Southern District of Alabama

An Overview of the Federal Court System in South Alabama

The Southern District of Alabama is one of three federal judicial districts in the state of Alabama. It covers the southern portion of the state, including major cities like Mobile and Selma. The Southern District was established in 1818 and is part of the Eleventh Circuit. This article will provide an overview of the court’s history, jurisdiction, courthouses, judges, and notable cases.

History

The Southern District of Alabama was created on July 13, 1818 by the Fifth Congress, 3 Stat. 468. It originally covered the entire state until the Northern and Middle Districts were created in 1824 and 1839, respectively.

The Southern District initially had a single judgeship until a second was added in 1837. Over the years, the number of judgeships has fluctuated between one and three depending on caseloads. Currently, there are three district judges serving the Southern District.

Jurisdiction and Courthouses

The Southern District of Alabama spans 13 counties in the southern third of the state. It has jurisdiction over all federal cases arising in those counties, including both civil and criminal matters.

The Southern District is headquartered at the John Archibald Campbell United States Courthouse in Mobile. This courthouse opened in 2011 and is named for John A. Campbell, an Alabama native who served on the U.S. Supreme Court prior to the Civil War.

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A second courthouse for the district is located in Selma. The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse opened in 1992 and is home to the district court as well as other federal agencies. Judge Johnson was a prominent civil rights figure who issued pivotal rulings during the movement.

Current Judges

As of 2023, the three district judges serving the Southern District of Alabama are:

  • Chief Judge Terry F. Moorer (assumed role in 2019)
  • Judge Kristi K. DuBose (appointed 2014)
  • Judge Richard W. Story (appointed 2020)

All are lifetime appointees after being nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Appeals from the Southern District go to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Notable Cases

The Southern District has heard a number of influential cases related to civil rights, employment law, environmental regulations, and more. Some noteworthy cases include:

  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): Early “separate but equal” ruling upholding racial segregation.
  • United States v. U.S. Steel Corp. (1920): Broke up a monopoly in the steel industry.
  • Browder v. Gayle (1956): Ended bus segregation in Montgomery.
  • Texas v. Alabama (1979): A boundary dispute between the two states.
  • U.S. v. BP (2013): Civil claims related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Southern District continues to take on complex litigation that shapes the law locally and nationally.

Conclusion

For over 200 years, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama has served as the federal trial court for the southern counties of the state. It has a rich history rooted in the civil rights movement and continues to take on high-profile cases. With courthouses in Mobile and Selma, the court provides access to justice for all in its jurisdiction. The three active judges carry on the Southern District’s legacy as a crucial part of Alabama’s federal judiciary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the jurisdiction of the Southern District of Alabama?

The Southern District covers the southern third of Alabama, including 13 counties. It has jurisdiction over all federal civil and criminal cases arising in those counties.

How many courthouses does the Southern District have?

There are two courthouses – the John Archibald Campbell Courthouse in Mobile and the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Courthouse in Selma.

Who are the current judges of the Southern District?

The three active district judges are Chief Judge Terry F. Moorer, Judge Kristi K. DuBose, and Judge Richard W. Story.

What was the Plessy v. Ferguson case about?

This 1896 Supreme Court case upheld the constitutionality of “separate but equal” racial segregation under the doctrine of separate but equal.

What notable environmental case has the Southern District presided over?

The court handled civil claims against BP related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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