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Blair replaces McAliley

The tables have turned for Judge Steven Blair. Blair was appointed Thursday to replace Judge Gary McAliley as Circuit Court Judge for the 12th Judicial Circuit of Alabama. McAliley has moved from behind the bench and is now the new district attorney for Pike County.

Blair, who was serving as a district court judge in Coffee County, is now in the

unique position of hearing cases being prosecuted by his former judicial role model.

"I started out as a juvenile probation officer before

Judge McAliley back when he was a district judge," Blair said. "Then, when I was a lawyer, I tried several cases in front of him in circuit court."

With the Blair's new appointment and McAliley's surprising move to the prosecution's end of the courtroom, now it will be Blair listening to his former mentor seeking convictions.

"He was kind of a role model," Blair said. "It'll be good to already have a working relationship with the people in the area, although it'll be a little odd to see him in the courtroom and get out of the habit of calling him 'judge,'"Blair said.

Blair said he is excited about the new job, which will involve him hearing cases with a jury present. District court cases often involve small property claims or child support cases, while Blair's new caseload could involve issues of substantial magnitude.

Several high profile cases have been working their way through the judicial system and could end up on Blair's bench within the next few months. Among the most visible: an animal cruelty case involving graphic footage of a dog killing a cat and the case of the man accused of stealing air conditioners from Pike County Schools.

That will all come later though, after the next grand jury meets on Feb. 10. Until then, Blair said he'd be speaking with the other judges and brushing up on his circuit court procedures.

"I know Judge Hightower and Judge Barr and Judge Head really well. They've expressed desire to help me brush up on things. My skills may be a little rusty, but I'm sure there'll be a quick learning curve," he said.

Circuit court won't be completely new to Blair, who practiced law there for a decade after graduating from the University of Alabama law school in the mid-1980s.

Besides, the new job in Troy will have some extra benefits. Blair has a daughter who just started school at Troy State University and he said he hopes to see her between cases every now and then for lunch.