Judge Charles Graddick wishes he had more to do.
Although he technically “aged out” of his position as Mobile County Circuit Court presiding judge in January, Graddick was immediately named a special judge for the circuit and is still hearing cases from time to time.
Graddick, though, laments the state budget issues that keep him from having a full docket each week.
“I’m a workaholic and I didn’t realize the extent that I am,” he said. “I would prefer to be busier … I wish I had a full load.”
Graddick is used sparingly because, while Mobile County is in need of three more judges, the state hasn’t agreed to pay for additional support staff, current Presiding Judge John Lockett said.
As it is, Graddick gets no additional salary except his retirement, and he can only work cases when one of two roving court reporters is available. He doesn’t get one permanently assigned to his courtroom, like other judges do.
As Graddick pointed out, support staff is not cheap.
“The reason we haven’t created more positions is because there’s no money for it,” he said. “You’ve got to have a reporter, law clerk and judicial assistant and that costs,” Graddick said.
As a special judge appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court, Graddick said he provides backup to all judges. He was also able to continue working on some of the cases he’d presided over in his courtroom before Judge James Patterson took his seat in January.
“Nothing has really changed, except I don’t have a full court docket,” Graddick said.
Lockett called Graddick valuable to the court and said he hoped to “get more value out of him” in the future. Graddick would be juggling various civil and criminal cases as needed.
“It might be too early to say,” Lockett said about Graddick’s caseload. “We haven’t established a rhythm.”
Ideally, Graddick would be used much like Judge James Wood, who is also a special judge in the circuit. Lockett said Wood tries as many cases as any other local judge.
Further complicating the matter, at least early on, were rumors that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to name Graddick as the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Lockett said.
“There were serious rumors he was going to be the U.S. attorney,” Lockett said. “We were worried we were going to lose him.”
Things have changed since then, Lockett said. It doesn’t appear Graddick is still under consideration.
“Their loss is our gain,” he said.