Bowden takes oath

Published 7:35 pm Friday, November 14, 2008

Recently appointed Probate Judge Ben Bowden took the oath of office yesterday in a packed courtroom, promising to restore public trust to the office.

“All of the county judges have offices upstairs except one,” Bowden said. “The probate judge’s office is downstairs. I think there’s some symbolism to that fact. The first floor is where the people are and the probate judge really is the people’s judge.”

Almost everyone has business in the probate office, he said, from buying tags to probating estates.

“Everyone does business there,” he said.

“I view this appointment as an honor and privilege and I feel a great responsibility to restore the public trust in the office,” he said. “With your help, and the help of a great probate staff, I know we can make the probate judge’s office one we can all be proud of.”

Bowden said that anyone who feels they have a probate case that wasn’t handled properly should call or contact him.

“If it hasn’t been done correctly, if possible, we will make it right,” Bowden said.

Last Friday, Gov. Bob Riley appointed Bowden to the office that became vacant after the former probate judge, Sherrie Phillips, resigned. Phillips has since been found guilty and sentenced for the theft by deception of $1.8 million and the unlawful use of her office for personal gain.

When she was indicted for the crimes, she could not act as judge under Alabama law. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb appointed Lee Enzor special probate judge, but Phillips resigned in September. It was at that time that it became the governor’s responsibility to make a permanent appointment.

Bowden expressed his appreciation to the people who wrote letters and made calls to Gov. Riley in his behalf and said the county owed Enzor a debt of gratitude for his service in the office during the interim period.

Bowden’s now-former law partners, Tom Albritton, Rick Clifton and Julie Moody, all participated in the ceremony.

Albritton said he first met Bowden 30 years ago at Boy Scout camp.

“I never expected then I’d be standing here doing this today,” he said. “I’ve worked with Ben for the last 11 years and I can say that Covington County could be in no better hands, even though we secretly hope he hates this job.”

Rick Clifton read the governor’s official letter of appointment and Moody, who serves as municipal judge in Opp, administered the oath of office.

In addition to his work at Albrittons, Clifton, Alverson, Moody and Bowden, Bowden was serving 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.

Among those in the courtroom for the ceremony were members of Bowden’s family.

“This is the second time this week my family has had to listen to me speak in public, so I’m sure they’re as nervous as I am,” Bowden quipped. “You can always count on your momma to tell you you did a good job.”

Earlier this week, Bowden, who recently returned from Iraq, gave a Veterans Day speech at Andalusia Middle School, where he was introduced by his daughter, AMS student Anna Beth Bowden.

Bowden’s appointment is for the remainder for the current six-year term, which ends in 2012.