Alabama: who should decide how to reallocate vacant judgeships? Senate considering two different options

Over the last several years Alabama has been considering a non-legislative mechanism to reallocate vacant (judge has died, retired, etc.) judgeships. I discussed the 2015 iterations here and here. The 2016 session now includes two bills that differ most notably in the role of the chief justice in the process.

SB 88 creates a Judicial Resources Allocation Commission made up of

  • the Chief Justice (chair)
  • the governor’s legal advisor
  • the Attorney General
  • 3 Circuit Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 3 District Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 2 attorneys picked by the state bar’s president

The Judicial Resources Allocation Commission would conduct an annual review and rank each district or circuit on the need to increase or decrease judgeships based on 4 criteria

  1. A Judicial Weighted Caseload Study as adopted by the Supreme Court
  2. The population of the district or circuit
  3. The “judicial duties” in the district or circuit
  4. Any other information the commission deems relevant

It would be the Commission that would move vacant judgeships based on their report/review.

SB 88 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 176 on the other hand uses the state’s existing Judicial System Study Commission to recommend to the chief justice changes. That Commission is made up of over 30 members, including

  • 6 members of the House
  • 6 members of the Senate
  • the state’s 16-member Judicial Conference
  • the Lt. Governor
  • a member of the Attorney General’s staff
  • the Governor’s legal advisor

Under SB 176 the Judicial System Study Commission would recommend changes, but it would be the Chief Justice alone who would make the decision on moving the vacancy.

SB 176 is in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.