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Judge Bill Lewis speaks at Chamber luncheon

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

Circuit Judge Bill Lewis with the Alabama 19th Judicial Circuit was the guest speaker at the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon held at Neighborhood Grill in Clanton on Sept. 11.

Lewis was appointed to his position by then Alabama governor Robert Bentley in Oct. 2016.

Before that, Lewis spent time as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. He has covered civil and family law.

“I am from Wetumpka,” Lewis said. “I moved (to this area) to be with my family. I opened up my own practice, and then later I was lucky enough to get on the bench.”

Lewis’ office has jurisdiction over felony cases, family law cases such as divorces and civil cases in excess of $10,000.

“We handle the lower court appeals as well, so we stay pretty busy,” he said.

Lewis spoke during the luncheon about how the local judicial system in Alabama operates as far as the different levels are concerned. He also gave his opinion on some recent legislation that allows some criminal offenders to get out of jail or prison earlier than their sentences originally dictated.

“I know we have had an issue with folks getting out too early,” he said. “Law enforcement is trying to put them away, but the way the legislation is now it allows them to get right back out. If they are rehabilitated, that’s great, but the concern that I have is some of these folks don’t need to be out and back in their communities.”

Lewis said as a circuit judge, one of his responsibilities is helping to keep neighborhoods in his jurisdiction safe.

“(That legislation) is a conflict with what we do,” he said. “When they posted that legislation, they failed to address the real issue we had, which were mental health issues and dealing with the drug problems we have. I hope the intent was good, but in effect it’s really not addressing the issues that need to be addressed.”

Lewis also spoke of the increased prevalence of criminal cases dealing with opiates.

“Opioid addiction opens the window for folks who would normally not be addicted to drugs to become addicted,” he said. “They are going to hospitals and getting these pain pills, and they end up getting addicted to them. That is creating a new class of offenders who end up in the criminal system. It’s really sad to see the folks that end up coming through.”

The 19th Judicial Circuit covers Chilton, Autauga and Elmore counties.