Judge announces court run Smith to seek open seat on Supremes

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2003

One of Shelby County’s own entered the race for Alabama Supreme Court last week.

District Court Judge Patti Smith announced her candidacy last week for associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Smith, 51, has been on the bench in Shelby County juvenile court for the past 24 years. She will seek the seat currently held by retiring Justice Gorman Houston.

&uot;In my 24 years on the bench, I have striven to be fair and impartial where everyone in the courtroom is on a level playing field,&uot; she said to a group of more than 50 of her colleagues, co-workers, friends and family who gathered outside the Shelby County Courthouse last week.

&uot;As the sole juvenile court judge in a county that has grown to 150,000 people, I believe our work has made a remarkable difference in the lives of many.&uot;

Smith said she will use that experience to be successful as an associate justice on the Alabama Supreme Court.

&uot;I have the experience, the work ethic, the ability and the desire to help the state of Alabama,&uot; Judge Smith said, indicating she believes in a strict interpretation of the law, &uot;not rewriting it from the bench.&uot;

She said the role of a judge is a clear one, in her mind.

&uot;A judge should not simply participate in the process (of the justice system) but constantly strive to improve it,&uot; she said.

Appointed to the bench at 27, Smith, a Republican, has been elected four times by the voters of Shelby County.

She helped to create and successfully develop the Court Appointed Special Advocates program in Shelby County (CASA &045; Friends of the Court Inc.), the nationally recognized DAY program (Developing Alabama’s Youth) and the Early Warning Program, all organizations geared toward assisting children in need and unifying their families.

In 2001, she was named National CASA Judge of the Year for her juvenile justice work.

&uot;I believe that Alabama’s civil justice system should be a balanced and level playing field for all people and that our criminal justice system should always be fair but hold accountable criminals who break the law,&uot; Smith said.

&uot;In addition, I believe that our juvenile justice system must work swiftly and compassionately for the best interests of the children who depend on it &045; and there are many.&uot;

Frank &uot;Butch&uot; Ellis, well-known Shelby County attorney, expressed his support for Judge Smith.

&uot;This is a historic event &045; not only in the life of Judge Patti Smith but in the life of all of Shelby County,&uot; he said.

&uot;I’ve long admired (Judge Smith) for the way she has conducted herself in Shelby County, and I can’t think of more perfect timing for her to be making the announcement she’s making today.

&uot;Nobody in this race or any other has been as devoted to families as Patti Smith.&uot;

Alabama’s State Auditor Beth Chapman, whose family resides in north Shelby County, agreed.

&uot;Patti Smith has done a tremendous job on the bench for the people of Shelby County,&uot; she said when introducing Judge Smith last week.

&uot;She has years of positive, proven judicial experience combined with the unwavering honesty and integrity that we need on the Alabama Supreme Court.&uot;

Smith has chosen Chapman as her campaign chairman and Denise Graham CPA of Pelham as her campaign treasurer.

Judge Smith graduated from Catholic High School in Montgomery, Troy State University and Jones School of Law. Before being appointed to the bench, she served as assistant district attorney for Shelby County.

In addition to her juvenile work in the county, she has served on the Governor’s Commission on Crime, the Commission on the Future of the Juvenile Justice System and the Alabama Judicial System Study Commission on Sentencing.

She served as chairman of the Task Force on Dependency and also of the Interagency Conference on Youth.

She is an active member of the Alabama Associations of District Court Judges and Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Shelby County Bar Assocation and the Alabama State Bar.

She and her husband, Jerry, have two children, Shelley and Jarrett