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House Judiciary Committee discusses bills creating new judgeships

The committee gave favorable report to a bill that would create three new judgeships while discussing the greater issue of judicial shortages across the state,

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The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday gave favorable report to a bill from freshman Rep. Troy Stubbs, R-Wetumpka, to add three additional circuit judgeships in the 19th, 23rd and 28th circuits.

Although the bill made it through committee, it is not yet on its way to be considered by the full House chamber.

Judiciary chair Jim Hill, R-Springville, told Stubbs the bill would still have to go through the Ways and Means committee, where Hill has a similar but more expansive bill.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, told Stubbs the bill fails to solve the state’s shortage of judges.

“The way we’re doing it can’t work, it just doesn’t work,” England said. “This is unsustainable. Judicial circuits are being pitted against each other by the Administrative Office of Courts. If we piecemeal it, we’re farther and farther away from the actual answer to the problem. Because every judicial circuit needs more judges.”

Alabama currently has a process to reallocate judgeships depending on caseloads, which has been met with some criticism particularly after a judgeship was recently taken away from Jefferson County and given to Madison County. 

Stubbs said he understands the need across the state but is taking action to support his constituents.

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“I have watched this process from afar as chairman of the (Elmore) County Commission for the past six years,” Stubbs said. “And as you stated, we’re not moving anywhere. But we can either continue to not move anywhere to we can start making progress toward this because the only people suffering are the people of Alabama who are finding themselves waiting 6, 12, 18 months for their cases to move forward because of that.”

The 19th judicial circuit covers Stubbs’ district including Elmore, Autauga and Chilton counties. The 23rd circuit covers Madison county and the 28th covers Baldwin.

England said the Legislature needs to address the underlying problem and find a solution.

“As a body, maybe we ought to force ourselves to create a comprehensive solution where we create judges, because we got the money obviously,” England said. “We’re paying for waterparks.”

Hill explained that he has a bill coming before committee that would more broadly address the need for judgeships across the state, creating 13 new positions.

Stubbs said he would support Hill’s bill if his fails.

“I will totally support your bill, it actually expands on what I’m trying to do,” Stubbs said. “But I also recognize that I have constituents that I am here to represent and serve and I’m doing all that I can to alleviate some of the pressures on our judicial circuits.”

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The House Judiciary Committee also gave favorable report to several other bills on the agenda Wednesday, including a law prohibiting people who have immigrated to America illegally from possessing a pistol.

The bill, brought by Rep. Ron Bolton, R-Northport, coincides with federal law that already prohibits these individuals from possessing a pistol.

England asked how this would be investigated, as the process would usually require search warrants to prove the person was in the country without documentation.

“I do want to point out what would have made this a lot easier is to require permits,” England said, taking a shot at the Legislature’s decision in the last session to remove its legal requirement for a permit to concealed carry. “Because you didn’t have to ask these questions. You could just ask ‘Do you have a permit, or not?’ If you’re here illegally, you couldn’t get a permit, so you could cut down on time and safety issues. Instead, here, you have to let them go.”

Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Birmingham, brought a bill to prohibit the placement of an electronic device on another person’s property without their knowledge or consent.

Treadaway said there was a situation in Jefferson County in recent years where a woman was tracked from a nightclub and law enforcement had a difficult time getting a warrant. This bill, he said, is to make the language clear in the law to make that process smoother.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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