There seems to be a consensus among lawmakers that there is a shortage of judgeships in the state, at least in certain areas.
But the Legislature’s prior solution, reallocating judges from one jurisdiction to another, has stirred much controversy.
SB39, approved by the Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday, would put that reallocation process on hold until 2027 and buoy the system with 13 new circuit and district judges.
Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Dale, told the bill’s House sponsor Jim Hill, R-Moody, that the bill has many holes in it.
“Several of these judgeships are going into effect in the 2024 election which will effect the budget we still have not approved right now,” Clouse said. “Where are the numbers?”
Clouse said the bill also does not address additional assistant district attorneys.
“You have 13 additional judgeships, you’re going to have more cases, and you’re going to have more assistant DAs,” Clouse said. “That’s going to cost money.”
“I’m not arguing that you’re wrong, I’m arguing one step at a time,” Hill said.
Clouse also referenced the belief behind the conception of the judicial reallocation commission, that some districts currently have too many judgeships and need to lose those positions.
One such recent decision drew controversy as a judgeship was transferred from Jefferson County to Madison County.
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, who oversees the commission, said in 2021 that the state needs 21 new judges to handle caseloads.
The bill would create four additional circuit judgeships and three additional district judgeships, to be elected in the 2024 General Election. New circuit judgeships would be in Lauderdale County; Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties; Madison County; and Baldwin County. New district judgeships would be in Baldwin, Mobile and DeKalb counties.
It would create four more circuit judgeships in 2026, in Tuscaloosa County; Autauga, Elmore and Chilton counties; Baldwin County; and Lee County. It would create two more district judgeships in 2026 in Madison and Shelby counties.
The bill passed 103-0 and will be sent to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature into law.