Chief Justice nixes order limiting jury trials

Chief Justice Chuck Malone
Chief Justice Chuck Malone

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Chuck Malone announced Wednesday that he's rescinding a previous order that limits jury trials. He says cases are piling up without resolutions, and it's straining the system.

"Our courts face the same economic challenges that the rest of our state is dealing with," Malone said. "I know the financial problems we face in the judicial system can be resolved with a fiscally conservative budgetary approach."

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb initiated the limit on jury trials in an April 12th order in an effort to deal with mounting budgetary pressures. Other tools Cobb used to ease the court's burden included layoffs and shorter public hours at circuit clerk offices around the state so the focus could be put on keep up with internal demands.

Justice Malone said the court can "budget conservatively without sacrificing justice."

"Decreasing the number of jury trials causes a delay and a backlog in our judicial system that puts a strain on the judges, clerks, and parties in both civil and criminal matters," Malone explained.

The newly appointed Chief Justice, who also announced his plans Wednesday to seek a full term on the bench, said the state's court system has seven separate budgets. He promised to examine each "to determine where budgetary changes can and should be made."

"I will make tough decisions that may not be popular," Malone explained. "We will find ways to operate the judicial system efficiently, effectively, and with the money we have."

Copyright 2011 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.