Our Judicial System faces enormous challenges in the coming days. The economic crisis which now is upon us has mandated serious cuts in funding of the court system.
In 2001-2003 I served as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court which experienced the largest budget cuts in the history of the Court to that time, for two consecutive years. Yet we maintained the efficient operation of the courts by effective personnel management and pursuit of cost effective programs to accomplish the goals we had established. While we were forced to make tough decisions in cutting some expenses, the courts remained "open for business."
My leadership philosophy has not changed. I will use those same skills of budget management which I learned in the United States military, and that knowledge which I gained as a Circuit Judge and deputy district attorney to return the court system to its former efficiency.
As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court I had occasion to participate in major decisions which made a lasting impact on Alabama.
My advisory decision No. 373 issued on April 24, 2001, on § 65 of the Alabama Constitution regarding the prohibition of lotteries in this state was used by state courts and the federal court to stop the use of unlawful gambling devices across Alabama during the past decade.
In May 2002, I led the Court that stopped the ""Equity Funding Lawsuit"" which had lingered in the appellate courts of Alabama for over 10 years and had cost our state millions of dollars. Not only would it have cost our state over $1 billion in new taxes, but the underlying action threatened to destroy the right of parents to control the education of their children recognized by the Alabama Constitution.
As a husband and a father, I cherish the role of families in our society. We must maintain the basic structure of family if we are to survive as a people. As Chief Justice, I dealt boldly with issues of homosexuality, molestation, child abuse, parental neglect, and other immoral attacks on the family during my tenure.
And in July 2003, together with a majority of the other justices on the Supreme Court, we stopped an attempt to impose an unlawful occupational tax in Montgomery County because such schemes violated the Constitution of Alabama which I was sworn to uphold. I stated in my Opinion that, ""Whatever pretext may be proffered for levying an occupational tax on income, no court may disregard constitutional restrictions in favor of those who would circumvent the Alabama Constitution.""
But perhaps, my service as Chief Justice is best remembered for my defense of the acknowledgement of God through a display of the Ten Commandments in the Rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. While I have no plans to move the monument from its present location in Gadsden, Alabama, I will continue to recognize and acknowledge God as the source of our morality. Without God we will lose our moral compass and be set adrift upon a sea of immorality without any fixed standard of right or wrong.
Moreover, without an understanding of God's sovereignty, constitutional restraints on the wrongful abuse of power, which our founding fathers attributed to the fallen nature of man, become meaningless. Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances are basic premises which undergird both our federal and state constitutions.
When the lower trial court usurped the power of the Legislative Branch in the Equity Funding Lawsuit, I stated in my opinion that,
"". . . In dictating to the Legislature how it must appropriate funds for public education, the trial court violated long understood constitutional boundaries between the branches of government. . . . The desire or need for action in a particular area of public policy cannot justify a court's intruding itself into the field of legislation in order to reach a desired result, whether that result concerns education, health care, taxation, or any other area of public interest.""
As a Vietnam veteran, deputy district attorney, circuit judge, and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court I have devoted my life to public service upon my oath to uphold, support, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Basic institutions of family, faith, and freedom are under assault by some who would undermine those ideals contained within the U.S. Constitution and our own Constitution of Alabama.
As Chief Justice I will continue to do my duty to uphold the law and ensure that our law is applied equally to all people in a fair and impartial manner. Experience does count and leadership will matter to our future.
I look forward with great expectation to another opportunity to serve the people and the great State of Alabama, which I love.