Sue Bell Cobb

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Sue Bell Cobb
Judge Sue Bell Cobb 2017.jpg
25th Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court
In office
Preceded byDrayton Nabers
Succeeded byChuck Malone
Personal details
Born (1956-03-01) March 1, 1956 (age 63)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
ChildrenCaitlin Cobb
EducationUniversity of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (BA, JD)
WebsiteCampaign website

Sue Bell Cobb (born March 1, 1956) is an American jurist and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, the first woman to hold that office in Alabama's history. In 2018 she unsuccessfully ran for governor of Alabama[1] losing in the primary to Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox only receiving 30 percent of the vote compared to his 52 percent.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Cobb was born in Louisville, Kentucky. She graduated from Sparta Academy and the University of Alabama with a degree in history. She received the Phi Alpha Theta Scholarship Key. Cobb attended the University of Alabama School of Law, graduating with a J.D. in 1981. In law school Cobb was a member of the Bench and Bar Honor Society, Farrah Law Society, and Moot Court Board. Cobb is married to William J. Cobb, Executive Director of Governmental Affairs of Bell South (retired). They have three children and four grandchildren.[3]

Cobb was appointed as a judge of Conecuh County District Court immediately after being admitted to the bar. Formerly one of the state's youngest judges, she was elected to the district court in 1982 and re-elected in 1988.[4]

As a trial judge, Cobb took assignments from about 40 counties. In 1997, Cobb was appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to serve as the Alternate Chief Judge of the Court of the Judiciary.[5]

In 2004, Cobb served as an appellate court judge during the appeals case of Anthony Ray Hinton for his 1985 murder conviction. Though Hinton's 2004 appeal was denied at the time, Cobb was one of the presiding judges that thought he deserved a new trial. Cobb noted “I had never been so convinced of someone’s innocence than I had in Mr. Hinton’s case after reviewing all of the evidence", elaborating that "there were no fingerprints. ... When you looked at the ballistics expert that the defense had hired, he was woefully inadequate.” Hinton's conviction was eventually overturned and he was freed after 30 years in prison on April 3, 2015.[6]

Chief Justice[edit]

Campaign and election[edit]

Cobb served as Alabama's Chief Justice from 2007 until her resignation in August 2011. She was the first woman elected to this post and had previously served from 1995 to 2007 as a judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, the state court for criminal intermediate appeals. Before 1995, she had served as a trial judge in state district court for many years.[4]

Cobb, a Democrat, was the only member of her party to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court at that time. Elected in 2006, she unseated Judge Drayton Nabers, Jr., a Republican who in 2003 had succeeded Justice Roy Moore after Moore had been removed from the bench regarding his role in the display of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.[7] The race achieved notoriety for its cost;[8] including the primary, the candidates raised over $8.3 million.[9]



On November 2, The Alabama Supreme Court, in an 8 - 1 vote, struck down a 2003 circuit court ruling that ExxonMobile Corp owed the state $3.6 billion in punitive damages. All eight Republican associate justices agreed that evidence in the case did not support a finding of fraud. Democratic Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb dissented. She maintains that corporate greed should not outweigh the interests of the people of Alabama.[10][11]


Juvenile justice reform[edit]

Cobb was a critical champion and contributor to the passage of the 2008 Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2008. Following passage of the bill, Juvenile crime decreased and number of imprisoned children was reduced by more than 60%.[12][13]


Cobb announced her intention to retire from office on June 30, 2011 to devote more time to her family. Cobb noted that she had also been wary of "the cost of running for office while maintaining judicial objectivity".[9] She denied that her decision to step down was connected with a potential bid for Governor of Alabama in the 2014 election,[14] She considered it, but ultimately decided against running.[15] After stepping down, she became "a national advocate for changing how judges are selected", saying on her race against Nabers (said to be the second most expensive judicial race in American history), "Everything we did was legal and ethical, but that didn't mean it was right".[16] In 2015, in an op-ed piece for Politico, she said she was ashamed of the amount of money she had to raise to win the election.[16][17]

Candidate for Governor[edit]

On June 14, 2017 Cobb announced her candidacy for governor, declaring "I simply cannot stand by and watch as one more community hospital closes its doors. I cannot be still as so many bad decisions that affect us all continue to be made. As the head of Alabama’s judicial branch, and in the face of significant obstacles, I was able to work with amazing court leaders and state employees to make vast improvements in the lives of others. If given the opportunity, I would be honored to put my experience and skill set to work in the executive branch. I promise, I will work and I will not stop until there is light again on Alabama’s horizon."[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Board of Directors and Staff". Alabama Children First. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Supreme Court of Alabama - Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb". Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  5. ^ "History & Background". Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  6. ^ Pitts, Byron. "30-Year Alabama Death Row Inmate Uses Computer, ATMs for First Time". ABC News. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  7. ^ Johnson, Bob (November 16, 2005). "Appellate Judge Sue Bell Cobb running for state chief justice". The Decatur Daily. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  8. ^ Marcus, Ruth (May 30, 2007). "The Attack Ads Will Come to Order". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Velasco, Eric (November 4, 2011). "Sue Bell Cobb, former Alabama chief justice, to address Downtown Democratic Club today". The Birmingham News. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  10. ^ White, David. "$3.6 billion ruling rejected". The Birmingham News. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  11. ^ Cobb, Sue Bell. "Standing Up to Exxon". Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  12. ^ Beyerle, Dana. "Law aims at kids in trouble". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform". National Juvenile Justice Network. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  14. ^ "Sue Bell Cobb: No decision on Alabama governor's race". Associated Press. June 30, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  15. ^ "Cobb: "I'm not a candidate for governor"". The Montgomery Independent. December 26, 2013. Archived from the original on October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  16. ^ a b "Sue Bell Cobb: Money now king of Alabama judicial races". The Birmingham News. May 16, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  17. ^ Cobb, Sue Bell (March–April 2015). "I Was Alabama's Top Judge. I'm Ashamed by What I Had to Do to Get There". Politico. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  18. ^ The Associated Press. "Former chief justice Sue Bell Cobb to run for governor". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  19. ^ "Why I'm Running". Retrieved June 3, 2018.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Drayton Nabers
Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Chuck Malone