Middle District of Alabama
The Middle District of Alabama is one of three federal judicial districts in the state of Alabama. It covers a significant portion of central and southeastern Alabama, including major cities like Montgomery, Dothan, and Opelika. The district has a long and notable history related to civil rights, having heard many prominent cases during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Today, the Middle District continues to adjudicate important federal cases and administer justice in its jurisdiction.
History and Establishment
The Middle District of Alabama was established on February 6, 1839 by an act of Congress. This made it one of the earliest federal judicial districts created in the United States.
The establishment of the district came during a period of growth and development in central Alabama in the early 19th century. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 opened up lands for white settlement, leading to a rise in cotton cultivation and slaveholding in the region. Montgomery was made the state capital in 1846. Overall, the creation of the Middle District reflected the expanding population and commercial activity in its jurisdiction.
The Middle District of Alabama covers 23 counties in central and southeastern Alabama: Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Coffee, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Pike, Randolph, Russell, and Tallapoosa.
Major cities located in the district include Montgomery, Dothan, and Opelika. Montgomery serves as the district headquarters.
Organization and Administration
The Middle District is headquartered at the Frank M. Johnson Jr. United States Courthouse Complex in Montgomery. Other divisions are located in Dothan and Opelika.
The current US Marshal for the Middle District of Alabama is Jesse Seroyer Jr.
The phone number for the Middle District of Alabama is (334) 922-6960.
Caseload and Operations
Types of Cases Heard
Like other federal districts, the Middle District of Alabama hears cases involving federal laws and disputes between citizens of different states. Common cases include criminal offenses, civil rights violations, corporate and business litigation, bankruptcy, and labor disputes.
As of October 2023, the Middle District of Alabama has no judicial vacancies. The court has a total of five authorized district judgeships, all currently filled. However, vacancies can arise frequently due to retirements, deaths, or elevations to higher courts.
Civil Rights Cases
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Middle District of Alabama heard many prominent civil rights cases, including Browder v. Gayle which challenged bus segregation in Montgomery. Several judges, like Frank M. Johnson Jr., earned a reputation for progressivism during the civil rights movement.
More recently, the district has adjudicated major public corruption cases, including those involving former Alabama governors Don Siegelman and Robert Bentley.
Other High-Profile Cases
The Middle District also presided over Attorney General Eric Holder’s lawsuit against the state of Alabama over strict immigration laws in 2011. It continues to hear cases related to the ongoing opioid epidemic’s impact in Alabama.
Judges and Personnel
The Middle District of Alabama has five active district judges: Chief Judge Emily C. Marks and judges Myron H. Thompson, Andrew L. Brasher, Austin Huffaker Jr., and Gray M. Borden.
Notable Past Judges
Past notable judges include Frank M. Johnson Jr., known for his civil rights rulings, and William Harold Albritton III, who sentenced former governor Don Siegelman.
Federal Public Defenders
The Office of the Federal Public Defender provides legal services to indigent defendants. The current Federal Public Defender is Christine Freeman.
In summary, the Middle District of Alabama has played an important role in the history of Alabama and the nation more broadly. Its jurisdiction covers a significant portion of the state, centered around Montgomery. From civil rights to public corruption, many high-profile federal cases have originated from the Middle District of Alabama throughout its nearly 200 years of existence. Going forward, the court will continue to carry out its duty of enforcing federal law and providing justice.
When was the Middle District of Alabama established?
The Middle District of Alabama was established on February 6, 1839.
How many federal judgeships does the court have?
The Middle District of Alabama has five authorized district judgeships.
Who was the notable civil rights judge from the Middle District of Alabama?
Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. was known for his progressive civil rights rulings as a judge on the Middle District during the 1950s and 1960s.
What major city serves as the district headquarters?
Montgomery is the headquarters for the Middle District of Alabama.
What kinds of cases does the Middle District hear?
Like other federal courts, the Middle District handles cases involving federal law and disputes between citizens of different states, including criminal cases, civil rights, business litigation, bankruptcy, and labor disputes.