Alabama Legislature Approves Judicial Reallocation Plan

By Arthur Orr

Montgomery, Ala. – On Tuesday evening, the Alabama House of Representatives, by a 77-15 vote, gave final approval to a proposal by State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) to save taxpayers money by ensuring the equal distribution of district and circuit judges across Alabama.

Senate Bill 90, a “Strengthen Alabama” Senate GOP agenda item, will create a Judicial Resources Allocation Commission, headed by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Commission will review the need for judgeships in each district, using criteria that include population size, caseload, and judicial duties. When a judicial vacancy occurs, the Commission will match the judgeship with the county that has the most urgent need for a judge.

“This plan will ensure that judgeships are matched with the cities and counties that need them most. We have operated with an antiquated allocation system that dates back to the 1970s, and obviously, the state population has shifted a good bit over the past forty years,” Orr remarked. “Going forward, the state will have a non-partisan commission, and as judgeships become open, there will be an evaluation process by the commission to place new judges where they are most needed.”

Any re-allocation will require a two-thirds vote of the Commission and will only occur in the event of a vacancy. No sitting judges will be affected, and each county will be assured of maintaining at least one district judge.

Baldwin, Mobile, Madison, Etowah, DeKalb, and Tuscaloosa are among the counties that currently need additional judges, but resources aren’t available in the beleaguered General Fund budget to create new judgeships.

“Presently, there is a need for sixteen additional judgeships, which would cost the state between $6 and $8 million to establish,” Orr said. “Gradually shifting judgeships, as vacancies occur, from counties with low caseloads to locations with higher numbers of cases will both improve our judicial system and save taxpayer dollars.”

Orr’s legislation now goes to Governor Robert Bentley for his signature.

Senator Arthur Orr is a Republican representing District 3 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Morgan, Madison, and Limestone counties. Senator Orr is the Chairman of the Finance and Taxation Education Committee. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative updates: @SenatorAOrr