the court.  I want the public to know that my decisions will be based on the law, and will be made in a fair and impartial manner … and that the separation of powers and checks and balances built into our governmental system must be maintained.”

In one sense the campaign closed a circle.  Beth’s first political memory is her father’s 1968 campaign for county commissioner.  She followed behind her father asking people to “vote for my daddy.”  This year her father and mother were asking people to “vote for my daughter.”

-- Anne Permaloff
President, LWV of Montgomery and
LWVAL Director
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