State Bar Pres. offers Possible Solution as County Faces
Chaos, Particularly to Help Judiciary
Montgomery, Ala., July 8, 2009 – If a decision by Jefferson County Commissioners to shutdown county government affects the courts, "it will result in a crisis of epic proportions," according to Alabama State Bar President J. Mark White of Birmingham (White Arnold & Dowd P.C.).
"Limiting access to justice for citizens who rely on the judicial system to resolve legal matters is a risky proposition. The judicial branch differs from other departments because of the constitutional obligation to administer justice," he said.
White said the judicial system, which relies on both state and county funding, was already under-funded before the economic downturn. He suggested that the state bar's Panel of Neutrals, a non-partisan group with problem-solving talents which consists of two former governors, two former Congressman, a former mayor and a retired judge, "could be effective in bringing the stakeholders and elected officials together to seek consensus; work through discord; and resolve barriers to progress." A state bar task force co-chaired by Birmingham attorneys James Pratt (Hare Wynn Newell & Newton LLP) and former state bar president Fournier J. "Boots" Gale, III (Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C.) recommended the panelists.
White said, "This is the time for responsible political leadership to develop a creative solution to address the problem." He said that he was certain Presiding Judge Scott Vowell's priority is to maintain mandated judicial branch services and praised him for his efforts. "At this moment, our county courts are particularly vulnerable, but it is precisely now that court services should be maintained, to ensure access to justice for everyone. As we are aware, too often 'justice delayed is justice denied.'"
The 16,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members, improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.