Monday, February 15, 2016

Talking Turkey: Lauderdale Circuit Judge Place One

Long time Florence attorney and current Lauderdale License Commissioner William Smith will face attorney/property manager Ben Graves in the Republican primary on March 1st.  Both are seeking to serve as Lauderdale County Circuit Court Judge Place One, a judgeship that is currently vacant due to the surprise resignation of Billy Jackson. There are no Democratic contenders for this office, so the primary is the election as far as this race is concerned.

We have requested statements from each candidate. We received one from Smith; however, we have not yet received one from Graves and will use his promotional material in its stead. Several of our bloggers have received requests from Graves asking for campaign contributions.

About William Smith:

William Smith, a veteran Florence attorney, former Lauderdale County Commissioner, and current Lauderdale County License Commissioner is a Republican candidate for Lauderdale County Circuit Court Judge, Place #1 in the Republican Primary set for March 1, 2016.  The office is being vacated by Judge Billy Jackson and is an open seat.

Smith said, “I have accomplished my goal of transforming the Lauderdale County License Commissioner’s Office into a 21st century digital office.  I have been a practicing attorney and student of the law for over a quarter of a century.  It is now time for me to return to my true passion, the law.  I have the experience the people of Lauderdale County can trust to be their next Circuit Court Judge.  With guidance from the Lord and the approval of the voters, I hope to bring my God-given talents to the office of Lauderdale County Circuit Judge so I can continue serving the people of Lauderdale County by fairly and impartially administering the law.”

The circuit court is the highest court in the county.  A circuit judge rules on all of the cases which come before the circuit court.  These cases include all criminal felony prosecutions, capital murder prosecutions, civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.00, divorce cases, child support cases, cases involving the placement of children in custody disputes, and juvenile cases.

Most of the problems in our society can be traced to the breakdown of the American family. President Reagan said, “The family has always been the cornerstone of American society.  Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation of our freedom.”  It is no coincidence most of the criminal, civil, family law, and juvenile cases in our court system are a direct result of the breakdown of the family and much of it stems from divorce.  “As Circuit Judge, I will explore ways, when possible, to intervene and try to preserve as many marriages as possible”, said Smith.

Children from broken homes many times end up in juvenile court accused of committing a criminal act or being a delinquent.  Smith has a servant’s heart and a heart for young people.  “I have invested a good portion of my life into helping young people channel their energy and actions in a positive direction.  As judge, I want to intervene in the lives of those young men and women who are heading in the wrong direction in juvenile court and help them turn their lives around and become productive members of society,” Smith stated.

If elected, Smith would like to pursue the possibility of establishing a Veterans Treatment Court in Lauderdale County.  Veterans Treatment Courts are designed for veterans who have returned from serving our country in a combat zone and have extreme difficulty readjusting to civilian life.  Some of our military heroes unfortunately return home with issues relating to their mental health, substance abuse, family turmoil, unemployment, and homelessness.  Often times the difficulty of readjusting to life back home has led to some of our veterans being in the criminal justice system and incarcerated.  A Veterans Treatment Court can help these wounded veterans readjust to civilian life and help connect them to the programs, benefits, and services they have earned.

William Smith believes our country was founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and it is emphatically the province and duty of our judges to say what the law is, not what it should be.  Our legal system should place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.  William believes our United States Constitution is such a sacred document; he has helped give every high school senior in Florence and Lauderdale County their own personal pocket edition of the United States Constitution with the Declaration of Independence on Constitution Day, September 17th for the last six years.

William’s family roots in Lauderdale County date back to the 1820s where his forefathers and ancestors were farmers, soldiers, and some of the earliest settlers in the Greenhill and Killen communities. A fifth generation Lauderdale County resident, William is a product of the Florence City School System, and a graduate of the University of North Alabama where he received both his undergraduate and Masters of Business Administration degrees.  Smith received his law degree from Cumberland School of Law of Samford University in Birmingham in 1992.  He is licensed to practice law in Alabama and Georgia, as well as the federal courts.  His previous work experiences include everything from working on a farm to working as a substitute teacher in public schools to serving as an adjunct professor of Business Law at both Northwest Shoals Community College and the University of North Alabama.

William, who currently serves on the Alabama Statewide Health Coordinating Council (SHCC) which writes and maintains the state health plan, has held a number of leadership positions in the Shoals area including serving as president of organizations such as the University of North Alabama National Alumni Association, Lauderdale County Bar Association, and the Tennessee Valley Historical Society. William is a former vice-president of the University of North Alabama Sportsman’s Club and a former board member of the YMCA of the Shoals, W.C. Handy Festival, and Rape Response of Northwest Alabama. He is a member of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, Rogersville Chamber of Commerce, Florence Rotary Club, Lauderdale County Cattlemen’s Association, and a board member of the Salvation Army and the Lauderdale County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Advisory Board.

For the past decade, William Smith has been one of the leaders of the local Republican Party.  Since 2006, he has served on the Alabama State Republican Party Executive Committee and the Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee.  He was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 2008 and 2012.  In addition, he has served as President of the Shoals Republican Club as well as leadership positions on numerous campaigns for Republican candidates to federal, state, and local offices.

William and his wife, Laura, reside in Killen with their two year old daughter, Angel Joy.  The Smiths are active members of Highland Baptist Church where he has served as youth basketball coach, discipleship leader, Sunday school teacher, international missions worker, greeter, and nursery volunteer.  William’s parents are Bill and Christine Smith of Florence. His father is a former head basketball and baseball coach at Deshler High School and later served as the Lauderdale County Juvenile Probation Officer and Attendance Supervisor for the Florence City Schools. William’s mother was a public school teacher for over 35 years at Blake Elementary School in Sheffield as well as Appleby, Weeden, and Hibbett schools in Florence.

William Smith is a proven public servant.  He will protect and defend traditional Alabama values.  William Smith is uniquely qualified to be Lauderdale County Circuit Judge because he has the legal experience and real life experience county residents can trust.

About Ben Graves:

I am running as a Republican for Circuit Judge in Lauderdale County, Alabama. Currently I serve as the Municipal Judge of Florence.

Born and raised in Florence, husband, father, and fourth generation citizen, Republican Judge Ben Graves knows many of you as his friend and neighbor. A graduate of Bradshaw High School, University of North Alabama, and University of Alabama School of Law in 2005, he was appointed as the Florence municipal judge in January 2013. Prior to his appointment he worked for the law firm of Stone, Granade & Crosby, PC in Bay Minette, AL but readily returned home in 2007 to help run a family business when his grandfather became ill.

Ben is diligent, conscientious, and a hard worker and will bring that same work ethic, dedication and integrity to the office of Circuit Court Judge. He closes an average of 370 non-traffic cases each month (4500 per year) as municipal judge. He believes the best way to help his community through the courts is to help people hold on to a semblance of normalcy and implement efficiencies in the judicial process.

Ben and his wife, Mindi, are active members of First Baptist Church in Florence and believe that faith in God is the foundation of everything we do.

We see that Graves has stated he has experience since he is the current Florence Municipal judge. Has he? Municipal courts do not handle felonies, something even the family court judge will be called upon to do at times. Those who have sought to contact Graves since he joined city court have found that he has no law practice but works in property management at a company with which his mother is connected.

William Smith has been actively practicing law for over 25 years. He has experience in both family and criminal law. Any jobs obtained by Smith or positions to which he was appointed were the result of his abilities, not his family connections.

A young attorney who practices in Florence Municipal Court once told us that Graves has tantrums. While we can’t promise with 100% certainty that William will not throw such a tantrum, we doubt the odds favor his doing such. The odds do favor William Smith making a great family court judge.

We wholeheartedly endorse William Smith for Lauderdale County Circuit Court Judge Place One!


If any of our readers happen to see a mushroom cloud over the athletic department of a certain local school, don’t worry. It’s not toxic to any honest individuals.



  1. As a young Florence attorney who has spent a fair amount of time in city court, I must say that I have never seen Ben Graves throw a tantrum. Never. I have seen him become angry, but that is realistically a requirement of being a good municipal court judge. Actually, I think Ben Graves has done a very good job as the judge in Florence, in particular I would say I have been impressed by his ability to ward of the creeping cynicism that sometimes affects judges in such a post. I have never seen him let emotion significantly alter his decision making. In short, he has an excellent judicial temperament. I would suggest that if you want to endorse William Smith, you can do it without smearing an honorable man.

    1. There was no intent to smear; only to report what I was told by a young atty who practices in municipal court. Having been to this court as a witness at one time, I can say that I'm surprised that anyone wants to deal with what is presented there on a regular basis.

    2. Mr. Smith is honest in not professing to have extensive experience as a practicing attorney, nor does he claim any courtroom experience. That he has been a licensed attorney for many years is not the same thing as having actually worked representing clients and doing a trial practice.

    3. I understand that Mr. Smith is a longtime practicing attorney, but I think it fair to ask how much of that time has actaully been devoted to representing clients. Does he have any courtroom experience and how much?

  2. Why don't you ask."why there is no Democratic Candidate?" Could it be that Billy Jackson said he would run even on the very last day you can qualify? Was there shady dealings going on?