By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Keeping the courts running and not personal agenda, is what Alabamians want, says Chief Justice candidate Robert Vance Jr.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance Jr. is the democrat nominee for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Vance admits that the circumstances that led to his entering the race for Chief Justice were unusual. Vance became the a candidate after the disqualification of lawyer Harry Lyon as chief justice candidate. Lyon was removed by the party following controversial comments he made about Republican judges, gays and supporters of gay marriage.
“I had been asked back during the summer if I would consider running for the office if the prior nominee Mr. Lyon was removed,” said Vance.
He said for a long long time he politely declined the overtures, “I had no aspiration of running for the Supreme Court. I enjoy what I am doing now as a circuit judge.”
Vance said that he did have concerns about former Chief Justice Roy Moore as well as Lyons.
Moore, who was removed from the office of Chief Justice in 2003 because he, “violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics as alleged by the JIC in its complaint,” according to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, has been the front runner in the Chief Justice races since his stunning upset against sitting Chief Justice Chuck Malone and Judge Charles Graddick.
“I decided if Lyon was removed-—and he did need to be removed given some of the ugly things he said—-I would step forward as a possibility for the democratic nomination,” said Vance.
Vance says that because of the difficult financial situation the state is suffering and especially the Alabama court system he felt a duty to offer himself for the job.
I believe the state needs a chief justice who will focus on these tough economic issues and cooperate with the leadership in Montgomery to ensure that the court system is funded and functioning properly, as the people of Alabama expect it too,” he said.
Vance says that some people do not understand the full administrative responsibilities that rests on the Chief Justice, “As I have said before in many ways the Chief Justice is the CEO of the entire court system.”
In fact, much of the role of the Chief Justice is executive not just on the Supreme Court but over all the courts in the state. “He is responsible to make sure the funding is there and that there is adequate support personnel for the criminal courts and as well as the appellate courts,” Vance said. “This is all part of the Chief Justice job.”
Vance says that some view the the Chief Justice as one vote out of nine on the court but “there is a huge administrative side that is very important.”
Vance says he understands what it takes to face the challenges facing the Alabama court system during hard economic times. “It is something that has weighed on my mind as far as the type of Chief Justice the state needs,” said Vance.
“My message is pretty straightforward and simple. I am seeking the support of all voters, republican, independent and democrat as someone who will focus on the kinds of real issues that we face,” said Vance. “I am someone who believes in working to solve problems.”
Vance does not think that a Chief Justice should be “caught up in personal agendas, or idealogical crusades.” That if he is elected he will “focus on the issues at hand and keep the courthouse doors open across Alabama.”
He says he knows that there are no “magic fixes” to the problems the court system faces, but it is going to take a “spirit of cooperation and hard work” to get the jobs done.
Vance says he is comfortable working with all people be they independent, democrat or republican, “regardless of label, I am like most people in that I want to go to work to fix the problems in front of us.”
He says his campaign is aware of the challenges that they face as a democratic candidate running in a state that only has one non-republican statewide office holder but he believe Alabamians are still willing to vote for the best person for the job.
“I have had many people in the business community and republicans who say they are supporting me,” said Vance. “While that may be anecdotal I think there are many republicans who are willing to take a fresh look at the candidates who are running and not the party labels.”
Vance says he believes that Alabama wants a problem solver “not someone with a personal agenda.”
He continues, “The people of Alabama want leaders to go to Montgomery to solve problems. They are not interested in the divisive politics we see in campaigns, they just want someone to get the job done. That’s my message.”