Elisabeth French becomes first black female presiding judge in Alabama

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Judge Elisabeth French, Jefferson County

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – For the first time ever, the newly elected presiding judge over the state courts in Jefferson County is a woman for the first time ever.

Judge Elisabeth French is the first woman selected to serve at the helm of the Jefferson County judicial system since its beginning in 1821. She will replace Judge Joseph Boohaker who is retiring on Feb. 29. The Presiding Judge is selected by the Circuit Judges of the 10th Judicial Circuit. 

French will begin her historic tenure as presiding judge on March 1.    

As residing judge, she is responsible for assigning judges to established divisions, executing the administrative duties of the courts, making sure that the Courts function properly and having general supervisory authority over court officials.

French will also continue to hear cases.

The 10th Judicial Circuit is the largest Circuit of the Alabama Judicial System and consists of a total of 38 judges, including 26 circuit judges and 12 district judges.

French is the first black female presiding judge in Alabama.

In November 2010, French was elected as a Jefferson County circuit court judge. She was re-elected in 2016. During her tenure on the bench, French has disposed of thousands of cases. Prior to that in the private practice of law for 14 years, French managed complex litigation.

Judge French attended the University of Montevallo on an athletic scholarship (volleyball) and received her bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and Spanish in 1993. She earned her juris doctorate from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in 1997. 


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