Gov. Kay Ivey appointed a well known Birmingham attorney and one of her longtime aides as a new associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to fill the spot vacated by now-Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, her office said Thursday.
Ivey appointed William B. Sellers, an attorney from Montgomery, who served as a partner with the Birmingham law firm Balch and Bingham LLP. Sellers will finish Stuart's term, which is set to end in January 2019.
"I cannot think of an individual who is more qualified, capable and who exemplifies the qualities of a true public servant,” Ivey said. “His conservative principles and commitment to the rule of law along with his commitment to his family,
Sellers — a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, New York University and Hillsdale College — was a longtime aide of Ivey's, serving as the chair of her 2010 and 2014 campaigns for lieutenant governor.
Sellers said he looks forward to serving on the court.
"I am humbled to be appointed an Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and I thank Governor Ivey for her confidence in me," he said in a statement. "As a Justice, I can only promise to live up to my oath and serve the people of Alabama faithfully and fairly. I will respect the rule of law and apply the law equally without bias or respect to person or station in life."
Ivey in April appointed Stuart, who had been serving on the court as an associate since 2000, as chief justice of the court.
Stuart, only the second woman in Alabama to hold the post, had been serving as acting chief justice since Chief Justice Roy Moore’s suspension in May 2016 following ethics violation charges.
Moore resigned his position in April after a special supreme court upheld his permanent suspension. Ivey quickly moved to formally make Stuart the chief justice.
Moore, who was found guilty in September of violating Alabama's judicial ethics rules, plans to run in a special election later this year for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats.
Stuart and Sellers will have to run for re-election next year to remain on the court. Stuart has said she will run for re-election as chief justice, but she already has some competition.
Associate Justice Tom Parker, a longtime Moore ally who has called his suspension "unlawful," announced in April that he would seek the post.
The Court of the Judiciary — a nine-member panel that reviews ethics complaints against the state’s judges — suspended Moore on Sept. 30, 2016, for issuing an administrative order that they said defied the federal judiciary.
The court said Moore’s administrative order, issued on Jan. 6, 2016, directed the state's 67 probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
At the time, he said probate judges had a “ministerial duty” not to issue same-sex marriage licenses because of previous Alabama Supreme Court rulings and Alabama’s traditional marriage amendments, which federal courts declared unconstitutional in 2015.
Moore, who has been an avid opponent of same-sex marriage throughout his judicial career, now plans to run against U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, whom former Gov. Robert Bentley appointed to now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in February.
Several other Republicans have also announced they would seek the GOP nomination for the seat including U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, State Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose and former Christian Coalition of Alabama Chairman Randy Brinson.
List of candidates for Sessions' former U.S. Senate seat
- Will Boyd
- Vann Caldwell
- Jason Fisher
- Michael Hansen
- Doug Jones
- Robert Kennedy Jr.
- Brian McGee
- James Paul Beretta
- Joseph F. Breault
- Randy Brinson
- Mo Brooks
- Dom Gentile
- Mary Maxwell
- Roy Moore
- Bryan Peeples
- Trip Pittman
- Luther Strange (incumbent)