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Judge Jerry Batts and Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb at Athens State University on Thursday.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Judge Jerry Batts and Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb at Athens State University on Thursday.

Changing method of electing judges
Chief justice promotes judicial system plan

By Holly Hollman
Hhollman@Decaturdaily.Com · 340-2445

ATHENS –– A woman who’s become known more for winning the most expensive judicial race in the nation in 2006 than being Alabama’s first female chief justice has a plan.

She says it will prevent “ghastly amounts of money” spent on judicial campaigns.

Sue Bell Cobb, elected chief justice of the state Supreme Court in the 2006 election, spoke about that plan during a visit to Athens State University on Thursday.

Cobb won the $7.8 million race to become the lone Democrat on the nine-member court.

She said voters need to trust that their judges are not beholden to those who make campaign donations.

“We are not supposed to be pro anybody,” she said.

Pushing three bills

To restore public trust in the judicial system, Cobb has three bills she wants lawmakers to introduce. She detailed those Thursday.

One bill would create a merit selection process for judge vacancies at every level, and the candidates would not be questioned about their political affiliations.

Cobb said 24 states use the merit selection process, including Tennessee and Florida.

The second bill would create non-partisan elections for appellate judges only.

Cobb said 14 states hold non-partisan judicial elections, including Georgia and Mississippi.

“My hope is, we can show how it works on an appellate level and these type of elections would come to a local level,” she said.

The third bill would limit donations to judicial candidates to $250.

“This will be a contentious issue, but it will happen if you want it, if you call your legislators and tell them you want it,” Cobb said.

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