The Alabama Court of Appeals was established in 1911 as one unified entity and then in 1969 was split into two intermediate appellate courts, the Court of Civil Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals. Five judges preside over the Alabama Court of Appeals with the most senior acting as Chief Judge. This court has original appellate jurisdiction in the state. Therefore, all lower court appeals start here.
The Court of Civil Appeals handles matters related to domestic situations like divorce, child custody, adoption, alimony, annulment, child support, and guardianship. This court also has jurisdiction over civil appeals where the amount is $50,000 or less. The Supreme Court may also refer cases to the Court of Appeals as it sees fit. The Court of Civil Appeals also has jurisdiction from all “administrative agencies, other than the Alabama Public Service Commission” and jurisdiction over workers’ compensation and domestic relations cases.
The Court of Criminal Appeals sometimes uses a three-judge panel to make decisions. The presiding Chief Judge makes that decision. They handle all cases of misdemeanors, including town and city ordinance violations, habeas corpus and all felonies, including all post-conviction writs in criminal cases.
The five judges that preside over the Court of Appeals are elected in statewide partisan elections and serve six-year terms. To qualify to sit on the Court of Appeals an individual must have practiced law for at least ten years, must be a state resident for at least one year and be under the age of 70. The judges in Alabama are the sixth highest paid appellate court judges in the country, and each one makes an average of $178,878 a year. Judges may be impeached or removed from office by the Court of the Judiciary after a complaint is filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission.