Northern District of Alabama

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama is one of three federal judicial districts in the state of Alabama. It covers the northern portion of the state and is an important part of the federal judiciary.

History and Establishment

The Northern District of Alabama was established on March 3, 1817 by Congress. It is therefore one of the oldest districts in the country. Originally it covered the entire state, but in 1824 the Southern District was created covering the southern counties. Over the next several decades, the Middle District was formed as well in 1839.

Counties in the District

Today, the Northern District of Alabama comprises 30 counties: Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Colbert, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, Cullman, De Kalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Pickens, Saint Clair, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston. The district covers the upper third of the state geographically.

Main Courthouse and Locations

The Northern District is headquartered at the Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse in Birmingham. It also holds court in several divisional locations.

Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse

The main courthouse is located in Birmingham, the largest city in the district. It is named for former Supreme Court Justice and Alabama native Hugo Black. It houses courtrooms, judges’ chambers, and the office of the U.S. Marshal.

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Other Locations

Other divisions are located in Huntsville, Decatur, Anniston, Tuscaloosa, Gadsden, and Jasper. Judges will travel to hold proceedings in these cities on a regular schedule.

Judges and Staff

The Northern District has a total of eight district court judges presiding over cases. Critical staff members include:

U.S. Marshal

The U.S. Marshal for the district is Chester Martin Keely. The Marshal is responsible for court security and transporting federal prisoners.


The eight district judges are: Abdul K. Kallon, R. David Proctor, Madeline H. Haikala, Corey L. Maze, Emily C. Marks, Annemarie C. Axon, Liles C. Burke, and Gray M. Borden. They each serve lifetime appointments after being nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Federal Jurisdiction and Types of Cases

Like all federal district courts, the Northern District of Alabama handles both civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.

Civil Cases

On the civil side, the court oversees cases involving federal law and the U.S. Constitution, such as civil rights, employment discrimination, patent and copyright, bankruptcy, antitrust suits, and cases in which the federal government is a party.

Criminal Cases

For criminal cases, the court has jurisdiction over offenses that violate federal statutes, such as drug crimes, white collar crimes like fraud and embezzlement, federal firearms charges, human trafficking, and immigration violations.

Notable Cases

The Northern District has handled many high-profile and historic cases over the years:

Civil Rights Cases

During the civil rights era, the court decided seminal cases like Browder v. Gayle which desegregated public buses in 1956. It also oversaw the desegregation of schools like the University of Alabama.


Corruption Cases

Public corruption cases are frequently prosecuted in the district, including convictions of Birmingham mayors and Jefferson County commissioners.

Other High-Profile Cases

Other significant cases include the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing trial and the litigation against coal company Drummond alleging human rights abuses in Colombia.


For over 200 years, the Northern District of Alabama has served an important role in the federal judiciary system and in advancing justice and civil rights. The court has a rich history and continues to take on impactful cases to this day. With eight active district judges, it oversees federal matters in the northern third of the state. The Northern District protects constitutional rights and upholds the rule of law.


How many district judges serve on the Northern District of Alabama?

The Northern District of Alabama has eight sitting federal district judges.

Where is the Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse located?

The Hugo L. Black Courthouse is located in Birmingham, Alabama. It serves as the main courthouse for the Northern District.

What was a significant civil rights case tried in the Northern District?

The court heard Browder v. Gayle in 1956 which ruled that segregation on public buses in Alabama was unconstitutional. This was a major civil rights victory.

What types of federal criminal cases are handled by the district?

The Northern District hears federal crimes like drug trafficking, white collar offenses, immigration crimes, and firearms violations.

When was the Northern District of Alabama established?

Congress created the Northern District of Alabama on March 3, 1817. It is one of the oldest federal judicial districts in the country.

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