By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–The Senate passed a bill today to alleviate some pressure Alabama’s courts with a vote of 33-0 on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), seeks to help reduce the backlog of civil cases on the court’s docket. It passed the House with an amendment reducing the maximum amount of the controversies from $100,000 to $50,000 to include damages, penalties, attorney’s fees, expenses, interest or any other type of damage.
“They felt like they wanted to go at a little slower pace than I did. The bill does do a great thing,” said Ward.
Under the bill it is proposed that private judges deal only with civil litigation. When both parties agree and would like to expedite the proceedings, the presiding judge in the case would appoint a retired judge to hear the proceedings and the case would be heard right away. The retired judge who would preside over the litigation would have a minimum of six years on the bench and have current CLEs.
According to Ward this method removes cost to the court. The litigants would also be required to pay a small administrative fee of $100.
“It helps ease the court docket overcrowding so it will relieve some of the financial pressure the courts are under which is why I introduced the bill to begin with. They are doing this in Texas and have been tremendously successful,” said Ward.
Under existing law, the Supreme Court may appoint and commission special circuit, district, or probate judges for temporary service who are compensated at the rate of $100 per day and provided expenses related to travel.
Ward notes that many business would benefit from this type of hearing because it is quick and easy. Many times civil lawsuit under $100,000 can cost more in legal fees than the actual damages themselves. This gives business an opportunity to mitigate the cost of time and money.