One of the most dramatic changes in Alabama’s political history has occurred over the last 20 years with the Alabama Supreme Court moving from all Democrat to all Republican.

As the dust settles from the General Election, the Republicans have made it unanimous. Before November the GOP had eight out of nine on the high court. This election brings it to nine out of nine. The last Democratic Supreme Court Justice, Douglas Johnstone from Mobile, retired.

Twenty years ago in 1984, the State Supreme Court was all Democratic. An issue was creeping up that helped instigate the change in party and philosophy on the Court. Prior to 1984 the Supreme Court had been a benign function of state government with very few Alabamians interested in the Judicial branch of state government. The special interests had no interest in the courts either. They focused their attention and resources on the Legislative and Executive branches. However, in the mid 1980’s there were some startling and amazingly gigantic punitive damage verdicts cropping up around the state. It grew like wildfire. The sizes of the judgments were wild. It was eye-popping. The plaintiff lawyers were forum shopping in rural counties and putting a good old country ‘home cookin’ skinning to America’s corporate giants. We were recognized throughout the country as Tort Hell.

The business interests spent a good bit of time and money to pass significant Tort Reform. It was passed by the Legislature in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. They thought the job was done. They had not noticed that the plaintiff trial lawyers had stacked the court in their favor anticipating a legislative tightening of their gravy train. They had placed their buddies in all nine seats. It should not have come as such a surprise to the business interests of Alabama and the nation when the Alabama Supreme Court struck down the Tort Reform laws as unconstitutional.

The business groups were determined to remedy the Tort problem. They went after the elected Supreme Court. The Business Council of Alabama made it their mission to elect a pro business court that would uphold Tort Reform. Their first victory was with Harold See, then they knocked off trial lawyer, Chief Justice Sonny Hornsby, with Perry Hooper, Sr. They have methodically, each election cycle, poured money and manpower into the races of pro business Republican Judicial candidates. They now control and dominate the Alabama Supreme Court.

The war was won by big business and their efforts have placed Alabama as number one in spending on State Court races in America. Candidates for the Alabama Supreme Court raised $33.7 million between 1993 and 2002, and this year’s election went over $5 million. The business groups spent over $1 million trying to protect incumbent Jean Brown from another Republican in the June GOP Primary.

States like Texas and Ohio who are more than four times our size and also elect their judges, finished second and third to us in money spent. Our Supreme Court races are by far the most expensive in the nation.

When the three new Justices take their oath of office in January, they will join six other Republicans on the Court. Many predict that the next war may well be an internal Civil War. The fight may not be over economic or Tort issues, but over social issues. The struggle will occur within the Republican Party. The Roy Moore wing will work to take control from the business interests. It should be interesting to watch.