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STATE

ALABAMA SUPREME COURT MONTGOMERY 36104-3741

SUE BELL COBB, CHIEF JUSTICE HEFLIN-TORBERT JUDICIAL BUILDING 300 DEXTER AVENUE (334) 229-0600

cjcobb@appeIlate.state.al.us

STATEMENT OF CHIEF JUSTICE SUE BELL COBB SUPREME COURT COURTROOM JUNE 29, 2011

Good Morning: For many months, there has been speculation about whether or not I would seek re-election a second term as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Indeed, it is a high honor to lead the Alabama Supreme Court and the Unified Judicial System. I have been humbled to have the support from citizens allover the state from Athens to Andalusia, from Florence to Fairhope. I hope that the people of Alabama know that we have one of the finest court systems in our nation, not necessarily because of my leadership, but due to the wisdom and courage of two former Chief justices, Senator Howell He in, whose vision enabled us to be among the first in the nation to unify its trial courts, and Chief Justice Bo Torbert, who took that vision and made it a reality. Their courage and tena ty allowed us to eliminate non-lawyer trial judges and provide the platform for innovations such as small claims courts, model drug courts, statewide e- ling and countless innovations that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Chief Justice Torbert worked ti essly wi th the Alabama Legislature to secure adequate funding r the courts, and the task of seeking funding has proven to be a struggle for each of his successors, including myself. During the past ten years, the Legislature has enacted $66.3 million in increas costs while only increasing the Court's appropriation $18.8 million. Absorbing this alarming reduction in funding could not have been accomplished if it had not been for the ingenuity and outstanding effo s of the court of cials and state employees who work the 1


Administrative Office of Courts and in t counties. I am so very proud of them. It is because of these must make this announcement so .... I do so after much true guidance as to what Alabama Court System and my

courthouses in 67

cated public servants that I but yet, I am so reluctant do time spent in prayer and seeking is in the best interest of the family.

Consequently, for a vari y of reasons, I have decided not only to announce that I will not seek another term but also that I will stepping down as Chief Justice. This cision has been infinitely more difficult because of the inadequate funding budgeted by the Legislature for our judicial system. I de rately wanted to depart leaving the system on better financi footing than when I came. Although I look at numerous accomplishments which have been achieved during the last four and one-half years, one of my keenest disappointments has been my inability to convince the members of Legislature to improve the method in which judges are selected in our state. For three legislative sessions, I worked with legislators such as former Representative Jeff McLaughlin, to change our partisan, costly judicial election method. Although our state has had the most expensive appellate court races in the country with Alabama appellate candidates raising $41 million over a nine year period compared to a grand total of $7,500 in our sister state of Florida, Republicans and Democrats ike refused to remove partisan labels on judicial races. Alabama appellate court judges should be selected either on merit and retained or reje ed by a vote of all the ople, or at least campaign without the added political emphasis of party labels. On this issue, I agree with the generalization penned by Author Jim Harrison, "We are at the mercy of political forces which are always self-serving and dead wrong." To do otherwise is to rpetua the public pe ion that judges are selected more on campa cont ions than on ility. Governor Bentley has proven in just six months in office that understands and appreci es the essential qualities of a good jurist. simply, that someone who has dist honor to wear a judge's black robe, should have a true and 2


,

.

balanced knowledge of the law and an abiding concern for people. Governor Bentley's judicial appointments since his inauguration have proven he understands the essential role that judges play in our society. Consequently, I trust Governor Bentley's judgment in selecting my replacement. Now for my personal reasons: My mother is 87 and my daughter, Caitlin, is 15. Another statewide race at this point in time would require me to raise millions of dollars while constantly endeavoring to appear and remain impartial and would require me to sacrifice precious time which I could be spending with my family. Although I am reluctant to leave for many reasons, I am now entering a new phase of my life. Beginning the first day of August, I will be able to dedicate the bulk of my time to being a better wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, church member and friend. I urge Governor Bentley to appoint someone who is an experienced trial judge, someone who understands that the most important aspects in people's lives are impacted by the court system: their children, homes, jobs, reputations, freedom, or whether they, in fact, will live or die. I pray that my replacement will dedicate his or her time and energy to improving the access and quality of the justice system and most importantly, will be someone who cares about doing what is right rather than doing what is poli tically expedient, someone who cares more about the "next generation, than the next election." I want to thank my family, particularly Bill and Caitlin, for the years of sacrifice which have enabled me to serve the people of Alabama for the past 30 years; my brother, Jimmy, who has daily cared for my parents; my staff who has supported me as I made important decisions in appellate cases while endeavoring to improve the justice system; and lastly, I want to thank my partner in all of my justice system reform efforts, Administrative Director of Courts, Callie Dietz, the finest court administrator in the nation. I want to thank all of you for being here, for your steadfast support and your friendship. Thank you and God bless you all. 3


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Sue Bell Cobb Statement  

Statement from Sue Bell Cobb

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