How have your
training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve
on the Alabama Supreme Court?
Chief Justice votes on every case that is appealed to that
court. A decision depends on the answer to one
Did the trial court commit reversible error? Having presided
a variety of cases as a trial judge uniquely qualifies me to answer
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
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
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.
What do you consider to be the three most important
attributes of a judge?
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
the ability and the mindset to see both sides of an argument.
What is your judicial philosophy?
One word: FAIRNESS. Many pontificate that
are on this earth to protect the "rule of law." I fear that
are just words to them, but that phrase has true meaning to
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."
How do you define “judicial independence,” and how
important is it to our judicial system?
Judicial independence is essential to our justice
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
raise the staggering amounts of campaign dollars required to win a
statewide race and still have the perception of possessing true
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
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.
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
problem is indigent defense. The failure of the state to
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
defense system which provides effective representation but flexibility
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
Technology is important, but staff and equipment are essential.
If you work in the Municipal Courts, as
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.
What part, if any, should public opinion play in the decision of a
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.
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
beliefs are irrelevant. The only important inquiries are What
does the law mandate? and What are the facts of the case?