The BENCH of the Middle District
United States District Court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the Constitution. The names of potential nominees often are recommended by senators or sometimes members of the House who are of the President's political party. The Senate Judiciary Committee typically conducts confirmation hearings for each nominee.
Article III of the Constitution states that these judicial officers are appointed for a life term. The federal Judiciary, the Judicial Conference of the United States, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts play no role in the nomination and confirmation process.
The Article III Judges for the United States District Court Middle District of Alabama are as follows:
- Chief Judge W. Keith Watkins
- Judge Emily C. Marks
- Senior Judge W. Harold Albritton
- Senior Judge Myron H. Thompson
A United States Magistrate Judge is a judicial officer of the district court and upon the recommendation of a merit selection committee is appointed by majority vote of the active district judges of the court to exercise jurisdiction over matters assigned by statute as well as those delegated by the district judges. The number of magistrate judge positions is determined by the Judicial Conference of the United States, based on recommendations of the respective district courts, the judicial councils of the circuits, and the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Full-time magistrate judges serve for a renewable term of eight years and part-time magistrate judges for a renewable term of four years. Duties assigned to magistrate judges by district court judges may vary considerably from court to court. 28 U.S. Code § 375 allows for the recall of a Magistrate Judge; a magistrate judge recalled under this section may exercise all of the powers and duties of the office.
The Magistrate Judges for the United States District Court Middle District of Alabama are as follows:
- Chief Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel, Jr.
- Magistrate Judge David A. Baker
- Magistrate Judge Gray M. Borden
- Magistrate Judge Charles S. Coody
- Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker
The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse has five district courtrooms, each of which features an arched niche behind the judge’s bench -- a duplicate of Judge Johnson’s 2FMJ Courtroom arrangement. Emblems of the court and law were designed and hand-painted and feature a medallion surrounded by an honorific wreath of laurel leaves, surmounted by a lamp of wisdom. Beneath the medallion are olive branches and a fasces: symbols of peace and mercy, and authority to execute and punish, respectively.
Each medallion of the five district courtrooms is unique. They reflect one of the five constitutional purposes, and the Latin phrase on each is taken from the five entrances of the Johnson building.
Promote the general welfare: a sheaf of wheat and a cornucopia frame both a farm and a city. The Latin phrase pro bono public means “for the public’s good.”
Provide for the common defense: a B-52 bomber (Montgomery is home to Maxwell Air Force Base, which houses such a plane) flies over a canon and sailing ship. The Latin phrase regnant populi means “the people shall rule.”
Establish justice: a pair of balanced scales (an iconic and traditional symbol of the law) is supported by the sword of Solomon. The Latin phrase festina lente means “make haste slowly.”
Ensure domestic tranquility: two hands shake over turbulent water, with a house and the Montgomery skyline in the background. The Latin phrase favete linguis means “hold your tongue.”
Secure the blessings of liberty: a flaming Liberty torch is held aloft over open manacles and the declaration of independence. The Latin phrase macte virtute means “well done!”