Bowden named probate judge

Published 2:03 am Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gov. Bob Riley Friday appointed Andalusia attorney Ben Bowden probate judge of Covington County.

Bowden, who is a partner in the law firm Albrittons, Clifton, Alverson, Moody and Bowden, served briefly as Covington County Probate Judge on two different occasions when the sitting judge was temporarily unavailable  in 2006 and 2007.

He also serves part-time as the chief assistant district attorney in the 22nd Judicial Circuit DA’s  office and is an attorney with the U.S.  Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

“Ben Bowden is eminently qualified to serve as probate judge and I am confident he will serve the people of Covington County with integrity,” Riley said.

“I am honored to receive the appointment and appreciate the confidence Gov. Riley has shown in  allowing me to serve as probate judge. I am excited about the opportunity to return to public service and to serve the citizens of Covington County.”

Bowden, who also served for five years on active duty in the Air Force, said he is looking forward to returning to public service.

He said his first priority will be to learn every job in the probate office.

“I want to learn what everybody does, so that if someone steps away, I can help the public,” he said.

The probate office has been in the spotlight in recent months after the former probate judge, Sherrie Phillips, was indicted in June. Phillips was convicted last week of two felony charges, including theft by deception of $1.8 million and the use of her office for personal gain.

Alabama law states that a judge cannot serve while under indictment. In the week following Phillips’ indictment, Lee Enzor was appointed special probate judge by Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, a temporary appointment that was to last until Phillips’ criminal trial.

However, in September, Phillips resigned as probate judge. At that time, the responsibility for a permanent appointment fell with the governor. The governor’s staff interviewed four candidates before making the appointment.

“I believe Lee Enzor has done a good job,” Bowden said. “I want to get into the office and evaluate where we are before making any changes. But we will take whatever steps are necessary to restore confidence in the probate judge’s office. Rightly or wrongly, the office has developed a reputation of not being above board. Everything we do will be geared toward restoring the confidence of the people.”

The appointment is effective immediately. Bowden said he expects to take the oath of office next week.