Alabaster judge honored for court referral work

Alabaster’s municipal judge recently earned a state title never before awarded to a city employee.

The Alabama Court Referral Network recently awarded its 2009 Howell Heflin Award, one of the top judicial awards in the state, to Alabaster Municipal Judge Joseph Walden, who has been serving with the city since 1996.

Each year, the organization gives the award to an Alabama judge who “displays exemplary service and commitment to Alabama Court Referral officers’ programs,” according to the group.

Through the court referral programs, court officials refer offenders to drug and alcohol education and treatment programs.

“I’m sort of proud of it,” laughed Walden, who has also been Columbiana’s municipal prosecutor since 1988. “When they come to court, they will have problems.

“It’s an opportunity for me to help them straighten out their problems before they get any worse,” he added.

Other judges, including Shelby County District Judge Ron Jackson, have won the award over the last several years, but Walden was the first municipal judge to receive the award.

Alabaster Court Referral Officer Trey Richardson nominated Walden for the award, and the local judge received recommendations from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Patty Smith, Circuit Court Judge Hewitt Conwell and Alabaster Court Clerk Sandy Harika.

“I didn’t even know he had nominated me,” Walden said of Richardson. “It is sort of an award from my peers, because the court referral officer network is made up of court referral officers from across the state.

“(The award) recognizes the cooperative work here in the city between the court, the police department, the city prosecutor and the city court clerk,” Walden said.