Dothan Eagle on a lawsuit over the election of appellate judges in Alabama:
Perhaps the best-known trial to take place in Alabama is one from the pages of fiction — the 1935 trial of Tom Robinson for the rape of Mayella Ewell in Maycomb County, Alabama, the pivotal event in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The elephant in the courtroom is race — Tom is black; Mayella is white — and considering the locale and the timeframe, there’s little doubt how the storyline will play out.
That elephant will be back in a Montgomery courtroom next month when a federal judge will hear arguments in a 2016 lawsuit over Alabama’s method of seating its appellate judges. The suit brought by four black voters and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP maintains that the method of seating these jurists through statewide, at-large elections dilutes the voting power of African-American voters.
It should be an interesting case. The long history of U.S. Justice Department oversight of Alabama’s legislative district lines to ensure minority representation in the Statehouse appears to undergird the plaintiffs’ argument.
A larger complaint, however, is that jurists are seated by election at all.
By filling judicial seats through partisan elections, hopefuls are forced to declare a party, seek and accept campaign contributions and walk a fine line with regard to campaigning — none of which engenders confidence in the expectation of impartiality.
A better course would be a thoughtful creation of a panel to bring forward nominations, with nominees put through a legislative confirmation process.
A process such as this could address existing concerns, not only of inequitable racial representation on the upper courts, but of naked partisanship and potential biases on the court.
The Cullman Times on boating crashes and safety:
The Fourth of July holiday was marred by tragic deaths across the state, particularly on popular waterways.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Marine Patrol Divisions worked fatal boat crashes from the Montgomery area to Smith Lake in Cullman and Winston counties. ...
The state’s Marine Patrol, while not a large force for the vast areas it covers, has plenty of information and rules to follow for safe boating.
Knowing that Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are among the busiest times on Alabama rivers and lakes, every effort is made to patrol waterways and spot potentially dangerous violations.
The first and more sensible advice is that life jackets are the best protection from tragedy. Just as a seatbelt in a car, having the ability to stay afloat on the water is the best chance for survival. Children 8 and under should have one on at all times, and once a boat is moving, everyone should have a properly fitting life vest on.
And while there are not painted lanes on the water, staying to the right is the rule of boating. Staying to the left is the same thing as driving the wrong way in motor traffic.
All boats should also be equipped with a kill-switch that instantly cuts the motor off during a crash or if the operator is not at the station. And anyone boating at night should be sure that all lights are working properly before going out.
Boat traffic can become congested on the holidays or just about any summer weekend. Alabama’s waterways are meant to be enjoyed. But safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Also, anyone who has consumed alcohol should never attempt to operate a boat. Again, just like on the highways, drinking is always a recipe for disaster when operating a boat or vehicle.
Considering the rash of accidents this past weekend, which included six deaths in 12 water crashes, following all safety rules must be the top priority when on our waterways.