Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Marshall County District Judge Liles Burke to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday afternoon.
Burke, R-Arab, becomes the first Marshall County resident ever to hold a judgeship at the criminal or civil appellate level in Alabama.
"Judge Burke brings to the Court of Criminal Appeals a great deal of knowledge and experience," Bentley said. "As a district judge in Marshall County, Judge Burke presided over criminal, civil and juvenile cases brought in district, circuit and juvenile court. I believe he will be a fine addition to the (appellate) court."
Burke has been district judge since 2006. Before that he was Arab Municipal Judge for five years and previously served as the city attorney.
At 41, Burke will be the youngest member of the appellate court.
Burke's appointment on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals will end in January 2013. He will have to run for a full six-year term in November 2012.
Bentley will appoint Burke's replacement to the district court, but no timetable has been set.
Burke was interviewed by the governor's staff last Friday in Montgomery. Burke said he got the call about the appointment from Bentley about lunchtime Wednesday.
"He asked if I was willing to serve because he would like to appoint me to the court of criminal appeals," Burke said. "I told him I was honored to be asked and that I would give it my full effort."
Attorneys, family and other judges were quick to congratulate Burke (Please see other story Page 2).
Burke said he has enjoyed his time as district judge in Marshall County.
"In my time here, we started family drug court and domestic violence court, and I am very proud of those," he said. "I hope we have improved the system, and I think we are leaving a good court for whoever follows me."
He will miss being the juvenile court judge in the county.
"That's the one area of being a district judge where I really feel I made a difference, and that is providing a safe home for a child," Burke said. "People ask, 'How can you sit through sad cases like that involving kids?'
"But I get to make sure those kids have a happy ending, by making sure they are in a safe situation," he continued.
While Burke has the title of district judge, he has served as a specially appointed circuit judge in many cases, not only in Marshall County, but others as well when asked to by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb.
"I have the experience," Burke said. "At the municipal court level, every case I dealt with was a criminal case. And in the past few years, I've served as special circuit judge because of high case loads on criminal cases. These are the type cases the appellate court deals with."
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is not a trial court. The judges there review cases from circuit and district courts throughout the state.
"They make sure the law was followed in the cases that are appealed," Burke said. "They don't see new evidence. I think every judge would appreciate and be eager for the challenge to look at cases from the other side.
"Municipal, district and circuit court judges try cases, and the appellate court gets to decide whether we were right or not," Burke said. "They decided whether the law was applied correctly at the lower court level. It will be a challenge."
In his time as a judge, Burke has only had one decision overturned by an appellate court.
"It was a domestic relations case of mine that went to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals," Burke said. "I was appointed as a special circuit judge for the case in Jefferson County. My ruling was reversed by the civil appeals court."
First on his agenda as an appellate judge is meeting with Judge Sam Welch, the presiding judge of the criminal appeals court.
Burke said he would likely rent an apartment in Montgomery.
"I can do a lot of the work here," he said. "Many of the appellate judges have an office in their home county, and I may do that, too."
Burke was appointed district judge in January 2007, when then District Judge Howard Hawk was elected circuit judge.
"I have enjoyed serving as Marshall County District Judge," Burke announced. "I'm looking forward to the continued opportunity to serve the people of Marshall County and the state of Alabama as an appellate court judge."
Burke received his undergraduate degree from The University of Alabama in 1991 and a law degree from The University of Alabama School of Law in 1994. After law school, he returned home to Marshall County and joined the Arab law firm of Burke and Beuoy, originally begun by his father, Claud Burke.
Burke began serving as prosecutor for the city of Arab in 1994, a position he held until 2001 when he was named municipal judge, again succeeding Howard Hawk. Burke was municipal judge until Gov. Bob Riley appointed him district judge.
Burke has served as chairman of the Arab Chamber of Commerce board of directors and has been a member of Marshall County United Way, Snead State Community College Foundation Board, the Marshall County Salvation Army, the Marshall County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, the Marshall County Economic Development Council, the Marshall County Bar Association and the Arab Historical Preservation Committee.
Burke is the son of Claud and Sharon Burke of Arab and Sid and Jane McDonald of Cherokee Ridge.
His wife, Natalie, is the Marshall County community representative for the American Cancer Society. They have a daughter, Camilla Jane, and a son, Claud Liles. Burke and his family are members of Arab First United Methodist Church.