Judge John Crawley who served as a trial judge and as a member of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, has died at the age of 73 after what news reports state was a long illness.
Judge Crawley was elected to the Court of Civil Appeals in 1994. Michael DeBow, a professor at Cumberland Law School, has explained, “The Alabama Supreme Court of 1994 was identified in the minds of many with a litigation climate that was hostile to defendants — particularly corporate defendants.” The tide started to turn in the 1994 elections, and Judge Crawley was an important part of the change.
The 1994 elections in Alabama started the Republican takeover of the statewide political offices. Fob James was elected Governor, Jeff Sessions became Attorney General, and Jim Bennett was elected Secretary of State. On the Alabama appellate courts, Perry Hooper, Sr. defeated the incumbent Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Sonny Hornsby, but needed the help of the courts to prevail.
I’m not sure, but I don’t think that the candidates for the courts of civil and criminal appeals did much campaigning in 1994. It was the year of the Gingrich Revolution in Congress, and the tide seemed to be running in favor of the Republicans. In any event, I’m not sure if Judge Crawley or his opponent got off their front porches.
Whether he did or didn’t, though, he was elected.
In future elections, others joined Chief Justice Hooper on the Alabama Supreme Court and Judge Crawley on the Court of Civil Appeals. Some of the latter have moved on the serve on the Alabama Supreme Court. But Hooper and Crawley (and others who didn’t win then) started the ball rolling.
The bulk of the work of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals is family law and workers compensation, two areas of law that have substantial effects on the lives of ordinary people. Judge Crawley showed great respect for the law, but didn’t lose sight of the effects it had on the people involved in the lawsuits. He was not afraid to dissent when he thought the majority had ruled incorrectly.
I met him shortly after I moved to Montgomery in 1995. He was a gracious man and a thoughtful student of the law. Judge Crawley retired in 2007, after 18 years of service in the Alabama judicial system and more than 40 years of practicing law. His contribution to the rule of law was a substantial one.