Circuit Court Judge Michael Bellamy assumed the duties of Russell County presiding judge last week as Judge Al Johnson relinquished them in preparation for retirement at the end of the year.
Bellamy, a longtime District Court judge, was appointed to the Circuit Court bench last November by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to replace retiring Judge George Greene, who has since died.
The presiding judge is the county's chief judicial officer and oversees scheduling, case load and assignments and a couple of discretionary funds that include money for the county's law library. The presiding judge is also the one charged with the responsibility to make decisions on when to close the courthouse in the event of bad weather.
"It is a logical move," Bellamy said. "Judge Johnson has done it the last four years and I have not had the opportunity to do it. ... It gives me the opportunity to discuss things with Judge Johnson and see how he did things."
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Johnson said the timing is right.
"This should give Judge Bellamy ample opportunity to ask any questions," Johnson said. "I told Mike up front since I was going to retire we needed to go ahead and do this now. There should be no disruption and no controversy."
Russell County has two Circuit Court judges and two District Court judges.
Bellamy said he plans to hold regular meetings with the judges to discuss issues and plan out dockets. This is the first time the Russell County bench has been at full strength since early last year. Greene was suffering from health issues prior to his retirement.
"My goal is reduce the time it takes to get someone to trial," he said.
Johnson announced his decision to retire in January and his son, District Court Judge David Johnson, is seeking the seat in a two-person Democratic primary race against April Logan Russell.