Friday, September 23, 2005

Yes, we elect our Supreme Court

Next year's Republican gubernatorial primary battle between ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and Gov. Bob Riley may spread by proxy to the party's race for chief justice.

The current chief justice, Drayton Nabers, announced Thursday that he'll seek a full term in the job to which Riley appointed him last year. But The Birmingham News reports today that Associate Justice Tom Parker, a key Moore aide who forced Jean Brown from the bench last year after a campaign that focused almost entirely on Moore's Ten Commandments controversy, may challenge Nabers for chief justice in 2006.

At the time, Parker's narrow win was seen widely as a victory for Moore, who was removed from office after he decided a mere federal court order wasn't reason enough to change his building's granitic decoration scheme. Still, Parker was the only victor out of the three Moore backers who sought spots on the state's high court last year, and turnout for the June primaries was low because both parties long ago had selected their presidential nominees, so the size of Moore's coattail effect remains unclear.

Nabers has a little more than a year of experience as a judge, but Parker has even less. Meanwhile, Nabers' background as state finance director and his 20-plus years as an insurance company executive give him a big edge on the job's administrative side. Regardless, though, Nabers' primary fate may be tied inexorably to that of the governor who appointed him.

The general election may get interesting, too. The Birmingham News reports that Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sue Bell Cobb, the lone Democrat remaining on Alabama's three appellate courts, plans to run for the state's top judicial job. Cobb has sat on the bench for decades longer than either of her prospective GOP opponents, but she faces an uphill battle running as a Democrat in a state that's been trending red in recent elections.

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