How Does the Alabama Supreme Court Work?
The Supreme Court of Alabama is the apex court in the Alabama judicial system. As the state’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Alabama has original appellate jurisdiction over all other courts. Hence, the court can review decisions rendered by any appellate and trial court, and either reverse or reaffirm such judgments.
The Supreme Court of Alabama also has exclusive jurisdiction over the following types of cases:
- Appeal cases where the disputed amount is more than $50,000
- Appeal cases from the Alabama Public Service Commission
In addition to its appellate functions, the Supreme Court of Alabama also has several other judicial and administrative duties. Some of these duties are:
- Determining certain legal matters that are outside the jurisdiction of the different courts in the Alabama judicial system
- Making rules that govern the administration, practice, and procedure of the Alabama judicial system
- Issuing orders that are necessary to carry out its general superintendence over the other courts in Alabama.
The Supreme Court of Alabama is not a trial court, and matters brought before it does not involve juries, witnesses, or court reporters. Instead, this court reviews the state’s trial courts’ actions and decisions or the state’s other appellate courts to determine whether procedural errors may have been made during the court process.
This review is typically restricted to the exhibits and evidence presented at the trial court level. An oral argument may be scheduled at the litigants’ request or the direction of the Supreme Court. After the oral arguments have been heard and the court has reviewed the submitted briefs and trial court records, the court’s Justices then render an opinion. Appealing parties may request a rehearing of the case not more than 14 days after the judgment is rendered.
The Supreme Court of Alabama consists of one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. In order to be eligible for the position of a Supreme Court of Alabama Justice, the individual must have been licensed to practice law by the Alabama State Bar Association for at least ten years. This timeframe may include periods during which the individual was licensed to practice law by another state’s bar association. Justices of the Supreme Court of Alabama are elected in partisan elections to terms of six years. There is no limit to the number of terms a Supreme Court Justice may serve. However, a Justice once a Justice is up to 70 years old, that Justice cannot seek re-election. When there is a vacancy in the court, the state governor appoints a Justice to fill the position. Vacancies typically occur as a result of death, retirement, resignation, or removal from office.
The Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort, and all decisions reached by this court’s Justices are considered final. However, in cases that involve federal issues or constitutional questions, the decisions rendered by this court may be appealed at the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Alabama Judicial System provides interested members of the public with access to Supreme Court decisions and opinions. Parties that wish to access these documents may do so free of charge through an online database maintained by the state’s judicial system. This database is updated weekly.
Members of the public can also access the Supreme Court of Alabama documents from the Supreme Court and State Law Library located at:
Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building
300 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
Phone: (334) 229–0578
The library is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The following documents can be obtained from the Supreme Court and State Law Library:
- Supreme Court of Alabama briefs, from 1965—1995
- Supreme Court of Alabama records on appeal from 1974—1995. (These documents are available on microfilm)
- Oral argument recordings, from 1974—date
- Supreme Court of Alabama orders, from 1995—date
- Oral argument docket sheets, from 1987—date
- Advisory opinions of Supreme Court of Alabama Justices
- Opinions of the Supreme Court Clerk, from 1977—date
- Minute Books, from 1820—1983. (These documents are available on microfilm)
Interested parties that wish to obtain these documents may do so either in person or by mailing a written request for the records to:
Attn: Public Services
Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library
300 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
Copies of these documents typically cost 25 cents per page for parties that obtain them in person. Copies sent by postal mail and email cost $5 for the first ten pages and 50 cents extra for each additional page. Copies sent by fax cost $2 per page. In addition to this, documents such as oral argument recordings copied on CDs cost $10 per copy, while DVD recordings cost $15 per copy. A flat shipping fee of $2.50 is also charged when CD or DVD recordings are mailed to the requester.
Payment can be made via cash, checks, or money orders made payable to the “Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library.” Requestors who wish to obtain these records via mail must make payments via checks or money orders only.
The Supreme Court of Alabama sits at: