Supreme Court of Alabama
|Supreme Court of Alabama|
|Location||Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building, Montgomery, Alabama|
|Authorized by||Alabama Constitution|
|Decisions are appealed to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Since||May 6, 2016|
The Supreme Court of Alabama is the highest court in the state of Alabama. The court consists of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Each justice is elected in partisan elections for staggered six-year terms. The Supreme Court is housed in the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.
The Governor of Alabama may fill vacancies when they occur for the remainder of unexpired terms. The current partisan line-up for the court is all Republican. There is no specific limitation on the number of terms to which a member may be elected. However, the state constitution under Amendment 328, adopted in 1973, prohibits any member from seeking election once they have attained the age of seventy years. This amendment would have prohibited then Chief Justice Roy Moore from seeking re-election in 2018. However, on April 26, 2017, Moore announced his intent to run for the United States Senate seat formerly held by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and resigned from the court.
The Supreme Court of Alabama was organized under the governorship of William Wyatt Bibb, and had its beginnings with the Alabama Constitution of 1819, which stated that until the General Assembly deemed otherwise, the functions of the Supreme Court would be handled by the judges of the Alabama circuit courts. The circuit judges were elected by a joint vote of both houses of the Alabama Legislature. These judges met in May 1820 in the capital city of Cahaba for the first term of the Supreme Court. Clement Comer Clay was appointed by the other judges as the first Chief Justice of the court. Following his resignation in 1823, he was succeeded by Abner Smith Lipscomb.
The court was then reorganized in 1832. It then became a separate court with three justices elected to six-year terms. Abner Lipscomb remained as Chief Justice. In 1851 the number of justices was increased to five. In 1853 the membership of the court was reduced to three again. By this time the court had its own chambers in the newly completed Alabama State Capitol. No changes to the court occurred during the years of the Civil War.
The new state constitution of 1868, drafted during the Reconstruction Era, committed the election of the three justices to the people rather than the legislature. The number of justices was increased to four in 1889. 1891 saw the number increased to five. Following the adoption of the 1901 constitution, the 1903 session of the legislature raised the number of justices to seven. In 1940 the Supreme Court moved from the Capitol Building to 445 Dexter Avenue. The building had been built as a Scottish Rite temple in 1926 but was sold to the state during the financially difficult years of the Great Depression. The state acquired and started a remodel of the building in 1938 for the relocation of the Judicial Department, Attorney General and State Law Library.
Legislative Act Number 602, 1969 Alabama Acts was passed during Regular Session of 1969. It increased the number of Associate Justices to eight, bringing the number of court justices to the configuration that remains today. Former Justice Janie L. Shores was the first of six women to serve on the court. She was elected to the court in 1974. The first of three Blacks to serve on the court was former Justice Oscar W. Adams, Jr., who in 1980 was initially appointed by then Governor Fob James to serve the remainder of an unexpired term. Justice Adams would become the first Black elected to the court when he was elected two years later to serve a full six-year term. The court moved to the new Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building at 300 Dexter Avenue in 1994.
The Supreme Court of Alabama has the authority to review decisions by all the lower courts of the state and the authority to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction. It further has the authority to issue any necessary orders to carry out the general superintendence of the Unified Judicial System of Alabama. It has exclusive jurisdiction over all appeals in disputes exceeding $50,000, as well as appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission.
The Chief Justice also serves as the administrative head of the Alabama Judicial System. The court makes all rules governing administration, practice, and procedure for all Alabama courts. The exercise of this authority eliminates technicalities which usually cause delays in trial courts and reversals in appellate courts.
The Alabama Supreme Court has had an unusually high turnover in the Chief Justice position going back to October, 1995. Since then the post has been held by seven different individuals for eight different time periods. Not one of these individuals has completed an entire term of six years. Perry Hooper, Sr. (1995–2001) assumed the office in October, 1995 after a protracted election contest that resulted in his taking office nine months into his term. He was succeeded by Roy Moore (2001–2003) who was elected in 2000 but removed from office due to violations of the judicial canon of ethics. He was succeeded first temporarily by Associate Justice Gorman Houston during Moore's suspension but before his actual removal from office. After Moore vacated the office, the Governor appointed Drayton Nabers, Jr. (2004–2007). Chief Justice Nabers was defeated for re-election by Sue Bell Cobb (2007–2011) in 2006, and who in turn resigned for personal reasons in the middle of her term. Her replacement, Chuck Malone (2011–2013) was appointed on August 1, 2011 by Governor Robert Bentley but was defeated for re-nomination by former Chief Justice Roy Moore (2013–2017) in 2012. Moore assumed the office a second time beginning on January, 2013 and was again suspended from office in May 6, 2016 by the Court of the Judiciary. This allowed Associate Justice Lyn Stuart to then become acting Chief Justice. Lyn Stuart became Chief Justice on April 26, 2017 when Moore formally resigned from the seat from which he was already suspended. This allowed him to seek election to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions for which a special election was held in December, 2017.
Stuart was appointed for the remainder of the term by Governor Kay Ivey on April 26, 2017. That term ends in January 2019. However, she was entitled to seek re-nomination as Chief Justice in 2018. Chief Justice Stuart, who became the first female Republican Chief Justice, has been an Associate Justice of the court since 2001. She faced Associate Justice Tom Parker in the GOP primary in June, 2018 and lost the primary to Parker in a relatively close race. Parker had previously lost a GOP primary for the post to Drayton Nabers in 2006. As a result in November, 2018, Alabamians will elect a new Chief Justice in either Republican Tom Parker or Democrat Robert Vance. That individual will become the eighth different Chief Justice in only seventeen years.
The eight current Associate Justices are James Allen Main, Tommy Bryan, Kelli Wise, Mike Bolin, Tom Parker, Brady E. Mendheim Jr., Greg Shaw and William B "Will" Sellers. The current members of the court initially came to their seats via election, with three exceptions. Justice James Allen Main who was appointed in January 2011 to a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Champ Lyons. Then Governor Bob Riley appointed Main during the last days of his administration. Like four other members of the current court, Justice Main had previously served on the Appellate Courts of Alabama. Justice Main was elected to a full six-year term without opposition on November 6, 2012. The Clerk of Court is Julia Jordan Weller. Justice Stuart's elevation to the Chief Justice position created a vacancy in the seat she held. That vacancy was filled by Governor Ivey on May 25, 2017, with the appointment of Justice William B. "Will" Sellers. The full term for that seat is up in 2019 with the election for it 2018. Court of Criminal Appeals Judge, Michael Joiner has already announced his candidacy for that seat. Justice Glenn Murdock announced his resignation from the Court effective, January 16, 2018 creating a third vacancy to be filled by appointment by Governor Kay Ivey in just eight months. Justice Main did not seek re-election and will retire at the end of his term in January, 2019. On January 19, 2018 Governor Ivey appointed 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Brady E. Mendheim Jr. to fill the vacant place one Justice seat. Mendheim was defeated for nomination to a full term on June 17, 2018 by Circuit Judge Sarah Hicks Stewart.
|Justice||Year service began||Next election||Party affiliation||Law school|
|Lyn Stuart||Republican||University of Alabama School of Law|
|James Allen Main||Republican||University of Alabama School of Law|
|Tommy Bryan||Republican||Thomas Goode Jones School of Law|
|Will Sellers||Republican||University of Alabama School of Law|
|Alisa Kelli Wise||Republican||Thomas Goode Jones School of Law|
|Michael F. Bolin||Republican||Samford University, Cumberland School of Law|
|Tom Parker||Republican||Vanderbilt University School of Law|
|Brady E. Mendheim Jr.||Republican||Cumberland School of Law|
|Greg Shaw||Republican||Samford University, Cumberland School of Law; University of Virginia School of Law|
List of all Chief Justices of Alabama Supreme Court 
- Clement Claiborne Clay
- Abner S. Lipscomb
- Reuben Saffold
- Henry Hitchcock (D)
- Arthur F. Hopkins (D)
- Henry W. Collier (D)
- Edmund S. Dargan (D)
- William P. Chilton (D)
- George Goldthwaite (D)
- Samuel F. Rice (D)
- Abram J. Walker (D)
- Elisha W. Peck (R)
- Thomas Minott Peters (R)
- Robert C. Brickell (D)
- George W. Stone (D)
- Robert C. Brickell (D) (re-elected)
- Samuel D. Weakley, Jr. (D)
- John R. Tyson (D)
- James R. Dowdell (D)
- John C. Anderson (D)
- Lucien D. Gardner (D)
- James E. Livingston (D)
- Howell Heflin (D)
- C.C. Torbert (D)
- Ernest C. Hornsby (D)
- Perry O. Hooper, Sr. (R)
- Chuck Malone (R)
- Sue Bell Cobb (D)
- Drayton Nabers, Jr. (R)
- E. C. "Sonny" Hornsby (D)
- Roy Moore (R)
- Lyn Stuart (R)
Former Associate Justices of Alabama Supreme Court (Partial List)
- Oscar W. Adams, Jr. (D)
- Reneau P. Almon (D)
- Janie L. Shores (D)
- John England (D)
- Ralph Cook (D)
- Jean Brown (R)
- Gorman Houston (R)
- Champ Lyons (R)
- Harold See (R)
- Patricia Smith (R)
- Thomas Woodall (R)
- Bernard Harwood (R)
- Glenn Murdock (R)
The State of Alabama Marshals are responsible for protection of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Court of Civil Appeals. They also serve subpoenas and court documents among other duties.
- "Alabama Judicial Building Tour". Alalinc. Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library. Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Roy Moore running for Senate, resigns from Supreme Court to challenge Luther Strange, AL.com, http://www.al.com/news/montgomery/index.ssf/2017/04/roy_moore_announces_alabama_ch.html
- "Alabama Governor William Wyatt Bibb". National Governors Association. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
- "A history of the Alabama Judicial System" (PDF). Alabama Unified Judicial System. State of Alabama. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Lane, Mills (1989). Architecture of the Old South: Alabama and Mississippi. Savannah, Georgia: The Beehive Press. pp. 88–93. ISBN 0-88322-038-5.
- "New Neighbors" (PDF). Alabama State Bar. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 12, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Supreme Court of Alabama". Alabama Unified Judicial System. State of Alabama. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Governor Ivey Appoints William B. Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court (Press Release)". May 25, 2017. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
- Press Release (May 25, 2017). "Governor Ivey Appoints William B. Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court". WTVY. Retrieved December 25, 2017.