Before his appointment, Fannin practiced law with his father, Talladega Municipal Court Judge Hank Fannin, for 19 years.
“I handled everything from the kinds of cases I’m hearing now all the way up to capital murder cases in circuit court,” he said. “But a district court judge hears more about people’s lives than anybody, and sees them on the worst days of their lives. I knew from Day One that I was going to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I was going to be impartial and consider only the facts and the law.”
When Sims retired, there was a massive backlog of divorce cases in the county, some going back years. “I set divorce cases between the other cases every day. I try and set at least two of them per day, although some cases take longer than others. And sometimes they resolve outside the courtroom. I’m caught up on all the oldest ones now, although some are still lingering because the attorneys keep continuing them. I keep up with all of them on a board in my office. But I’ve been getting some compliments lately, so I guess more people are happy. The problem now is that we’ve got new cases coming as fast as the old ones are going out. And each case is different.”
Still, he said, he is keeping “divorce cases up to date. The system runs smoothly now, and cases are being heard in a timely manner.”
When setting bond, Fannin said he considers “prior history, the nature of the crime, the health and age of the defendant, the number of counts. I tend to favor bonds on the high side in methamphetamine cases. I don’t want to be unfair, to give them something they wouldn’t be able to make, because they’re innocent until proven guilty. I want to make sure it’s fair, but soft. The purpose of a bond is not to hold someone in jail, it’s to ensure that they appear in court.”
The district court judge for northern Talladega County is also responsible for preliminary hearings in felony cases (Fannin said he has been presented with cases where there was no evidence to bind it over to a grand jury), traffic court, misdemeanor offenses in parts of the county without municipal courts, small claims court and civil cases involving $5,000 to $15,000.
Custody cases can be among the most difficult for a district judge to handle. “I don’t like putting kids on the spot,” he said. “Other than a parent being abusive, you have to consider things like income, distance away, visitation arrangements. I don’t have a check list, but I try to use my common sense, and I look out for the best interest of the children.”
If he doesn’t win, Fannin said, he will return to private practice. “I’ll just pick up where I left off. A lawyer can always find work.”
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org