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SPLC and ACLU: Judgeship reallocation violated Alabama Constitution

The move comes after Tiara Young Hudson, a public defender and former judge, won the Democratic nomination during the May primaries.


The Southern Poverty Law Center, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Glasscox Law Firm, warned Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in a letter delivered to her office Monday that a recent transfer of a judgeship from Jefferson County to Madison County violated the state constitution.

The Judicial Resources Allocation Commission, a judicial entity able to decrease and increase the number of judges in a given area, voted in early June to transfer a criminal court judgeship in Alabama’s Tenth Judicial Circuit away from Jefferson County and to Madison County. The move comes directly after Democratic candidate Tiara Young Hudson, a public defender who previously served as a circuit court judge, won the nomination during the May primaries.

No Republican ran for the tenth judicial circuit seat, with Hudson’s victory all but securing her position on the bench then occupied by presiding Judge Clyde Jones. Jones announced on June 1 that he would retire imminently and not serve the remainder of his term previously scheduled to end on Jan. 16 and creating a vacant seat.

Acting on state provision, the Judicial Resources Allocation Commission voted 8-3 to transfer the vacant seat to Madison County — the first judgeship transfer in the commission’s five-year existence, according to the letter.

“Members of the public overwhelmingly objected to the transfer,” the letter from the SPLC, ACLU, and Glasscox Law Firm reads. “Its effect is to strip a majority-Black county of a critical resource and to give that resource to a majority-white county.”

According to the letter, the JRAC has received applications for the transferred judgeship and plans to interview three potential candidates for appointment to the seat.

The group cites a section of the Alabama Constitution that gives the exclusive authority to change the number of judgeships given to a circuit or district to the Alabama Legislature.

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“The power to change the number of judges in a circuit is the Legislature’s and the Legislature’s alone,” the letter continues. “It cannot be shunted to an unelected body.”

In 2017, the act creating the commission allows the commission “in the event of a vacancy due to death, retirement, resignation, or removal from office of a district or circuit judge” to reallocate the judgeship to another district or circuit within 30 days.

The act also mandates that “No judicial circuit shall lose more than one judgeship through allocation in a two-year period.”

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said in a statement to APR Monday that the appointment process for the tenth judicial circuit is ongoing and provided no other comment.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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