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Judge Carole Coil Medley poses behind the bench with visitor Lizzie Crunk, a fellow member of the Killen Church of Christ in Alabama.
Dialogue
Photo by Alisha Crunk

Judging others: a Christian influence in court

Alabama district judge serves God by upholding justice, showing compassion.

Carole Coil Medley, a district judge of Lauderdale County, Ala., has run unopposed since 2010. Medley, 57, was originally appointed to the bench by then-Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in 2008.

When elected, she became the first Republican to win the seat since the Civil War, according to Ballotpedia.org.

Her late father, Charles Coil, was a leading evangelist among Churches of Christ, serving as president of the International Bible College in Florence, Ala. — from 1971 to 1989.

Medley attended Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City from 1982 to 1985 before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Alabama. She also completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Athens State University in Alabama.

“I cherish serving in this role and the unique opportunities it has afforded for God to be revealed to broken people through my role as a judge.”

Later, Medley contemplated pursuing a doctorate in education. But attorney friends at the Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala. — Mark and Henri McDaniel — encouraged her to seek a law degree.

“They had heard my father, Charles Coil, preach,” Medley said, “and Mark told me that since I would not be able to preach that I should use my passion to help people in the courtroom.”

The Killen Church of Christ member has tried to do just that since her appointment as a district judge.

What path led you to become a judge?

I attended Jones School of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., graduating in 1995. I eventually returned to Florence, Ala., to practice law. In addition to a solo law practice, I had the opportunity to serve as a special prosecutor for the district attorney’s office.

Twelve years into private practice, I was invited to interview for a judicial vacancy and received the appointment from the governor of Alabama.
I cherish serving in this role and the unique opportunities it has afforded for God to be revealed to broken people through my role as a judge.

Are you appointed or elected, and do you have to contend with political influences?

Though originally appointed by the governor, I had to run for my seat two years later. The state of Alabama runs their judicial races as partisan, and I was elected to be the first Republican countywide office holder in Lauderdale County. I have been blessed to run unopposed since.

Contending with political influences is secondary to my primary vow to uphold the laws enacted by the Alabama Legislature.


Related: Faulkner law school honors civil rights attorney, church elder Fred Gray


Most important to me is my desire to be a just and good judge, use my God-given sense of right and wrong, have wisdom to discern fair implementation of punishment and, above all, ensure trust in the judicial process for all litigants.

American citizens deserve a fair process, an ethical criminal justice system, trials by a jury of their peers and to be completely heard by the American courts of law.

Judge Carole Coil Medley poses behind the bench with visitor Lizzie Crunk, a fellow member of the Killen Church of Christ in Alabama.

Judge Carole Coil Medley poses behind the bench with visitor Lizzie Crunk,
a fellow member of the Killen Church of Christ in Alabama.

How does your faith impact your ability to do your job?

Knowing, which surpasses believing, that God is the ultimate judge of all gives me great peace, especially knowing I make mistakes, knowing I do not always have all the facts needed to make the best decision, knowing he will restore to those everything lost and will pick up the pieces from all the places where people are scattered.

Because of my faith, I pray every day before I take the bench to be an instrument of his mercy, understanding, patience, discernment and compassion.

In my role, I see the harsh reality that the gospel of Christ is needed today more than ever. The distinct and quickly widening void of God-fearing parents modeling respect for the law, work ethic, coping skills for controversy, discipline and perseverance in times of trial is my greatest challenge.

That, in turn, makes me cherish my parents and my incredible experience at Oklahoma Christian all the more.

Does service to God affect your role?

I am able to discuss my belief in God if the defendant/litigant opens the door to such dialogue. Once/if that occurs, I speak freely of my faith and hope that can be experienced by knowing God.

I see the dark side of lives wrecked by drug abuse, rampant access to pornography, sexual abuse of children, all the work of evil every day. It is my job, for this season in life, to reflect true hope that can only be known by serving God.

Are there any Scriptures that guide you?

Oh yes! I love James 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

My most favorite: II Timothy 1:17, “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, and of love, and of sound mind.”

I am also grateful that my father reiterated to me that “I was made in the image of God” — such has helped me as I deal with criminal defendants knowing that they are made in his image.

Lauderdale County, AL, USA

What was your most memorable experience as a judge?

Most memorable thus far in my judicial tenure was the day an inmate became unshackled, grabbed the gun of my officer, threatening to kill himself. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit was I able to step off the bench and persuade him to give me the gun. “You can’t deny God’s presence when he gives you the strength to deal with a situation as frightening and scary as this was,” I said in an article published by AL.com. I have been invited to speak across the state of that day, thus enabling me to share the story of God’s power in that moment.

What can Christians do to support a just and fair judiciary?

First, Christians can fulfill their duty to serve on jury trials. America is known for maintaining the greatest judicial system in the world and prides itself on trial by jury of peers. Being willing to listen to the evidence and be an active participant in the fair decision process of trials is crucial to the support of our system.

Secondly, Christians should research those running for judicial office and elect men and women with the highest reputation for integrity and adherence to the law. Such applies not only to the judicial branch of government but to all branches.

“Where would this great country be but for the courageous men of faith, writers of the Constitution, who were clearly seeking God’s wisdom and favor when America was founded?”

I ask: Where would this great country be but for the courageous men of faith, writers of the Constitution, who were clearly seeking God’s wisdom and favor when America was founded?

Lastly, many states have now included what are called specialty courts such as drug court, veterans court and mental health court which enable greater help to those in need without the necessity to further fill our overcrowded prison systems. We need Christians in governmental leadership roles to support such positive programs.

Filed under: Alabama Alabama district judge Carol Coil Medley Christian judge Dialogue Faulkner University Features Jones School of Law Judge Carole Medley Judge Medley Lauderdale County legal National Top Stories

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