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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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Greg Shaw
Associate Justice, Alabama Supreme Court
General Election
November 4, 2008

Biographical Information
Place of Residence: Montgomery, AL
Family: wife-    Samantha “Sam” Shaw
Son-    2LT. Gregory W. Shaw, US Army currently serving             in Iraq
Son-    Christopher “CJ” Shaw, senior at Georgia Tech.                    studying Engineering
Education: Auburn University, B.S. Chemistry (1979); Cumberland School of Law, J.D. (1982); University of Virginia School of Law, LL.M. (2004)
Occupation: Judge
Employer: Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Bar Admission(s) &
Date(s) of Admission:
Alabama State Bar 1982
Legal & Judicial
Private practice (1982-84); Senior Attorney with the Alabama Supreme Court (1982-2001); Judge, Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals (2001-present); Chief Judge, Alabama Court of the Judiciary (2007-present)
Other Experience: no reply
Honors & Awards: American Jurisprudence Award for Excellence in the Study of Evidence (1981)
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Campaign Contact Information
Address 1: PO Box 3838
Address 2:
City: Montgomery
State: AL
Zip Code: 36109-0838
Voice Phone Number: 334.201.7894
Fax Phone Number: 334.279.2037
Website: www.judgegregshaw.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?

I have dedicated almost my entire legal career to service in Alabama’s appellate courts.  I have served as a Judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals for over 7-1/2 years.  Before that, I served over 16 years as a senior attorney with the Supreme Court – one year with Associate Justice Janie L. Shores and over 15 years with Associate Justice James Gorman Houston, Jr.   I have worked on thousands of cases at the highest levels in our state judicial system and have personally written hundreds of published opinions that are relied on daily by lawyers and Judges across Alabama.  I also have the privilege of serving as Chief Judge of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which is a trial court that hears ethics complaints filed against Judges by the Judicial Inquiry Commission.  Having been unanimously appointed to this position by the Supreme Court, it is an honor for me to do my part in protecting the integrity and independence of Alabama’s judiciary.   Serving on both Courts puts me in the unique position of being the only Judge in Alabama who simultaneously serves as both an appellate Judge and as a trial Judge.  In addition, I am only one of three Judges in Alabama to complete the University of Virginia Law School’s Graduate Program for Judges, having participated in the program with 30 other state and federal Judges from around the country and earning the degree of Master of Laws in the Judicial Process (LL.M.).

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

To me, there are many important attributes of a Judge.  The three that immediately come to mind are integrity, a strong work ethic, and the personal courage to make hard decisions based on the law and the facts, even if those decisions are not popular or politically expedient.  A Judge’s integrity must be beyond reproach.  A Judge is held to a higher standard and must conduct himself or herself at all times so as not to diminish people’s confidence in the judicial process.  Alabama’s three appellate courts have heavy caseloads, requiring Judges and Justices to work diligently to get their cases resolved in a timely manner so that justice is not delayed for those parties appearing before the courts.  Finally, Judges have to have the personal courage not to yield to outside influence, but to make decisions based solely on the law and the particular facts of the case.  Sometimes those decisions may subject a Judge to public criticism.  A Judge must be unyielding in his or her dedication to the rule of law and the process of judicial review.

3.  What is your judicial philosophy?

I am a judicial conservative.  I believe that every judicial decision, especially at the appellate court level, must be based strictly on the law and the specific facts of the case under review.  A Judge must engage in a principled analysis and apply the law to those facts.  This principled analysis provides insight into a Judge’s thought process and assures the parties and the lawyers involved in a case that the decision was grounded in a core set of rules and procedures that are applicable to everyone.  A Judge must also reach the result that is logically dictated by the application of that process. I also believe that a Judge must have a firm grasp on the Doctrine of Separation of Powers.  Under that doctrine, our governments at the state and federal levels are divided into three branches— executive, legislative, and judicial—and each is required to respect, and not interfere with, the power and responsibilities of the others.  Judges are prohibited from legislating. Legislatures, not courts, are best suited to debate and set long term public policy.  A Judge must exercise the personal judicial restraint necessary to avoid imposing his or her personal will in cases.   The law must be vindicated, not the personal beliefs and policies of an individual Judge.  A  Judge’s approach to decision-making must be grounded in one basic concept—fairness, and if a Judge, especially an appellate Judge, will take the approach that I have just described, then fairness will take care of itself.

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

I would define judicial independence as the ability of a Judge or a court to make decisions free from any improper outside influence or interference.  Judicial independence and integrity are essential to maintaining people’s confidence in our system of justice.  Decisions that are made by Judges, especially appellate Judges whose decisions act as precedent for future cases, can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives, liberty, and property.  Our judicial system acts as an internal “pressure valve” under our form of government, allowing for the peaceful resolution of disputes between individuals, between individuals and governments, and between governments.  People must believe that the process by which judicial decisions are made is fair and they must respect and adhere to those decisions, even if they may not agree with them.  People cannot have confidence in their courts unless those courts have the ability to act independently of external pressures and render decisions that are based solely on the law and the facts.

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

Probably the greatest concern right now for Alabama’s judicial system is adequate funding.  Budget shortfalls over the past few years have made it increasingly difficult for our courts, both at the appellate and trial court levels, to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.  Lack of funding has resulted in unfilled judgeships and a reduction in support personnel in both trial and appellate courts.  This makes it difficult for our courts to adequately prepare for the future and to provide swift and fair justice.  However, even with these daunting budget obstacles, Alabama’s unified judicial system accomplishes its constitutional mission year in and year out and is truly a model for the rest of the country.  This is, of course, due to the resilience, dedication, and hard work of everyone involved in this state’s judicial branch of government.  The Alabama Supreme Court has, and must continue, to provide the necessary leadership by working closely with the legislature in the budget process to secure the necessary funding for the court system and by continuing to find creative approaches to solving other funding issues, such as the Court’s recent efforts, in conjunction with the Alabama State Bar, to implement a mandatory plan providing for the use of interest on lawyer’s trust accounts to pay for indigent legal services to the citizens of Alabama.

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

 Public opinion can play no role in the decisions of a Judge.  Every decision has to be made based solely on the law and the particular facts of the case.  In the context of appellate court decisions, those facts are contained in a record certified from the lower court.  With few exceptions, an appellate court cannot go outside of the record to consider facts that could impact the decision.  As for the applicable law, constraints are placed on appellate courts by state and federal  constitutions, state and federal statutes, state and federal administrative regulations, state and federal case law, numerous standards of judicial review, numerous rules of statutory and constitutional construction, and a host of procedural rules.  However, the ebb and flow of public opinion cannot be allowed to dictate the resolution of a case.

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

In every case, a Judge has to remember that it is not what he or she wants, but what the law demands.  We are a nation of laws, and a Judge’s personal beliefs or personal policy preferences must give way to the demands of the law.  A Judge must have the personal judicial restraint to engage in a principled analysis of the law and the facts and abide by the result dictated by that analysis.  A Judge cannot start with a desired result and work backwards to mold the law and the facts to fit that desired result.  That kind of decision-making is contrary to the process of judicial review and infects the courts with the kind of arbitrary judging that destroys people’s confidence in our judicial system. 

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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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