Anderson prides campaign on diversity of supporters

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2002

In his bid for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court, James Anderson likes to tell people he’s probably the only candidate in any race that can claim the support of both Henry Pitts and Hank Sanders.

Chances are you probably won’t understand that line unless you’ve lived in the Black Belt for awhile. It’s Anderson’s way of explaining that he thinks his campaign appeals to a broad spectrum of people.

Anderson can be a funny guy.

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This is his first run for elected office. He’s running on the Democratic Party ticket. His opponents are Libertarian Party candidate Tom Bear and Republican Harold See.

Anderson grew up in Montgomery &045;&045; his family has lived there for seven generations &045;&045; and he has been practicing law for 23 years. After graduating from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law he joined an old, established Montgomery law firm that was so old and so established that it went by the nickname of &uot;Hail, Hail, Thunder and Lightning&uot; among the junior partners.

Many lawyers might have been content to while away their professional careers toiling comfortably for just such a firm. But in 1988, Anderson left to co-found the firm of Beers, Anderson, Jackson, Hughes and Patty.

The firm’s biggest client is State Farm Insurance. The insurance company hires Anderson’s firm to deflect some of the high-dollar jury verdicts rendered against it. Anderson recalled one case that involved a disputed $68 medical claim. The jury in that case concluded it required a $4 million settlement to set things right.

Tort reform has gone a long way toward reducing those kinds of verdicts, but as an attorney Anderson can say, &uot;I’ve lived through that.&uot;

Along the way, he’s handled other types of cases, even arguing a capital murder case. In 1988, he became the youngest person ever appointed to the state Ethics Commission. He was appointed by then-Gov. George Wallace. In 1991, he chaired that body.

Anderson cited a number of pressing issues facing Alabama’s judicial system today, chief among them campaign reform and judicial qualifications. Campaign spending in judicial elections has skyrocketed in recent years, raising concerns that large outside contributors may be exercising undue influence in such races.

Anderson claimed that over the last eight years See, his Democratic opponent, has spent $6 million campaigning.

He also noted that, currently, lawyers face stiffer requirements than do judges in many cases. For example, a defendant in a capital murder case can claim inadequate counsel if his lawyer has practiced law for at least five years. There is no such requirement for judges in capital murder cases.