By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. said he had no burning desire to be Alabama’s Chief Justice.
However the heated and divisive tone of the summer’s rhetoric in the race concerned him, so that when Democratic candidate Harry Lyons was removed as the Democratic candidate, he chose to step into the race to face Republican nominee Roy Moore.
Vance brought his campaign to Etowah County Thursday (Oct. 11), visiting several sites including the Etowah County Judicial Building.
The focus of the campaign, Vance said, is introducing himself to the people of Alabama as a candidate who will set aside personal ideology and address the serious issues facing the Alabama court system and the serious issues brought before the Alabama Supreme Court.
As head of the court system, Vance said the chief justice must be able to work with the state legislature to procure the funding the court system needs.
“I would go to the Legislature without any agenda,” Vance said, to ensure that the court system is able to do its job.
Vance was appointed to the Jefferson County bench in 2002. He was elected in 2004 and again in 2010, and is now in the middle of his second full term. He said he enjoys being a circuit judge and would not have run for chief justice under different circumstances. Had either current Chief Justice Charles Malone or candidate Charlie Graddick been the Republican nominee, Vance explained, he would not have entered the race.
During the campaign, he said, he believed Lyons proved to be an unsuitable candidate for the position. Vance said he played no role in removing Lyons as the Democratic nominee, but after he was removed, Vance chose to run. Had Lyons not been removed as the nominee, he said, he would not have looked for another avenue to enter the race. Vance said he didn’t believe there would have been a feasible way to seek the office with Lyons still on the ticket.
Vance said he will not try “to make political hay” from controversial issues, as he believes Moore has.
“I’m focusing on the real problems of our Court,” Vance said. He said he’s concerned about funding for courts and layoffs, and he does not want to more increases in filing fees.
The costs of taking a case to court have increased enough recently, Vance said, and future increases in fees can preclude people seeking justice. He said the courts must remain accessible to the people of Alabama.
Vance said he believes the courts need to use technology to improve efficiency.
The issues he expressed concern about are not “sexy” or “glamorous” issues, Vance said, but they are the true issues that a chief justice must address to keep the courts working.
Vance said he did not want to see the Alabama Supreme Court return to the “drama” of 10 years ago, when Moore was removed from the bench when he refused a federal court order to move a monument to the 10 Commandments that he’d placed in the Supreme Court building.
Vance said the court does not need a “polarizing” figure as its leader, and he believes the people of Alabama agree.
Though his late entry into this political fray gives him a “60-day campaign,” Vance said he’s gotten a good reception, in Etowah County as well as in the rest of the state.
Vance said he believes voters want a candidate who will address serious issues and can work on a bi-partisan level with the state Legislature, and who can set aside personal beliefs make decisions based on the law.
“They want someone who won’t put himself above the law,” Vance said.