Former Mobile County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Charles Graddick is hearing cases in municipal court, despite not being appointed by members of the Mobile City Council, as has typically been the case for city judges.
Graddick was hired two years ago by Mayor Sandy Stimpson as a senior judicial advisor before being appointed to director of municipal court.
When the hiring was announced in 2017, city attorney Ricardo Woods said Graddick would advise Stimpson and other members of the city’s executive staff on municipal court and judicial issues. Three sources with knowledge of municipal court told Lagniappe,Graddick’s duties and influence on municipal court has been greatly expanded since he was hired.
In addition to presiding over a weekly gun docket, Graddick is also handling as many as half of the arraignments on Wednesday morning. He is serving this role without a City Council appointment.
Councilman Fred Richardson called the action “illegal and inappropriate.”
“The mayor is storming over the law,” he said. “He has little respect for the law and he’s trying to run the city as an autocrat … as if he’s got all the power.”
The three sources, who spoke to Lagniappe on the condition of anonymity over fear of professional retaliation, said the authority to appoint municipal judges rests with councilors. Richardson agreed.
Graddick is listed as “director of courts” on the city’s website under a section titled “municipal judges.” He is joined by six others, including five who were appointed by councilors: Presiding Judge Holmes Whiddon, Judge Shellbonnie Hall, Judge Carvine Adams, Judge Karlos Finley and Judge R.A. “Bucky” Thomas.
Also listed among them is “special appointment” Judge C. Zackary Moore.
Councilman John Williams said he is currently awaiting a response from Stimpson’s office on questions over Graddick’s position. Councilwoman Bess Rich did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
City spokesman George Talbot confirmed Graddick does sit on the municipal bench. A Lagniappe reporter witnessed the former state attorney general and Mobile County Circuit Court judge presiding over cases on Wednesday, June 5.
“As (d)irector, he is authorized by the Mayor to serve as an acting Municipal Court Judge,” Talbot wrote in a statement. “As part of his duties, Judge Graddick sits on the Municipal Court bench when Municipal Judges are unable to do so. This service is conducted in accordance with state law and does not include any additional compensation from the City.”
While Graddick, 74, who had to retire as a state judge due to age restrictions, is not paid an additional wage for his work on the bench, he is paid $100,000 for his work as director of court and senior judicial adviser.
Graddick did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
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