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Alabama Supreme Court
Voter Guide 2006

Nonpartisan information about the Alabama Supreme Court and the
2006 general election candidates running for seats on that court

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Sue Bell Cobb
for Chief Justice
Biographical Information
Place of Residence: Montgomery, Alabama
Family: Husband - Bill Cobb, one daughter - Caitlin (10), two stepsons - Bill and Andy, two grandchildren - Olivia & Will
Education: B.A. History, University of Alabama
J.D. Universtiy of Alabama School of Law
National Judicial College, General Jurisdiction Course
Occupation: Judge, Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Employer: Court of Criminal Appeals
Bar Admission(s) &
Date(s) of Admission:
Alabama Bar - Fall, 1981
Legal & Judicial
    On November 5, 1981, I became the youngest judge in the state and the 11th female trial court judge when I was appointed Conecuh County District Judge.  I served for 13 1/2 years.  During my tenure as a trial court judge I presided over district, juvenile, circuit and probate cases in 40 of 67 counties.  I am the only candidate in the race who has sentenced thousands of criminals to jail kept hundreds of inmates on death row, and spent years working for reforms in our system of juvenile justice.
    In 1994, I became the first woman elected to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.  I was the only Democrat to run statewide in 2000 who won.  During my 11 1/2 years I have ruled on 25,000 cases.  The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has one of the highest caseloads per judge in the nation and is noted nationally for having one of the highest disposition rates.
    During my 25 years on the bench, I have served on numerous court committees tasked with improving the system.  I would appreciate your members taking some time to visit my website-www.judgesuebellcobb.com to view my qualifications in greater detail.
Other Experience:
Honors & Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award for the Prevention of Child Abuse
Distinguished Service Award - National Juvenile Detention Association
Outstanding Service Award - Juvenile Probation Officer Institute
Children's Voice Award - Juvenile Probation Officer Institute
1999 Public Citizen of the Year Award - National Social Workers Association, Alabama Chapter
Political Achievement Award - 1996 NAACP Conecuh County Branch
Toll Fellow - Council of State Governments (1 of 0nly 50 chosen nationally)
Woman of Achievement Award - 1995 Montgomery Advertiser
Judicial Conservationist Award - 1992 Alabama Wildlife Federation
Bishop Barron State Employee Public Service Award - State Winner
Honorary lifetime member of the Alabama Council on Crime and Delinquency
Volunteer of the Year Award - American Cancer Society
Wes Nowlin Award - American Cancer Society
St. George Medal - American Cancer Society
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Campaign Contact Information
Address 1: Committee to Elect Judge Sue Bell Cobb
Address 2: P.O. Box 309
City: Montgomery
State: Alabama
Zip Code: 36101
Voice Phone Number: 334-261-3002
Fax Phone Number: 334-261-3003
Website: www.judgesuebellcobb.com
Email Address:
(or Contact Webform Address)
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Questions & Answers:
1.  How have your training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court?

   The Chief Justice votes on every case that is appealed to that court.  A decision depends on the answer to one question:  Did the trial court commit reversible error?  Having presided over a variety of cases as a trial judge uniquely qualifies me to answer this question.
     My 11 1/2 years experience on one of the busiest appellate courts has also prepared me for this important position.  It has been said that "Justice delayed is justice denied."  Hence, the importance of case management cannot be over estimated.  My years as a trial and appellate judge have also taught me that quality of one's opinions should not be sacrificed because of the immense pressure to dispose of cases.  There is a natural tension between these two goals. 
    The administrative oversight of the court system is perhaps the most awesome responsibility of the Chief Justice.  Having spent the last 25 years at every level of our justice system explains why I am the most qualified candidate.  Institutional knowledge of the system is vital in order to provide the vision for the courts. The Chief should represent the courts at the legislature in order to secure adequate funding for the system and for the passage of legislation which benefits the justice system.  Because of my extensive experience advocating on behalf of children, Children First Foundation, and the justice system, I am convinced that I am the best candidate to champion the cause of our court system with the public and the legislative branch.

2.  What do you consider to be the three most important attributes of a judge?

    I typically express that a good judge must have two traits: a keen knowledge of the law and, of equal importance, a judge should have an abiding concern for people.  If I had to name a third, it would be the ability and the mindset to see both sides of an argument.

3.  What is your judicial philosophy?

     One word:  FAIRNESS.  Many pontificate that they are on this earth to protect the "rule of law."  I fear that those are just words to them, but that phrase has true meaning to me.  I have now taken an oath of office four times and hope to take it a fifth time.  With my right hand raised to Heaven, I have sworn to Almighty God: "I, Sue Bell Cobb, solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Alabama, so long as I continue a citizen thereof; and that I will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, to the best of my ability. So help me God."

4.  How do you define “judicial independence,” and how important is it to our judicial system?

   Judicial independence is essential to our justice system.  It is an ingredient which sets us apart from other nations and is at the core of our system of government.  Unfortunately, judicial independence has been shamefully threatened by Alabama's expensive partisan elections.  $41 million dollars has been spent on the campaigns and elections on the Alabama Supreme Court in the past year.  It is difficult to imagine how individual justices could raise the staggering amounts of campaign dollars required to win a statewide race and still have the perception of possessing true "judicial independence".
     Having served as a judge in Alabama for 25 years, I know that a judge is duty bound to make the correct decision regardless of the political or personal consequences, such as the firebombing of my home in 1989.  For 25 years I have been deciding cases, the vast majority of them with minimal, if any, negative recourse.  Then, when you least expect it, a case comes before you, and you know the decision will be unpopular but that the law requires it.  You reach down deep and do what the law requires - that is honoring the rule of law and making it clear that you will honor judicial independence.

5.  What is the greatest area of need in the Alabama justice system, and how should the Supreme Court respond, if at all?

    A criminal defense lawyer would respond that the most dire problem is indigent defense.  The failure of the state to honor the Mary v. State and pay office overhead to appointed counsel has left hundreds, probably thousands of lawyers less able to adequately represent their indigent clients and much less able to support their families.    The over-arching goal should be an indigent defense system which provides effective representation but flexibility from county-to-county.
     If you work in the clerk's office or have a law practice which mandates your constant contact with the Clerk's office, you would maintain that the devastating reduction in personnel in a large number of clerk's offices throughout that state is one of the most critical issues facing the delivery of justice in Alabama.  Technology is important, but staff and equipment are essential.
     If you work in the Municipal Courts, as a magistrate, clerk or city judge, you would see things from yet a different perspective.  The Chief Justice and the AOC has the responsibility of oversight and support for the municipal court, yet the AOC has been reduced to one person, even as thousands of cases are processed thru the city courts each year.
    One more:  If you came before a judge who displayed ethical lapse, you would probably state that the egregious changes made by the Alabama Supreme Court to the rules governing JIC and COJ would be a major concern.

6.  What part, if any, should public opinion play in the decision of a judge?

    A judge cannot be blind to public opinion in a case, but a judge must ignore the "hue and cry" of the people and decide a call solely on the law and the constitution.  A judge's job is not to make a popular decision but to make the right one.

7.  In a case before the court, how should a judge handle a conflict between his/her personal beliefs and the law?

    If a judge has personal beliefs which would interfere with the ability to make a decision is a case a judge should recuse herself.  But most judges do as I do.  We see our personal beliefs are irrelevant.  The only important inquiries are What does the law mandate? and What are the facts of the case?

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Neither the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund nor the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice endorses any political candidate or party. The information presented here is intended solely for the education of Alabama voters. Responses to the questionnaire are printed verbatim as submitted by the candidate.