There are 143 Alabama Circuit Courts across the state and they are the state trial courts of general jurisdiction. The Circuit Courts have authority to hear civil cases with an amount of more than $3,000 and have jurisdiction over claims for more than $10,000. The Circuit Courts are also the criminal trial courts for most felony charges, as well as for some misdemeanors and lesser included offenses.
Elliott, a Walker County native, graduated from Walker High School and then attended Vanderbilt University for his undergraduate degree and then Samford’s Cumberland Law School in Birmingham, before joining his father’s law practice in Jasper. After his father’s death, he opened his own general practice law firm and practiced until running for circuit judge in the last election.
“I always enjoyed being in the Circuit Court because it is where we have jury trials,” Elliott said. “I enjoy jury trials; the civil and criminal issues that the Circuit Court deals with always interested me. I always enjoyed analyzing the issues and hearing both sides of an argument.”
Elliott is running as a Democrat, but firmly believes that politics has no place in the courtroom and that judicial candidates should not be forced to choose a political party.
“What I do has absolutely nothing to do with Republican or Democrat,” Elliott said. “I don’t make the law, I follow the law. As a judge, I don’t bring my personal political philosophy to the courtroom. I have been a Democrat all my life and that is why I have remained under the Democrat label, but, truth be known, I’m of the opinion that all judges should be nonpartisan.”
He said he hopes his record of service and fairness will convince voters to reelect him for a second term.
“It has been a great honor to have served,” Elliott said. “I have worked as hard as I know to work. I’ve done everything I know to be fair to people and give them their day in court, and I’ve hopefully done what the people elected me to do and I’d like another opportunity.”
Payne is originally from Kentucky but has lived in Walker County for more than 30 years. He and his wife have been married for 33 years and have two children and two grandchildren.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University in human resource management, his master’s from UAB in public administration and his law degree from the Birmingham School of Law.
After law school, Payne said he and his wife decided that staying in Walker County was the best choice for them.
“We made the conscious decision to stay here in Walker County,” Payne said. “It was a good decision for us, it was the right decision.”
Payne ran for District Judge in 2006 but said that this time he felt that Circuit Judge was the better choice for him.
“When the opportunity presented itself, I decided to run,” Payne said. “The people of Walker County deserve a choice, and I wanted to expand my public service.”
As a lawyer, Payne said he has always endeavored to represent his clients to the best of his ability, and to help them in any way he can.
Payne hopes that voters will give him a chance to prove his value as a judge.
“I firmly believe that I can be a blessing to the people of this county and I can do some good,” Payne said. “I want the opportunity to try.”