Legislature passes Ward’s ‘private judge’ bill

Published 8:35 pm Friday, April 27, 2012

The Alabama House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 138, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, which will allow parties in a dispute to pay the costs of a judge to hear their dispute in a more timely fashion, provided the damages sought are less than or equal to $100,000.

“I want to thank my House colleagues for passing this bill,” Ward said. “This bill will allow Alabama’s overcrowded court dockets relief, while speeding up the resolution process for parties with relatively minor damages. This is an example of fiscally conservative legislation and outside-the-box thinking that will help all branches of government get through our current budget crises.”

The House passed SB138 by a vote of 78-7. It now awaits Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature.

In cases that elect to use private judges, the presiding judge will appoint a retired or supernumerary judge to hear the claim immediately. The private judges will have a minimum qualification of six years, and be current on their bar membership and continuing legal education requirements. An administrative fee is also applied.