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Alabama Appellate Courts
Voter Guide 2008

A nonpartisan guide to information about the Alabama Courts of Appeal
and the candidates running in those elections in 2008

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Beth Kellum
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place No. 1
General Election
November 4, 2008

Biographical Information
Place of Residence: Montgomery, Alabama
Family: Milton and Peggy Kellum (parents)
Brian Kellum (brother)
Education: University of Alabama
B.A. cum laude, 1981
J.D., 1984
Occupation: Senior Staff Attorney
Employer: Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Bar Admission(s) &
Date(s) of Admission:
Alabama State Bar, September 1984
(also admitted to practice before the U.S. District
Court for the Northern, Middle, and Southern
Districts of Alabama; the U.S. Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit; and the U.S. Supreme Court)
Legal & Judicial
Following graduation from law school and completion of a judicial clerkship, I was hired in 1985 by Attorney General Charles Graddick as an Assistant Attorney General.  I worked in the criminal appeals division, prosecuting appeals before the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Alabama Supreme Court.  My work as an Assistant Attorney General led to an offer to become a Staff Attorney for the Court of Criminal Appeals.  In 1990, I went into private practice with a Montgomery law firm, where I worked on a wide variety of civil and criminal cases, including defending the State of Alabama in several federal class-action cases.  In 1997, I returned to the Court of Criminal Appeals to serve as a Senior Staff Attorney for then newly-elected Judge Jean Brown, continuing as her Senior Staff Attorney when she was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court.  In 2001, I returned to the Court of Criminal Appeals to serve as Senior Staff Attorney for newly-elected Judge Kelli Wise, where I am currently employed.
Other Experience: Because my entire professional career has been spent in the practice of law, I have no other career experience.  However, I have leadership experience based on my involvement in various professional, civic, and political activities, including membership in The Federalist Society, service as a docent for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, membership on the Executive Board of the Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery, two terms as president of the Capital City Republican Women, and secretary of the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee.
Honors & Awards: Alabama Girls State, 1976
National Merit Scholar, 1977
Dean’s List, University of Alabama, 1977-1981
U.S. Congressional Intern, 1978
Phi Beta Kappa, 1981
Outstanding Young Women of America, 1987
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Campaign Contact Information
Address 1: Post Office Box 6181
Address 2:
City: Montgomery
State: Alabama
Zip Code: 36106
Voice Phone Number: 334-546-7750
Fax Phone Number: None
Website: www.BethKellum.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 Court of Criminal Appeals?

Because decisions rendered by the Court of Criminal Appeals almost always involve a citizen’s liberty – and sometimes his life – the Court’s first priority should be that its decision is the correct one.  Therefore, a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals should bring a solid background in both criminal and appellate law.  I have 24 years of legal experience, covering virtually every aspect of criminal and appellate law.  I began my career as an Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Criminal Appeals Division, prosecuting appeals on behalf of the State of Alabama in the Court of Criminal Appeals and  Alabama Supreme Court.  In private practice, I represented individuals in civil and criminal cases, in state and federal courts  at the trial and appellate levels.  As a Senior Staff Attorney for the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Supreme Court, I worked with the judges and justices on a daily basis, drafting over 1,000 appellate decisions for the Court.  I am the only candidate in this race who has worked as a prosecutor, defense counsel, and assisted appellate judges in writing appellate decisions.  The Court of Criminal Appeals has one of the highest caseloads per judge in the United States, yet it has an efficiency rating of over 95%.  To maintain this high rate of efficiency, there will be no time for on-the-job training.  I will be ready to fulfill my responsibilities from day one.  Given my criminal and appellate law experience, I am the best candidate for Place One.

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

In my opinion, the three most important attribute of a judge are: (1) that a judge be fair and impartial; (2) that a judge treat all parties with dignity and respect; and (3) that a judge be knowledgeable and well-versed in the law.

3.  What is your judicial philosophy?

I would define my judicial philosophy as “conservative,” meaning that I believe that judges should interpret the law, rather than “make law,” i.e., engage in what I would describe as “judicial activism.”  Alabama’s citizens must be convinced that all parties come before the courts “equal in the eyes of the law,” and that they will be treated with dignity and respect.  To do so, every judge must adhere to the rule of law and resist the temptation to engage in judicial activism.  When judges engage in judicial activism, citizens have no guarantee that a judge’s decision in similar cases will not change, based on some intangible standard known only to the judge.  However, when a judge follows the rule of law, citizens can be confident in the stability of judicial decisions.

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

I would define “judicial independence” to mean that a judge’s decision should be impartial and based upon the rule of law – free of all outside influence, whether it be from other branches of government, special interests, financial considerations, popular opinion, or political pressure.  I believe that judicial independence is crucial to maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

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

In my opinion, the greatest area of need in the Alabama criminal justice system is to overhaul the pro se inmate litigation process.  In recent years, the proliferation of pro se inmate litigation has bogged down the entire court system.  While the Constitution mandates that inmates be afforded “access to the courts,” it seems that multiple, frivolous filings by inmates waste scarce judicial resources – at both the trial and appellate level – needed to address and/or resolve truly meritorious claims filed by deserving litigants.  Such filings clog up the judicial system and deprive Alabama citizens of the right to have their legal claims disposed of by the courts in a timely fashion.  I would like to see the Court of Criminal Appeals take the lead in working to prevent inmates from using their right of access to the courts to file frivolous and repetitious claims by proposing that applicable rules of court and/or legislation be amended to prevent such abuses from occurring by all reasonable and constitutionally permissible means.

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

 A judge’s decision should be based on his/her informed and good faith interpretation of the applicable case law, statutes, and the Constitution, rather than on public opinion.

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

In a case where a judge’s personal beliefs conflict with the law, the judge is obligated by his/her oath of office to follow the law.  Neither judges nor any other citizen get to “pick and choose” which laws they will follow. 

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The League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund does not endorse any political candidate or party. The information presented here is intended solely for the education of Alabama voters. Responses are printed verbatim as submitted by the candidates up to the 250-word limit.

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