This is perhaps the most frequent question that we get from clients. The short answer is that there are so many cases filed, and too few judges/clerks to handle the volume. This is not the only reason. Some cases do not need to be decided quickly, as parties need time to investigate and prepare for a trial or to negotiate a settlement. If a case does not settle and has to be tried, it can easily take more than a year. Certainly, there are exceptions such as small claims court, where a case may be tried within six months. Since 2003, the Alabama Legislature has cut funding for the Court to such a level that most counties’ clerk’s offices are staffed at or below 50% of what is needed. No new funding for judgeships in growing counties has been approved in quite some time, and places like Shelby, Madison, and Mobile County are struggling to keep their huge dockets moving. The delay and cost of lengthy litigation causes many parties to either settle on their own or seek mediation of their disputes. For some cases like divorces and contract disputes (where there is no jury), both parties can agree to hire a retired judge to hear their case and issue a final decision. This new law is commonly known as the “private judge bill” can help parties schedule their own trial and get it resolved quicker than if had gone through the regular path. With a private judge, the parties pay the cost of hiring the judge, so that keeps many people from making use of that law.
Keeping your case moving and making the best use of the time is key to obtaining a successful result. If you have questions about a legal issue and need an attorney please give King & Green a call at (205) 775-7531.