The Alabama Supreme Court today permitted the Alabama Judicial Resources Allocation Commission (JRAC) to remove a judgeship from diverse Jefferson County to majority-white Madison County. The decision means Tiara Hudson, who won a primary election for the judgeship before JRAC decided to relocate it, will be blocked from a seat on the bench.
“Jefferson County residents deserve fair representation on the bench and a court system that meets their needs, but allowing the removal of an elected judgeship denies them both,” said Jess Unger, senior staff attorney for voting rights with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We’re disappointed that the court has refused to prioritize defending the rights of the Jefferson County community to fair representation and fair access to resources.”
Jefferson County includes the city of Birmingham.
The high court upheld the decision of the trial court to dismiss the case. The case, Hudson v. Ivey, was filed by the SPLC and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU-AL) on behalf of Hudson.
“I’m disappointed to be denied consideration for the seat I won a primary election for, but I’m even more disappointed that Jefferson County will be denied their right to an elected judge,” said Hudson, the plaintiff. “The decision to allow commissions to redistribute judicial seats without legislative approval diminishes the voice of a diverse community in choosing which judges will serve them.”
Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director of the ACLU of Alabama, commented on the decision.
“The Alabama Supreme Court’s decision leaves in place a judgeship that lacks the proper constitutional authority to adjudicate cases in Madison County and strips the Jefferson County courts of a judgeship that it is supposed to retain under Alabama law,” Faulks said. “Alabamians need and deserve clarity about how judicial resources are to be distributed so that every jurisdiction has the judges needed to reduce the statewide backlog of cases.”
Picture at top: Tiara Hudson, a veteran public defender, was poised to assume a circuit court judgeship in Jefferson County, Alabama. (Credit: D. Jerome Smedley)