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May 24, 2011

Turner appointed district judge

County attorney to fill seat vacated by Greg Nicholas

Gov. Robert Bentley has named Cullman County attorney Rusty Turner to fill the district judge's seat left vacant after former District Judge Greg Nicholas accepted a governor's appointment earlier this year to an open circuit judgeship.

Turner, who had been in practice locally since obtaining his law degree from the University of Alabama in 1995, learned of the news late Tuesday and said he was honored to have been chosen.

"To say the least, I'm honored," said Turner. "I look forward to serving the citizens of Cullman County and the State of Alabama. I'm still in a little bit of shock."

Turner had been retained by the Cullman County Commission as county attorney since November of last year, and had also served as municipal judge for the City of Cullman since late 2004. He must relinquish both those positions, as well as suspend his private practice, in order to accept the appointment.

"It's a full time position, and, by law, you can't practice law or do anything else," said Turner, a Republican. "I do plan to run for the [district judge's] seat for a full term in 2012."

The late-afternoon news meant it will be Wednesday before Turner has an opportunity to communicate with fellow District Judge Kim Chaney, as well as with Circuit Judges Nicholas and Don Hardeman to coordinate when he will hold court with his first docket. The upper floors of the courthouse remain partially closed as work crews try to repair storm damage in the main courtroom, leaving judges and their staff to juggle an already-packed docket with very limited space. Turner's appointment, however, took effect Tuesday.

"The notification I received said 'effective immediately,'" said Turner, "but I'm still trying to find out what 'effective immediately' means. When I get a chance to talk to Judge Chaney tomorrow, and of course with Judge Hardeman and Judge Nicholas, I will know more about how they have things planned. The courthouse is kind of in flux right now, so I'll have to get together with the other judges and see how we will address it."

In addition to having jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors and preliminary hearings in felony prosecutions, district courts in Alabama handle cases in which the dollar amount in question is more than $3,000 but less than $10,000. There are 67 district courts in Alabama.

* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 270.

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