Friday, August 31, 2007

Viewing Alabama courts--From the Top

The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court came to Birmingham the other day, and it sounds like even she doesn't have much confidence in our current justice system.

Sue Bell Cobb, the only Democrat on either the Supreme Court or the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, spoke to the Birmingham Rotary Club and said Alabama courts need serious reform.

She has called for merit appointments for judicial vacancies and nonpartisan races for sitting appeals-court judges. She also said contributions in some Alabama court campaigns, among the most expensive in the nation, should be limited to $250, and PAC money should be banned.

"People believe judges make their decisions based on campaign contributions," Cobb said. "This is not what we need in the justice system."

Kudos to Cobb for at least attempting to pull the mask off--a little bit--of Alabama's slimy state court system. Her recommendations do not go nearly far enough, but at least they are a start.

The article on Cobb's speech gave an idea of the uphill battle she faces in trying to reform Alabama courts. Reporter Eric Velasco noted that Cobb met a skeptical audience of mostly business leaders and that corporate contributions (at the prompting of Karl Rove and Bill Canary) have helped bankroll Republican control of the state's high court over the past 10 to 12 years.

When Cobb said high-court justices should not be pro-plaintiff, most everyone in the audience seemed to agree. But when she asked if justices should be pro-business, several responded, "Yes."

"I was told I would get that answer," Cobb said.

It's disheartening, but not surprising I guess, that the Birmingham Rotary Club includes a number of ignorant people. But I have a question for the ding dongs in the Rotary crowd? If corrupt Alabama judges cheat regular citizens out of thousands of dollars and send their personal finances into major disarray, how are said citizens supposed to purchase your goods and services? Is it good for your bottom line when law-abiding, middle-class citizens are forced to consider bankruptcy and other unpleasant financial options because of corrupt Alabama judges (and lawyers)? Do you like it when corrupt judges waste your tax dollars by allowing bogus lawsuits filed by political cronies to drag on for 5-6 years, even using our courtrooms for trials on cases that, by law, cannot go to trial?

All of that is going on in Alabama courtrooms, and we will reveal it in detail here at Legal Schnauzer? I hope a few Rotarians will pull their heads out of you-know-where and follow along.

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