House approves new requirement for judges

Published 9:11 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

Once again, the Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill to set minimum requirements for judges. Now, the Senate needs to act.

Members of Alabama’s House of Representatives clearly see the need to require a certain level of legal experience for those who would sit in judgment in our state courts.

Last year, the House passed the judicial qualification bill 98-0. This year, it got even more House support, winning this past Tuesday on a 99-0 vote. Now, all that’s needed is to get it through the Senate. Fortunately, success seems more likely this year than last, when senators’ infighting doomed all but a handful of bills.

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In the case of setting these new qualifications for judges, Senate action would be a good thing. There’s no good reason to say no to this legislation.

If passed, the bill would require anyone sitting on a state appeals court – the Supreme Court and the lower Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals – to have been licensed as a lawyer for at least 10 years. It also would require circuit judges to have at least five years of experience as a licensed lawyer and district judges to have at least three years of experience.

Would this guarantee perfect judges? Of course not. Some of the characteristics of good judges have nothing to do with years of experience. Some lawyers won’t be particularly qualified for a particular court after decades of experience, either because of the type of law they practice or because of their temperament.

– The Birmingham News