The Alabama Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) has named Alabama’s longest-serving state judge, Circuit Judge Randall Cole, as recipient of its 2015 Trial Judge of the Year Award. “I was quite humbled by that,” Judge Cole told AL.com of the inaugural award. He added: “It was surprising but very much appreciated.”
ABOTA is known as a national association of experienced trial lawyers, made up of both Plaintiff and Defense lawyers, as well as judges, dedicated to protecting the jury system and educating Americans on the importance and history of the right to trial by trial. Although the Alabama Chapter only has 109 members, the organization claims approximately 7,300 lawyers as members across the nation.
Frank Stakely, President of the Alabama Chapter of ABOTA, said because the jury system has been under attack in recent years, the association wanted to take the opportunity to “highlight as a role model those judges who do it the right way.” Frank stated for AL.com:
The lawyers who practice in his court think highly of him. He reads motions, timely rules, and follows the law irrespective of the popular opinion. Though he is from a rural part of the state, make no mistake: His reputation for honor, integrity and ethics and for being a great judge is a statewide reputation.
Judge Cole has presided over numerous high-profile cases in Alabama, including the sentencing of a woman to death for her conviction in the 1982 slaying of a 13-year-old, and the 1997 rape of a 10-year-old girl by the former mayor of Crossville, Ronald West.
Judge Cole is known as one of the creators of drug courts, which aim to keep those with addiction problems out of jail and in recovery if possible. He also serves on the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which was responsible for investigating and bringing ethics charges against Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in 2003, and has served as its chairman for nearly a decade.
Having taken the oath of office back in 1974, Judge Cole has seen many changes over the course of his four decades on the bench. One of the most notable changes he mentioned is the introduction of the Internet, which has allowed for paperless court filings and legal web searches in place of fumbling with books. Another change, he notes, is back when Judge Cole first took the bench, the only reasons eligible for divorce were claims of cruelty or adultery; however, claims of incompatibility have now been added to the list.
Judge Cole, a very young 72, has announced that he plans on retiring in three years at the end of his current term due to Alabama’s mandatory retirement rules for judges. He and his wife Barbara, a retired teacher, have raised one son together, who is now a surgeon in Fort Payne, Ala. Judge Randall Cole is an outstanding judge and a great American and he is certainly deserving of this award.
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