Sue Bell Cobb

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Sue Bell Cobb
AL cobb.jpg
Court Information:
Alabama Supreme Court
Title:   Former Chief Justice
Salary:  $160-200k
Active:   2007-2012
Preceded by:   Drayton Nabers, Jr.
Succeeded by:   Charles Malone
Past position:   Court of Criminal Appeals Judge
Past term:   1994-2007
Personal History
Party:   Democratic
Undergraduate:   University of Alabama
Law School:   University of Alabama School of Law, 1981

Sue Bell Cobb was the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. She was elected to the court in 2006, and during her tenure was the only Democrat on the nine-member court. Judge Cobb was also the first woman elected as chief justice. She retired from the court on August 1, 2011.[1]


Justice Cobb is married to William J. Cobb, Executive Director of Governmental Affairs of Bell South. They have three children, Bill, Andy and Caitlin. She currently resides in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Bill and daughter Caitlin. Cobb also plays the piano in her church.[2]


Justice Cobb graduated from The University of Alabama, where she obtained a degree in History, receiving the highest scholastic award in that field of study, the Phi Alpha Theta Scholarship Key. In 1981, she earned her Juris Doctor degree from The University of Alabama School of Law.[2]

Professional career

Immediately following her admission to the Bar, Justice Cobb was appointed as District Judge of Conecuh County, becoming one of the state's youngest judges. She was elected to that position in 1982 and re-elected in 1988. During her tenure on the bench, Judge Cobb accepted trial court assignments in approximately forty counties. In 1997, she was appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to serve as the Alternate Chief Judge of the Court of the Judiciary. Justice Cobb is also a faculty member in the Alabama Judicial College. She was elected to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994, where she served until she took office as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in 2007. She defeated Republican incumbent Drayton Nabers, Jr. in the November 2006 general election.[2] As Chief Justice Cobb is eligible for a salary of $180,005 annually, which ranks 9th in the U.S. for the highest level state court.[3]

Awards and associations


  • State Winner of the Bishop Barren State Employee Public Service Award
  • Distinguished Service Award, National Juvenile Detention Association
  • Outstanding Service Award, Juvenile Probation Officer Institute
  • Children's Voice Award
  • 1999 Public Citizen of the Year Award, Alabama Chapter of the National Social Workers Association
  • 1996 NAACP Political Achievement Award, Conecuh County Branch of the NAACP
  • 1995 Montgomery Aadverstiser Woman of Acheivement Award
  • 1992 Judicial Conservationist Award of the Alabama Wildlife Federation
  • Volunteer of the Year Award, Wes Nowlin Award, and St. George Medal, American Cancer Society


  • Past President, Alabama Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • Chair, Children First Foundation
  • Honorary Member, Alabama Council on Crime and Delinquency
  • Past Chair and member of the National Assembly, Board of the Alabama Division of the American Cancer Society
  • Former board member, Campaign for Alabama
  • Past member and officer, Evergreen Industrial Development Board.
  • Member, Farrah Law Society Board of Directors
  • Member, Montgomery Kiwanis Club
  • Member, First United Methodist

Cobb takes particular interest in child advocacy and drug courts. She has advocated for at least one drug court per county by 2009-10, because she sees them as beneficial alternatives to traditional prison sentences.[2]

2006 Election

Cobb was elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2006.[4][5]

Candidate IncumbentSeatPartyElection %
Sue Bell Cobb ApprovedA NoChief JusticeDemocratic51.5%
Drayton Nabers, Jr. YesChief JusticeRepublican48.4%
Tom Parker NoChief JusticeRepublican

Notable decisions

  • ExxonMobil Corp. v. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (2007)

In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court (Justice Cobb dissenting) voided the punitive damages portion of a $3.6 billion jury award against ExxonMobil. The state of Alabama sued ExxonMobil over disputed royalty revenues; compensatory damages were awarded in excess of $100 million, and punitive damages were awarded in the amount of $3.5 billion. The Supreme Court ruled in November 2007 that for the State to be awarded $3.5 billion in punitive damages relating to a fraud claim regarding the disputed royalty fees, the State had to prove 1) Exxon had a duty to disclose material facts that 2) were concealed or not disclosed, which 3) induced the State to act 4) to the State's injury, resulting 5) in actual damage to the State. On this burden the State failed on multiple grounds, necessitating the reversal of the punitive damages.

Judicial positions

Favors drug courts

Drug courts and community punishment programs are the answer to drug-addicted criminals and overcrowded prisons, according to Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. Speaking to the Rotary Club in Huntsville, she warned that unless the state court system gets an $8 million increase in its budget for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, vital programs could be cut and 400 court employees could lose their jobs. Having been told that prisons are at 200 percent capacity, the state's first female chief justice said the drug court "is the single best way" of rehabilitating addicts and keeping them out of jail. "Community punishment is where it's at," she told the crowd of local business and government leaders. "It will literally turn lives around and save tax dollars." Drug courts keep nonviolent criminals out of jail by placing them into a community corrections program that includes counseling, community service, random drug testing and intensive monitoring.

In August, drug courts were operating in 18 counties. Today, Cobb said, they are in all but four of the state's 67 counties.[6]

External links

See also


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