Understanding the Jefferson County Alabama Court System

Jefferson County Court System
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Last November 6, 2018, the Alabama Trial Courts held general elections. These were preceded by a primary election on June 5, 2018. A primary runoff election also took place on July 17, 2018 for those offices where no candidate received a majority of votes in the primary.

Jefferson County is the sole county in the 10th Circuit of Alabama, home to about 660,000 residents in the two cities of Birmingham and Bessemer. This county held elections for county commissioner, district attorney, county sheriff, circuit clerk, and circuit, district, probate court judgeships. The board of county commissioners function as the country’s primary legislative and policy-making body. Most boards also control county land usage, oversee environmental issues and possess executive powers. It has the authority to appoint or remove department heads. Jefferson County has five supervisors who are elected by district to four-year terms. The people of Jefferson County are served by a circuit court, district court, probate court, and twenty-four municipal courts. Its District Court is composed of the Birmingham Division with ten judges and Bessemer Division with three judges. These are also the courts that handle the majority of criminal cases. The courts and jails are overflowing with defendants even though its common that many people call a bail bondsman in Birmingham Al to to help them out.

Despite the current election, the aforementioned court system in Jefferson County, Alabama is currently understaffed. With the number of cases they handle increasing on a regular basis, the Jefferson County court system is in need of law and court experts to work in the system. An increase in its workforce would mean properly divided tasks among its staff and efficient public service in terms of legal services.

The structure of Alabama’s state court system consists of three federal district courts and is divided into three levels: Appellate Courts, Trial Courts, and Federal Courts.

Appellate Courts

The Appellate Courts preside over appeals of lower court decisions. It consists of the Alabama Supreme Court, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

Alabama Supreme Court. Established in 1918, the Supreme Court is the highest and has the authority to review decisions reached by the lower courts. It has a supervisory role over the other courts in the state and is charged with making rules governing administration, practice and procedure in all courts. It also reviews matters of contention where the dollar amount in question exceeds $50,000, as long as no other Alabama court has jurisdiction. It consists of nine justices—one chief justice and eight associate justices—who are elected for six-year terms in partisan elections. In 2014, it has handled 1,511 case filings, and 1,654 dispositions.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Since its establishment in 1969, the Court of Civil Appeals deals with civil matters, especially in domestic situations such as divorce, adoptions and child custody. They also deal with cases appealed from state administrative agencies, such as worker’s compensation. This court consists of five judges who are elected in six-year terms in partisan elections.

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Unlike the civil appellate court, the Court of Criminal Appeals has jurisdiction over all misdemeanors, including the violation of town and city ordinances, habeas corpus and all felonies, including all post conviction writs in criminal cases, as stipulated in the Alabama Code. This court hears cases in panels and consists of five judges who are elected to six-year terms in partisan elections.

Trial Courts

The Trial Courts have jurisdiction over most legal matters in Alabama, and its decisions can be appealed to the appeals courts. This includes circuit courts and courts of limited jurisdiction.

Alabama Circuit Courts. This consists of 41 courts which have general jurisdiction, with majority of legal matters addressed here. The circuit courts have jurisdiction over all felony prosecutions and in proceedings where the disputed amount or damages exceed $10,000. They may also exercise jurisdiction in juvenile courts, in proceedings where the disputed amount is more than $3,000, and in certain appeals from lower courts. A total of 131 court judges consist the circuit courts.

Courts of Limited Jurisdiction. With Alabama’s 67 counties divided into 41 judicial courts, Courts of limited jurisdiction are found in each county. They oversee specific matters such as probate, juvenile justice or small claims. Also included are municipal and district courts. The Alabama Probate Courts consist of 68 judges across the state. The District Courts have 98 judges in 67 courts, and the Municipal Courts with 228 judges.

An understanding of each of the courts in the state of Alabama promotes awareness of the people and the function of each in the legal field. As citizens, knowledge of such court system is very useful, especially when one is faced with legal matters needed to be solved. Stanley Black 

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