How have your
training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve
on the Alabama Supreme Court?
important that a Supreme Court Justice have a broad base of education
and experience. The drafters of our constitutions (both
and United States) intended that our appellate courts be collegial
decision making bodies. That is why we have multi-member
courts. It was not intended that our appellate courts have
one view or perspective. Otherwise, our appellate courts
have been single member courts. My broad base of experience
education - legal, judicial, legislative, teaching, and business - have
prepared me for the Alabama Supreme Court.
What do you consider to be the three most important
attributes of a judge?
consider the three most important attributes of a judge to be:
1. Commitment to being fair to all parties
2. Common sense
3. Knowledge of the law
What is your judicial philosophy?
judicial philosophy can best be described as fair minded
conservatism. It is the obligation of our courts to apply
legislative acts (statutes) as long as those statutes do not violate
our constitutions (both Alabama and United States). In
it is the obligation of our courts to apply the "common law" of
Alabama. Much, if not most, of the law of Alabama is "common
law." It should be pointed out that the Code of Alabama
(statutes) is contained in twenty-three (23) volumes. The
Reporter (court decisions involving both the common law and statutes)
is over nine hundred (900) volumes. A judge should have no
other than to fairly apply the law.
How do you define “judicial independence,” and how
important is it to our judicial system?
"judicial independence" is defined as the fair and unfettered
application of law irrespective of pressure from either the executive
or legislative branches of government. Unfortunately, because
the way we elect our Alabama Supreme Court, there appears to be an even
more dangerous threat to "judicial independence." Almost
million dollars ($50,000,000) has been spent by special interest groups
on Supreme Court elections in the past decade. Retired
Gorman Houston has observed that "there is a perception that justice is
for sale" in Alabama. If a court is to maintain its integrity
then it must be immune from pressure from any source.
What is the greatest area of need in the Alabama justice system, and
how should the Supreme Court respond, if at all?
greatest area of need is that we need to change our judicial selection
process. I personally favor the non-partisan election of
judges. We expect our judges to be fair and unbiased but yet
require them to engage in bitterly partisan elections. In
addition, there should be a limit on how much money a judge can raise
and spend in his election (I have told several special interest groups
that all I promise is a level playing field and a fair hearing - if
they want more then keep their money. They did!). A
of statewide public forums should provide the public with ample
opportunity to evaluate the judicial candidates for state judicial
offices. The Supreme Court should take the lead in
the change of the judicial selection process.
What part, if any, should public opinion play in the decision of a
In a case before the court, how should a judge handle a conflict
between his/her personal beliefs and the law?
judge should subordinate his personal beliefs to the law when there is
a conflict. A judge should recuse himself from any case when
cannot do this.