Alabama Supreme Court

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Alabama Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   9
Founded:   1819
Chief:  $161-201k
Associates:  $160-200k
Judicial selection
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Lyn Stuart  •  Michael Bolin  •  Tom Parker  •  Glenn Murdock  •  Greg Shaw  •  Kelli Wise  •  Tommy Bryan  •  James Allen Main  •  Roy Moore  •  

Seal of Alabama.png

Founded in 1819, the Alabama Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort. The court has the authority to review decisions reached by the lower courts, and may also review matters of contention where the dollar amount in question exceeds $50,000, as long as no other Alabama court has jurisdiction. The court consists of nine justices: eight associate justices and one chief justice.[1] The supreme court was established by Article VI of the Alabama Constitution, Section 139. Currently every member of the supreme court is a partisan elected Republican. Sue Bell Cobb, who retired in 2011, was the last Democrat to sit on the court.


The current justices of the Alabama Supreme Court
The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Justice Lyn Stuart2000-2018ElectedRepublican
Justice Michael Bolin2005-2016ElectedRepublican
Justice Tom Parker2004-2016ElectedRepublican
Justice Glenn Murdock2006-2018ElectedRepublican
Justice Greg Shaw2008-1/17/2021ElectedRepublican
Justice Kelli Wise2011-2016ElectedRepublican
Justice Tommy Bryan2013-2018ElectedRepublican
Justice James Allen Main2011-2018Gov. Bob RileyRepublican
Chief Justice Roy Moore2001-2003; 2013-2018ElectedRepublican

Judicial selection

See also: Judicial selection in Alabama

All justices on the Alabama Supreme Court are elected for six-year terms in partisan elections.[2] The composition of the court consists of eight associate justices and one chief justice. Vacancies, which can occur when a judge dies, resigns, retires or is removed from office, are filled through appointments by the governor of Alabama. The justice must run for the seat in the general election at least one year after being appointed.[2]


To be considered a candidate for the supreme court, the person must:

  • Be licensed to practice law in Alabama.
  • Have lived in Alabama for at least one year.
  • Be 70 years of age or younger at the time of candidacy.[3]

Chief justice

The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is elected by popular vote.[4]


The supreme court has jurisdiction to review the decisions reached by lower courts within the state. It is also authorized to review matters of contention where the dollar amount in question exceeds $50,000 (if no other Alabama court has jurisdiction), and review cases over which no other state court has jurisdiction. The court also hears appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission. The supreme court has a supervisory role over the other courts in the state and is charged with making rules governing administration, practice and procedure in all courts.[1]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 1,511 1,654
2013 1,487 1,488
2012 1,641 1,681
2011 1,576 1,654
2010 1,789 1,987
2009 1,810 1,812
2008 1,730 1,763
2007 1,828 1,804





Unopposed  Judge Greg Shaw (Seat 1)

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Alabama was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Alabama received a score of 0.79. Based on the justices selected, Alabama was the 4th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[8]

Rules of practice

The Alabama Supreme Court has the authority to create the rules governing the practice, administration and procedure within all Alabama courts, pursuant to Amendment 328, Section 6, Subsection 11 of the Alabama Constitution.[1] The Court has drafted the following rules:

Additional rules can be found on the Alabama Unified Judicial System's Rules of Court page.


Judicial conduct

The Alabama Supreme Court has established Canons of Judicial Ethics that offer guidelines for proper judicial conduct. It consists of seven canons:

  • Canon 1: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
  • Canon 2: A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities.
  • Canon 3: A judge should perform the duties of his office impartially and diligently.
  • Canon 4: A judge may engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.
  • Canon 5: A judge should regulate his extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with his judicial duties.
  • Canon 6: A judge should regularly file reports of his financial interests.
  • Canon 7: A judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from political activity inappropriate to judicial office.[9]

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Alabama earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[10]

Removal of justices

Justices may be removed in one of two ways:

  • They may be impeached.
  • The Judicial Inquiry Commission may investigate complaints against judges and produce a filed complaint with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Following this complaint, this court may censure, suspend, or remove the judge in question. These decisions may be appealed to the supreme court.[11][12]

Notable cases


Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery, Alabama

The 1819 Constitution of Alabama, in which the state was admitted to the Union, allowed the powers of the supreme court to be vested in several circuit courts and judges. From 1819 until the Reconstruction Constitution in 1868, judges were elected by both houses of the General Assembly. In 1832 the supreme court was revised as a separate entity from the lower courts.

In the wake of the civil war, and as part of reconstruction measures, the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution was created and judges were to be elected by the populace. Since then, judges have been elected in partisan elections.[19]

Notable firsts

  • Former Justice Janie Shores was the first woman to serve on the court. She was elected as a Democrat in 1974. With this election, she was also the first female elected judge of an appellate court in the country.[20]
  • Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is the first woman elected to the position of chief justice in the state of Alabama.
  • Justice Oscar William Adams, Jr. was the first African-American to serve on the court. He was appointed by Governor Fob Jones in 1980.[19]

Former chief justices

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Supreme Court," accessed July 30, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Qualifications of Judges," accessed July 30, 2014
  3. Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Alabama Appellate Courts," accessed July 30, 2014
  4. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Alabama," archived October 2, 2014
  5. Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Supreme Court of Alabama: Annual Statistics for Fiscal Year ending September 30, 2014," accessed April 6, 2015
  6. Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Supreme Court of Alabama: Annual Statistics 2012," accessed July 30, 2014
  7. Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Supreme Court of Alabama: Annual Statistics 2011," accessed July 30, 2014
  8. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  9. Supreme Court and State Law Library, "Canons of Judicial Ethics," accessed July 30, 2014
  10. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  11. Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Alabama Rules of Disciplinary Procedure," accessed July 30, 2014
  12. Alabama Unified Judicial System, "Judicial Inquiry Commission," accessed July 30, 2014
  13. ‘’Liberty Counsel’’, “Alabama Supreme Court Affirms Natural Marriage,” March 4, 2015
  14. ‘’Washington Post’’, “In defiant ruling, Alabama Supreme Court stops same-sex marriage in state,” March 4, 2015
  15., "Landmark ruling made by Alabama Supreme Court in Meth lab case," April 7, 2014
  16. Law 360, "Ala. Won't Touch Ruling, Letting Exxon Off $3.5B Hook," December 11, 2007
  17. Oyez, "Powell v. Alabama," accessed July 31, 2014
  18. Cornell University, "Powell v. Alabama," accessed July 31, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1 Alabama Unified Judicial System, "A History of the Alabama Judicial System," accessed July 30, 2014
  20. Litigation Commentary & Review, "Interview - Janie Shores," January/February 2010

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