Jefferson County Judge Batiste Returns - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Suspended Jefferson County Judge Batiste Returns After 90-day Suspension; Faces More Heavy Case Load

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A Jefferson County Domestic Court Judge, who was suspended for 90 days, will face a heavy case-load when she returns to the bench next week.

Judge Dorothea Batiste was accused of abusing her power to throw people in jail for contempt of court. Batiste denied those allegations, and claimed the charges were brought by retired judge Scott Vowell, who she claims made sexual advances. Vowell denies the allegations.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary decided not to remove Judge Batiste from the bench. But did order her to undergo professional development to ensure due process rights in her courtroom.  

Batiste's attorney Julian McPhillips tells ABC 3340 she has not attended those classes yet due to health reasons.  He says Batiste is a bright woman who was unfairly singled out for personal issues she had with the presiding judge.

"I think it was more than just race and sex. I think politics was part of it too," said McPhillips. "She's an oxymoron being a Republican. In the judiciary now, in fact, and politics generally in Jefferson County, it is helpful and advantageous to be both black and democrat."

Presiding Jefferson County Circuit Judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit Court of Alabama stated, "The citizens of the Birmingham Division of the Tenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama have been served exceptionally well by Retired Circuit and Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court, J. Gary Pate, during the absence of Judge Dorothea Batiste. All of the judges of this Circuit join with the Presiding Judge in expressing our sincere gratitude for Judge Pate in taking on and successfully moving the docket assigned to Judge Batiste in her absence. All of the cases assigned during the period of Judge Batiste's absence have been efficiently and effectively handled by Judge Pate resulting in no back log having been created. Judge Batiste is scheduled to resume her duties on Tuesday, November 5, 2013."

Lawyers we spoke to tell us there is always a back log in domestic cases.

The office of Court Management tells ABC 3340 that since Judge Batiste has been absent, the back log has increased to as many as 1,043 cases.  303 of those were added just in the past 90 days.

Retired Circuit and Presiding Judge Gary Pate moved the docket forward by hearing cases which did not require trials.

"The cases keep getting continued primarily because my understanding is you can handle several small cases in one day," said domestic attorney at law James Gillis, "but if you have a trial that's going to last more than one day it would not make sense to hear that instead of the 30 or 40 small cases you can hear in one day." 

Gillis also gave credit to un-sung hero Gary Pate for his dedication to the court.  Gillis, who said Pate was his mentor and a great man, also said the retired judge filled in for several months without accepting payment.

 

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