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Bulletin Summer 2013

Special Interest William H. Weems, Jr. e Minds Behind the Robes As part of a continuing series regarding members of our local judiciary, this article pro les the Honorable Elisabeth A. French, 10th Judicial Circuit. Elisabeth French was born in New Orleans, and raised by a single mother, a teacher, who stressed education and hard work as crucial components for success. At age seventeen, armed with those teachings, she accepted a volleyball scholarship from the University of Montevallo and moved to Alabama. While attending Montevallo and participating in sports at the collegiate level, she completed a double major in political science and Spanish. “Being on scholarship was certainly a great experience, but also much like a full-time job,” she suggests. As other studentathletes may attest, determination, discipline and prioritization of time are assets to be applied in such instances. Now, some years later, and as a mother of three, she and her husband (attorney Courtney French), intend to pass on to their young children that same strong work ethic, appreciation of education and similar sense of discipline. “We all want what’s best for our children, and we all want them to have more opportunities than did we. It’s up to us as parents to teach them and to provide them with the tools they need to help bring them closer to their goals.” Following college, French moved to Birmingham and enrolled in Cumberland School of Law, earning her law degree. “ ereafter, she entered private practice, focusing initially on education, commercial and business disputes, personal injury and civil rights cases. Having graduated from a school known in part for its strong trial advocacy, and after several years of courtroom experience, she began litigating more complex civil cases, including medical malpractice matters in state courts and mass torts in federal courts. In November of 2010, after fourteen years of private practice during which she participated in numerous jury trials, Judge French was elected to the circuit bench. As a judge, her rst jury trial was, appropriately enough, a medical malpractice action. While Judge French reminds us that she inherited a well-managed and current docket, she has also worked to further reduce the pending caseload by some 135 cases. She normally schedules motion hearings on “ ursdays and Fridays, which allows for a focus on trials Mondays through Wednesdays. Since taking o— ce in January of 2011, she reports having had the pleasure of conducting some two dozen jury trials - in addition to numerous bench trials. “Presiding over a trial can be a fascinating experience,” says the Judge. “Any lawyer who wants to improve his or her skills or comfort level in the courtroom,” she continues “should consider sitting in on trials whenever possible.” “Doing so can aš ord an opportunity to see good lawyers at work, and also to witness real world issues being addressed and resolved.” “Also,” she says with a smile, “it’s much better than anything we see on TV.” As a jurist, the Judge endeavors to make sure those appearing before her, including pro se litigants, leave the courtroom with an understanding of our judicial process, and hopefully with a feeling that they were treated fairly throughout that process. As a former litigator, she knows how crucial that is in maintaining our system of justice and resolution of issues among litigants. Judge French maintains an open door policy, and may be reached through her very capable and helpful staš by dialing 205.325.5020, or else by visiting her chambers in Room 610 of the Ješ erson County Courthouse. G Contributor William Weems 28 Birmingham Bar Association


Bulletin Summer 2013
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