House bill to create judicial commission

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A new bill passed by the Alabama House of Representatives would make local input part of the formula to fill vacancies in the Shelby County court system.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), would create a five-member Shelby County judicial commission.

Should a vacancy arise in the 18th Judicial Circuit, the commission would provide three nominees to the governor to fill the position.

The county&8217;s last judicial vacancy was created by the retirement of circuit judge Al Crowson in 2005. Riley appointed Sonny Conwill to fill that position.

Although the current procedure has gone without incident under Gov. Bob Riley, Ward said, the potential for conflict remains without some form of local involvement. &8220;It would be really scary for a governor to come in and make an appointment based on political patronage rather than professional qualifications,&8221; Ward said.

The newly created commission would be modeled after similar ones already in place in Jefferson, Montgomery and Mobile Counties. Members would serve staggered, six-year terms with no compensation and could not hold office in a political party. Two members of the commission would be appointed by the executive committee of the Shelby County Bar, with two non-bar members appointed by the county&8217;s legislative delegation. Shelby County&8217;s presiding judge would also serve on the commission.

Because the bill proposes a constitutional amendment, it would go before voters during the next statewide election should it pass through the state Senate