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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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Deborah Bell Paseur
Associate Justice, Alabama Supreme Court
General Election
November 4, 2008

Biographical Information
Place of Residence: Florence, Alabama
Family: Daughter and Son-in Law, Valerie and Paul Teran
Education: BS Social Welfare, University of Alabama - 1973
JD Law, University of Alabama - 1976
MS Criminal Justice, University of Alabama - 1985
Occupation: Served as Lauderdale County District Judge for the past 27 years.

Was re-elected 4 times without opposition before retiring on April 1, 2008 to devote fulltime to the Supreme Court Campaign.
Employer: N/A
Bar Admission(s) &
Date(s) of Admission:
Alabama, 1977; US Supreme Court, 1993.
Legal & Judicial
Law Clerk, Robert Bryan, Birmingham Alabama 1976-1977

Attorney, Lauderdale Legal Services, Florence Alabama 1977-1979
Associate, Law Office of Marvin Wilson (General Civil Practitioner), Florence Alabama, 1979-1980

Elected District Judge in 1980 (Term began January 1981)
Other Experience: Vista Volunteer: Tuscaloosa Police Department, Juvenile Division (assisted 2 officers to establish the first juvenile division in the Tuscaloosa Police Department: helped write protocol, developed forms and worked alongside the officers on patrol): Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1972-1973

Police Officer, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Summers 1977 and 1978
Honors & Awards: Outstanding Young Woman of the Year, Alabama Jaycees, 1985

Member, Leadership Alabama, Class 11
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Campaign Contact Information
Address 1: P.O. Box 225
Address 2:
City: Florence
State: Alabama
Zip Code: 35631
Voice Phone Number: (256) 712-2590
Fax Phone Number: (800) 410-5685
Website: www.judgedeborahbell.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 formal legal education I received combined with my work as a police officer, an attorney and more than 27 years as a trial court judge equip me in a unique way for the position of Associate Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court.
The work of the Supreme Court involves writing opinions based on trial transcripts and briefs. This important work is much more than an academic exercise.  The same is true for dispensing real justice.  You cannot read a book or a transcript to understand what it requires to look someone in the eye in a court of law, as you make a decision that will affect the rest of his life.

As Lauderdale County District Judge, I have presided over literally thousands of cases, including civil, criminal and juvenile. I have put thousands of people in jail, divided assets in divorce cases, removed children from abusive parents and taken property and money from individuals by court order. All the while, I have lived in a small community with these same people day-after-day. This experience has instilled in me the important understanding of the power and authority that a judge has over the lives of individuals that appear before us and the resulting impact on our community.
I have also been a leader outside the courtroom in a wide variety of areas, including addressing the problems with domestic violence and working with law enforcement and community leaders to keep children safe, educated and out of the legal...

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

1.    Broad experience with the law, not just in the classroom or the library, but on the streets and in the courtroom.
2.    The ability to rule based only on the law and the facts of each case, regardless of who is on trial and who is representing each party.
3.    The appropriate temperament, which requires the ability to forego one’s ego and put aside any personal bias or prejudice.

3.  What is your judicial philosophy?

"Let the chips fall where they may.” Judges and justices are required to interpret the laws as written by the legislature and to follow precedent developed in previous decisions. Period. They cannot answer every problem a litigant has or fix every bad policy that exists in the law. Judges should address only the issues that are presented to them.

I do not have an agenda when I approach a case – I only want to get the law right and apply it correctly to the facts. That has been my approach since I was first elected as a trial court judge nearly 30 years ago, and that will not change.

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

Judicial independence is best described as the ability of a judge to make rulings based on the law and the facts and free of any undue pressures or influences.  Indeed, judges are mandated by law to so rule.  Judicial independence is of the utmost importance in order to maintain the system of checks and balances between the three separate but co-equal branches of government that was created by our founding fathers.  It is of paramount importance that judges be free from even the perception of any outside influences.  Unfortunately, campaigns for judicial office put pressure on candidates to take positions and pledge allegiances to various special interests.  I have never bowed to such pressure and never will.

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

TThe greatest area of need in the Alabama justice system, in my opinion, is the often prohibitive cost and the unacceptable delay in accessing the courts.  This problem applies to both civil and criminal cases.  Citizens should be able to address grievances in our courts of law in a timely and expeditious manner.  They should be able to get a case to court and receive a ruling within a reasonable period of time.  The Judicial Canons of Ethics encourage judges to be involved in efforts to improve the administration of justice.  Our current chief justice, the Honorable Sue Bell Cobb, has commissioned a task force on access to justice issues.  This group, composed of lawyers, judges and citizens should be able to recommend meaningful measures that, after careful study and review, can be adopted by Supreme Court rule and possibly by legislation.

I have another concern about our judicial system that is not a specific “area of need,” but rather a need for sweeping re-focus.  We have to find ways to prevent children from becoming criminals.  This will require more than judges, politicians and legal scholars.  Those people only get involved when it is too late.  Every third grade teacher knows who is headed down the wrong path.  We need entire communities coming together – parents, teachers, churches, non-profit groups, law enforcement, prosecutors, etc… Right now, we have clogged courts and overcrowded jails, and that won’t change, until we focus on stopping the flow into the system.  Entire communities must come... 

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

None.  A judge in trial should not watch the TV news or read the newspaper coverage pertaining to a pending case. It is the mandate of a judge to rule based only on the law and the merits of the case and to follow legal precedent.

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 can’t put on the robe and remove his or her bias, he or she needs to recuse.  Law school training teaches the ability to analyze issues with objectivity and to appropriately filter personal opinions. The mandate of a judge is to follow legal precedent and uphold laws established by the legislative branch of government and then to make rulings based only in accordance with the facts and the law and not based on personal opinions, agendas or biases.  The danger of interjecting personal beliefs is that the law could be constantly subjected to change based on the varying beliefs of each judge instead of being based on the law.  That is not the judicial system envisioned by our founders.

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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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