Despite shortage of judges, Madison County denied new judgeship by state commission

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Huntsville is poised to become Alabama’s largest city within a few years. But, the Madison County Circuit Court’s roster of judges has not kept pace with the growth.

There was a chance to address that problem Friday in Montgomery, with a judicial vacancy that emerged in Jefferson County. But the commission charged with judicial allocation and reallocation rejected moving the judgeship, leaving Madison County short of judges, according to the commission’s own caseload measurement system.

Madison County Presiding Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall attended Friday’s meeting. She told WHNT News 19 she was “very disappointed” in the commission’s process and the vote.

The problem of overworked courts is an area the state of Alabama began trying to address a few years ago. The law established measurements for Alabama’s judicial circuits to track their caseloads.

The judicial allocation commission found that for the past three years, Madison County’s judicial circuit has the greatest need for new judges, based on caseload, of any in the state.

To put that in perspective Jefferson County has 27 circuit judges, Madison County has 7. The judicial allocation commission found that the Madison circuit has a deficit of 3.25 judges and Jefferson County has a surplus of 7 judges.

That opened the door for the next judicial vacancy to potentially be moved here, and create an eighth circuit judgeship. A Jefferson County judge had previously been disqualified after winning an election and the commission met Friday in Montgomery, to determine if the seat should be moved to Madison County.

The commission was asked first to decide if a judgeship that is currently vacant should be moved. It takes a two-thirds vote of the commission to make such a change.

If they voted yes, they’d then vote on where to move it. Madison County was hoping it would move here, but it never got that far.

The commission deadlocked 6 to 6 on moving the seat, leaving it in Birmingham. That means Madison County never got a chance to be formally considered for the move.

This will be an ongoing issue as the courts here deal with thousands of cases and a growing population.