AL.com | Madison County circuit judges won't preside over lawsuit against Circuit Clerk Jane Smith
Madison County circuit judges won't preside over lawsuit against Circuit Clerk Jane Smith
By Paul Gattis | AL.com | July 17, 2013
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - A lawsuit filed by a Madison County woman against the county's circuit clerk won't be heard by a county judge.
The case will instead be handled by Bobby Aderholt of Winston County, a retired judge who is also the father of U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.
Less than a week after Becky McCafferty filed a lawsuit against Madison County Circuit Clerk Jane Smith, Circuit Judge Karen Hall, the county's presiding judge, said in court records that the county's circuit judges would not hear the lawsuit.
In Hall's order of recusal, she cited the close working relationship the judges have with Smith as well as the potential for conflicts of interest due to the substance of the lawsuit.
The class action lawsuit, filed June 28, takes issue with a filing fee that Smith collects with each civil lawsuit that is filed. That fee is used to pay for court personnel and prosecutors.
"A number of individuals in offices associated with the Court system (judicial, clerk, court administrator and warrant magistrate) are employed as a result of the Madison County Preservation of Justice Act; certain provisions of which are at issue in this lawsuit," Hall wrote in her recusal order.
On Monday, Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, filed his order assigning the case to Aderholt, according to court records.
"Considering the nature and claims of the suit, it is not unexpected that the Madison County judges would recuse and that the Administrative Office of the Courts would reassign the case to a judge outside Madison County," Chris Hellums, attorney for McCafferty, said in an email to The Huntsville Times/al.com.
The lawsuit contends that the collection of the $150 fee for each civil court filing should have ended by Jan. 1, 2006, based on a law passed by the state legislature in 2004. The lawsuit states that more than 1,000 plaintiffs have been charged the fee since it should have ended.
The lawsuit also asked that a mandatory injunction be issued to immediately stop the collection of the $150 fee.
In an email to The Huntsville Times/al.com earlier this month, Smith defended the collection of the fee.
"The Alabama legislature passed the law establishing this fee," Smith said in the email. "The Circuit Clerk was not given the authority to determine if or when this fee was to be lifted. The Circuit Clerk merely collects and disburses filing fees."
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