Alabama voters are usually asked at every general election to consider voting Yes or No on a variety of amendments to the Alabama State Constitution. Usually these amendments have statewide application. Occasionally a bill comes before the voters that has only local application, such as on November 3, 2020 when an amendment that applies only to Bibb County will appear on all Bibb County ballots.
Your ballot should look like the photograph shown here and the Bibb amendment will probably show up at the end, in the last column.
Clicking on the link below should bring up a full sized image of the 2020 Bibb County sample ballot from the Secretary of State website.
Former Bibb County representative April Weaver sponsored Act Number 2020-91, an act which authorized the local amendment appearing on the November ballot. The local legislation will allow the Probate Judge of Bibb County to exercise equity jurisdiction concurrent with that of the circuit court in cases originally filed in the Probate Court of Bibb, if the Judge of Probate is a member of the Alabama State Bar. This means that the Judge of Probate shall possess the power and authority of a circuit court judge trying a case before the Probate Court and the case shall be treated in all respects in the same manner as if originally filed in circuit court. The Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure are applicable.
The largest counties in the State require that a candidate for Probate Judge be a member of the State Bar. The proposed Bibb amendment does not require a candidate for Probate Judge to be an attorney or member of the State Bar to stand for an election to the office, however, if an elected Judge is qualified then he/she may act with equitable powers if the amendment is passed.
If passed, the law allows certain cases to be decided in Probate Court that previously may have been required to be transferred to Circuit Court to be handled by a Circuit Judge. This can result in a savings of time and expense to a party or participant without sacrificing or limiting any legal right or right of appeal.
According to local sources similar amendments are on the ballot for Baldwin, Marengo, and Walker counties. Local legislation granting equity jurisdiction to Probate courts has already occurred in Shelby, Pickens and Houston counties.
Senator Cam Ward, who represents Bibb and Shelby counties, told The Bibb Voice that similar bills to award equity jurisdiction to Probate Courts have been a recent trend in the State Legislature because so many counties, including Bibb, have elected qualified attorneys to serve as their Probate Judge. By allowing the Probate Judge to exercise equity jurisdiction it often lightens the case load on a circuit court and speeds up the judicial process for local citizens, which is often welcomed by voters. This proposed amendment does not change, add to or take away from the rights of parties in any cases according to Sen. Ward. Parties can still take their cases to circuit courts if that is what they want to do so there does not seem to be a down side according to Ward.
Russell Bedsole, the Republican candidate to replace April Weaver in House District 49 had these comments on the proposed Bibb amendment: “The proposed amendment, if passed, would be a great addition to an already burdened court system. It would allow a probate judge who is also a licensed attorney the ability to keep a case in his or her court. Under today’s law, cases can often pass from the Probate Court to the Circuit Court and then back to the Probate Court in certain matters. Passing this amendment would be instrumental in making certain Probate Court matters in Bibb County much more efficient and hopefully less time consuming for the parties involved.”
The General Election is November 3. You can apply for an Absentee Ballot up until October 29 if you are unable to go to the polls or if you have health concerns about in-person voting. Take a look at this article [click here] if you need instructions to obtain an absentee ballot. Remember that your vote counts on November 3.