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Man sues to change judge requirements

A civil action was filed in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County by an Elmore County resident who is seeking to have the court change the residency requirements for candidates who seek the number three judgeship in the 19th Judicial Circuit of Alabama.

The document filed Jan. 5 lists Jerry M. Blevins, an Elmore County resident, as plaintiff and Beth Chapman, in her capacity as Alabama Secretary of State, as the defendant.

Blevins’ suit asks the court to rule on the constitutionality of 12-17-20(16) in the Code of Alabama that states a person seeking the 19th Judicial Circuit’s No. 3 judgeship shall be a resident of Chilton County. In the document filed with the court Blevins indicates that portion of the code is “unconstitutional as being violative of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” He also challenges the code section as being unconstitutional due to the “equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The 19th Judicial District is composed of Chilton, Autauga and Elmore counties. The Code of Alabama states “There shall be three circuit judges in the nineteenth judicial circuit. The judge occupying judgeship No. 1 shall be a resident of Elmore County, the judge occupying judgeship No. 2 shall be a resident of Autauga County, and the judge occupying judgeship No. 3 shall be a resident of Chilton County.

“A person qualifying as a candidate for election to a judgeship under this subdivision shall be a resident of the county for the judgeship the person seeks for a period of not less than one year prior to the date the person qualifies as a candidate for election to the office and thereafter during his or her tenure of office.”

The court document states “Blevins is a duly qualified attorney in the State of Alabama possessing the qualifications to be a candidate for, and to hold the office of, circuit judge….Blevins intends on being a candidate for the circuit judgeship No. 3 in the 19th judicial circuit in 2010, which encompasses Elmore, Chilton and Autauga counties.”

The documents also states the three judges of the circuit are “roving circuit judges each of whom hear and adjudicate a variety of cases in which the circuit court has jurisdiction over in each of the three counties.” It states also that judges elected in the 19th Circuit are on the ballot and are elected by voters in all three counties.

Sibley Reynolds of Clanton serves the 19th Circuit in the position of the No. 3 judge of the circuit.

Reached at his Montgomery law office about the case, Blevins said he planned to seek the No. 3 judgeship in the circuit because he believes he was more qualified to hold the office than is Judge Reynolds. “I believe I am more qualified to serve as judge than Judge Reynolds and believe his record will establish that,” Blevins said.

He said the 19th Circuit residency rule is the only one he has found in the code. He said the residency requirement of the other circuits is that the candidate lives within the circuit.

Blevins said he had no plans to run for the No. 1 or No. 2 judgeship in the circuit.

According to Blevins, the case has been assigned to Judge Eugene Reese in Montgomery. He said he hopes to have a ruling from the Montgomery court within four to six months.

— Mike Kelley can be reached at mike.kelley@clantonadvertiser.com.