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Supreme Court of Alabama

Coordinates: 32°22′36″N 86°18′15″W / 32.3768°N 86.3043°W / 32.3768; -86.3043
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Supreme Court of Alabama
32°22′36″N 86°18′15″W / 32.3768°N 86.3043°W / 32.3768; -86.3043
LocationHeflin-Torbert Judicial Building, Montgomery, Alabama
Coordinates32°22′36″N 86°18′15″W / 32.3768°N 86.3043°W / 32.3768; -86.3043
Composition methodPartisan election
Authorized byAlabama Constitution
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term length6 years (mandatory retirement at the age of 70)
Number of positions9
WebsiteOfficial website
Chief Justice
CurrentlyTom Parker
SinceJanuary 11, 2019

The Supreme Court of Alabama is the highest court in the state of Alabama. The court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices. Each justice is elected in partisan elections for staggered six-year terms. The Supreme Court is housed in the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.[1]

The Governor of Alabama may fill vacancies when they occur for the remainder of unexpired terms. The current line-up for the court is all Republican. There is no specific limitation on the number of terms to which a member may be elected. However, the state constitution under Amendment 328, adopted in 1973, prohibits any member from seeking election once they reach age 70.

The current Clerk of Court is Margaret "Megan" Byrne Rhodebeck, who assumed the office by appointment on August 1, 2022.[2]


The Supreme Court of Alabama was organized under the governorship of William Wyatt Bibb,[3] and had its beginnings with the Alabama Constitution of 1819, which stated that until the General Assembly deemed otherwise, the functions of the Supreme Court would be handled by the judges of the Alabama circuit courts. The circuit judges were elected by a joint vote of both houses of the Alabama Legislature. These judges met in May 1820 in the capital city of Cahaba for the first term of the Supreme Court. Clement Comer Clay was appointed by the other judges as the first chief justice of the court. Following his resignation in 1823, he was succeeded by Abner Smith Lipscomb.[4]

The court was then reorganized in 1832. It then became a separate court with three justices elected to six-year terms. Abner Lipscomb remained as chief justice. In 1851 the number of justices was increased to five. In 1853 the membership of the court was reduced to three again.[4] By this time the court had its own chambers in the newly completed Alabama State Capitol.[5] No changes to the court occurred during the years of the Civil War.[4]

The new state constitution of 1868, drafted during the Reconstruction Era, committed the election of the three justices to the people rather than the legislature. The number of justices was increased to four in 1889. In 1891, the number increased to five. Following the adoption of the 1901 constitution, the 1903 session of the legislature raised the number of justices to seven.[4] In 1940 the Supreme Court moved from the Capitol Building to 445 Dexter Avenue. The building had been built as a Scottish Rite temple in 1926 but was sold to the state during the financially difficult years of the Great Depression. The state acquired and started a remodel of the building in 1938 for the relocation of the Judicial Department, Attorney General and State Law Library.[6]

Legislative Act Number 602, 1969 Alabama Acts was passed during Regular Session of 1969. It increased the number of associate justices to eight, bringing the number of court justices to the configuration that remains today. Former Justice Janie L. Shores was the first of six women to serve on the court. She was elected to the court in 1974. The first of three black justices to serve on the court was former Justice Oscar W. Adams Jr., who in 1980 was initially appointed by then Governor Fob James to serve the remainder of an unexpired term. Justice Adams became the first black justice elected to the court when he was elected two years later to serve a full six-year term.[4] The court moved to the new Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building at 300 Dexter Avenue in 1994.[1] In 2022 the Supreme Court of Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker Issued a letter of apology on behalf of the State of Alabama to the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama.[7][8]


The Supreme Court of Alabama has the authority to review decisions by all the lower courts of the state and the authority to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction. It further has the authority to issue any necessary orders to carry out the general superintendence of the Unified Judicial System of Alabama. It has exclusive jurisdiction over all appeals in disputes exceeding $50,000, as well as appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission.[9]

The chief justice also serves as the administrative head of the Alabama Judicial System. The court makes all rules governing administration, practice, and procedure for all Alabama courts. The exercise of this authority eliminates technicalities which usually cause delays in trial courts and reversals in appellate courts.[9][dead link][how?]

Chief Justices[edit]

The Alabama Supreme Court has had an unusually high turnover in the chief justice position, going back to October 1995. Since then, the post has been occupied by eight different individuals for nine different time periods. Not one of these individuals has completed an entire term of six years.

Perry Hooper Sr., elected in 1994, did not assume the office until October, 1995, after a protracted election contest that prevented him from taking office until nine months into the term. He was succeeded by Roy Moore, who was elected in 2000 but removed from office due to violations of the judicial canon of ethics. Associate Justice Gorman Houston acted as temporary chief justice during Moore's suspension but before his actual removal from office. After Moore vacated the office, the Governor appointed Drayton Nabers Jr. Sue Bell Cobb defeated Chief Justice Nabers in 2006. Cobb resigned for personal reasons in the middle of her term. Her replacement, Chuck Malone was appointed on August 1, 2011, by Governor Robert Bentley but was defeated for re-nomination by former Chief Justice Roy Moore in 2012.

Moore assumed the office a second time beginning in January 2013, and was again suspended from office on May 6, 2016, by the Court of the Judiciary. Associate Justice Lyn Stuart became chief justice on April 26, 2017, when Moore formally resigned from the seat from which he was already suspended. Moore then sought election to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions for which a special election was held in December 2017. Stuart was appointed for the remainder of the term by Governor Kay Ivey on April 26, 2017. Chief Justice Stuart, who became the first female Republican chief justice, has been an associate justice of the court since 2001. She faced Associate Justice Tom Parker in the GOP primary in June 2018, and lost the primary to Parker in a relatively close race. Parker had previously lost a GOP primary for the post to Drayton Nabers in 2006.

In November 2018, Alabamians selected a new chief justice when Republican Tom Parker easily defeated Democrat Robert Vance. Justice Parker became the eighth different chief justice in only seventeen years when he assumed office on January 11, 2019. When Parker became chief justice, he vacated the associate justice seat he then held and Governor Kay Ivey appointed outgoing Justice Mendheim to the seat. Chief Justice Parker is 67 years old and will not be constitutionally eligible to seek another term in 2024, thus resulting in another new chief justice in 2025.

List of all chief justices of Alabama Supreme Court:[10]

  1. Clement Claiborne Clay
  2. Abner Smith Lipscomb
  3. Reuben Saffold
  4. Henry Hitchcock (D)
  5. Arthur F. Hopkins (D)
  6. Henry W. Collier (D)
  7. Edmund S. Dargan (D)
  8. William P. Chilton (D)
  9. George Goldthwaite (D)
  10. Samuel F. Rice (D)
  11. Abram J. Walker (D)
  12. Elisha W. Peck (R)
  13. Thomas Minott Peters (R)
  14. Robert C. Brickell (D)
  15. George W. Stone (D)
  16. Robert C. Brickell (D) (re-elected)
  17. Samuel D. Weakley Jr. (D)
  18. John R. Tyson (D)
  19. James R. Dowdell (D)
  20. John C. Anderson (D)
  21. Lucien D. Gardner (D)
  22. J. Ed Livingston (D)
  23. Howell Heflin (D)
  24. C.C. Torbert (D) (1977-1989)
  25. Ernest C. Hornsby (D) (1989-1995)
  26. Perry O. Hooper Sr. (R) (1995–2001)
  27. Roy Moore (R) (2001–2003)
  28. Gorman Houston (R) (acting 2003–2004)
  29. Drayton Nabers Jr. (R) (2004–2007)
  30. Sue Bell Cobb (D) (2007–2011)
  31. Chuck Malone (R) (2011–2013)
  32. Roy Moore (R) (2013–2017)
  33. Lyn Stuart (R) (acting 2016–2017; appointed 2017–2019)
  34. Tom Parker (R) (2019–present)

Current Justices[edit]

Most of the current members of the court initially came to their seats via election, with two exceptions:

  • Justice Lyn Stuart's elevation to the chief justice position created a vacancy in the associate justice seat she held. That vacancy was filled by Governor Kay Ivey on May 25, 2017, with the appointment of Justice William B. Sellers.[11][12]
  • Justice Tom Parker became chief justice on January 14, 2019, vacating the associate justice seat he held. On December 28, 2018, Governor Ivey appointed outgoing Justice Brady E. Mendheim Jr. to that seat, effective January 15, 2019.[13] Mendheim had previously been appointed by Ivey to replace Justice Glenn Murdock, who resigned effective January 2018; Mendheim was defeated in the election to serve the remainder of that term.[13]
Justice Born Joined Term ends Party affiliation Appointed by Law school
Tom Parker, Chief Justice (1951-08-19) August 19, 1951 (age 72) January 14, 2005[a] 2024 Republican [b] Vanderbilt
Greg Shaw (1957-03-21) March 21, 1957 (age 67) January 20, 2009 2026 Republican [b] Samford
Alisa Kelli Wise (1962-12-14) December 14, 1962 (age 61) January 17, 2011 2028 Republican [b] Faulkner
Tommy Bryan (1956-05-16) May 16, 1956 (age 68) January 11, 2013 2024 Republican [b] Faulkner
Will Sellers (1963-02-10) February 10, 1963 (age 61) May 25, 2017 2024 Republican Kay Ivey (R) Alabama
Sarah Hicks Stewart (1963-04-26) April 26, 1963 (age 61) January 11, 2019 2024 Republican [b] Vanderbilt
Brady E. Mendheim Jr. (1968-07-26) July 26, 1968 (age 55) January 15, 2019[c] 2026 Republican Kay Ivey (R) Samford
Jay Mitchell (1976-08-26) August 26, 1976 (age 47) January 11, 2019 2024 Republican [b] Virginia
Greg Cook 1962 or 1963 (age 60–61) January 17, 2023 2028 Republican [b] Harvard
  1. ^ Took office as Chief Justice on January 11, 2019 after being elected in 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Took office after being elected in a partisan election.
  3. ^ Previously appointed by Governor Ivey from January 23, 2018–January 11, 2019. Reappointed to a different seat and took office on January 15, 2019.

Administrative Office of the Courts and State Marshals[edit]

The Administrative Office of the Courts is under the leadership of a director appointed by the chief justice of the Court. The Administrative Office of the Courts is responsible for a variety of functions including but not limited to the Juvenile Probation Offices for the Family Court System, Child Support Enforcement, Human Resources Division of the Court, and the Court Interpreter Registry.[14] The current director, Rich Hobson, was appointed by Chief Justice Tom Parker to the position in January, 2019. This is Hobson's third time in the position having previously served in the post from 2001 to 2003 and from 2013 to 2016.[15]

The State of Alabama marshals are responsible for protection of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Court of Civil Appeals. They also serve subpoenas and court documents among other duties. The current marshal of the Alabama Appellate Courts is Earl Marsh, who was appointed in 2020.

Notable rulings[edit]

In February 2024, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in LePage v. Center for Reproductive Medicine[16] that frozen embryos were "extrauterine children" and thus were legally children in the State of Alabama.[17][18] In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Tom Parker discussed the issue "theologically", writing that "human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God", as "even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory".[17][19][20] The court's ruling has led three major Alabama medical providers to discontinue in-vitro fertilisation treatment because of legal uncertainty created by the decision.[21][22] The ruling was described by the U.S. President Joe Biden as "outrageous and unacceptable".[23] Former President Trump said he “strongly supports the availability of IVF" and called on lawmakers in Alabama to preserve access to IVF.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Alabama Judicial Building Tour". Alalinc. Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library. Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  2. ^ "Alabama Judicial System". judicial.alabama.gov. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  3. ^ "Alabama Governor William Wyatt Bibb". National Governors Association. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e "A history of the Alabama Judicial System" (PDF). Alabama Unified Judicial System. State of Alabama. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  5. ^ Lane, Mills (1989). Architecture of the Old South: Alabama and Mississippi. Savannah, Georgia: The Beehive Press. pp. 88–93. ISBN 0-88322-038-5.
  6. ^ "New Neighbors" (PDF). Alabama State Bar. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 12, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  7. ^ "News". Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama. Retrieved 2023-01-01.
  8. ^ "Indigenous People's Day highlights Huntsville's rich Native American history - Hville Blast". hvilleblast.com. 2022-10-10. Retrieved 2023-01-01.
  9. ^ a b "Supreme Court of Alabama". Alabama Unified Judicial System. State of Alabama. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  10. ^ "Alabama Unified Judicial System -- judicial.alabama.gov". Archived from the original on 2016-08-09. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  11. ^ "Governor Ivey Appoints William B. Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court (Press Release)". May 25, 2017. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  12. ^ Press Release (May 25, 2017). "Governor Ivey Appoints William B. Sellers to the Alabama Supreme Court". WTVY. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Wise, Jeremy. "Dothan's Brad Mendheim retaining a seat on Alabama Supreme Court". Dothan Eagle. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  14. ^ Alabama Supreme Court website
  15. ^ Brandon Moseley, Alabama Political Reporter, January 17, 2019.
  16. ^ "Case View: James LePage and Emily LePage, individually and as parents and next friends of two deceased LePage embryos, Embryo A and Embryo B; and William Tripp Fonde and Caroline Fonde, individually and as parents and next friends of two deceased Fonde embryos, Embryo C and Embryo D v. The Center for Reproductive Medicine, P.C., and Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center". publicportal.alappeals.gov. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  17. ^ a b Walker, Adria R. (2024-02-20). "Alabama supreme court rules frozen embryos are 'children'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  18. ^ "Is a frozen embryo a 'child'? Alabama's Supreme Court thinks so". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  19. ^ Rosenzweig-Ziff, Dan (February 20, 2024). "Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are children, imperiling IVF". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 21, 2024. Retrieved February 24, 2024.
  20. ^ Hughes, Trevor (February 20, 2024). "Alabama court rules frozen embryos are children, chilling IVF advocates". USA Today. Retrieved February 22, 2024.
  21. ^ Harte, Julia (February 23, 2024). "Three Alabama providers halt IVF after high court rules embryos are children". Reuters. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  22. ^ Amatulli, Jenna (2024-02-21). "Alabama university pauses IVF care after frozen embryos deemed 'children'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  23. ^ Hensley, Sarah Beth; Cathey, Libby; Abdul-Hakim, Gabriella; Farrow, Fritz (February 22, 2024). "Biden blasts Alabama Supreme Court's 'outrageous and unacceptable' frozen embryo ruling". ABC News. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  24. ^ ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/trump-strongly-supports-ivf-calls-alabama-lawmakers-protect-107495721. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

External links[edit]