News Staff Report
Brewton resident Eric Coale was recently appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to the Escambia County District Court judgeship.
A series of events that began with the announcement by venerable Judge Bert Rice that he would not seek another term led to the fulfillment by Coale of a goal he set more than two years ago.
After two years in office, Judge Jeff White, who won the 2016 District Judge election, made known his intent to seek Rice’s position. White ran without opposition and this week will take Rice’s place on the circuit court bench.
That left the District Judge’s post unmanned, but Ivey took care of that with the gubernatorial appointment, notifying Coale by email of her decision.
The county’s newest judge, who has been sworn in and was to have taken office on Tuesday, January 15, has served more than 17 years as assistant attorney general for the Escambia County Department of Human Resources. He has also served for more than 13 years as a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office.
Coale said his experience with DHR has given him insight into some of the major issues facing judges today, including one that seems to be the root of most of society’s ills.
“I have always devoted myself to working with young people and families, and this position will offer me a chance to continue that work,” he said. “The entire country — including Escambia County, Alabama — is facing a drug epidemic, and that leads to family troubles. Those are the areas that we most need to focus on.”
Coale said he would continue the programs Rice implemented to help deal with the drug problem and would focus on “bringing in new programs to aid in eliminating the drug problem in our community.”
Coale, a Republican, is a graduate of T.R. Miller High School and the University of Alabama, where he earned a degree in finance. He earned his law degree from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law at Faulkner University.
In Alabama, district courts handle cases where the dollar amount in question exceeds $3,000 (the maximum for a small claims case) but less than $10,000 (the minimum for a circuit court civil matter). District courts also have jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors, and the District Court Judge also conducts preliminary hearings and sets most bonds in felony prosecutions.
The new judicial appointee said his primary goals are simple.
“I want to do the best job possible and treat everyone with fairness and respect while following the law,” Coale said. “I want to be of help to people when I can and I am overjoyed that people have confidence in me. It’s always been my dream to serve as district judge, and it is an honor and privilege to serve this county.”