News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Public officials abdicate responsibility to judges

Twice last week state residents had the unpleasant experience of seeing their public officials scolded like parents lecturing wayward children.

In Montgomery, Circuit Judge William Shashy told Riley administration officials they are not doing their job in running state prisons.

In Decatur, U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon cast serious doubt on Morgan County's intent to fulfill terms of a consent decree that ended a lawsuit over crowded conditions at the county jail.

Judge Shashy wanted to know why the Department of Corrections hasn't complied with a 2002 order to move state prisoners from county jails. He didn't get a good answer.

Judge Clemon, who's had to tell local officials that 88 jail guards means 88 jailers at the new jail, wanted to know why they ignored his order to form a community corrections program.

In addition to keeping the prison and jail-overcrowding crisis going when they fail to act, public officials who ignore or haphazardly carry out judicial orders cost taxpayers needless expense in additional attorney fees.

Perhaps an incentive for public officials to stop resisting court orders might be for them to be liable personally for the legal fees when judges haul them back into court for failing to carry out orders.

Alabama officials have a tradition of cussing both federal and state judges for meddling in their affairs. Yet they encourage judicial activism with their dilly-dallying and ineptness and their unwillingness to take the political heat for unpopular actions.

Allowing the judges to do the dirty work, then cussing them works for Alabama politicians every time.

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