Contributions as Probate Judge of Elmore County


[Talk given by John E. Enslen to Redland Community Association on February 11, 2012.]

My name is John Enslen, and I am a candidate for Probate Judge. I am the husband of Dianne for 43 years, and we are the parents of six children; Georgia, Jacob, Joshua, Jessica, Jenny, and Joseph. I am trained, licensed, and experienced in probate court litigation.

After finishing law school at the University of Alabama, I served as an army officer at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indiana during the Viet Nam War.

After serving my country, I returned to my hometown and joined attorney Bill Reneau. We were partners for 10 years before I established my own law firm which grew to become Enslen, Johnston, Pinkston and Courtney.

I have owned a variety of attorney-related businesses that hired as many as 10 employees at one time, so I have had the experience of making the payroll, paying the employee taxes, and living within a budget. I have handled over 750 million dollars of other people’s money, and no one has ever lost a penny. In addition to being an attorney, I had a small herd of beef cows for more than 20 years and also owned and operated a portable sawmill.

For 35 years, I have specialized in probate court work and I want to tell you some things about the work of a probate judge. As I have campaigned I have found that most people are not familiar with the work of this important judgeship.

The Probate Court does
not handle domestic matters involving divorce, child custody, visitation, or support. The Probate Court does not handle criminal matters, personal injury claims, or breach of contract cases.

He is a judge who presides over highly complex areas of the law with unlimited monetary jurisdiction. The judge is required to study the pleadings, rule on the admissibility of evidence, apply the law to the facts, and make the final decision himself in a non-jury setting.

The Probate Judge should be familiar with 902 pages of rules relating to procedure and evidence. I have a working knowledge of those rules as a result of extensive courtroom litigation experience over many years. There are 11 volumes of the Code of Alabama that have application to the probate court.

The types of cases the Probate Judge considers can only be filed in probate court. There are more than 500 case filings per year in the Probate Court of Elmore County.

The Probate Judge hears the following
four categories of cases:

1. Will contests and determining the heirs to estates of deceased persons, whether dying with or without a will.

2. The condemnation of private property for public purposes under the awesome constitutional power of eminent domain,
and with five hydro-electric dams, hundreds of miles of federal, state, and county roads, and many water, sewer, and fiber optic lines, condemnation cases are inevitable. The probate judge needs to know how to apply the laws that are designed to protect private land owners in the taking of their property for a public use.

3. The court handles adoptions, legitimations, and name changes.

4. Conservatorships, guardianships, and commitment of the intellectually and emotionally impaired.

There has never been a
mediator in our probate court, and for good cause. You cannot mediate whether or not you are of sound mind, or whether or not you are legitimate, or whether or not you are adoptable, or whether or not you are an heir. There is no middle ground. Either you are, or you are not. Those issues are decided by applying fixed rules of law to the facts.

I have handled all of those types of cases, not only in Elmore County, but also in all of the surrounding counties. I have handled several appeals in the Alabama Supreme Court dealing with probate court matters. Having served as county attorney for more than 10 years, I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to privately answer many legal questions for our current Probate Judge.

I taught matters relating to probate court as a night-time professor at Jones Law School and have taught these subjects in continuing legal education courses to other lawyers.

In 2003, I volunteered my legal expertise to defeat the Montgomery County Occupational Tax. I wrote the entire appellate brief and was one of three attorneys who argued the case before the Alabama Supreme Court. That work has saved non-residents of Montgomery County 45 million dollars a year, and has saved every individual person listening to this program who works in Montgomery County thousands of dollars since 2003.

I am asking the voters to elect me as the first Republican Probate Judge Elmore County has ever had; the first trained, licensed, and experienced attorney to be elected to the position of Probate Judge in Elmore County since 1898; and the
only elected judge of any type in the history of the State of Alabama who neither solicited nor accepted campaign contributions.

I love Elmore County, the home to seven generations of my family, and I hope the people will allow me the special privilege of serving as their next Probate Judge.

Thank you.

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