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September 21, 2013

Appellate judges visit Cullman County Bar

— A familiar face returned to the Cullman County Courthouse Friday morning and was greeted with smiles and hugs.

Terri Willingham Thomas was the county’s first female judge when she presided over district court. Thomas now serves on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, and she met with attorneys with the Cullman County Bar during a reception for her and her fellow appellate judges William Thompson and Scott Donaldson.

“It’s like coming home,” said Thomas as she was surrounded by former colleagues and clerks inside the circuit courtroom. “Some of my best friends are here.”

Bar President Zeb Little and presiding Cullman County Circuit Judge Greg Nicholas organized the event to help the appellate judges connect with local trial judges and attorneys.

“It’s good to meet to have informal conversations and talk about how things are working and to build good working relationships so we all have a better understanding of one another,” Donaldson said. “Cullman has a great mix of lawyers and judges. They’re exceptional.”

The Court of Civil Appeals has jurisdiction over all appeals from administrative agencies in which a judgment was rendered in the circuit court. The court also exercises jurisdiction over appeals in workmen's compensation cases and domestic relations cases, including annulment, divorce, alimony, child support, adoption, and child custody cases.

Thomas said events like Friday’s are beneficial because it’s important for local attorneys and judges to know the appellate court, which hears cases in Montgomery, is approachable.

“We want to know what the problems are so we can try to help,” Thomas said.

Terry A. Moore and Craig Sorrell Pittman also serve on the state Court of Civil Appeals. Thomas said the five have a good dynamic.

“We have frank conversations about the cases, and we try to sway one another,” she said. “It’s really a great group to work with.”

Little said the bar was honored to host the reception, particularly with “one of their own” serving on the court.

Tiffeny Owens can be reached by e-mail at towens@cullmantimes.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.

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