Since 2008, three of the judge’s positions in St. Clair County have been filled by gubernatorial appointment. In each case, the process for the appointment was vague and undefined, and largely took place outside the public eye.
St. Clair County is fortunate. Probate Judge Mike Bowling, Circuit Judge Phil Seay and District Judge Alan Furr are all, according to every indication, quality judges who serve the county well.
The issue surrounding their appointments is the process by which it happened. That brought Jim Hill, the presiding circuit judge, to the St. Clair County Commission in November, seeking a resolution to establish a committee that would meet in the case of a vacancy. The committee would consist of five members — Hill, county commission chairman Stan Batemon and the county’s representative on the Alabama State Bar Association (currently Elizabeth Parsons), along with two at-large members, one from each respective judicial division of the county — and would take applications, then make “recommendations” to the governor’s office.
The Times takes no position regarding whether such a committee is right for St. Clair County — a resolution that would have supported it was tabled at the most recent commission meeting. It is not known at this time whether the commission will even take up the discussion again at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Our concern remains the transparency of the process.
Each time a vacancy has required a gubernatorial appointment, the governor’s office has declined to provide this newspaper with the list of candidates who applied for the job. In each case they gave no reason for doing so, except to say it was “the preference” of the appointment office in Montgomery.
These are public offices, as Hill told the commission in November, hearing important cases and rendering judicial rulings that have far-reaching impacts. The least the people of St. Clair County can ask is that the process be transparent to the public, whether it takes place at home or in Montgomery.
Our hope is that all officials involved put thought into the necessity of the committee, and how to best implement that. For the good of the public they have sworn to serve.