BY SARAH STEPHENS
In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Millbrook City Council unanimously approved naming Lynn Bright to serve as only the second Municipal Court Judge in Millbrook’s official city history.
She will fill the seat which opened after the retirement of Judge Ben Pool, who was the only judge to hold that position since Millbrook was named an official city in 1977. Sadly, Judge Pool passed away in Montgomery Aug. 3 shortly after tendering his resignation to Millbrook Mayor Al Kelley. The courtroom in which he served most recently in the new facility was named in his honor in 2013.
“I think most of you have heard the sad news about Judge Pool,” Mayor Al Kelley said before making his recommendation. “I have spoken with his wife, and funeral arrangements have not been made at this time. When Judge Pool called me last week and told me about his health concerns and desire to retire immediately, I went to work to get this thing done to find his successor. I would like to present to the Council tonight my recommendation of Lynn Bright. I talked her into coming out of retirement. She can walk right into the role. It is my honor to submit my recommendation of Lynn Bright.”
The Council then voted on the recommendation, with a unanimous “Yes” from each member.
Judge Bright was then sworn in by Mayor Kelley, with her son Neal, and husband Bobby Bright at her side.
Judge Bright said she is looking forward to serving as Millbrook’s Municipal Court Judge and wants to make a positive difference again in working with the people who come before the court.
“I learned that as a Judge you can help the defendants help themselves,” Bright told the EAN. “It is very rewarding when after years I see a former defendant who might have battled addiction and I can see they have turned their lives around.”
Bright spent 25 years in Montgomery District Court and said that compared to Municipal court is not extraordinarily different. “You are still dealing one on one with people, who often appreciate your help,” she said.
While serving in Montgomery, Bright was part of creating a specialized DUI docket, establishing the first Drug Court, and the second domestic violence docket in Alabama.
In her time on the bench she worked with civil, divorce and custody cases as well.
“We learned over the years new and better ways to handle cases involving domestic violence,” Bright said. “There was a time it was not handled as it is now. A court truly can make a difference. A lot of times people just keeping making the same mistakes over and over. You see those who are battling drugs, alcohol, and living in dangerous relationships.”
When success stories come from that, “It just feels right,” she said.
Since her retirement, Judge Bright said she and husband Bobby have spent a lot of time tending their property at Jackson Lake Island, the now popular day trip and event venue where the fictional town of Spectre from “Big Fish” was filmed. She has tended to the goats and cuts a lot of grass, she said with a laugh.
It was at Jackson Lake one afternoon when another one of her former DUI defendants visited and recognized her.
“He asked me if he could give me a hug, and say thank you,” she said. He told her that for years he had wanted to say that. “I believe that God puts people in your path.”
Bright said she knows there will be some differences with Municipal Court. However, she believes she will again be given the opportunity to offer people a chance to change their lives, enter drug programs, stay sober or do their time in jail. “I believe in second chances. I understand relapse, but I believe in the Court Referral program with my whole heart. You must hold people accountable. If they aren’t willing to take the steps required to stay sober and out of trouble, as a judge you may have to lock them up.”
More on Judge Bright, from her biographical information:
Judge Lynn Clardy Bright retired as the Presiding District Judge for Montgomery County where she served as a judge for 25 years. She is married to Bobby Bright who served as Congressman for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District and as Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama. They have three children and four grandchildren. The Brights are active members of First Baptist Church, Montgomery.
Judge Bright served on the faculty of the National Judicial College and the Alabama Judicial College. She is a 2008 graduate of Leadership Alabama and has served on the Boards of Directors of Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Montgomery Ballet, the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Envision 2020, the Montgomery Zoo and Jubilee Cityfest. Judge Bright served as Chairman of the Board of First Baptist Church Community Ministries; and served on the boards of directors of the Family Guidance Center, Montgomery Area Council on the Arts, Janice Capilouto Center for the Deaf, the Family Sunshine Center, and SAYNO. Judge Bright served on the Advisory Board of Character at Heart and was awarded the 2007 American Eagle Award for her effort in promoting character education in our schools.
Judge Bright implemented many innovative programs while serving as District Court judge. She began the first Domestic Violence Docket in Montgomery County as well as the first Drug Court and specialized DUI docket. These dockets have served as models for other courts in the state. She was called on regularly during her time on the bench to train other judges and to chair and serve on statewide judicial committees to bring comprehensive reform to the courts.
Judge Bright was selected Woman of the Year, American Business Women’s Association, 1985. She was honored in 1994 as Woman of Distinction by Soroptimist International of Montgomery. Judge Bright was honored for public service as a 1995 Woman of Achievement by The Montgomery Advertiser. She was inducted into the 1995 Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame. In 1996 Judge Bright was honored as Public Citizen of the Year by the Montgomery Unit of the National Association of Social Workers. She also received in 1996 the statewide Howell Heflin Award for her contributions to Alabama’s Court Referral Program and was honored with the Justice for Victims Award by The Family Sunshine Center. In 2011 she was honored by Mental Health America as Volunteer of the Year. In October, 2016, Judge Bright was selected as one of seven retired judges to serve by special appointment on the Alabama Supreme Court in place of the recused justices of the Court to hear the appeal by Chief Justice Roy Moore of his permanent suspension.