MONTGOMERY (AP) — The chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee is working on legislation to shift some Alabama judgeships to areas with heavy caseloads and backlogs in the court system.
Republican Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster said Friday he will offer his bill when the Legislature convenes Feb. 5. It would set up a system to shift judicial positions when a circuit judgeship becomes vacant in a county with a low caseload.
Judges are assigned to 41 judicial circuits in Alabama. They can cover from one to five counties.
Ward said the judicial assignments were made 40 years ago, but Alabama's population has shifted since then. He said a judge in Blount County serves 28,661 people, while a judge in Greene, Marengo and Sumter counties serves 10,959 people. His bill considers not only population, but caseloads in assigning judgeships.
The Legislature used to create new judgeships to serve areas with high caseloads, but Ward said that is no longer economically feasible. He described his plan as a long-term solution that would shift judgeships to where they are needed most, but would not require any current judge to move. He said Jefferson County would likely see a reduction under his plan.
Ward's bill will be among the government efficiency bills pushed by Republicans in the upcoming legislative session, but he said it will draw opposition from areas that could lose judgeships.