Only Democrat on Ala. Supreme Court to resign

Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb announces her resignation intentions 6/29/11.
Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb announces her resignation intentions 6/29/11.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb announced in a news conference Wednesday morning that she will resign her position in August. She is the only Democrat on the Alabama Supreme Court.

"After tremendous amount of time and prayer and God's guidance to what is in the best interest of the Alabama Court System," Cobb said, " I have decided to step down."

The court's first female chief justice cited the partisan way judges are selected and current funding problems in her announcement. She also said she wanted to spend more time with her family and was looking forward to entering a new phase in her life.

[Read Justice Cobb's official statement (.pdf)]

With Cobb's departure, there will be only one statewide level Democrat holding elected office, President of the Public Service Commission Lucy Baxley.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in a statement thanked Cobb for her service. "She has been a dedicated and enthusiastic public servant, always mindful of the needs of others," Bentley said.

Bentley said the process of finding a replacement for the Chief Justice will start soon saying he would like to appoint someone, "as soon as possible after the vacancy occurs," but said he would not be limited by a timetable.

Alabama State Bar President Alyce Spruell reacted to the news saying she was sorry to hear of Cobb's decision to step down. "Justice Cobb led Alabama's courts to institute innovative and progressive reforms that have increased the public's confidence in our legal system and ensured that equal treatment under the law is provided for all," Spruell said in a statement.

Spruell went on to credit Cobb for knocking down the last major hurdle for women in the judiciary.

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman and former Ala. Supreme Court justice Judge Mark Kennedy called Cobb's decision " an incredible loss for Alabama." The Democratic Party said Cobb "had an unsurpassed ability to stretch a dollar..." to keep the court system as efficient as possible while struggling with decreasing budgets.

"I think a year from now we'll look back on Justice Cobb's commendable tenure on the Court as the good old days," Kennedy said.

Here is Justice Cobb's official biography:

Sue Bell Cobb, formerly a resident of Evergreen, now resides in Montgomery, Alabama, where she sits on the Supreme Court of Alabama. She graduated from The University of Alabama, where she obtained a degree in History, receiving the highest scholastic award in that field of study, the Phi Alpha Theta Scholarship Key. In 1981, she earned her Juris Doctor Degree from The University of Alabama School of Law and was a member of the Bench and Bar Honor Society, Farrah Law Society and the Moot Court Board.

Immediately following her admission to the Bar, Justice Cobb was appointed as District Judge of Conecuh County, becoming one of the State's youngest judges. She was elected to that position in 1982 and re-elected in 1988. During her tenure on the bench, Judge Cobb accepted trial court assignments in approximately forty counties. In 1997, she was appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to serve as the Alternate Chief Judge of the Court of the Judiciary. Justice Cobb is also a faculty member in the Alabama Judicial College. She was elected to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994, where she served until she took office as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in 2007.

Justice Cobb served as President of the Alabama Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. She is Chair of the Children First Foundation, which is dedicated to helping make the lives and conditions of Alabama's children a top priority in our state through advocacy, awareness, and accountability. As a result of her efforts in the field of juvenile justice, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Juvenile Detention Association, the Juvenile Probation Officer Institute Outstanding Service Award, and the Children's Voice Award.

Justice Cobb is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and is a Stennis Center Pacesetter. She received the 1999 Public Citizen of the Year Award by the Alabama Chapter of National Social Workers Association, the 1996 NAACP Political Achievement Award from the Conecuh County Branch of the NAACP, the 1995 Montgomery Advertiser Woman of Achievement Award and the 1992 Judicial Conservationist Award of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. Justice Cobb was recently named State Winner of the Bishop Barron State Employee Public Service Award. She is an honorary member of the Alabama Council on Crime and Delinquency. Justice Cobb is a past member and officer of the Evergreen Industrial Development Board. She is a member of the Farrah Law Society Board of Directors, the Montgomery Kiwanis Club, and First United Methodist Church where she plays the piano for children's choir.

Justice Cobb is Past Chair of the Board of the Alabama Division of the American Cancer Society. She has held numerous positions with the American Cancer Society and consequently received the Volunteer of the Year Award, the Wes Nowlin Award, and the highest national award, the St. George Medal. She has represented Alabama on the Mid-South Division Board, which includes representatives from Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. She has also served on the National Assembly of the American Cancer Society. Justice Cobb served on the Board of Campaign for Alabama.

She is married to William J. Cobb. They have three children, Bill, Andy and Caitlin.

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