News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Several good candidates
seek appellate judgeships

The state’s Criminal Court of Appeals and Civil Court of Appeals tend to be stuffed in the bargain basement section of the elections but, as candidates noted, the courts are plenty important if you happen to have a case in them.

Two solid candidates are vying for Place 1 of the Court of Civil Appeals, Democrat Ray Vaughan and Republican Terry Moore. Neither has judicial experience. Both have considerable expertise in their narrow legal fields.

Mr. Vaughan has a national reputation for excellence in environmental law. More importantly, he would invigorate the court. He wants to break open the court for public inspection, most importantly by ending the lazy practice of issuing rulings without opinions that explain them. He is something of a maverick, but a responsible one. He is convinced that, working within the system, he can make the court more accountable to the people and to the laws it is charged to uphold.

Place 2 incumbent Republican Craig Pittman is vying for re-election against Democrat Kimberly Drake. Judge Pittman has done a solid job on the court, although we hope he acts on the increasing public sentiment for the court to issue more opinions. Ms. Drake has no judicial experience.

Competing for Place 3 of the Court of Civil Appeals are Democrat Jim McFerrin and Republican District Judge Terri Willingham Thomas. Mr. McFerrin has no judicial experience, but he has considerable experience in some of the legal areas that the civil appeals court sees most, particularly workers’ compensation. He is also a refreshing change from the typical judicial candidate. He is open and direct, and is not likely to lose sight of the fact that as a judge he would serve the people, not the other way around.

The Court of Criminal Appeals also has three places up for grabs. The court has served the people well, handling more cases per judge than any other criminal appellate court in the nation.

Incumbent Republican Judge Greg Shaw opposes Macon County District Judge Aubrey Ford Jr. for Place 1. Both are good candidates. We recommend challenger Judge Ford because he would add important new perspective to the court. Unlike Judge Shaw, Judge Ford has considerable trial experience, both as a lawyer and a trial judge. Judge Ford would also be the only black on the court. That is a positive because it adds a new viewpoint to court deliberations and because it makes the court feel more balanced to blacks who appear before it.

Incumbent Republican Judge Kelli Wise receives our support for Place 2. She opposes Democrat Claude E. Patton. Judge Wise has performed well during her tenure on the court. She is firm but compassionate and has a knack for maintaining a positive environment within the court. She is also productive, ruling on cases quickly but carefully. Her energy and demeanor serve the people of the state well.

The Place 3 Court of Criminal Appeals race is between two judges, Lauderdale County District Judge Deborah Paseur, a Democrat, and Republican Sam Welch, circuit judge for Monroe and Conecuh counties. Both are good judges with considerable experience. We support Judge Paseur because of the passion with which she views her responsibilities. She is a coordinator of an effective drug court in Lauderdale County. An appellate court position might give her the stature to push for drug courts in other counties.

THE DAILY recommends:

Ray Vaughan, Judge Craig Pittman and Jim McFerrin for the Court of Civil Appeals in the Nov. 7 election.

THE DAILY recommends:

Judge Aubrey Ford Jr., Judge Kelli Wise and Judge Deborah Bell Paseur for the Court of Criminal Appeals in the Nov. 7 election.

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