After a state commission moved a judgeship from a diverse Jefferson County community to majority-white Madison County, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the move.
The lawsuit was filed by voting rights groups on behalf of Tiara Young Hudson, an attorney seeking to serve on the bench for the 10th Judicial Circuit Court, Place 14 in Birmingham. Hudson won the Democratic nomination for that judgeship and would have faced no opposition in the general election. Shortly after her primary victory, Judge Clyde Jones announced his retirement from the position, effective immediately, creating a vacancy. Hudson has applied to the Jefferson County Judicial Commission to fill the vacancy.
However, the Alabama Judicial Resources Allocation Commission voted to relocate the judgeship to Madison County. The commission’s vote to transfer the judgeship broke along racial lines, with all white members voting for the move and all the Black members voting against it. The decision could prevent Hudson from seeking to fill the Jefferson County vacancy. It also would strip the county of a critical resource.
During a meeting before the commission’s vote, members of the public overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to the move. What’s more, testimony at the meeting noted that the Legislature had the funds to create 20 new judgeships, which would render a transfer from one county to another unnecessary.
The commission was created by the Legislature as an agency with purported authority to alter the number of judgeships in each district and circuit. However, the Alabama Constitution states that only the Legislature, incorporating recommendations of the Alabama Supreme Court, may change the number of judges allocated to a circuit or district. The lawsuit describes how the commission violated the constitution by usurping the Legislature’s role.
The case has been transferred to the Alabama Supreme Court.