Senate Pushes for Wiser Allocation of Judges

By Arthur Orr

Montgomery, Ala. – Today the Alabama Senate approved a proposal by 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” AL 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 too many cases assigned per judge.

“Right now, we’re operating with an antiquated allocation system that dates back to the 1970s, and obviously the state population has shifted over the past forty years,” Orr remarked. “This proposal would establish a non-partisan commission, and as judgeships become open, there will be an evaluation process to place new judges where they are most needed.”

Any re-allocation would require a two-thirds vote of the Commission and would only occur in the event of a vacancy. No sitting judges would be affected, and each county would 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 from counties with low caseloads to locations with higher numbers of cases both improves our judicial system and saves taxpayer dollars.”

Orr’s legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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