Chief justice: Court system budget is my ‘No. 1 project’
by David Lazenby
Sep 30, 2011 | 1204 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charles “Chuck” Malone, the Alabama chief justice who took on his new position less than two months ago, told Walker County Republicans his primary goal is to bring order to the court system’s finances.

Malone, who was sworn into office on Aug. 1 by Gov. Robert Bentley to fill the unexpired term of Sue Bell Cobb, said the state budget for the court system is his “No. 1 project” during a meeting of the Walker County Republicans held at the cafeteria of Bevill State Community College’s Jasper campus.

He said the stability of a state’s court system can have an impact on a corporation’s decision to invest in that state.

“Why? Because the courts are there to give predictability, stability and continuity in this society,” Malone said. “If they’re going to invest in this state, well they may not come if they don’t see that predictability, stability and continuity in our court system.”

After studying the budget Malone said he decided that “transparency is critical.”

Malone said “We cannot ask the Legislature to give money without them being able to see the books.”

When Malone began to look at the financial picture, he saw that 95 percent of expenses go to pay salaries. He also discovered there are seven budgets in the state’s unified court system.

The verdict: Having an adequate budget requires “proper budgeting principles,” according to Malone.

“You budget for what you need,” he said.

Walker County Circuit Court Clerk Susan Odom said she was encouraged after hearing Malone who said he was “very sympathetic for what the clerks are having to do.”

Odom, who recently endured severe cuts to her staff as a result of Cobb’s efforts to streamline court spending, said “I have a lot of confidence (Malone) is going to work hard to help us out and get us out of this situation.”

Presiding Walker County Circuit Judge Jerry Selman agreed. “He understands what we’re all up against,” Selman said. “I think he’s going be a great benefit to the judicial system.”

“I think he’ll really help solve our budget crisis and be a great leader,” added Circuit Judge Doug Farris.

In addition to hearing from Malone, the primary speaker for Thursday’s meeting, Republicans also got a chance to listen to Congressman Robert Aderholt, who updated the group on recent redistricting of the state’s 4th congressional district.

Aderholt also introduced Malone who formerly served as Bentley’s chief of staff.

“He has a great reputation,” said Aderholt, who complimented Malone’s efforts after the storms of April 27.

“Chuck Malone and Gov. Bentley went all over this state and made sure little towns like Hackleburg, Ala. and Phil Cambell, Ala. and even the smaller areas like Cordova, Ala. got just as much attention as Birmingham and Tuscaloosa,” Aderholt said.