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Demopolis native to take gavel of Alabama State Bar

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. — Demopolis native and Northport lawyer Alyce Manley Spruell, a member of the law firm of Spruell & Powell LLC, will be named president of the Alabama State Bar during its annual meeting on Saturday. She will be the first woman to head the 87-year-old organization.

“I think this is a tremendous honor,” she said on Friday. “This is one of those accomplishments that takes your breath away in many ways, but also is a tremendous challenge that you hope you are prepared for and that you’ve worked hard to be prepared for. I am very humbled and very touched.

“There have been so many wonderful female role models for me in the bar and in the judicial system. If you look at our law schools, there are at least 40 percent women, and if you look at our profession and see the rising number of women in the profession, there is no question that having a woman in a leadership role is really becoming more common than unusual.”

Promoting the need for increased civics education in our schools and community will be one of Spruell’s signature goals as president of the 16,000-member organization. A committee of lawyers, judges and educators will focus their efforts in the coming months to seek the addition of civics courses, projects and technology in the classroom as well as in community education programs.

“I don’t believe that they teach civics, and if they do, it’s certainly not what we had (in high school),” she said.

Quoting a survey published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, Spruell said, “When those surveyed could three times more often name a judge on the ‘American Idol’ panel on television than name the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, we have a serious problem.

“As the official organization of lawyers in Alabama, we have a special role and responsibility to promote the duty of each citizen to understand and support our system of justice. We have lost focus in our schools on the need to study the role of the courts in protecting our rights and freedoms. If we don’t appreciate and protect the rule of law in our state, how can we effectively vote, select leaders and more importantly, honor and trust our court system?

“A lot of the respondents seemed to come up with answers that judges, in their opinion, should reflect the belief systems and the political viewpoints of the people that they serve, almost like a legislator, instead of a judge following what the law is,” she said. “That, in and of itself, is very scary because people don’t understand that a judge is really separate from the political system, and should be. A judge should follow what he or she believes that the law is based on research and study.”

Spruell’s firm is concentrated primarily in general civil litigation, employment and business representation. She maintains professional memberships in the American Bar Association: Alabama Defense Lawyers Association, Alabama Academy of Attorney Mediators, and the Tuscaloosa County Bar Association.

She currently serves as a member of the Alabama Law Foundation board of directors, and is also a member of the bar’s Volunteer Lawyers Program which provides free civil legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. She is a 2008 graduate of the Leadership Alabama program and has served on a number of community and statewide service organizations.

Spruell is a 1976 graduate of Demopolis High School and is the daughter of Demopolis city attorney Richard S. Manley. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and English at Vanderbilt University and earned a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1983.

In July 2009, she was instrumental in having Demopolis become the first Alabama city to proclaim “Pro Bono Week,” in which volunteer attorneys provided free services to those in need during the last week of October.

Brad Carr, the Alabama State Bar director of communications, contributed to this story.