Page 41

Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013

Since I retired from the bench in January, I frequently get the question: “What are you doing these days?” When I tell them “Private Judging,” I am surprised by the many blank stares I get. Private Judging has been used for years in other states, but it is a new alternative to the traditional court system for resolving legal disputes in Alabama. It allows parties involved in litigation to hire a qualified retired judge to try their cases. The statute became effective on July 1, 2012, after it was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by the Governor. The Private Judging Act provides for the appointment of a qualified former trial judge to serve as a private judge in a case when all of the parties agree. The appointed judge must have served at least one full six-year term of office and cannot be actively serving as a judge at the time of the appointment. He or she must be an Alabama resident, an active member of the Alabama State Bar and qualified by the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution. If all of the parties to a civil lawsuit agree to use a private judge, an order is issued appointing the private judge to manage the case. Once appointed, the private judge has the same authority over the case as a sitting judge would have in any lawsuit. The trial must be non-jury and the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure and the Alabama Rules of Evidence apply to the case. At J. Scott Vowell is the retired Presiding Circuit Judge of Jefferson County. He is currently engaged in ADR practice with Vowell & Goldsmith. The private judging act and administrative rules are available at www.vowellgoldsmith.com PRIVATE JUDGING provides an eaxltceerlnleantitv e for litigants in appropriate cases... the conclusion of the case the appointed judge enters a final judgment and that judgment can be reviewed by the appellate courts just as any other final judgment. What benefits does private judging offer litigants? The main advantage to using a private judge is that litigants can have their cases tried more quickly than in the traditional court system. Unlike an actively serving judge, a private judge doesn’t have hundreds of pending cases. In addition, the litigants are free to choose a retired judge who may have some special expertise which makes that judge particularly ADVERTISEMENT PRIVATE JUDGING WILL HELP ALABAMA’S COURTS Written By J. Scott Vowell well-suited to resolve the issues in their lawsuit. We have struggled for years to get adequate funding for the judicial branch of government in Alabama but appropriations have steadily declined. When the courts lose funding, they lose personnel and the loss of personnel makes it even more challenging for our state court judges to efficiently handle their substantial caseloads. As the use of private judging increases, the number of pending cases in state courts will be reduced which should improve the court system’s overall efficiency. If the states are not going to adequately fund our traditional judicial system, then private judging provides an excellent alternative for litigants in appropriate cases. It allows those litigants who choose private judging to have their cases resolved in a timely manner while improving the efficiency of the court system. I think it is a concept whose time has come. “ ” 569 Brookwood Village, Suite 901 • Birmingham, AL 35209 205.214.7320 www.vowellgoldsmith.com


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013
To see the actual publication please follow the link above